Season 2, Episode 35

Born to Dance


Sudha Chandra Sekhar Part 2


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Today’s Guest


This is Part II of the conversation with eminent guru and dancer Sudha Chandra Sekhar.

Symbolizing the peak of purity and performance, Sudha Chandra Sekhar has been classed with the all-time greats of classical Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi schools. Meticulous in each portrayal and adhering to the purity of style, Sudha has become one of those artists who combines versatility and artistry.

As a dedicated dancer and a rare genius, Sudha understands the art, is very much alive in the field and has shifted her activities from India to the U.S. and Canada. Sudha has given around 7,000 performances throughout India and abroad. She conducts classes for young aspirants, imparts theory classes for more advanced students, professionals and others interested in her art, and has presented more than 117 students in their classical dance performance debuts, known as Arangetram.

During summer recesses, Sudha has conducted advanced dance camps and workshops both in U.S. and Canada, where students have intensive training and research opportunities. She has also taught seasonal course sessions and independent study courses through University of Windsor, Wayne State University, Albion College and University of Michigan.

Sudha’s dance organization, Nritya Sudha’s Hindu Temple Rhythms, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018.

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If you have a comment or question please reach out to me at or on Instagram @gladiatrixpodcast.




Sudha Chandra Sekhar

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Malini Sarma 31:22

So before you got married, you danced for presidents and prime ministers and kings and world leaders and movie stars. You traveled and you educated entertained audiences around the world. So is there anything there? I've seen pictures, you know, with the prime ministers and presidents and everything. So is there any any particular incident that, you know, are the moments that stand out? That are very precious, I'm sure there are lots of them. But so any? anyone, any one particular one that stands out?

Sudha Sekhar 31:53

Sudha Sekhar 38:20

Then I got my Government of India scholarship. And that was another very memorable thing that I had. That Rukmini Devi E Krishna Iyer and Dr. Veeraghavan and who are my judges. And they were there asking me questions when I went for the Government of India scholarship. And Rukmini Devi fought for me and got me the scholarship that very year. They had said, This year, we decided to give it to Jeeva ratna mala. Because she is in need of it. You know, and they asked me if we don't give you the scholarship this year. Would you stop dancing? And I said why? My Mother, would pay the fees. Oh my mom will pay the fees. I'm not dancing because I won't have money. I will always have money for dance, because mom will have because she puts aside that money for it and never give up dancing. I said if she needs more than me, please give it to her. I will not feel bad at all. Came back and was studying for Shakuntala it was my interarts at that time and finished my interarts the meanwhile My mother used to put milk for Hanuman. There was a small hanuman temple under a tree in Scion I used to is to walk up that morning chant this hanuman's or I mean, there was a kavacham , Hanuman kavacham chant, the vadyar would do the puja. And he will tell me beta tere ko hi milega. Tere ko sab kuch milega. He would always bless me. So with that, go around the tree a few times and then come home walking. I love those walking with mom up and down, she tell me stories and so on said, How can you go wrong? 41 days I've done it, I'm going to continue to do it. She said, okay, because mom didn't like failures. She, she did not take kindly to them have worked hard for something, the result has to be there. Not a expectancy, but a better confirmation of thought. Happy to get this, okay. So Didn't you to do that. So I'm studying for my exam. This is an in May, March that Vazhavoor Rama Pillai came and said, they've announced the scholarship goes to Jeeva ratna mala and also,Krishnaveni I said, Oh, that's very nice. I hope they dance very well throughout their lives. I'm so happy. You said you apply again. I said, it's okay. Sir. It's okay. Doesn't matter. It didn't seem to be that important, you know, at that time. So it's okay. Other things were more important to me than dancing for the groups having a lot of programs that was more important. And I'm 18 at that time, right? So I could do that. And Kalli Mama, everybody said, we'll apply again, don't worry. About five or six of their students that got scholarships before. You know, I said, Okay, my dance classes and all that. And I'm studying for them. And in May, the bell rang, and postman came and he delivered a registered envelope. The mom took it and put it near God. And she said, Okay, this is your scholarship. I said, What? Wait, she opened, she said chant with me. So I chanted, she opened the thing and sure enough the government says the government of India scholarship has been granted to you for 2 years, and nobody would believe it. I mean, how can you believe it ? After they had announced that announcing that so she said take it to dance class show to master. Took it there masters said did they sent you the application again? Sure. Let's let us sign it up. I said, Yes, ma'am. Please take a look at it. I my mom asked me to give this so Kalli mama opened it and said att dad dad da da and he clapped his hands and called the whole house and said our Sudha has won the scholarship this year. She didn't. Mahalinga saar Govindaraj saar said I told you. I knew it. Mahalinga saar was so happy. Joy. And Mahalinga saar says, Why did you so quietly wait for all the classes to get over? And then told me I said my mom said, Don't act like you've not seen anything before wait till the classes are done. And then slowly. Never seen a daughter so obedient.

Malini Sarma 40:15

So how can they changed the results?

Sudha Sekhar 43:04

Well, Rukmini devi argued it seems. she said, this girl came with a lot of enthusiasm. She answered all the questions. And she was up to the date and everything. And she's a beautiful dancer, and she's going to carry this art. She's going to continue with it through out her life. I can see that in her. So we cannot trash her hopes we have to give to her now. And then she told Dr. Raghavan, it seems that you didn't even look up from your as you're writing something you didn't even look up to see how she was doing. So your judgement doesn't matter. Because he was the one who said she's a young girl, you can give it to her next year. They created a vacancy and and gave me the scholarship. Wow. So that's pretty awesome. And both of them I love Rukmini Devi for that. I mean, I just thought was and so when I did my first arangetram in this country, I wrote a letter and I said true to what you had said that day. I am now in America. And I'm going to put it to the end and until there's the last breath in my body I will continue dancing. I told you that sent me a message for the Rita Sharma's arangetram She wrote a very nice small for this thing. She sent a message Ms. subbulakshmi sent a message. Padmini, Ragini and Lalita Padmini sent a message Padmini Ramachandran. The Commission High Commissioner India, President V V Giri, they all send messages ml vasanta Kumari wow all of them send messages. They were so happy that I was doing it. So even though I didn't personally meet all of them, they all knew that I was dancing in Bombay, this girl is doing it. So it more they wrote about me the papers, the more they said things. It didn't go to my head because I felt there was so much more to know in this art form. And I was just following directions of my mother. You know And that was a very beautiful state Malini. You know, you don't want to think about what is the repercussion of this just do it, evolve with it, and then you enjoy it as much as it lasts. And look, I was able to I didn't even dream of all these things happening me teacheing setting up, HTR teaching here so many girls doing arangetram, I never even dreamt about these things. You know, I learned so many over the years and slowly slowly, Krishna also understood the universe understood. That's what it is when you have thought you just give it more and more time. And whether you like it or not you suddenly realize that that is your life's ambition lifesaving. And what happened so that was one thing, the scholarship and then the third thing the one that will never ever leave my mind is when we danced for Swami Gynanananda's Aradhana in Chennai in 1981. At that time Vidya was older Vidya did her arangetram that day. The December was sometime in December. So Vidya did her arangetram and then two days later, I had danced there. They were about over 6000 to 8000 devotees were there Wow. I did Bhavayami there too. I did the dash avatara a full program my Mahalinga saar had come there. This under guru G's direction guruji said you're gonna dance suddenly told me to do. And then he called for a Tailor and he made a costume for me I was wearing that big costume that Guruji had made. Unfortunately, it made it short and it looked like a kuchipudi costume. Guruji shot pannikere kalyellam teriyadane. adika ennadi kaalu kattina poche enna saar koch poren, adila wool pyjama podun he said so then I wore and it was made by Aiyellu tailors, okay. It was then it was beautiful. And later on, I used it for my Kuchipudi. But that costume was there. And then I wore the other costumes. And for three, four hours I entertained. And at the end of it, the whole and they're all singing with me dancing up crying with me through throughout the program. I never found such a fantastic audience like I did that day. No, they were all devotes. I said, if I never dance again, I don't care. But this is something I remember all my life always. And I want Guruji to bless so that I can take it all over the world. And if not me some very, but I want to keep on dancing that day I again, made this thing with myself, I will do that. Then we came back home. And when it was time to leave it was the mahashivratri. So during that time, I suddenly developed high temperature, we were supposed to take the Night Flight and the doctor came and saw. I was 104 my temperature was one she can't travel like this she cannot leave temple bells were sounding all over because the Matunga you know, you have got those temple bells going on. I

we could not leave. My father was trying to get the ticket changed and everything. And here I am in delirium, right. So then I I see a vision of Shiva coming out and dancing and it was like, you know, golden, complete molten gold. And his movements are so smooth. I can still remember that dance Malini, how he danced, and one corner the other and barely see him lifting his leg. But he was moving, huh? You know, it's what it's like laser, laser dancing. And he's moving from one end to another and I'm fascinated standing in this corner on the side. Like that. Devi standing near him, and then suddenly, the snake from his My eyes went on the snake. And I said, Oh, the way he's dancing. What if that snake comes off his neck? Hmm. Sure enough came off his neck and landed on the opposite side of me. I'm looking at the snake looking at Shiva looking at this. And I'm terrified. And I said Shambo, please let me enjoy your dance. You know, please tell that that snake just watch you from there. Let him not come let let him not come from there. I'm watching the dance. And he finished the dance. And he's and he's coming towards me. And suddenly he's a snake and he said, Oh no, he's going to pick it up. Hmm. And he took the snake up. He took it. And he is coming towards me holding it in his hands. And he's going to Put it on me and I woke up

I shouted and I got up and sat up. Everybody's Uh huh. She's, she's back with us. Then Itold mom the whole dream. And after I came back to Michigan, I said I'm going to start Tandav, oh, you know,

Malini Sarma 50:05

that was a sign that you needed to.

Sudha Sekhar 50:07

Vidya And Tina danced and collected funds for that. And then I used to teach $5 an hour those days, I went house to house. Yeah, me and Sekhar traveled all over the universities to give performances, talk about the dance. We had a wonderful time at that time when Vidya was growing up, and then Anju and Nandu were born, we continue the dancing. So Tandav came because of that vision that I had. So that's one thing I will not foget That particular 1981 was a very memorable year for me. Then we danced for Walter Nash, and he's the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Nehru asked me to do a command performance he called All India Radio. And he said to us to come and perform Yes, look for her. She's in Bombay, I want this Bombay dancer to come to Delhi, an entertainer. And then he knew about me, All India Radio calls my master and says, The Prime Minister wants Sudha Doraiswami to come and perform for us in Delhi for a command performance master is hurriedly calling, calling me and talking to my father. And my father said pack up, you're going to Delhi. I said, I got an exam. I mean, yeah, you want to go? If you don't want to go? That's okay. It's at rashtrapati Bhavan. My mom said, No, no,

Unknown Speaker 51:32

she's going.

Sudha Sekhar 51:32

She asked if I could dance at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. And he said, No, no, no, we cannot go I don't want my, you know, the people to go and dance in those places. So my mom for a long time, she wanted me to dance at Rashtrpathi Bhavan That came obviously happening when I was 1819 Oh, this is happening. Wow, then it into the scholarship. And Thatha, Mahaling saar groomed me took care of me, taught me many, many, many new items Nava Sandhi, and about the Ashta dhikpalakas. And then Andal thirupavvai and all that every year, I used to go to Banswadi temple and dance there. So really completely surrounded by spirituality, and the cultural, you know, significance of the art. And music also side by side I was learning. So I really have so many people to thank for where I am today. It's not just my doing at all its million people I have to thank who have been, you know, in the backgrounds, you know, wishing me well, and think that I would go ahead with my dream. I don't know if it was a dream i had that I want to be a dancer. Definitely It was my mom's? And I'm not going to let go of it. That's awesome. Yeah,

Malini Sarma 52:58

we're so glad that you decided to stick with it. Sudha aunty, we would have missed out on so much if you hadn't if we hadn't met you.

Sudha Sekhar 53:06

It's not the entertainment aspect of the dance that was interesting to me, it was the spiritual significance of it. What does it make me feel? It tells me that this body is important. It's meant to do service service, through movement, service to the gods, through teaching, and the inner internal organs. Everything has to be involved in the dance, right? Your brain has to has to think about the stories it has to think about all the spiritual significance about the greatness of the gods. So we have to find the people every now and then there is something higher than all these things. That higher consciousness, what is the one that gives us the energy to keep going in our seven spiritual centers in the body. It's like the seven days of the week, you've got to take care of have to nourish your body to eat well. you have to sleep well, You have to think well, you have to respect every other being well, you have to make sure that you heard what you have to make sure that totally that you have used your life properly or a human life you can waste. The engineers, the physicians, anyone anyone who's doing that work, are putting in so much thought into what they're doing. They're giving their entire life to what they're doing. So of course they will be successful. Do you know Bill Gates is not sitting on his millions. He is giving it out, the more he gives the more he gets, right? So you need to share that's what came to me that you should not keep anything within ourselves, give it give it away then more, more will come and that makes me know that so these are some of the things I remember in my life that stand out and I also danced for visiting people from various parts of the world you know, so the Italian Italian film Federation, send, Rosanna Podesta, who acted as the Helen of Troy, in the movie Helen of Troy? No,

Unknown Speaker 55:15

I have to see it now now that you told me that I have to watch it

Sudha Sekhar 55:19

came with her delegation. And she sat holding my hand and said, She's such a beautiful dancer. Oh my god, I wish I could do something like that. They all gave me their autographs and things that go with my autograph book to get all those things. And then the Russian company had come from Russia, and all looking so beautiful. And you know, me with standing next to them. I just, that's what's beauty. And they are not that simple beauty. And they I danced for them also. And then there was this mime. What's his name? In front? Oh,

Malini Sarma 55:57

the French?

Sudha Sekhar 55:59

Yeah, it's fine. He had come there. forget his name. How can I know? It's all well. It'll come. Eventually. He had come dance for him in, in Babulnath temple area. Okay, he used to show striking up poses and he was showing how he lifts the cup and takes it across. And he had this smile across his face.

When I came here, I was told that he was teaching at the University of Michigan.

Malini Sarma 56:29

Is it Macel Marceau?

Sudha Sekhar 56:32

Huh? The mash mash mash. And I went and met him at the University of Michigan. Okay. He says

Unknown Speaker 56:41


Sudha Sekhar 56:46

dancing, it said yes. And then I met also Kirk Douglas he had come for Seven days in may release of that movie. Okay. he had come with his wife Ann and,I danced at the Taj hotel. Wow, that was sweet and special performance t was arranged And for all this, my gurus came with the orchestra That was pretty authentic, you know, some of the most highlights of my performances that I did stay in my lane, you know, yeah. And I came him here and dad kept in touch with Kirk Douglas invited us over when vidya born I met john wayne. Wow. That's awesome.

Malini Sarma 57:33

So Sudha aunty after you got married, because you were that you were in the peak of your career in in, in Bombay, when you were dancing, you got married, and then you move to the you move to Canada and then moved to the US. So moving to a new country, what was going through your mind? I mean, did you ever think about not doing dance because you were moving to a new country or it was the dance that kept on going?

Sudha Sekhar 57:56

The thought of not dancing never ever entered my mind. I knew that with the dance, go anywhere. You know, I knew to talk about it too. So I had developed that talent because of the nuns

Unknown Speaker 58:08

at school.

Sudha Sekhar 58:10

I always knew that with the gift of the gab. And with the gift of dance I could get on anyway, but it was apprehensive. I actually first the week that I arrived here I was very tired. Because there was not any time before I left India, there was so many performances The day I left India, there was a special program that we did with all the great masters Kuppiah thatha, Mahalinga saar, Kelucharan Mahapatra and Vempati Chinna Satyam and Guru Bippin Manipuri. All the Masters got together and they were doing a very special thing about the pancha nadai. So I had danced at that one, that was about nine o'clock. And before that, we had to arangetrams in which I was called as chief guest. So they gave these big Garland's like Venkateshwara I could barely wear to tie it. Mal kallimama came with me for those two. And he, you know, gave me a safe farewlel and everything like that. And then it came home and 12 o'clock I was I had to sit down musicians were waiting. And I taped my whole kuchipudi repertoire because we didn't have music that time, right. So I didn't want to forget my Kuchipudi. Because after my marriage, I did the Kuchipudi rangapravesam okay. And when I was 18, I did my rangapravesam in Kathak also, so arangetram piece I had done. So this was right after my marriage and my Kuchipudi master had come from the Ahmedabad Srirama Acharyalu and he came to me and did a whole performance of Kuchipudi and that's where I did Allamelumanga. So after all this I came and I taped, when I left home, it was two o'clock in the morning. The flight was at four Mom and Dad taking up boxes to the plane and getting getting it weighed and everything, put a lot of strain on moms, and there was no I didn't even have time to say hello to them that day. It was so busy. You know, mom was so busy guy packing everything for me and all of us didn't have time to miss each other. And then finally, at the airport, we were talking then Mallai garlanding photographs, all that going on. I go into the plane and the plane would not start. And then people need to sit the plane for two hours. I said why cant we go out he said, because the door is already shut. You can't go out. Is it Oh, I want I could have said bye to my mom and dad properly. So then they allowed Dad to come in. And then Dad in Be careful. I'll keep track of you and he was tracking the plane. So I was supposed to go to and from London, take a flight to New York. Okay, from New York come to Canada, something like that. We did was we left only around after four o'clock somewhere around five to six and landed in Cairo. Instead of London. Okay landed in Cairo. And we were asked to come out and I'm coming out the plane. And it's all desert all around. This one. Like a Mirage there is one gift store. I said Oh, So let me go and see what's there. The first time I'm shopping by myself. So I go inside and bought myself a little snake bracelet for the arm, you know, I'm thinking like a snake. So I it was gold and it put that on. And then I got a couple of other trinkets from there. One was like a some egyptian thing that i got there. And a little pot I thought Shekhar would like that, you know, so packed all those things got back in the plane and then fell asleep. There were seven people in the plane. Okay, so then from Cairo the flight goes to Paris. Hmm. It's like landed in Paris. I didn't know why I'm in Paris. I said, Why are we here? She said, there is something happening in London like today. So we are rerouting you from Paris? Paris. It's a straight seven hour flight to Montreal.

Malini Sarma 1:02:25


Sudha Sekhar 1:02:28

So that was my first transatlantic flight.

Malini Sarma 1:02:30

Wow, I took the roundabout route. And you were traveling by yourself.

Sudha Sekhar 1:02:36

Yeah, I was wearing all my finery. wearing my saree wearing all my big big things. Actually, you and I got in there. In Paris, she the lady was in charge with me. And it was taking me She took me to a bar where there's food and made me sit there and come back in. And she said that in French, and I didn't know what French is. So we were talking in mudras. I said, What, and then they were seeing some names and they were not pronouncing it properly. So nobody saidSekhar Secar se car something like that they were saying and I and I showed them my ticket. And she said your flight is about to leave. Come on. And she dragged me in there.

And she carried my bags and running behind. It's the longest airport I've ever seen ever. Oh my god.

Malini Sarma 1:03:35

But I'm glad you made the flight.

Sudha Sekhar 1:03:37

Finally asked the flight to be open, and the door I got in and they shut the door. So as soon as I got in I got to catch my breath And then I said God, oh my God. I'm feeling like I'm going to see stars. She gave me a glass ofwater and Bonjour mam and she asked me to sit down. And then then relaxed and looked around and there are seven people in the plane. And Wow.

Malini Sarma 1:04:05

What a major change from like so many 1000s of people to just like seven people. Seven people

Sudha Sekhar 1:04:13

as I fell asleep then no phones or anything, right? So no distractions, fell asleep and thinking about, you know how this is going to be and then suddenly it hit me. I said, How am I going to recognize him? Hmm. I didn't have a picture or anything of is in my hand, right? So I said, oh my god. Then I said Nala Damayanti Kathai and thought about how Damayanti had to pick from 7 husbands and I said, Oh my god, what is happening here? Are you giving me a chance to do that? How am I gonna recognize it. So, at the top of the things that I was telling him, I don't have a picture of my husband. I hope I can spot him in this crowd. I said, This isn't a crowd compared to where you come from. I said, Yeah, I know. its getting dark And I suddenly see him in the way I saw it. Like, like an egg shape, and just he is in the middle, just Sekhar. The rest of the people are all like cardboard people, you know, just he is. And he's got blanket in his hands and he's eagerly looking and waiting for me. And he's in the whole crowd.

He made me come by. He took me by train, a very fast train from Montreal. to Toronto. Yeah. And we got the Toronto and then we got into a Greyhound bus. And there was only two of us in the Greyhound bus. He brought a blanket, and so we drove from a you know, it was cold and I had not experiened that cold and it was not snowing. We droveto Windsor took four hours, I landed on fourteenth in the morning, morning, 430 he arrived in Windsor, and whole bus, both for us. And then we got and then he brought me home around 530 and this is Hildegarde. 699 Hildegard. And it was just Howard Avenue. And it was a thirteen room house. And he said, so hard to make feel welcome. We've been talking about so much. And he was very sweet. So I came to this country. And then the next next two weeks, I was tired and he said, Don't go anywhere, just stay home. You know, we'll just recoup and figured out what we have to do and how to fix and he had a tape recorder for me. So he made me dance and everything. And the stove wasn't fixed yet. So he'd bring food from outside. The the tap water for the kitchen wasn't fixed yet. So he said don't do anything. I said, today's pongal, and you have to put are there any crows here and he said no crows here. Yeah. So that's how Pongal started. And then two weeks into the thing he said let's go for a walk the next day, okay. After Pongal suddenly was a huge snowstorm. My first first snowstorm was first snowfall. And then he said, you can play it and I picked up snow and I was playing with it. And he took pictures of all that and send it to India. It was so fun. So nice to see snow for the the sun shining through the icicles, and looked just like a fairyland. Yeah, this is so nice. This is beautiful. So then I met some Indian friends there, Dr. Pillay and some other doctors Subramanyam knows people from the university, they came to see and invite us over and everything. Then after three days, I felt like after one or two weeks I said Krishna, where are you? To all these things? I see you anywhere. Where are you? I'm feeling to miss you now. And where did you get to this country where I don't see you? Did you forger about me? I'm saying those things so Shekhar says Come let's go for a walk. And he said keep smiling. Look, all of them always smiling. So you also smile. Iused to walk only Saris those days right. So we're walking in Krishna, come come. Suddenly I see this Hari Krishna people coming in front of me.

Malini Sarma 1:08:41


Sudha Sekhar 1:08:41

Hare Krishna Hare krishna they began singing andI I sat down in the pavement and did namaskaram. The Krishna people start, he brought me to the brought us to Detroit. And they introduced us to Srila Prabhupada. Who was in that little house and Jefferson Avenue. Right. They hadn't the other place yet. And he was doing Thulasi Puja, and he was conducting thulasi kalyanam Wow. And when this is a new bride was just come. He said Come on, I have to entertain you properly. So he put garlands for Sekhar and me. And he did the whole puja and everything. And he he gave us prasaddam and everything talk to us about Krishna and he said wherever you go, never Krishna never forgets. You never ever forgets you. You can forget him but he cannot forget He is standing Is he thinking of me Is he thinking of me always can call him any time you want. We will always be there for you. But Wow. And that says that God knows that I found know my Krishna now. Oh, yeah, no problem.

Malini Sarma 1:09:53

So you started Sudha aunty See you when you started

Sudha Sekhar 1:09:58

my very first program in Windsor was in June Okay as a huge and complete, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi I danced both Dr. Spellman and everybody newspapers carried all these wonderful things about it and all so we got press coverage here also and said India loss is Canada's Gain they said wow in India but I don't think India lost me it's got so many artists now coming here is what I have to do then Shekhar said let us see what happens. And then Shakuntala aunty from Bhartiaya Temple. Mr. To me now they're drover every weekend and she would come and dance. And then he started knowing about parthia temple, they were putting things together, India festival we started taking part in. And then at the temple when it started, I said come and teach that they had doctor, all these doctors who are there in the temple now they're all my students. They used to dance. Wow. And then there were about 20 people were who joined up and they meet and go meet. And subrata Gosh, he was running a radio station here. So Mita suggested that I come and teach they, they had done a Gandhi probe in the Masonic Temple. And I took part in that and you have to come and teachers so started teaching and park a temple and then slowly we did you know, children that are born there. I used to come from there and teach. And then after a while, shaker said the Kela club called me and he said, You know here we'll implemented Alex mapleton called me here. And then him I am in the United States. I'm in Michigan. Yeah. So got a chance from GM to the GM here. And it's been what I came here in 1978 11 years I was in Windsor.

Malini Sarma 1:12:01

Okay. And the six years has been 40 years.

Sudha Sekhar 1:12:06

And middle of that Guruji landed up. Guruji came to Toronto, we met Guruji from 19 I would say from the time that Anjali was born before Anjali was born we knew Guruji. Guruji came here from around 1972 in Toronto Amma appa found out he said Swami Gyanananda oda shishyan. She they lived in Toronto at that time Ammama and Thaatha Okay, so we met Guru Ji and he said a nama aatha kozhandey and then he came over first time he set foot in Seneca huh? It was the doors were open by Guruji. Wow, he did the paal kaatchal there. we always had this spirituality following us. You know, I feel that God comes at the right time to say you're on the right track, you're on the right track. Go ahead, keep going. You're all on me. Because you're all gopis of Krishna, I just feel that we are in brindavan in our own little brindavan wherever we are. So that was very nice. It was beautiful that Guru Ji was here. And even when Anandini was born, he was doing Radha kalyanam at home in Windsor, there were about 150 people in the House about that time. And we were at 48 at that time, and with Guruji, the whole program and bajans and everything going on, he kept asking me, he sent me into a room and he said sit down and do meditation. Okay, whole day you have to meditate don't come outside at all. So I sat there like, meditated at that time the baby was listening to all that keep on chanting, l was sitting there and saying my prayers and chanting and then just before going into the puja, he said, Sekhar and Sudha come here I want to ask you, do you want a boy or girl? And we looked at each other. And I said Guru Ji boy or girl whatever God decides is fine. He said no, I can change. Wow, you want a boy now I can do that. And I looked at each other and said I don't know what to ask Guruji whatever you bless us with we are happy with and then Anandini was born. And in the morning the next day and Guruji complete and Sekhar was going up and down. Come on. I have to take you tot hte hospital cause slowly the pain had started. I said no. I want to finish the Aarati and then only go Then Guruji finished and then finished the aarti. People sat down to eat. Everybody said bye and I came at 12 o'clock. I left for the hospital. Four o'clockNandi was born.

Unknown Speaker 1:14:49

That's awesome.

Sudha Sekhar 1:14:52

He came back he named her Anandini. That's awesome. And Anjali when she was born, she only liked Mexican food. Anandini only Indian food. Vidya only American food, like I eat cheese sandwiches and lemon pie French fries and travel by train and bus and everything. So those were very, at that time, I like that. So when Vidya was born Swami Ranganathananda was there. When Anjali was born, there was Swami Bhashyananda and for Anandini it was Guruji. Haridos Swami we are all blessed by them all we get, we give you all the blessings, or whatever we have we share with you is the thing that has always been, I think I was born, just to continue what I'd learned in my last life. And to continue with it as much more our journey has a lot more to go with. I am trying, but there is still I have still not found, what is the purpose of being here? You know, I just feel that I should keep doing it. And whatever the purpose is, it will show itself. Yep. But I'm just so happy to be here and to be part of all these things. So that's Question number four answered.

Malini Sarma 1:16:20

So, Sudha aunty, when, when you considering how much how much time, and you know, how much training and, you know, you've been pretty much groomed for dancing, the non classical form, and you've stuck to whatever your gurus have taught you. For those people who, who want to who want to get the benefits of Bharatanatyam without putting the number of hours into it? What would you tell them? Or what would you even recommend? Is that something that they can even do? Because it just seems so unfair?

Sudha Sekhar 1:16:52

Absolutely, if the desire to learn is there, and they work as much as they can, whatever I teach them, they can understand. And definitely there is a way Where there is a will, there is always a way, right. So, numba Thaatha once told me that he did the arangetram for a little student of it in seven days. Wow, seven days, one week, the entire community said it's impossible, but she did it took her to the temple made her do the whole arangetram So if you can do the all it needs this, I want to know it. And I definitely can shorten the course and teach them how we did very nicely pick them. First of all, I have to know how much they have in their capacity is there that is there. They have a dream to do that. I would be more than happy to help them with it. There is nothing in life we cannot achieve. Okay, time is relative factor, you know? God's time is what works with us with me. Yes, Krishna time. If I have to be there in 7 And he decides that I will not be there by seven then I will be late.

Malini Sarma 1:18:03

Yeah. Looking back, looking back at your life Sudha aunty, if you could go back and change anything? would you change anything? No.

Sudha Sekhar 1:18:16

I don't want to question the life God handed to me. Everything that I was doing came at the appropriate time. And I had the good sense to take the direction I took. And that sense also came from the divine. Okay, so what is happening that the strife that is everything I came during the World War, I went through the ration card thing when my mom used to go and stand in lines to get water, and to get ration card, rice and things that I used to go with my mom and stand in line with her. I've gone through that all. So all those things, but none of that deep impression in my mind that I have to go into I felt. That this has happened in so many countries before this as I've been through this before, and what they gain out of this to be careful. Be careful with what you have. Today we have everything don't squander. Okay. Take care of it. save up for a rainy day. Help whoever needs it more than you are, even if you share those things will during those times times of you know, want but to try and change something the only thing we can think of changing is reminding people not change. Because what is decided what life comes to, is something we come to earth to all of us have come to earth to mete out our karma, right? There's all those people so many karma is coming here. What can you change for? I'm lively now and somebody has lost somebody. I cannot be lively at the presence of that somebody. She's going through something can i Give her some advice that will satisfy her that will help her make a strong, and I sit with her, can I hold her hand and make her feel better? Can I just not say anything and just listen to her, just give her a hug and make her make her happy? Because there are times when we are caught in such situations. So how do you help so we want, I want the people to change their mentality from hatred, from violence, from greed, from coveting somebody else's things, going for somebody else's things, you know, stealing from somebody, it's like stealing somebody is happy in their land, you go and poach their lands, and you take away things, you tried to change their customs, their manners, those are things were very asuric. Right? What we've got, tried to bring around people around you make them feel make everybody feel that there is something in them. That's very important. Because that will bring peace of mind that will bring love, you know, we need learn to love everybody, because we can see God in them. Right? Yeah, we need to love that we should not love with the I'll only like this person, I would only like that person, then your life becomes very narrow. You know, you're to widen your scope. Right? And the best way to do that is to live and let me

Malini Sarma 1:21:25


Sudha Sekhar 1:21:26

And learn from that everybody has a story to tell. I know everybody has a story to tell. Oh, for sure. Learn to listen, we have to learn to open up our mind. So change has already happening. As we can see, yes,80 years I've been in life. I've seen so many changes happening I've been people, people have gone through it people Learn from it, people have not learned from and those things are going to continue to happen because the good and bad eggs exist side by side. So you have to be like Mahadeva, watch. What's good for me, I take what's not good for me, let go. There should not be slander like be like Baba says, Don't talk behind people's backs. Don't tell stories that you do not know, don't try to put down somebody, if you can encourage them. These are the things that I would like to see in the society, so that people can face one another at all times and help each other out. That's what I see. You know, because that's where peace is. Peace cannot be bought at the store peace has to be worked on.

Unknown Speaker 1:22:35

Yes. And comes from within to

Sudha Sekhar 1:22:38

people. And hundreds of I mean, so much of their time they've spent in research and this and that and everything. But the thing is you have learned to live among the people and try to know, to conduct yourself. Mm hmm. And that is a hard thing. You know, will they like me? Will they like me or not? It's like, take your time to work it out. Hmm. You know, then it happens. Yeah. No, that's what the chief would like to see a more peaceful world, a more united, more exciting world and it's happening, it is happening. The things that were happening, those things which are taboo to us is all gone. Right? So the superstitions are being removed, or the other is coming and doing something good to remove all those things and say get up and stand on your two feet. There's a life out there for you. You can do it, you know, look for people to follow those people and make your life. Beautiful, though,

Malini Sarma 1:23:38

right? No, absolutely. So you're one of the bravest women I know. I mean, I look up to you. You're, of course you're my guru. But I look at you as an example of how to live life your most creative, highly energetic, just, you know, tech savvy and doing zoom classes during you know, in the middle of the pandemic, most of the people didn't even know what to do. You're fiercely independent, very principled, a warm and generous to a fault. I mean, looking at the current state of the world, if there's one thing that you wanted to tell the younger generation and and you know, younger women as they're navigating through this, all this crazy world that we are in, what would that be

Sudha Sekhar 1:24:19

for things. But you know what? America is teaching everybody to stand on their own two feet, right? Not only the whole world, and everybody wants to follow them. Right? So the kids don't have much got if there is a problem. I mean, did we ever feel that one day we'll be holding a phone in our hands and walking around with it and talking to somebody? No, we did magic. I didn't. And we used to have huge tape recorders. You'd have huge machines that did this computer. My Sekhar used to have those huge machines is taller than him and he has to stand. Watch this reel to reel thing going on. But all that has changed and today, we have laptops This become even smaller, you know, it's going to be tiny things that are going to be there. So, world is keeping on changing more and more techniques are coming in. And all this is coming from beyond.

Unknown Speaker 1:25:12


Sudha Sekhar 1:25:13

man is not discovering it, man is not his only reinventing it, maybe it is these things are all have been there before, okay but forgotten about Maya has taken that part away from us. So the youth, youth, I would like to tell them, this is the best time of their life. The very best time, the time that they become teenagers, and up to the time that they finish college and go out to into the world is the best time to build up your friendships, make good friends, you know, and

Unknown Speaker 1:25:53


Sudha Sekhar 1:25:54

look at yourself and say thank you, God for making me I want to do what you need to do in life, and I wouldn't have come here to mete out what I have to do. So take a look at yourself every day and say, I'm happy and the way I am. And I'm going to learn more so that I can be a better me. So, and also, when you look at other people, don't look down upon them. Instead, treat them as your equals, you know, you and I are the same. What I don't have, you have what you have, I don't have. So let's help each other out. So this, this is very important for them, they need to first of all, be disciplined. Discipline doesn't hurt, is the best time to understand who you are. And the world around you too. So you have to develop your self worth, okay? Don't behind someone or something, which is, you know, at this point not necessary as a student, your business is to understand learn about things, and what is yours will automatically come to you. And it will be a driven course that comes to you already. Today's children are all so smart Malini. Yes, because I'm at them, they go to college in four years, they've got a degree within their own, for example, Malika she's on, just blazed a trail for herself. I can't be more proud than a person like her because she's gotten herself to a level. And she's going to go further higher and higher. There's so many things for herself. There are so many of our HTR girls who have been doing things like that, And there are other girls who are going into engineering and they become doctors, and I'm so proud of all of them, they can dance, the first 10 years of their life. 1213 they were with me, and they're gone ahead and achieved and become now and it is still very young 2024 2628 is still a very young age. So I do, they have found what they wanted in their lives. What I would like to tell the future generation is you must educate yourself, the first thing they have to do is stay healthy. Today, there's so many things being put into the foods that you eat, that you have to monitor yourself every day and make sure that you're feeling energy, strength, the inner you know, inner power that you can do anything. So keep yourself very, very healthy, extremely healthy. And the headaches, those things should not be coming to you during your teenage years. I know you sleep on time. I mean, you have to keep up with your friends. Also, that's a different story.

Unknown Speaker 1:28:43


Sudha Sekhar 1:28:44

make sure you pay attention to the food that you eat and take your outfit. Let me pay attention to you. That's important. Because then when you're in your body and your spirit work together, anything can be achieved. Again, can change easily you can change anything that is happening around you. And don't misunderstand anybody because that is kind of gives you a sore feeling inside, you know, instead, gracious, be respectful, and carry yourself with elegance. Be polite, and pick trusty, trustworthy and be you also trust others be gentle with one another. And people love you and be happy to be around you have something for someone. Always set goals. network with people interact with them. Don't be alone, be with a group of friends are amazing. We need to be part of when you're at school, also save money. Yes, we can put money every time a little bit every day but you are going to be needing it in the future and then track your spending habits. Then plan your day. keep a journal. All these things are important. Don't forget your family. Yes, in the middle of all the rush that's going on outside the outside world will demand so much from you. Don't forget your family, always remember the word your mother and father, see, make sure they're How are you doing? Those will give you more confidence and more energy and strength. Because their blessing is important and have a positive and cheerful attitude.

Unknown Speaker 1:30:27


Sudha Sekhar 1:30:30

should be a sense of purpose, which is always embedded in your heart. That is, you have to find inspiration for that. And you have to find a mentor who will help you to continue with that work. And have everyone that have helped you. Let them know that you are grateful that they have been there for you. Because that's important, say saying thank you, or being apologetic about something that you might have said or done that might bring along, you know, impression for others. Or Amend your actions, amend your actions, always a mentor of those important learn skills. Invest in that in those skill, use them. Don't learn and forget about it, use them, use them daily life, think big. Okay, and be more productive whenever you do something. And you know, this, these are all small things. You influence people with your intelligence, your attitude, your happiness, your joy, your energy, all these things will bring you up to the fore. And I'm all praying for each and every one of them to come out very, very nicely. They have to be alert, they have to be watchful, you have to be you know, very careful. You have to be very wise not to blame anybody, and not to blame themselves either. All these things are things. One of the most important things I want the children to do is the girls of today, the boys of today, they need to go and travel the world.

Malini Sarma 1:32:08

Yes, fine.

Sudha Sekhar 1:32:11

expands your mind. to no degree. Everything is available to them. So be careful. When you're spending. Be careful with your money. Be careful with your thoughts. Be careful with your friends, and go and enjoy yourself and become the best you can ever be. And my prayers. Oh,

Malini Sarma 1:32:31

thank you, Sandy. My final question. What is your secret to staying so young at heart?

Sudha Sekhar 1:32:41

I don't know. I mean, I'm always happy. My soul is always happy. I eat like eat, though. Well, I'm a vegetarian. I have not like I don't indulge in a drink or anything like that.

Malini Sarma 1:32:58


Sudha Sekhar 1:32:59

I don't. That's the reason but I know one reason is that I'm constantly in touch with my prayers. Okay, so my mediation has gone off early morning. I need to do that with God. My conversations with God are amazing. And Ganesha kartikeya Hanuman. You know, Ganesha is the Lord of wisdom. He removes all my obstacles. Karthikeya is the commander in chief of all the gods whenever I need something, I'll say, Karthika, please help me don't let anything come near me. Let your vel protect me. Hanuman, of course flew across the skies to do ramas bidding. So I say I'm want to be a messenger of yours, God. So make me take me Give me the energy to go and do what you are making me do today. And of course the Mother, Mother Goddess Raja rajeswari is looking up to me in the morning. I them and I ask them for guidance. What's my agenda today? God, I start with that. And then I am mostly around children. I think that that is the secret children throughout my life that has made adults very uncomfortable or unhappy because I'm spending time happy because they come with so many ideas to me and I'm learning from them wherever I am today is because of Vidya and Anjali and Anandini. My daughter's very, very special to me. I believe they're very special gifts that are given to me by God and are come from him to stay around and say we are here. Don't worry, we are around you. I always thought of them as Goddess of wealth, Goddess of home and hearth and Goddess of learning all those 3 bundled together are Vidya Anjali and Anandini. And when when they're not around them. I create my own Vidya Anjali Anandinin with my own students so you are all very special to me, all of you know my daughter. Every one of you. I'm so happy you take such good care of me. So what do I have to worry about? I have children, I have good sons in law. And I am surrounded by music and dance. And so far, up to 80. I have enjoyed every bit of life, and I hope to do the rest of it. It's really immortalizing what I feel right now is much to do. And when the time comes, God will tell us what to do. Yes. So we'll just be prepared for that. Yes, always know, I'll be sitting and know that my head is graying already, because I have not been able to go and get it. No, I don't. But in turn, I feel I was 26. When I left India, I got married 26. I arrived here, I was a few months after 26 couple of months maybe. And never let myself grow my mind grow out of that. I said, always stay in that because I was when I was a bit height of my career. Yes. And I felt like I can handle this know that the world is in front of me. So I kept that feeling growing. Even when I lost Sekhar and I didn't know what to do for seven years. I was not able to express anything. I didn't know what was going on. And yet, I did arangetrams during that time. I think this dance picked me up every time watching Anandini was only 14 Anjali was at high school final year. And Vidya was married and not very happy. So there were so many things going on. And suddenly this happened. But I had my old parents mom and dad there. And I didn't want them to see that. I'm giving up. So I had to be strong for them. And mom had to be strong for me. So she was with me till I was 68. By that I learnt about the world by then I learned I went into my accounts, I did everything Malini. Everything I wanted today, I am a student for life. Yes.

Unknown Speaker 1:37:07

We all are Yes,

Sudha Sekhar 1:37:08

I am not. I, I think I'm very very humbled the way my life has gone. But I'm also very excited. Because every time I feel there is some energy that is standing beside me. Kind of awesomeness, that picks me up and to add to try this now, why don't you do this now. So I suddenly have something that goes, we're gonna do this. It's not my doing. It's some voice that is telling me you should do this now.

Malini Sarma 1:37:36

Tomorrow is

Sudha Sekhar 1:37:38

happy pongal to everybody be happy? Because life is what you think and make it to be?

Malini Sarma 1:37:45

Yes, absolutely.

Sudha Sekhar 1:37:48

We have, God has given us a chance to choose which way we want to live our lives. Right. And we should do that to make us feel happy all the time. Because if we wallow in self pity, then nothing is going to happen. No self pity. The self is a powerful, everybody's self is very, we can get ahead, we can do things and we can help children who come to us. So we should always be in a position where we can help people that will keep you young, that will keep you happy, and keep you like a proper messenger of God that keep you like, fulfilled, you know. And I think there is always a light shining above us, and lighting up our brain and giving us energy that flows through you. And then I hope to the end will be able to feel this way because this is an amazing Anandini brought me here to Boston. And here deep. Prayers are going beautifully. And we're accomplishing a lot of things, you know,

every month, we are celebrating my 80th birthday all year long. Awesome every month, come up with something amazing. And now you know the kids have already started celebrating things on their own. Yes, so we give them the youth and important place in a dance class that they can continue to develop friendships and relationships and help one another bringing the dance to the fore Yeah. Okay. All the best. Thank you for having me in your podcast. Any more questions? Nope.

Malini Sarma 1:40:06

Thank you, Sudha aunty. I really appreciate your taking the time. Sorry, went long. But no, thank you. The world needs to hear the stories because I don't think they have heard it and they needed to hear it from you. Because anybody else saying it doesn't do it justice.

Unknown Speaker 1:40:21

So, no,

Malini Sarma 1:40:22

thank you for being the most amazing person. Thanks. I

Sudha Sekhar 1:40:27

want our listeners. Thank you. I hope I didn't bore you with my stories. I'm here to talk to you all anytime you want and Malini can always I've been reading about I mean, I've been listening to the other people who have been in every one of them is amazing. So much more than me. And yeah, Sudha aunty is always here for the whole world.

Malini Sarma 1:40:49

Thank you. Thank you, Radhe Krishna. Thank you, Sudha aunty.

Sudha Sekhar 1:40:53

Happy Pongal! Happy Sankranti!

Transcribed by

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Malini Sarma

Malini Sarma

Your Host

Hello. I am Malini. I am a dancer, world traveler and storyteller. I am a hard core fan of chai and anything hot. I am always looking for new adventures and would rather be outside than inside.

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