Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from Bangalore. I have my B.Sc degree in Microbiology and post-graduation in Sanskrit from Bangalore University. I am a gold medalist in Sanskrit and was awarded first rank. I moved to Muscat in 2007 and have lived here ever since.
Q. How did your interest in Tanjore paintings develop?
When I was younger, I had seen a Tanjore painting in my father’s friend’s house. At that time, I did not know what type of painting it was, but I was so attracted to it that I wanted to learn it. I finally learned how to paint a Tanjore painting when my son was 4 years old.
After coming to Muscat, everything got a push. I had not tried anything before this. I used to only read a few books and had even stopped painting. Only after coming here, I have done everything. This is the place for all my progress, whatever it is.
Q. Where do you find your inspiration for these paintings?
Our culture is extremely vast, and once you get into paintings, everything you see begins to attract you. So, when I first went to the Grand Mosque, I was so fascinated that I decided to do the mosque in Tanjore style. That is how it began. Once I did that, I met Her Excellency Maitha Saif Al Mahrouqi to present it to her and she asked me to try painting khanjars and Omani jewelry. Then, I painted Omani forts and some of the different roundabouts we have here, for which I worked with some of the Walis of Muscat. So, anything you see can serve as an inspiration, if it goes well with the artform.
Q. Going back to Sanskrit, when did you start taking classes?
Nothing has happened with any planning. My husband had met Mr. Gopal who was working as the General Manager for OTE. While talking, my husband mentioned that I did my post-graduation in Sanskrit and I paint to pass time. So, Mr. Gopal said that previously someone used to take Sanskrit classes but since they moved to India, the classes had stopped and asked if I would be interested in starting the classes again.
My classes began with 5 students and have now reached 250 students. Some of my students did not even know Hindi alphabets when we began classes. Since the script in the same, knowing Hindi alphabets aids in studying Sanskrit so they have started from the alphabets. I feel so proud because some of them now have their diplomas in Sanskrit and continue to teach and help other students. So, it has crossed over 500 students in total.
Sometimes, mothers learn Sanskrit to help their children and both, the mother and the child, come together.
Q. Can you tell us some of the associations you have helped and charities you have donated to through art and teaching Sanskrit?
It really isn’t much, just small amounts. I have worked with the Center for Special Education and in labor camps. The money received as a result of the classes I have taken has been used for the purpose of teaching English language and basic computing.
Some of the charity wing institutions collect the paintings from me and whatever amount they get goes to the cause. So, I always have some of my paintings ready and whatever is done, I redo them, so they can also be given for the cause.
Q. Please tell us about your book, Na Kanda Muscat and your forthcoming book on sun salutations.
The title Na Kanda Muscat means ‘the Muscat I’ve seen’ and the book is in Kannada. I came from a land that is famous for sandalwood to a land that is famous for gold. When I initially moved here, it was my first move ever and yet we managed. At 12 AM, we could roam easily. I could send my son to buy milk from the market without any fear. And when my husband was travelling, we could easily stay at home. That is the comfort level required for a citizen, that too an expat, to feel at home in a country after leaving his/her country and the Sultan has given it to us. I am really grateful to him and I wanted to pen it down.
My book on sun salutations is a result of my belief that others should enjoy the benefits of sun salutations too. I had begun by practising 108 sun salutations which I stopped in between before restarting it to understand the difference it caused in my body. The benefits were innumerable. I started with 108 and have reached 324 sun salutations. The results are not visible immediately. It is a gradual process and it takes the body time because it has been spoilt for a long time.
Q. You were awarded the Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Award. How does it feel to be the only NRI to be awarded this year?
Of course, I think it is God’s grace and blessing. I’m grateful to not only my motherland, but also to Oman. Because people here are so accepting. If they had not accepted, it would have not happened. All my passion has grown only here. I brought the seed from there, and I’m getting the fruit here. I feel really honored to get it back home because of my achievements here and that they selected me from entire gulf. It is really nice, and it gave me the opportunity to meet PM Modi. I was very happy as I was the only lady to meet him, among the 45 people who were all businessmen contributing to the country. I had even asked the Indian embassy the reason for selecting me to which they replied that I was the only one who was doing it for a cause and promoting the Indian art, culture and yoga. I felt really happy for meeting such a personality and am very grateful to Oman for everything.