She is always in a hurry. Her restlessness to find inspiration and get the right stage to dance again is obvious. After all, the 31-year-old Bengaluru-based Bharatnatyam dancer knows well that she has lost eight years of youth due to an inimical problem in her uterus.
Today, she is back as a dancer and pursuing her MFA. Kusuma completed her pre-Vidvath and Arangetram last year. “I started my dance class in partnership two months back. I also plan to soon start one independently,” she says.
Born into a family of artists, A Kusuma started dancing under the tutelage of her grandfather S Krishnamurthy who, after seeing her talent, took a pledge from her that she would never stop dancing. When Kusuma was five years old, she joined Arun Kala Vidhuru in the city, where she spent 10 years learning the nuances of the dance form. She then turned to Bharatnatyam exponent Vandya Srinath in 2000 and studied under her for four years.
Then in 2004, all her joy vanished suddenly. “My ghungroos went silent. Despair was everywhere and the pain within. I started suffering from a problem in my uterus and a sprain in the leg. My dancing life came to a standstill,” says Kusuma.
She remained bedridden for eight years and tried every possible medical and supernatural help. It was only her emollient mother’s persistence that kept the dancer going through the harrowing period. She even tried to commit suicide once.
“It was a time when unhappiness was always around me. But because of my mother, I started to pluck my own joy from the abundance of agony. I learnt through pain that I cannot stop to hope,” she says.
Hope did show a sign when the director of the city’s Shree Maruthi Hospital, Dr Vishnu N Hayagreev, found that she was suffering from adenomyosis, a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle wall. “Though considered a benign condition, the pain and heavy bleeding left me incomplete as a woman,” she says.
According to her, the relief of finally having found the reason for the pain was marred when the choice was to either try and experiment by removing half her uterus so that she could try living a life as any other woman, get married and bear a child, or to remove the entire uterus. “I was not convinced with the experiment. But the pain of not being able to marry or conceive and live like every other woman was also not very easy to take. But I chose to have my uterus removed completely, since the pain was unbearable and I could feel an imminent death,” the dancer says.
Finally, her uterus was removed and after six months of recovery, she started doing her BA LLB in 2013. But her passion for dance could not continue, instead it got worse. “My leg sprain did not subside and I was warned not to dance ever again. Doctors told me to keep the passion alive by teaching dance,” she says. Kusuma met Dr Hayagreev again, who suggested her to start swimming.
“It changed my life. Swimming not only cured my sprain, but also brought back my confidence. I also started yoga while going for training as an advocate,” Kusuma says.
Meanwhile, she started with some dance steps at home. She also met her old friend and dancer Deepa Bhat. “I started going to her classes, but it was difficult because I could not even wear the ghungroos or the mandatory sari. But Bhat tolerated all my shortcomings and gave me small roles in her programmes,” Kusuma says.
She wants to keep the promise she had made to her grandfather. “I know I will keep it,” Kusuma says. Her eyes gleamed with confidence that she will dance and build a new life on her own.