The year is 1937. The photograph (which appeared in The NewsMinute), shows two young Indian women dressed in men’s pajamas, and who appear to be smoking cigarettes. Quite outrageous for their time don’t you think? Especially when you learn that the young lady on the right is none other than the legendary Carnatic music icon, MS Subbulakshmi!
Yes indeed! It is MS - about 20 or 21 years old - posing with Balasaraswati, who went on to become a famous Bharatnatyam dancer in her own right.
If you are used to seeing MS immaculately clad in traditional silk sarees, glittering diamonds and a swirl of jasmine, you may ask 'Why?' 'How?'
Well – quite simply, from a rather young age, MS had already begun to question the status quo, gender biases and conservatism that bound women like her to traditional roles in society.
The truth behind this picture, first published in Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life by Douglas M Knight according to a review in Business Standard – was that the two friends, from strictly disciplined households, had planned the costumes and photoshoot themselves in an attempt to assert their independence.
They only pretended to smoke the cigarettes!
But the more interesting tale reported in Scroll.in, is of a young MS who fled her home in Madurai when her mother arranged for her to marry a rich Chettiar.
‘Subbulakshmi removed her ornaments, slipped out of the house quietly one night, and hopped onto a train to Madras’.
It must have taken extraordinary courage to take such a step – but look where it got her!
When faced with a dilemma that has no easy resolution you need to take a stand that you believe in. And that takes courage.
But remember - the payoff could be extraordinary!