BENGALURU: At the age of five, Bharatanatyam dancer Kusuma promised her guru and grandfather S Krishnamurthy that she would never stop dancing.
But when a mystery illness brought her education to a halt and curbed her dreams for eight years, she almost lost heart and even tried to kill herself.
Today, at 31, she is fighting to make up for lost time. She is pursuing her MFA and has completed her pre-Vidvat and arangetram last year. Kusuma plans to start her own dance school soon.
Kusuma does not like the fact that she is now 31. Having spent eight years coping with a uterus-related illness, the Bharatanatyam dancer is always in a hurry to make up for lost time.
Born in a family of artistes, Kusuma started dancing under the tutelage of her grandfather S Krishnamurthy. After seeing her talent, he made her promise that she would never stop dancing.
When she was five, she joined Arun Kalavidaru in Chamarajpet, a dance institution started by a couple, Arun and Savitha. After spending 10 years with them, learning the nuances of the dance form, she turned to Vandya Srinath, under whom she studied for four years.
And then, one day, she fell sick. “I suffered from unexplained problems in my uterus along with a sprain in my leg,” Kusuma recalls.
She had to stop her II PU education, her Vidvat exam, her diploma in dance and confine herself to her bedroom.
Eight years were spent undergoing numerous tests and courses of treatment, during which Kusuma even tried to kill herself once.
“It was a time when happiness had deserted me. But thanks to my mother, I started to look for joy in the abundance of agony,” she says.
And her optimism paid off, when Dr Vishnu Iyengar, director of Vishwa Bharati Hospital, finally diagnosed her as suffering from Adenomyosis, a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle wall.
The relief of finally having found the reason for the pain was marred by the choice she was presented. She could either have half her uterus removed in an experimental procedure that would give her the chance to bear a child, or have the organ removed entirely.
“The pain was unbearable and I felt death was imminent. I decided to have my uterus removed completely,” she says.
After the surgery and a six-month recovery period, Kusuma started pursuing her BA LLB, following in the footsteps of her father, who is an advocate. But she couldn’t dance anymore.
“The sprain in my leg still hurt and I was warned not to dance ever again. Every other orthopaedician I met suggested that I start teaching dance,” she says.
But her burning passion did not let her give up. She met Dr Vishnu Iyengar again. He suggested that she start swimming.
“Life in water changed me. It not only cured my sprain but also brought back my lost confidence. I even started doing yoga while training as an advocate,” Kusuma says.
Meanwhile, she started taking dance classes with her old friend and senior, Deepa Bhat. “It was difficult because I could not even wear the anklets or the sari. But Deepa tolerated all my shortcomings and gave me small roles in her performances,” she says.
Today, back as a full-time dancer and even pursuing her MFA, Kusuma has completed her pre-Vidvat and arangetram last year. “I started my own dance course in partnership with a friend two months back. Soon, I plan to start one independently,” she reveals.
People who sympathised with her when she was ill now tend to discourage her. But this does not deter Kusuma who believes she has come a long way.
“I have to keep the promise I made to my first guru,” she says, her expressive eyes gleaming with confidence.