-By Sahitya Ramkumar
Shri Gurubhyo Namaha!
It’s been over a decade since my magical journey of being Guru Shri Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry ji’s student began. Quoting my Guru himself, “Only very special luck can get you to learn under a very special Guru”. That is, special luck definitely found me.
If Dance, magic and storytelling met under one roof that’s what his classes look like. The magnificent singer that he is, he sings for all his students. I have seen him sing continuously for about eight hours with highest zeal just three months after an open-heart surgery. He always said that dance gets better with best music and so he sung on with more than what I can call enthusiasm. I can’t think of anyone who can do what he can.
None of his students will disagree as I say that we all skip a heartbeat in joy when he completes his mathematically accurate arudhi after a crisp tongue twister like jathi. And ah, how his Nattuvangam resounds. However ironic it sounds; we all love his loud and stern voice when we make a mistake. “I don’t think you can dance! Go home!” I always end up with tears in my eyes but I know I am going to make it to class with same excitement the next day and he is going to say, “this is how you do it, kanna … Dhalangu thaka dhiku…”
A few years back when my guru was conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, it was a big celebration for all of us. The audience see the final product. But we students are lucky. We get to watch his process. You can trust me when I say that it is an emotional journey we are blessed to watch. The undying grit and perfection, he displays, with his blessing, may I have just a percent of it.
His magnificent productions are invaluable gems, each a piece of research in itself. As you watch, you will find yourself getting attached to every single character. I smile as humour unravels, I weep as villains die, I clap harder than ever in the action scenes. Are his productions any less than a live movie and is he any less than a master director!
Watching him dance out bits for us to replicate is another experience all together. Each detail plays itself out, he turns each of us into the character itself and explains how it’s done! How many times we have burst into an ovation in rehearsals as he showed us how to do it … we record him dancing secretly … these clips are our treasure!
When we blurt out, “I don’t think I can do it, sir”. He sends out his unforgettable remark, “that’s not for you to decide” and magically he makes it possible. And did I realise how magicians never reveal their trick, I guess. He has a beautiful knack for individuality and lets every student be. He lets each one of us create and choreograph, patiently watches it, and however it may be, he will tell us that he is proud we tried.
May this pandemic end and let us be under his watchful eyes with the same childlike excitement. However much said will always be less and I will always have many more special stories to tell. Master garu, Sir, Guru ji … as we all fondly call him … we seek your blessings. And I know for a fact that at this he will say, “You are always in my blessings list, kanna! Why ask separately.”
(Bharatanatyam dancer Sahitya Ramkumar penned a personal account on her Guru, on learning that he would be bestowed with the Seventh Meenakshi Amma Award for Excellence on Wednesday September 29, 2021 at Ravindra Bharathi. The programme will commence from 6.30pm onwards.)