By M. Rajini

Lavanyaa Gladston is a professional architect, a performing classical Bharatanatyam artiste, and a practitioner of Kalaripayattu, a traditional martial art of Kerala.

She has been training under the tutelage of Shaji John for over 15 years. Gladston Paul, her better half, is also trained to wield advance weapons such as dagger (kadara), sword and shield, urumi (flexible sword) and other wooden weapons. He is skilled in Silambam too.

The duo train students in an organised and holistic approach at Cholamandal Artists’ Village, Injambakkam.

Curious to know about the exclusiveness of the martial art I struck up a conversation with her and learnt that in Kalaripayattu, the emphasis is on physical discipline balanced by an equally important mental discipline.

“In performing arts like Bharatanatyam, the training is more physical, and maturity is achieved after several stage performances. In martial arts, defending oneself when faced with a physical threat or a difficult situation, is taught. ‘Be at the moment’ is the mantra.

Normally, when in danger our senses become numb and we cannot think and act. We may be unable even to run. Kalari training gives the body heightened awareness and fine-tunes your reflexes to any threat or fear. We train you to use exclusive techniques, involving every joint and muscle, to make the other person fall and also to spring back if we are made to fall.

In ‘meypayattu’ the movements are a visual treat. Constant and religious training gives an awareness and agility especially in the lower body and legs. Our reflexes are sharpened.

But, (with a smile) you know the best fights are the ones that are avoided. Say if ten people attack, you will decide that it is best to move away. Kalari gives you the intelligence to gauge your own strength and weakness as compared to the opponent’s
and make instant decisions on the course of action to take,” narrates Lavanyaa.

So, this is the need of the hour and young girls and women need to take up this art isn’t it, I interrupt.

She laughs adding, “No. Boys also have to be taught. They will understand their body better and also learn to respect a female body. In a subtle manner this art instills a lot of self-restraint and rational thinking,” she concludes.

Children above seven years are eligible to learn this art. Seven years of rigorous training conditions the body and mind and helps move on to training with weapons like urmi, uruttu kattai, dagger, sword and shield.

Classes are held on Saturday mornings 6.30 am and Tuesday evening 5 pm at Cholamandal Artists’ Village, Injambakkam. Visit neokalari.com for more details or call 94449 19441.

The countdown to 50 years of Balavidyalaya

By R. Swathi

This year is a joyous year for Balavidyalaya, a school for young deaf children, as it gears up to celebrate its 50th year this December. Established in 1969, the school has pioneered in early intervention and identification of hearing impaired. Their work won them recognition from the Government of India in 2015 for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

The institution provides free education for children upto 5 years, after which they are competent to join the mainstream schools. “The only expense that the parents need to make is buying and maintaining hearing aids, which is compulsory for the child to wear at all times except sleeping.” explained Dr. Meera Suresh, Honorary Vice Principal of the school.

The school admits children as early as 3 months. Admission is open throughout the year with the view to provide an opportunity to acquire early verbal language skills and get integrated into mainstream society. Simultaneously, the parents are given counselling to help them embrace the situation and understand the needs of the child. The testimony to their success is seen in their 1200 children joining the mainstream schools. Its alumni includes lawyers, engineers, chartered accountants, Ph.D holders and artistes.

The institution also conducts courses for teachers’ training. These courses are recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) and the State Government of Tamilnadu. Its curriculum is in-house and aims (i) to train graduates in early intervention techniques and (ii) be instrumental in starting early intervention centres in other places, especially in rural areas.

The institute also monitors the projects at the early intervention centers at Nagpur, and in Sri Lanka – Jaffna and Colombo. Many Trusts from across the country – Kolkata, Rajkot, Tirupati and Kerala have shown interest in their training programmes.

As a run up to their 50 years, the institute is conducting open house programmes every month targeting different groups of people and create awareness on the school’s motto.

For the first open house, the entire Balavidyalaya family was invited, including alumni, neighbours and well wishers. The second open house was celebrated with around 300 students from 9 colleges across Chennai in January. The third open house saw delegates and teachers from The National Convention of the Educators of the Deaf. 45 teachers and teacher educators of the deaf working in schools in Mumbai, Pune, different cities in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh attended.

The fourth open house in February included 80 NSS students from IIT Madras. There was an interactive session where the students were also requested to think of various ways to subtitle lectures to make it easier for the deaf students in colleges and universities. The fifth open house in May would include a visit to Madras Medical college.
In the month of December, the institute will be organising a marathon walk and conclude the golden jubilee celebrations on December 25. For details on the school, visit www.balavidyalayaschool.org/.
Ph: 24917199.

Captivating talk on ‘Living Chola Sculptures’

By K. Manjula

Dr. Lakshmi Ramaswamy’s Sri Mudhraalaya, based in Kotturpuram, and Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha jointly hosted ‘Natyamritha Manthan’, a 3 day seminar on dance, music and literature, from March 22 to 24 at Anna Centenary Library. There were 5 talks a day and many prominent scholars gave lectures during the meticulously planned event which inspired lot of young minds.

On March 23 renowned historian Dr. Chithra Madhavan gave a presentation on ‘living sculptures of the Chola period’.
It was the first talk of the day at 9.30 am but the hall was jam packed with young sari clad girls. Assuming that they were Bharatanatyam dancers going with their postures, I sat at a corner looking forward to the talk, which started bang on time. The master orator Chithra took over the dais and engrossed us for the next 45 minutes. She immediately did not dive into the Chola sculptures; she started with the brilliant sandstone sculptures in Badami, Karnataka and slowly moved on to the stunning 3 dimensional sculptures in Malaprabha valley and then to the outstanding Pallava era sculptures, which she said were the inspirations to the magnificent Chola period stone sculptures. She quoted that the UNESCO marks the great temples built during the time of the imperial Cholas from 9th to 13th century CE as Great Living Chola Temples; and so are their sculptures, especially the ones in Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram.

She made references to the lovely Bharatanatyam Karnas in Thanjavur temple, the majestic ‘Chandeshwara Murthy’ and the unique Nataraja sculptures in Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The speaker shared a fascinating fact about the said Nataraja sculpture, that it is inspired from the sculpture in Tiruvalangadu [Tiru+ Aalankadu (banyan forest)] as it is under a Banyan tree. Chithra said that Early Cholas were experts in miniature sculptures. She made many references to the Chola miniatures in Thirupullamangai temple in Thanjavur District.

Credit has to be given to the speaker as she made use of her 45 minutes effectively and covered a vast number of sculptures using photographs and elaborated on the wonders of the Chola sculptures. She appealed to the audience to open their eyes, crane their necks and seek for beautiful sculptures in any part of the temple. She said that there are many mythological stories, epics and Nayanmar stories hidden in various parts of the temples.