85-year-old Chennaiite teaches performing arts

At the age of 85, Besant Nagar resident Janaki Venkat Raman has her hands full. An expert in violin, music, dance, Hindi and Mathematics, she puts her skills to good use, by coaching others.

Speaking to News Today she says, “My father was keen on educating girls. So I graduated with a Mathematics degree from Madras University and studied Hindi privately. I learnt dance from the age of six and vocal music from seven. I was inspired by my mother, who used to get up at 4 am and practice for one to two hours. As for violin, I used to practice every evening. I am still passionate about all this. I enjoy students coming over for classes.”

She is said to have trained over 1,000 students in dance and close to 100 in violin. But all she says is, “I am an ordinary person.”

Post an early marriage to a high ranking officer in civil service, she has travelled all over India and has taught many, while working as a professor at a university in Kolkata.  For a few years, her passion was put to rest though.

But after her daughter Rukmani Suryaprakash turned seven, she got involved in teaching her. Now, the mother-daughter duo takes classes for students in the neighbourhood. “At the age of 56, I pursued my Masters in Dance and bagged a second rank in Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad University,” she notes.

Even as she lists her awards that include the Tamilnadu Kalai Mudu Mani award, Charusheela award, Sresta Guru-Best Teacher Award, she says, the greatest achievement is being able to train others.

Describing her normal day which begins with music classes in the morning, she continues, “A violin class somewhere during the noon and evening is for dance sessions.”

She knows nattuvangam too, but “nobody wants to learn it,” she rues. The elderly resident however expresses regret in not being able to pursue Mathematics. “If I had done that, I would have scaled higher,” she says.

Naomi N