If Lord Krishna decides to play Cupid in your life, then you have no other option but to fall in love. This is what happened to seven-year-old Myriam Sophia Laxmi Quinio from Paris, the city of passionate love.
The young girl, along with her parents, was in Fort Kochi on a vacation in 1998 when she first saw Sunil perform Krishna's role in a Kathakali event. 'Krishna' cast such a spell on Lakshmi and her parents that 14 years down the line she tied the knot with him in God's own country.
But for the 'divine' intervention, there were a million reasons like language, culture and religion for them not to take the vow. On Valentine's Day, Myriam Sophia, aka Paris Laxmi, now a famous Bharatanatyam dancer who acted in seven Malayalam movies, and her husband Pallipuram Sunil reveal the secrets behind their distance-defying love affair and marriage.
Q: How did you meet and fall in love?
Laxmi: I was seven years old when my family came to Fort Kochi in 1998. Indian culture and heritage have always been source of inspiration for my family. That is why my parents named my brother Narayan and me Laxmi. We happened to watch a Kathakali performance by Sunil. I still remember 21-year-old Sunil performing Krishna's role with exceptional grace. He soon became our family friend. Years later, when I returned to India to learn Bharatanatyam and other classical dance forms, we got to know each other better and fell in love. First I fell for the artist in him and then for the compassionate human being.
Sunil: I had noticed the seven-year-old Laxmi who had golden hair and curious wide eyes. She has been passionate about the Indian classical dance forms. I slowly developed a special affection for her. She made her second visit to India almost a decade later as a 15-year-old classical dancer. Her unusual talent and loving personality surprised me. I suggested stage performances for her and gradually we got closer.
Q: What made you choose a life together? What were the challenges you faced in coming together?
Laxmi: I always had big dreams about my passion and profession. I had decided that if at all I get married, it would be with a classical dancer who understands the language of my love and expression. I haven't faced any challenge to start a life together with Sunil. My parents speak affectionately of him.
Sunil: It was her loving and understanding nature that drew me to Laxmi. She invests a lot of energy and effort for the things she is truly passionate about. Right from Bharatanatyam to learning Malayalam to communicating with my family, Laxmi gives cent per cent on everything. My relatives weren't supportive of our marriage. They feared that westerners aren't loyal in relationships and they break marriages after a short while. Language, culture, native places and every single thing was a hurdle for our marriage. Yet we knew that together we have a great mission to accomplish. Thus, we decided to tie the knot.
Q: How do you strike a work-life balance?
Laxmi: Though both of us are classical dancers, there is a huge difference between our art forms. While Bharatanatyam allows the performer to switch the characters freely and inculcate more than one story within a single performance, the make-up, literature and props of Kathakali demand the performer to stay the same character till the end of the show. But we have already learned the art of merging two entirely distinct worlds into one. We communicate with each other in the language of dance. The line between our personal and professional life narrowed thereafter.
Sunil: The restriction on character transformation in Kathakali evolved as an opportunity for us. We started narrating tales centered on a particular character, mostly Lord Krishna. As I enact Lord Krishna with the help of Kathakali techniques, Lakshmi performs the role of several characters interacting with Krishna using her Bharatanatyam skills. Like we discovered a new world out of our contrasting background and culture, our art forms also came together, giving birth to a new classical dance fusion.
Q: Have you ever faced any situation where your personal and professional commitments came into conflict?
Laxmi: No, at least not so far. Both of us are artists and we share a common professional ambition. There is no space for a conflict in our work life.
Sunil: We display both combined and independent performances. Our independent performances aren't interfered by one another. We accept that we are two independent artists though we work together for a shared dream. Mutually exclusive viewpoints and styles are manifested in our independent performances. Laxmi is also into movies. I perform with Kathakali theater groups. I think our professional commitments do not conflict because we also have a shared professional platform, which many others lack.
Q: As a couple, what's the best thing you have done for society?
Laxmi: The best thing is yet to come (laughs.) We have a dance school named Kalashakthi at our Vaikom residence. Both of us conduct tuition classes for Kathakali, Bharatanayam and other classical dance forms. We have a dream of expanding it to a full–fledged dance school where students are taught not just to imitate their teachers but also to think independently and perform. Our concept of Kathakali-Bharatanatyam fusion is the first step towards it.
Sunil: Many school students enroll for dance classes just to win prizes in youth festivals. Neither they nor their parents look at classical dance as a prospective profession or a true passion. We hope to enlighten the dance enthusiasts about the possibilities of creativity, innovation and fusion in Indian classical dance forms. That would be our best gift to society.
Q: What is the core of your life together?
Laxmi: Constant dialogue. Communication through verbal and non-verbal languages we know is the core of our relationship. We proved that verbal language or a common cultural context has little to do in nurturing a relationship. Sunil and I talk about almost all things we know about. We try expressing it in the languages we know the best. Art is after all about communication. An art form is a medium to communicate your emotions with the audience. Unless you maintain a healthy dialogue with your partner, you won't have a happy love-life.
Q: What's the one thing that hooked you the most in your partner?
Laxmi: Apart from his unparalleled talent and compelling passion for art, I like his childlike behavior at home. Though he took up the responsibility of taking care of the family at a very young age, Sunil has a little child in him. He gets sad over silly things and he is easily hurt. I love the child in him.
Sunil: I think it is Laxmi's love and understanding that sustain our romance. She is a matured soul. I am fourteen years elder to her. Still, I won't think twice to admit that she is much more matured than I am. She has great compassion and empathy for others.
Q: What's the wider dream you nurture together?
Laxmi: Our dance school is functioning in a rented space right now. We dream to own a larger space and continue with our plans.
Sunil: We have been performing our fusion classical dance form on several national and international stages now. I would like to stage our fiftieth performance before Lord Krishna at Guruvayoor temple.
Q: A word for the youngsters?
Laxmi: Marriage is not the ultimate goal of one's life. You should have larger professional and personal ambitions. Falling in love or getting married should not be considered the most important thing. Love is something that is meant to happen by the way. After all, your romance and togetherness should have something to give out to the society. Your romance is meaningful only if it leaves a mark even after you are gone.
Sunil: I agree with Laxmi. All of us have certain duties to perform in this society. We came this far not just to come this far. You have to perform your duty and help another perform his/hers. Love will bloom at its own pace.