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Usha Srinivasan, a Guru beyond compare
- Deepa Mahadevan, Fremont, CA

September 22, 2006

Young, dedicated, creative, artistic and passionate - that was the combination with which Usha Miss (as all her students knew her) won all our hearts. Dance was the medium through which Usha Miss taught us about life.

"I think therefore I am." Usha Miss gave us lots to think about. She sculpted the way we think. Nothing was given to us without reasoning. When we learnt something, we knew all of it. Usha Miss gave us clarity of thought. My dance students today range from 5 year olds to 40 year olds and every day I am reaffirmed in my belief that it is that clarity of thought and strong foundation that Usha Miss gave us that makes me the teacher I am. What else did Usha Miss teach us?
Usha miss and Deepa in
Chitrarangam in Island Grounds, Chennai
Cover of VCD released on Dandayudapani Pillai items in 2004, sponsored by Giri traders
Discipline. She was a strict disciplinarian. If our class was at 5 pm, then she would be the first one there wearing her impeccably starched cotton saree, at 4.55 pm. Never, ever has she been late. She expected nothing less from us. There was no negotiation. No compromises. Even if she had taught me only that one thing, my life is so much the better for it.

Aesthetics. Her sense of aesthetics was unparalleled. She was simple, but striking. There was so much dignity in her attire, in her bearing, that she commanded respect with her sheer presence. We dreamt of the day that we would grow up too, so that we could wear sarees like Usha Miss.

She was an extremely knowledgeable and well-informed person. Every time she stepped on to the stage to give an introduction about the following dance number, I have always learnt something I didnít know before. She was a storehouse of knowledge. She loved to challenge us to learn more. She would never start teaching an item without the adequate research. Nothing was taken for granted.
She taught us to respect talent. She taught us to treat our fellow artists with dignity and respect. She was an extremely generous person and tried to instill that quality in us. At Hasta, (our dance school) artists were always paid before a program. "Don't make them wait for your money," she would tell us. And that's something that has taken us a long way.

At a workshop on documenting the work of great Natuvanaars, Usha Miss was the first to be called upon for Guru Dandayudapani Pillai's work. She was the epitome of dedication to one's Guru. She was extremely creative and open minded, at the same time she took immense pride in her tradition.

Usha Miss was not only about dance. She had a Masters degree in literature and Business Administration. She would train us for our recitation competitions in school. I still remember the way she sat with us, correcting us and perfecting our delivery of Mark Anthony's final speech. She was thorough in everything she did, she went the full mile.

Dance, means the world to me. It would have meant nothing without her. Every single thing that I do in dance, I do, because of her. She is my legend, my history, my past, my present and my future in dance. I cannot believe she isn't with me anymore. I can't argue with her anymore. She will not correct my adavus any more. She won't help me choose my dance costume anymore. She won't give me my next reading list any more. She won't join me in appreciating another dance program any more. She will not do the nattuvangam for me any more. She is not going to be there in my life any more. I cannot believe it.
Vidya Krishnan (her senior student, currently teaching in Houston), Deepa and Usha miss, in Brihadeeshwarar temple in Thanjavur
But I am sure she will continue to be my guiding force and the values she has inculcated in me would carry me through the rest of my life.

Usha Srinivasan was a senior disciple of K N Dandayudapani Pillai. She is the founder director of Hasta School of Bharatnatyam in Chennai. She breathed her last on the 8th of June 2006.

She had so much love and passion for dance that she offered to teach many children without charging a fee. Even the grand arangetram has been done for a few without the guru dakshina. She used to place everything at her disposal viz., her costumes, jewellery, dancing hall, classrooms and finance for the sole purpose of encouraging dance among her students.

A few days before she was diagnosed to be suffering from the killer disease Cancer (2004), she had taken up and completed her study in Saiva Siddhanta as an external student of the Annamalai University. To her, age was no barrier for knowledge development. To cap it all, she had also shouldered the great responsibility of her family business together with her husband S.Srinivasan, who has now been orphaned in the loss of his most priceless possession and beacon of light and courage.