Young man on an epic journey

On the move: Dushyanth gives a contemporary touch to traditional texts. Photo: special arrangement  

If you happen to wake up at 6 in the morning and go for a jog near Llyods Road, chances are that you’d spot Dushyanth Sridhar, wearing a panchakacham and sporting a helmet, cycling, an activity the 28-year-old is passionate about.

He’s probably on his way to a Thirupaavai upanyasam. Not to attend but deliver it. This young upanyasakar has been making waves in the city thanks to his ‘modern interpretation’ of the Vedas and the Puranas.

While his audience comprises the young and the old, his reach through mass media like the TV and the Internet primarily draws the youth. “To reach out to the younger generation, you have to address them in a language they understand,” he says. The examples he quotes are contemporary — there could be references to Salman Khan, science and Harry Potter — but the content is steeped in philosophy.

He conducts atleast 200 discourses a year and about 70 of them are lined up in the Margazhi season. “The response to my Thirupaavai discourses — which are held early in the morning — has been quite heartening,” says Dushyanth, who is well-versed in the Sri Bhashyam, Gita Bhashyam, Rahasya-traya Saram and Bhagavad Vishayam.

Dushyanth’s love for philosophy began at an early age; when he was five, he memorised the Dayasathakam which his mother was learning. “When growing up, I was very interested in elocution competitions but never did I think that I’d become an upanyasakar,” he says. “We were in Bangalore and had no connection with discourses; in fact, my mother knew very little of Sanskrit and my father had never listened to a upanyasam before.”

Things changed when he went to BITS Pilani to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. “I was asked to talk about Seetha Kalyanam; I struggled to get the Tamil words right. I thought that I did a shoddy job.”

But his dean and principal didn’t think so. They called him aside and said that it was fantastic. Soon, he was asked to deliver lectures on other topics — which meant that he had to study and research on them.

Today, Dushyanth is up most of the night; he studies the scriptures and the commentaries on them by scholars. “What I study has no connection with the upanyasam I’m to deliver the next day but I try to draw a connection,” he says. In the last few years, he has thoroughly read the Ramayana (“The text and about seven commentaries on it”) and is now busy with the Mahabharatha (“I’ve been at it for a year and a half now”). He also organises heritage yatras to Vaishnava temples across the country and is currently working on a dance ballet titled ‘Aranganin Padaiyil’ that will chronicle the 48-year-old journey of the presiding deity of Srirangam, Lord Ranganathaswamy.

Dushyanth has another side to him — and that’s a full-time job at TCS where he works as an analyst. How do his colleagues at the IT major view him? “I do not carry my religion to my workplace,” he says. “At office, I’m just another employee. Of course, I think that the questioning and reasoning that I use with my philosophical research helps me during presentations and projects.”

Some of his young colleagues are ‘fans’ and frequent his discourses. A few of them hear his upanyasams on YouTube. “I make it a point to record and upload every discourse of mine,” he says. While some call him ‘Swamy’, youngsters prefer calling him by name.

“I do not mind that; it establishes an immediate rapport.” “I do not believe in being preachy, I prefer just letting people be. Sometimes there are in the audience office-goers in their work-wear who have come to listen to my discourse after a hard day and that is very heartening.”

Like most youngsters, Dushyanth too has a desire to bring about a change in the field of education. “I firmly believe that there should be an integrated approach to teaching.”

That’s for later. For now, he’s pedalling hard to his discourses and inspiring people to do the same.

“By cycling in the morning, I get my daily dose of exercise and a breath of fresh air that keeps me going through the day.”

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Printable version | Oct 8, 2021 4:31:22 PM |

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