We rarely come across people with golden hearts. Bharata Kala Prapoorna, Padmasri Dr
Nataraja Ramakrishna garu is one such golden-hearted person who can't be forgotten in life.
Whenever I sit back and try to recollect my first rendezvous with him I feel so lucky enough to have such a great Guru in my life. It was in 1985 when I first time heard about him from my Guru Smt Gowri Krishna Murthy from whom I learned Kuchipudi. She advised me to learn something more from greater Gurus so that I can shine up my skills in dance. At the same time, she also cautioned me to be careful because most of those great Gurus squeeze your money but teach you very little. While suggesting some other names she mentioned Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna as a genuine guru because he is spending his whole life on art. However, I couldn’t make up my mind at that time on whom should I approach for my higher learning. I was clueless.
It was God’s grace I can say, at that time Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna garu came to Bitragunta
in Nellore Dt to inaugurate the dance school of his disciple Tanguturu Prasad garu. ( By the
way I am missing him now a days. If anyone knows about his contact number please do pass
it on to me) At that time I was teaching at Rama Krishna Junior College in Allur which is nearby Bitragunta. Along with my regular job as a teacher I also used to take classes in Kuchipudi and was having more than 100 students at that time. There are always some jealous people who usually provoke others by spreading fake news. One such person approached Sri Prasad and asked to start a dance class so that my popularity can be reduced. The same person also approached me stating that a famous dance guru is going to
start dance classes in Allur. Thus he played a double game. But who knows what is there in
the court of God for us? That double game turned into a boon to me. I was not knowing all these dramas that were playing in the backdrop. I decided to meet that so-called great guru Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna as I already heard his name from my Guru. I went to Bitragunta and enquired about the inauguration that is going to be held in the Rail function hall in Bitragunta. After reaching there I came to know that there is so much time for the inauguration and Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna garu is in the guest house. As I was more interested in meeting him than the inauguration I requested Sri Prasad to arrange a meeting with him. Even though he was reluctant in the beginning he agreed after talking to Dr NRK. With the help of Sri Prasad, I went there and met him in the guest house. That was my first meeting with him. I was shivering inside thinking how this man is going to receive me.
When I saw that pleasant personality sitting on a cot and receiving me with a smile half of
my fear was gone. He started asking me so many things with so many inquisitions and I was
answering all of them. After knowing about my dance classes he was very happy and then
came to his favourite subject of temple dances. He asked me whether there are any old
temples in Allur area and do I know any Devadasies serving in the temples. He was going on
talking about some old traditions that used to be prevailing in the temples in Nellore Dt. At
that time I really don’t have any idea about all those. I was just thinking how a man from
Hyderabad knows about all ancient temples in our area and all. For me, dance was only for
our pleasure and entertainment. Somehow he seemed to be pleased with my answers and called Sri Prasad and advised him not to start any dance class in Allur. I was shocked by
hearing that because those were the days when people used to establish their institutions
and mint money. Here is a man who is saying “No” to his disciple with an intention not to
have any competition between two artistes. I was sure that I might not have been competent to him in any manner. But my ‘ego’ didn’t allow accepting the fact. On the other side, there was a world-renowned personality sitting and humbly saying not to have any competition. Was that really a competition? It ignited a type of respect immediately towards that man. My opinion about him started changing.
After a while when I became more comfortable with him I requested him to accept me as
his disciple. Then he asked me how it could be possible as I was working in a college and
can’t leave my job and go to Hyderabad. Then I explained him that I can come to Hyderabad
in the holidays and also can apply for leave and learn dance from him. He was still doubtful
about my intentions and told let us see.
Then things moved on fast. After a month or so I went in search of his house in Ashok Nagar. I was asked to sit in the waiting room. That was the first time when I met Kala Krishna garu. He asked me in a very soft voice the reason for my visit. I told about my intentions. He went inside and informed. I was still doubtful whether this man will recognize me or not. After a while, Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna garu came out and with his usual smile and affectionate voice asked my whereabouts and then introduced me Krishna master that this boy is interested to learn dance. After a while he asked me to show some steps. I was again very scared to show him what I have learned. He encouraged me and started correcting my steps, especially my Talam (metre). He was ready to accept me as his disciple and gave a rough plan on how to go on learning Andhranatyam.
This was how an innocent fellow came under the wings of a maestro. Let me continue my
journey with the Guru of a lifetime in the next blog.