CHENNAI :At the hall on the second floor of The Wandering Artist, Srekala Bharath greeted the audience members by their first name. When her grandson walked in, however, she picked him up and squealed, “Look at my grandson, my style manan!” The renowned Bharathanatyam dancer and Kalaimamani award-winning artist spoke at the 17th edition of The Artist’s Soul, a series curated by life coach AVIS Viswanathan, on her roots and the tribulations she had to overcome.
Her eyes drift towards her family in the audience as she shared memories of her battle with brain meningioma, a rare non-cancerous tumour, which she was diagnosed with, in 1984. “They shaved my hair off before I went in for surgery, and I asked my husband to take a photo of me because at that time, Persis Khambatta, the universal model, was also mottai. I felt like the Persis Khambatta of Chennai!” Her positive attitude helped her make a full recovery and continue her Bharatanatyam career, which has seen in her performances such as Mahila Mahima, Bhakta Meera and many more under the tutelage of her guru KJ Sarasa.
“Here at The Artist’s Soul we choose stories that have inspiring perspectives but from lived experiences,” shared Avis. “Srekala Bharath’s experience, attitude on life and what she learned from it is something we wanted to show the community.” Srekala was living a second life after conquering her health troubles.
However, in 1990, Srekala was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a neurological disease that affects motor functions. This condition could have ruined her dancing career, but Srekala gave the probability little to no thought when she was hospitalised. “I never thought of stopping dancing.
I always thought I would dance again,” she said confidently. “I believe you should have faith in others. I put my faith in my doctor,” she paused and smiled at her doctor, who was in attendance. “I asked him, ‘Doctor, you’ll be there no? Then no problem.’” She made a full recovery and started her own dance school, the Thejas School of Performing Arts, in 1999. Among an intimate crowd, Srekala shared her story of resilience and positivity barring no detail, anecdote or joke. “I always like to feel happy,” she said. “Just take the day as it comes. If anything comes your way, face it and don’t feel bad about things. Give yourself two or three minutes to feel sad and then bounce back.”