By Alka Shankernarayan
Karnataka has its share of people well-known in the country, even the world. Think of Sri Sri Ravishankar, Azim H. Premji, N.R. Narayana Murthy. Think of cricketers such as Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, G. Vishwanath, Roger Binny. But here we profile some lesser known but interesting personalities who exemplify the spirit of Life Positive.
Surupa Sen, Dancer
She can emulate a warrior, a deer, God. Her painted hands can tell a story that is 2,000 years old. With sensuous movements, noted Odissi danseuse Surupa Sen can portray power, vulnerability and love. With her eyes she can show joy, fear and tragedy.
Surupa was trained by the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and Protima Gauri, the founder of Nrityagram. Her abhinaya was polished by Kalanidhi Narayanan. She is currently Creative Director and Principal dancer of The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.
Surupa has worked with world-renowned dancers and choreographers from countries like Australia, USA and Malaysia and has trained in martial art forms like Chhau, Kalaripayyat and Aikido and creative dance.
Surupa is also constantly seeking ways to expand the vocabulary of dance and create new imagery and movement. She believes hope and proactive participation are what is most needed at the micro and macro levels today.
“Growth is always present continuous for me”
Sudhakar Pai, Vice Chairman and MD. Syndicate Bank
Karnataka’s unique culture is responsible for making it the hub of the IT industry and now of biotechnology. Our society is highly tolerant and welcomes cultures from all over. Pleasant weather year-round, home to Carnatic music and a unique architecture are some attractions of this state.
Our sportspersons have contributed both at the national and international levels. Karnataka is also the fastest growing state in industrialisation, with scope for tourism. Students from other states and even from other countries study in professional colleges here because of quality education.
Kannadigas are a religious and God-fearing people. I am no exception. As a third generation member of the Pais of Manipal, who founded Syndicate Bank and a host of educational institutions, I try to incorporate human values and ethics in the workplace. Our HR policies are a combination of the heart and mind. An honest person with a zeal to excel has the opportunity to grow fast in our organisation. Growth is needed for an individual, group, company and also for the country. Growth is always present continuous for me.
I also subscribe to the virtues of teamwork.
I try to practise the essence of Gita which tells us that we are all instruments in the hands of God to do something good to each and every human being. The practice of yoga and meditation are great stress-relievers for me. I am a self-motivated man who takes things as they come. I am happy with the direction Karnataka and my bank are taking. Both have a bright future.
Yusuf Arakkal, Artist
Yusuf Arakkal was born to an orthodox Muslim family but his mother came from a liberal Hindu family. He was orphaned at age seven. People at home considered art as a passion for the lazy, unfocused people. Yet, getting through several difficulties and much humiliation, his urge to be a professional artist never faded. Before reaching high school, he had won many accolades for art.
He left his home town Guruvayoor in Kerala for Bangalore where he worked his way through odd jobs till his wife Sara’s father helped him find a job in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. He also met Jaya Varma, grand nephew of legendary artist Raja Ravi Varma. An alumnus of the London Royal College, Jaya taught Arakkal European art. Later, pursuit of art studies took Arakkal to London.
He doesn’t believe in the term ‘established’ because only “time tells you are a good artist” and doesn’t take critics seriously because for him originality is a wrong term. Arakkal says: “Originality comes through continuous working. Rewards must not be thought of, they will come.”
He loves Picasso’s attitude in life and quotes him: “I have seen all sunrises in my life.” He doesn’t name God, but believes in a superior power and says “Be Yourself!”
“We are building a multi-faith temple”
Mumtaz Ali, Spiritual teacher
Karnataka has always followed a tolerant religious policy. Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore, patronised both the Hindu and Muslim religions. Even today, an annual Hindu festival called Karaga in Bangalore requires a Muslim maulvi from a dargah to bless the person carrying the pot in the procession.
My organisation, Satsang Foundation, is a meeting ground of people belonging to different religious faiths whose mission is to promote better relations between different communities.
We hold padyatras to create awareness of the importance of community living. We also hold religious discourses and seminars on the comparative study of Buddhism and Christianity. Our Manav Ekta Mission runs free schools and charity programmes that are open to all.
Satsang Foundation is planning to build a Sarva Dharma Temple, consisting of a temple, mosque, gurdwara, church and a Buddhist math. Each place of worship will be headed and managed by a person from another religion. For instance, a Hindu will manage the mosque and so on. It’s always helpful to discuss matters rather than pelting stones at one another. As far as possible, politics should be kept out of religion. I also urge the youth to understand religion and get exposed to the inter-relationships of different religions.
Prem Koshy, Restaurateur
Prem Koshy is undoubtedly Bangalore’s favourite person-restaurateur, theatre-person, herpetologist, social worker and friend to any one in need. His restaurant Koshy’s is 72 years old, about which the late political heavyweight Gundu Rao said: “The only place I found peace.”
Humanity and Nature inspire Koshy. Hospitable and friendly, he enjoys sharing talent, loves animals and takes pride in treating and helping reptiles. He is also a pianist, sings the blues, enjoys jazz and theatre, is an artist, works with clay and hugs trees, considered to aid your connection to Mother Earth.
He says: “If you don’t go within, you go without… You are your deep driving desire.” And further: “You can have whatever you desire, you can create, from your wildest desire you can manifest.”
Having lost both his mother and uncle in the same year to cancer when very young, he believes unconditional love can heal even during the most trying times. Coming face-to-face with death, he says the impact is trying yet awakening.
Koshy’s favourite quote is: “When you try to help, try not to be like the monkey that pulls the fish out of water to save it from drowning.” Life Positive is one of his favourite magazines.
He is one actor who believes “you can be your own inspiration”. Sudeep is an engineering graduate with a passion for drama, song, direction and acting.
Sudeep has been immensely successful in the world of films. He has produced, directed and acted in movies such as Huchha, Sparsha and Nandi and is recipient of the Governor’s award ‘Rising Star of the Millennium’ as well as the Chief Minister’s award for ‘Promising Youngster’. He works on only a handful of films in a year and says: “I put my blood and sweat into every film.” When upset, he focuses on doing things better and moves on quickly, learning from mistakes and making an effort not to repeat them.
Sudeep believes in independence, being outspoken, being less superstitious, less sentimental and a true professional. “I believe in planning out work and then working out my plan,” reveals Sudeep.
Anmol Vellani, Runs an NGO
Anmol Vellani, founder-director of the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), is a driven man. When young artists and writers trusted him with their work, and a chance call came from the Ford Foundation, the IFA was born. Vellani started it recognising the need for a new model for giving since he believes in being humane, professional and accountable.
IFA deals with the gaps in varied art, craft and cinema. The organisation aims at mainstream funding, a need to focus on discourse in the arts, to make art accessible to the public using interaction in the process, emphasising the relevance of arts to other areas, to support individuals more than institutions and controlling the use of funds.
It was a trying experience to set up an unparalleled, non-hierarchical, personality-driven team with an emphasis on democracy. Raising money for the artists, getting indirect support and gaining credibility in the public eye have been difficult tasks that Vellani has accomplished.
He says art and spirituality are connected because true artists also sacrifice a lot to pursue their vocation. Doing art is no less a sadhana. Driven by a sense of the perfect, Vellani believes in leaving no stone unturned. He dislikes under-determined, under-realised work and emphasises metamorphoses in production.
Kalpana Kar, NGO Head
Love her or envy her, you can’t ignore Kalpana Kar, Director of the Cancer Patients Aid Association and enthusiastic representative of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF). Kalpana can best be described as a ‘personable dynamo’.
She reminisces about Jeet Mahajan, a family friend and lawyer who guided her and stood by her through the most trying times of her life. A large-hearted and compassionate human being with a verve for life and unconditional love, he always taught Kalpana to give of herself and live every moment to the fullest. From him she learnt how to look at life holistically, manage her time well and pack it all in.
Kalpana’s favourite quote is from the ‘Desiderata’ found in the Old Saint Paul’s church, Baltimore, dated 1642-“Be at peace with God whatever you conceive him to be and whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”
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