Story #7: Rediscovering her Core: Shrimathi Usha Srinivasan; Part 2

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Marriage and Family commitments

By the time I finished my degree my father started looking for an alliance for me. Both my parents were very old; all my brothers were married and groping with their own life. My father strongly felt that he should see me married and in safe hands before his demise as I was not professionally equipped to work or to be self-sufficient. Though I was not fully inclined towards a wedding due to my spiritual and philosophical bent of mind, I was positive about getting married, more out of my survival instinct. Suddenly marriage was fixed and with just 12 days gap between the engagement (Nischadartham) and wedding (Kalyanam), I was married in December 1974; at the age of 22.

Jamshedpur

At that time my husband was employed in Jamshedpur. So after marriage I went to Jamshedpur with him. Though it was a very different life style from what I was used to, I put up a brave front. I slowly got used to that life, but it did not last long. My husband made a job change and we had to move to Hyderabad.

Hyderabad

That was it. Suddenly I found myself sitting on a roller coaster! This was the starting of the most tumultuous period in my life and marked a time when I had to completely change and adapt myself to the new environment and new lifestyle. Every woman goes through such periods in their lives but for me it was chaotic, to say the least!

Delhi

Though we were based in Hyderabad, I did not stay there for even 4 months at a stretch. The nature of my husband’s job was to travel, especially to North India. So we would go to Delhi, then come back to Hyderabad for couple of months, then again go to Calcutta and so on. On one side I found travelling to new interesting places, but the constant move on the other side was very difficult to adjust to.

Kiriburu

Kiriburu is a town in Bihar-Orissa border at the top of a mountain. We were there for three months. When I came to know that they were storing the chicken and mutton in the same fridge as vegetables in the guesthouse, I stopped eating! Then one of the mining officer arranged for some idlis to be supplied everyday from a mess in the foothills of the mountain. That and some fruits were my food. There was a lonely peacock in the guesthouse which had recently lost her spouse. Slowly she became friends with me and would knock at my door to share my idlis. Everyday taking a walk to the bazaar road (which totally had five shops) was my activity. My peacock friend always accompanied me to the shops

Jaipur

I remember when we were staying in the Jaipur Guest House, everything was taken care of. Of course food was completely new to me; only Chapattis/ Aloo and Urad dhal. I had a lot of time at hand also. So out of sheer boredom I went to the local library for books. I loved to read and thought I could pass the time with that. But to my dismay I found not even one book in English!! With no choice available I took a Hindi novel home, and started reading Hindi! I knew only the basic alphabets, but slowly over the week I started reading faster, and then finally reaching a stage where I could read a full story book in 3 to 4 days!! (This Hindi helped me later on while teaching my children!!)

But our favourite route was always Delhi-Hyd-Delhi-Hyd back and forth.

My husband had a typical IT job, demanding and time consuming, many times he would be immersed in his work and even his free time was with office friends. What do I do?

They were lonely times. In every situation, I found something new to learn, something new to do and that probably made me the strong person I am today. I had to survive, literally like throwing the baby into the water and watching it swim; I gained expertise. I learnt how to approach strangers and I could actually walk up to strangers in our building or guest house and ask them to help me out! I learnt to get things organised in completely new places, completely new situations where I did not even know the language.

I lost my first child in the eighth month unable to take care of myself emotionally and physically in the midst of all this turbulence. At such times we are fortunate to have parents to support us; in spite of their age my parents came to Hyderabad to spend a month with me. It was a very difficult period for me. After they left, again I was alone and with poor mental state. I was not even aware of that otherwise I could have taken some medical help.

Bhadravathi

Two years later I conceived again and my first daughter was born when I was in Badravathi. Soon we got news that we had to move to Calcutta. So I packed everything and sent it to Calcutta, and reached there. Initially we were staying with my sister for some time. Her whole family used to dote on my child. We had a very nice stay with them. It was so soothing like finding some shade in the desert. Being fiercely independent I did not want to trouble my sister who lived there, so we found a house to stay and had just finished the required house warming, when we received news that we had to move to Bombay. So without staying in the new house for even a day we packed our bags and with my little baby we went to Bombay.

Bombay

Bombay is another story. With no accommodation available we had to stay in a PG with a shared kitchen. So I was given a time slot to enter the kitchen; morning and evening. I would prepare whatever I wanted and then bring it back to my room stayed in that room with my young daughter. No need to tell that in between all these shifts now and then we would be touching Hyderabad for few months since it was the headquarters. In the meantime I was carrying again. This time when my husband went to Bombay again, I didn’t know what to do and went to back to my parents. But one of my close friends (whose friendship I had developed when I was in Delhi) was in Bombay; Mr and Mrs.Ramachandran who had three grown up daughters of almost my age. Mrs.Ramachandran used to love me as much as her own daughters. They were kind enough to write to my father that they could have me and my husband in their house and that they would take care of me. So I went back to Bombay and stayed with them for few months and they truly took care of me so well. I am grateful to God for bringing such wonderful people into my life.

It is such people and their friendship that I have collected as treasures during my criss-cross tour around the country. Our things were scattered all over the country, and we were literally living out of suitcases. I then travelled to Chennai to have my second daughter while at the same time shifting from one PG to another within Bombay We shifted to Chennai due to my husband’s job change and finally stayed in Chennai for a longer duration (around 6 years).

 A friend in need….

Chennai

 I was a complete wreck. With 2 small children at my side and managing everything on my own, cooking, cleaning, washing, and schooling; I had gained a lot of weight, and looked like a maid and not the wife of senior level manager that I was.

It was then my neighbour started sharing her thoughts and her attitude to life with me, and I started looking at my life and changing the way I looked, dressed and ran the house. She helped me understand that maids can be employed to help us and better we pay them we can get better service from them. I changed my attitude towards employing help around the house. I realised that they too are needy people and not just out to get our money.

I finally took things into my hand now, I employed a full time maid and cook; joined a fitness club, started taking care of myself. I learnt driving, and with my maid’s encouragement and support (“I will take care of the kids” she said), I joined the Music Academy in Chennai, to complete my teacher training certificate course. I stood first in the practical, theory and pedagogy papers. I also started learning from eminent Vidwans.

 (It was around this time that my father too passed away and I felt the loss tremendously. I was 31 years at this time.  He was a constant source of encouragement and blessing to me. He provided that unconditional love that guided and supported me all my life. (His deep interest and involvement in my singing brought out the Bhakthi Bhavam in me and led to my calling my music school after his name, of course much later).

Muscat

After this we went to Muscat for two years and there my younger one didn’t get admission into school (U.K.G). So I gave her home coaching for one full year. When we then came back to Chennai in the middle of the term it was not too good. Staying at my in- laws place, we had to search for schools for our children and a home for us. It was not easy. I had to write lots of notes for my kids and coach them too. Setting up the house from scratch was terrible. The children by now who were used to car had to take school bus and also scolding from teachers as they were behind in their lessons. They were not used to running to catch the bus or push around to find a seat for themselves. Every day, they would come back crying and it made my heart sink. Now my husband was away in Bahrain and I was alone in Chennai.

The turning point

The constant moves and detached lifestyle after marriage influenced me in many ways and I naturally moved away from material attachment and desires. I had a deep leaning to philosophy and the mind.

It is probably because of this and the meditation that I was deeply involved in, that brought into our house a book; called the Blue book of Silva method Like an answer to my questions on the meaning and purpose to my life, my husband brought a book home one day and left it on the table. I would see it daily, dust it, but not bother to take it in my hand. But finally one day my natural curiosity for reading caught up and I started reading the book. It took me deep into the world of Psycho-Oriento logy and dynamic meditation.

The book led me deep into myself and I went on to do an advanced course called the Ultra Seminar and just as I had visualised, I actually was trained by Jose de’Silva himself. José de’ Silva who is the author of the bluebook lived in Texas and was 80+ at that time. That rarely happens, and I consider it an omen, that what I wished for came true when I met him.

I was now interested in Healing and alternative methods of healing. So I also did advanced course in Reiki and followed this with Pranic Healing. I had an intuitive understanding of these methods and this carried me further into this community of alternative healing.

I was asked to take up private practice in Pranic healing after completing the Psychotherapy Healing course, so I set up a small private practice in Chennai and did this for 2 years. Yet this was not the path that was destined for me!

Raising Children:

Again there were transfers and movements to various other places, even Kanpur! You have to believe me if I tell you I have not mentioned all the moves, fearing that I’ll be making your head spin!! In between I was busy raising my children, and I kept them fully occupied with different activities, like swimming etc.

I was a strict mother and had many rules, yet I was quite happy to join them and have fun. I would allow them to play in the rain, on the terrace, yet keep everything ready at the house entrance, so that they could change and enter the house and not go in soaking wet! I believed in making rules, and also explain to the children the consequences, and the reasons behind why the rules were being made.

I gave them the choice to do what interests them, also the ability to understand people better, and to live life simply. I taught them to be independent very early. By 10 years my eldest could make coffee; I even took them to the bank and showed them how to operate their accounts. I kept communication open and gave them confidence that they could come to me with their problems.

Those first tumultuous years we were moving almost every 6 months, but with time we were stable for at least 2 to 3 years. Yet children did have to move states many times and it was difficult for them in many ways. Like this only they grew up.

They each completed their education and my elder daughter married at the age of 22. Even then my husband was away coming just a week before the wedding and I prepared for the marriage with the help of my younger brother.

 

My other turning point:

 Once again I was doing many things but not completely absorbed in anything and I felt this aimless wandering was getting me nowhere. At this time one of the Pranic Healing leaders introduced me to Landmark Education Curriculum for Living.

This became the next turning point in my life. I completed the programme which is conducted as three modules and through this I completely transformed my thinking. My self esteem improved tremendously, and I became aware of myself in many ways; especially my strengths and weaknesses. Till now I was not clear about what I wanted to do with all that I had learnt and gathered in my life, almost like I was in a slumber. The constant moves and family responsibilities had left me clueless and directionless.

Yet after the Landmark Course I became clear about what I wanted in my life and how to make it happen. First I started to put things in their places where they belonged to. I made it clear to my husband that his presence is the family is more important to me than his position or the money he was making. I made it so clear that I was not willing to take anything less than that and now wished to start something bigger and meaningful.

At the core of my heart I was missing my music. Due to all the family commitments there was a big gap in my connection with music. Now with renewed courage and focus, I decided to start a school for music. This was in 2000. As my father was my greatest fan and critic, I decided to dedicate the school to his memory. Initially I called the school ‘Jiva’, after the silk thread in the Thambura which gives the timbre to the Nadham and which makes the difference in the tonal quality. My motto was “Music for All”

Later I changed the name to “Eswaralaya” (after my father) and through this school train professional singers and also have created an empowered group of people which includes the students I train and their families. Music for me is a medium for transformation. Through my school I aim to make people more socially responsible and connected with the world. I believe that Philosophy is not within mere words, but it is a responsibility in those who follow that path to enlighten others. It is my duty as a teacher to show my students how to lead a more powerful and productive life. The learning is not confined to the music I teach or the lessons we practice.

Lord Krishna in the Gita shows us the virtue behind commitment as against attachment, this is a value I carry with me deeply. I also believe the essence of life is in balance. Especially for a woman it is extremely important to balance between her own personal desires and needs and the family commitments; otherwise we can become a liability.

There were 2 places in my life that I distinctly see as turning points, where I had to reinvent myself and my thinking; the first when I did the ‘de Silva course which led me down the path of alternative therapy and the other point when I completed the Landmark course and started my school for music excellence. This is the path I follow now for the past 10 years and have found immense satisfaction and fulfilment.

Yet I know this is not all, I still am working towards making the music school a platform for young artists to use their talent in a socially responsible way. My father always encouraged me to think big and I believe I am living his dream….

Excerpts taken from the website: http://www.eswaralaya.com

To her students, she is a dedicated, sincere and inspiring teacher with the ability to impart knowledge of both theory and practical aspects of Carnatic music. She considers training her students in voice modulation to bring out the best in their voice as one of her greatest strengths.

She approaches teaching in a holistic manner – teaching her students both the techniques of singing as well as other attributes and values that would enable them to grow as individuals and musicians. Aspects such as the various softer aspects of performing, be it stage presence, handling the sound systems etc also therefore form a very integral part of her teaching curriculum. Some of her senior students have started teaching Carnatic music under her guidance.


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3 responses »

  1. Lovely Sowms
    Touched a chord somewhere. Except the moving from state to state part it feels so much like my own mind and heart speaking. Great work. Keep it going.

  2. thanks for your comments

    This is the first story that I recorded and wrote out, unlike the others that I was sent to me by mail

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