CHENNAI : What strikes one first is his genuine smile, bright sricharanam, dazzling earrings, zari-coated kurtis and traditional pancha kachcham. What surprises one is his impeccable English as he delivers his discourses. Take a peek into the background of the modern upanyasakar Dushyanth Sridhar, and you will find that the 27-year-old is a chemical engineer and a techie as well. He absorbs the audiences’ attention with his language, popular lingos, catchphrases and subtle wits. He recently presented a discourse on lord Guruvayurappa at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha as part of Sri V Narayana Iyer Memorial Trust’s silver jubilee event.
Tell us about your background and what made you start presenting discourses?
My grandmother was a Shakespeare fan and my mother loved Beatles. Dad is in the pharma industry. When I was five, my mom got me enrolled in a Sanskrit class. Later, I started developing interest in scriptures. There was a time when I used to struggle to speak in Tamil in front of everyone. From then, I have come a long way, delivering 750 religious discourses in four languages across the globe. I am taking advanced training in four Vaishnavite scriptures — Sri Bhashyam, Gita Bhashyam, Bhagavad Vishayam and Srimad Rahasya Traya Saram from aacharyas.
How easy or tough is it to retain the interest of audience, especially youngsters, at discourses?
I teach Vedanta on Skype and my YouTube video links have generated more than two lakh views. I have released a few albums, including Bhaja Govindam, Agre Pashyami, Narasingham and Raghavane Thalelo among others. When I am speaking, I make sure I talk to the Facebook and Twitter generation in their language. I use slide presentations wherever it’s needed. It’s necessary to become one among them to establish a good rapport. For example, I bring in references of Harry Potter and his tales in my upanyasams. When I connect an old story with a subject that this generation is aware of, my job becomes easier.
How do you juggle work and upanyasams?
Upanyasam is not a mere narration. It is an art of storytelling that combines extensive knowledge accumulated from various sources, command over the language, presence of mind, emotions, dedication and spontaneity. I spend at least three hours in the night before delivering my discourse. Be it the age-old narratives like the Ramayana, Rukmini Kalyana or Sri Ranga Vaibhava, it has never been easy. The venue can be the next street, UAE or New Zealand, a lot of research work goes into it. But I don’t confuse work, profession and passion.
Has the practice of presenting discourses changed you for better in life?
Extensive reading always helps. Any philosophical or spiritually-inclined material teaches you how to live. That’s precisely why Ramayana or Mahabharata is even relevant today. I don’t know if upanyasams have changed me, but they have taught me a lot of life lessons and values.
What are your other interests?
I like cricket. But I like to play a commentator (smiles). Also, I have given motivation lectures in schools, colleges and old-age homes. I am a movie buff as well. I organise spiritual tours where I act a guide, deliver lectures on stala puranas and related areas.
What are your future plans?
I would like to start a school in which I can teach students vedas and science simultaneously. But hey, for the next 20 years, I got to be working. (smiles)