Mrs. YGP of Bharat Kalachar

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Fired with a desire to create and foster an environment for theatre , Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music, the YGP family has done itself proud. The late Sri. Y. G. Parthasarathy, who was deeply committed to theatre set the ball rolling when he started the National Arts Combine. It was a meeting of minds when Ms. Rajalakshmi, a journalist before her marriage entered the YGP family and driven by the same commitment to the arts went all out to set up Bharat Kalachar with her husband, Sri. Y. G. Parthasarathy. Son Y. G. Mahendra continues to hold aloft the banner of theatre with his United Amateur Artists (UAA) which is in its 51st year. Granddaughter Madhuvanti Arun is a Bharatanatyam dancer and so the family tradition only serves to further the cause - nurturing and spreading the quintessence of our cultural tradition.

Meeting Mrs. Y. G. Parthasarathy is a refreshing experience. Her spirit is strong and determined and no health constraints can bridle her enthusiasm to continue to make Bharat Kalachar a global presence. Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan schools and Bharat Kalachar continue to be the focus and, as she says “I am the idea maker... I project my vision and concept and my team executes it for me”.

Bharat Kalachar is in its 17th year now and is gearing for the 17th Margazhi Mahotsav. Sri. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer is the patron and the activities of this organization started at the premises of RR Sabha. One year later the stage was built at the school premises. It was the determination of Sri. YGP to have the auditorium built in one year. Mrs. YGP reminisces how they struggled to get it done. As luck would have it there were heavy rains in October that year but the determination of the YGP couple braved all odds and the auditorium was ready by December! It sure was a trying time says Mrs. YGP, with a twinkle in her eye but accepts it as part of the game.

The programmes for Bharat Kalachar span classical music [both Carnatic and Hindustani] dance [all classical forms] folk art, dramas by veteran artistes from India, internationally acclaimed artistes and upcoming youngsters who are given equal opportunities to exhibit their talent. It also invites a number of NRI artistes, especially dancers to give them the satisfaction of performing in their home town particularly during the December season. Bharat Kalachar recognizes the efforts of these NRI artistes as they have done a great service by propagating the Indian arts in foreign lands. Bharat Kalachar has introduced “Viswa Kala Bharathi” for NRI artistes as a mark of appreciation. These are people who have established Dance schools to teach Indian Classical dance, e.g. Padmini Ramachandran and Hema Rajagopalan, as well as people like Trichy Sankaran [mridangam] and the late T. Vishwnathan [flute] from USA and S. Natarajan from Dubai for fostering Bhagavata Mela or traditional ancient folk theatre.

Yuva Kala Bharathi award is a unique honour given by this institution to young talented young artistes who have made it a springboard for their careers. Most of the big names in the world of Carnatic music like Sowmya, Unnikrishnan, Sudha Raghunathan and Bombay Jayashri, among others have been recipients. Some artistes and individuals who have made special efforts for the sake of welfare of the society are on the list of awardees.

While the aim of Bharat Kalachar is to promote Indian classical music, the need to start at a young age is the main focus of the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan schools that Mrs. YGP has started. These schools were started as an answer to the needs of many parents who felt that schools in general taught their own ideologies and students rarely got a holiday on even important Hindu festivals. So the PSBB schools were set up in 1958. The first momentous step was taken when she and a few ladies of the Nungambakkam Ladies Recreation Club came together and started a school under a thatched roof of her rented house. A start was made with 13 children. This was the cause to which she dedicated the rest of her life to pursue this dream and vision. Today the school has three branches with more than 8000 students.

Mrs. Parthasarathy opines that the lure of western culture is very strong and you find the pull towards jazz, pop and disco more. To open their minds to this great legacy is the aim of these schools and Bharat Kalachar. Competitions are arranged and students are motivated to take part. They do participate and many times about 80 – 100 children are given passes to some of the Bharat Kalachar programmes. Outstanding students get a scholarship for 3 years to pursue the art. She jocularly remarks that there are more Resident Non Indians (RNI) than Non Resident Indians!

The childen who attend the monthly programmes at Bharat Kalachar are asked to write a review of the programme they attended and the score is added to their mark sheet. Art appreciation sessions for children open their minds to recognise quality or the lack of it in music and dance. Western music is not frowned upon but the message is clear- foster and appreciate Indian classical music and dance. The school fest “Reverberations” is much talked about in the city . A quiz programme for students is designed to make them smarter with intelligent questions

What advice does she have for the youth of today? Mrs. YGP defines four attitudes that youth should cultivate today. A single minded focus, more perseverance and less impatience, positive thinking and less accent on the money -making part of any activity. Focus on these four attitudes will make for a generation that has certain core values.

The writer is tempted to ask whether Mrs. YGP had problems working in a world when there were fewer women in the work force. She emphatically says yes , and it came to a head when she wanted to be principal of the boys’ school. Having got her B. Ed. degree while in service, she removed the sole objection to her assuming the post of principal. Yet they found one! How could a woman become the principal of a Boys’ school? Her indomitable spirit could not be put out so easily and she took the issue to the All India Women’s Conference. The committee took it up and voted in her favour. Her greatest achievement has been to be a good human being and to have the openness to admire and assimilate anything worth assimilating. She says she has learnt more from her students than they have from her.

One last shot, Mrs Parthasarathy: could you tell us what gives you the tenacity to keep going? She has her own formula. Just as air is vital to life so is it in our moral fibre. A is for accountability, I for integrity (no dichotomy in thought and deed) and R is for responsibility to see a job through till completion.

Awarded the Tamil Nadu Stree Sakti Puraskar award in 2002, Mrs. YGP continues to be matter-of-fact and down-to-earth. Her actions have proved that it is not mere philosophizing but it is actually so in her daily life. Food for thought, no doubt. What better way than this to pep our own lives?

Geetha Iyengar


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