Art is about happy existence, believes Bharatanatyam dancer Shobana Ramesh, who reaches out to marginalised people

Shobana Ramesh simultaneously resides in two worlds, one where imagination is the quintessence and, the other, where reality rules. Pushing boundaries for this Bharatanatyam artiste doesn’t stop with stretching aesthetic appeal or indulging in creative give and take, it also means finding solace by making a difference to people’s lives.

“Personally, it’s been a tough journey. I have been through many ups and downs. Health and post-marital problems bogged me down. If not for my art, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up the threads each time. It’s the most effective pain reliever,” smiles Shobana, whose training in the classical dance form began at a very early age.

“Also, whenever I turned around for help, I always found my parents readily waiting. They are the reason why I took up dance. They are the reason I am able to juggle work, passion and happiness today.”

She soon realised the anguish of those who face such setbacks in life but do not have the support or the means to bounce back.

“I wanted to reach out to such individuals, particularly women and children. So Shanti Venkatesan, a social worker, and I started the Bharati Foundation, which connects with needy people in Chennai and across the State.

The 220 self-help units that we set up in Rajapalayam have benefited more than 2,500 women. Besides, in my back office organization that works with several major banks and offices, I recruit a lot of people who have served a prison term and give them another chance in life. Today I can count them among my most hardworking and honest employees,” says Shobana, who also adopts underprivileged girls and offers them financial assistance for education.

“Two days ago, we had six children admitted in a residential school in Tuticorin. Their father is in prison on charges of murdering the mother. During home visits, we found these children living in a pathetic condition. Now, they will not only get food and shelter but will also be attending school. I get to meet such men, women and children through police officials, prison authorities and NGOs.”

For Shobana, the greatest satisfaction is when she is able to put a smile back on these distressed faces and see them leading a normal life. “I feel like part of a large happy family. I trust them completely. Since my parents are now very old, these are the people who support and stand by me in times of crisis.”She thinks she has not only imbibed the spirit of Subramania Bharati’s verses in her performances but also in her approach to life.

“I am a great admirer of the nationalist-poet and have adapted his works in my choreographic productions. His poetry is timeless because it encompasses the navarasas.You find in them all the emotions that give meaning to art and existence,” says the danseuse.