CHENNAI: The role of the teacher is like the proverbial ‘ladder’, it is used by everyone to climb up in life, but the ladder itself stays in its place,” late President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam had said. The Dhronacharya award is an endeavour by the Rotary Club of Madras East and Saraswathi Vidyalaya to felicitate and celebrate the significance of a teacher. The award for this year was conferred on two gurus who made singular contributions to their respective fields.
Yogacharya S Sridharan was awarded for his involvement in affairs relating to yoga and mandira. V Balakrishnan, founder of Theatre Nisha, was awarded for his work in the field of theatre and with children in special education centres.
Yoga is therapy
Yogacharya Sridharan’s journey in yoga and its intertwining destiny with Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM) started when he chanced upon a small handbook on yoga in 1981. This kindled his interest to understand more about this ancient practice. His search brought him to TKV Desikachar, a master and guru in yogic practice and teaching. “I learned the finer nuances of yoga from my master. He asked me to start teaching as that is the way one evolves wholly,” said Sridharan.
Sridharan continued to stay rooted to yoga despite the demands of his career as a banker. In 1997, when he was 50, he opted to take a voluntary retirement, and devoted his energy to yoga. Now, he practices as a consultant therapist, faculty and yoga teacher-trainer at KYM. “Yoga has reached great heights, especially with the awareness through International Day of Yoga on June 21. Doctors have started prescribing yoga as a therapeutic tool in the integrative system of medicine, and medicine in science,” he explained.
It has been 30 years since he started practicing yoga. He is 79 now. “Pranayama is one of the best practices that was taught to me by my guru. Anyone who is breathing can do yoga. As a banker, I would’ve earned money and settled in life. But as a yoga teacher I’m blessed to check the blood pressure level even for doctors when it comes to therapy,” he said.
Theatre is liberating
“The first role I played in theatre was Dhronacharya. I’ve played it two other times. And I am an ardent practitioner of archery. That sums up the coincidence of the award. I am truly honoured,” says V Balakrishnan, fondly known as Bala among his students and associates. He has been a teacher and practitioner of theatre for over two decades. He has a diploma in Acting from the National School of Drama. He came to Chennai in the late 90s.
In 2000, he founded his company ‘Theatre Nisha’ and began working with schools and college across the city. Bala also works with children, who have learning disabilities, to enhance their social engagement and communication skills. “I’ve been working with Alpha To Omega Learning Center for the last 18 years. As an educator, I do not want my students to suffer from anxiety, stress or abuse. Theatre liberates them and it is used as a therapeutic tool. Can I empower a child to say yes or no?” said Bala.
He has worked with over 20 schools covering different syllabi. For his relentless work, he received the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching in 2017 and was at Indiana University in the US for four months, working on an inquiry-based project. The result was a handbook, which was used to conduct workshops in schools, the corporate sector and with communities facing marginalisation. “Children must have the freedom to make a choice. It is a part of the main subject in several schools. I’ve planned to take it to as many as possible,” he says.
With 120 plays for the professional stage and 50 for schools, the director has come a long way, with another 200 plays as a playwright and credit for 10 scripts to his name. Some of his students are successful filmmakers, drama therapists, singers, and actors. “I’ve trained all kinds of students and seen different roles and personas. Three things are important to go beyond the consciousness — impulsiveness, inquisitiveness, and intuitiveness,” said Bala. “The beauty lies in being adaptable and to achieve objectivity. Theatre is an all-embracing umbrella.”
Sridharan continued to stay rooted to yoga despite the demands of his career as a banker. When he was 50, he opted to take a voluntary retirement, and devoted his energy to yoga.
Bala works with children with learning disabilities. He has worked with over 20 schools covering different syllabi.