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Gifted duo: K. Rama Kumari performing Netravadhanam on Friday, while her co-performer Lalitha Kameswari looks on .
Gifted duo: K. Rama Kumari performing Netravadhanam on Friday, while her co-performer Lalitha Kameswari looks on .

Swathi.V

Age-old skill of transmitting words through eyes performed

HYDERABAD: Silence remained unbroken by the continuous stream of words in the open-air auditorium of Ravindra Bharati here on Friday. Everybody’s gaze was glued to a pair of eyes on stage that shut, opened, blinked, rotated, and shifted rapidly. Receiving the syntax on the other end was another pair, towards completion of ‘Netravadhanam’, an age-old skill on the verge of extinction.

The eyes belonged to K. Rama Kumari and Lalitha Kameswari, the lone pair of women performers of Netravadhanam in the country. Initiated to the technique at 14, the duo continue to perform for the past 35 years and have done 556 shows.

Netravadahanam involves transmission of words and sentences merely through eyes. Earliest mention of the skill can be found in Kalidasa’s Kumara Sambhavam. “We were undergoing Bhasha Praveena course in Telugu at Eluru when we were spotted by our guru Dr.Ch. Sivaramakrishna Sarma in 1975. After a year’s training, we gave our first performance,” informed Ms. Kumari, a high school teacher at Mancherial. Trained in Telugu, the pair later devised their own signs for English, Hindi, Sanskrit and numbers too. Each letter, whether vowel or consonant, has a corresponding movement of eyeballs. An amalgam of such movements becomes a syllable which then progresses to be a word. Even corrections and cancellations are encoded.

“Audience give us written words or sentences which are encoded into eyeball movements by one of us and sent across to the other. The latter decodes and puts them down on paper before handing it over to the observer. So far, we have never gone wrong,” says Ms.Kameswari, the headmistress of a Zilla Parishad School in Krishna district.

Tricky situations are aplenty. The couple fondly recollects an instance when Narla Tatarao, the then chairman of Electricity Board as a poser gave the total units of power consumed.

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