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Forever young

Vijay Padaki

Vijay Padaki  

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Tomorrow is Grandparent’s Day and SRAVASTI DATTA salutes these feisty Bengalureans who are still robust and make you believe that age is just a number

Usha Ramaiah

When I meet Usha Ramaiah in the lawns of Visvesvaraya Technological Museum, I am struck by her energy and charming smile. Founder-member of the Karnataka Mountaineering Association, Usha was associated for over three decades with Bharat Scouts and Guides. Now in her 70s, Usha has lost none of her passion. She is now actively involved as a co-ordinator in Bengaluru with Kids for Tigers (KFT), a conservation programme by Sanctuary Asia to make school children aware of the need to save tigers.



“We conduct these programmes in 35 schools. This was started in 2000. When you protect the tiger, you protect the forest. We don’t only talk about the tiger, but about every mammal and every other creature.”



The KFT project sensitises children in various ways including an inter-school competition, nature trails among various other activities. “We call two children from each school and then choose one child for the National Camp at Tiger reserves.”



As a young woman, Usha was enamoured by mountains. “In 1963, I trained at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. In 1964, I did the advanced course.” Bharat Scouts and Guides then organised an all ladies expedition to Mount Mriguthuni in 1964. “It has a height of 22,490 feet. We hardly had any sophisticated equipment. And the Army accompanied us. I remember the first day it had rained heavily. The expedition was challenging. Our tour guide was a 60-year-old lady, Mrs. Joyce Dunsheath.”



The down-to-earth Usha doesn’t speak about her many achievements with airs or graces. In fact, while reminiscing about her experiences, it seems natural to her forward-looking personality. About how she started the Karnataka Mountaineering Association, Usha says: “I got together some boys at the steps of Kanteerva Stadium and set it up. Everything ran from my house. I was the secretary-founder.”



The first outing for the Karnataka Mountaineering Association was to Ramnagara.



“Around 40 people registered. We hardly had any equipment! We borrowed ropes too.” Her days at Bharat Scouts and Guides are recorded in a log book which she has carefully preserved.



She was also the deputy leader for an all men’s expedition to Menthosa. She has met famous personalities in her life, “I met Lady Baden-Powell, the wife of the founder of Scouts and Guides,” says Usha who was recently recognised as among the 50 achievers belonging to different fields during the golden jubilee of her alma mater, Mount Carmel College.



Her enthusiasm for the outdoors continues. Last year, she participated in the Birdwatchers Field Club of Bangalore. “In one day we toured eight tanks!”



Vijay Padaki



Vijay Padaki’s mind is razor sharp, when it comes to both theatre and the world of management. His contribution to Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT), where he is a life member, has been immense. Speaking about his journey in BLT, Padaki, in an email interview, writes: “I joined BLT in 1960, the year of its inception. Mentored by a Scot professor and dramaturg in Madras Christian College, I was put in touch with another Scotsman who was at that time part of the group founding BLT. His name was Scott Tod. His wife was Margaret. The couple was deeply involved in theatre and very accomplished too. They brought the Little Theatre movement of the U.K. to Bengaluru, along with the professional practices for organising and managing a non-commercial theatre group. Not surprisingly, BLT has maintained the professionalism over all these years. Scott was a methodical director. He took me under his wing and taught me many things about play production. He pushed me into directing a full play for public performances when I was 23. Margaret ran the first training programme in BLT for actors. That was in 1962. I suppose my interest in training started then.”



Padaki left for Ahmedabad in 1964, just when BLT was on the upward curve.



“I was away for 10 years, but remained in touch all the time. Vacation time in Bengaluru meant spending quality time with the group.” He returned in 1974 to join the founding faculty of the Indian Institute of Management. “I saw that BLT had been hit hard by financial difficulties and was struggling to survive. I suppose it was at that time when my interest in theatre turned to organization and management matters. A small team of us pulled BLT out of the woods and it was a vibrant group once again.”

He has effortlessly straddled the worlds of theatre and management and also founded the P&P Group, a management resource centre, with his wife Rupande in 1988. But he confesses, “BLT has been the place where I have worn both the hats of theatre and management at the same time. I left for Ahmedabad once again in 1980, this time to set up a new Centre for Management there. When I returned at the end of 1986, alas, BLT was down and out once more. And, yes, the group was revived once again. I have been here ever since and, naturally, with BLT. Since the late ’90s I have concentrated on doing things to give BLT a strong institutional base and make it a robust organisation. The result is there for all to see. We have worked hard on giving the organisation a financial stability. BLT is today a case study in the subject of Arts Management. I am not involved much in production work any more. I focus on writing, training, including training trainers, education enrichment and serving as a Trustee in the reorganised Bangalore Little Theatre Foundation.”



He has written 42 plays, besides several adaptations and translations. “The total is nearly 60. My first major translation project was a play by the renowned contemporary Gujarati playwright, Madhu Rye. Seagull published the pair of Rye plays that I translated. They have both been hugely successful BLT productions. I write for the pleasure of writing, not to be seen as a playwright. I have had the good fortune of friendships with playwrights all over the world. That has helped me greatly broaden the range in my writing. I usually have two to three manuscripts at different stages of process at any given time. I have a big project on hand right now. It is about the role of poetry in the Satyagraha Movement in South Africa. It is based on the terrific archival research by two historians now based in America.” As for P&P, he says: “We took our work equally to the corporate and development sectors. We closed the office a few years ago. Rupa and I continue to be professionally active, but with a low volume of assignments, working from home. We are happy devoting our energies to other pursuits. She gives her time to the Boards of two Civil Society Organisations. I continue to work in the area I helped develop in India years ago. We call it Institutional Development, It is about inter-organisational effectiveness – the structures and systems needed for collaborative processes across multiple stakeholders in large development programmes.



As to what keeps him motivated, considering his exhaustive creative output, Padaki says: “I am happy that I have managed to remain active on multiple fronts. There must be multiple factors responsible for this, not excluding a generally sound state of health. However, if I think of the day-to-day happy moments that make my life, I know that one important factor has been having young people around me all the time. I know there is much to learn from them. I have never allowed myself to slip into the GOD syndrome that overtakes most elderly people – The Good Old Days fixation.”

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 4:15:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Forever-young/article14630756.ece

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