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Balancing act!

V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

Sudha Seshayyan dons varied roles with ease -- this doctor is also an orator and an author.

PHOTO: R.RAVINDRAN

Multi-faceted: Dr. Sudha Seshayyan.

The saying, ‘A busy bee finds time for everything,' is apt for her as she makes judicious use of time. Unperturbed, she chats about her impending assignment -- a discourse on ‘Tiruppavai' that is to begin in 30 minutes at Ayodhya Mandapam, Chennai, where I meet up with her.

Dr.Sudha Seshayyan dons several roles, which unfurl in the course of our conversation.

“My parents were doctors by profession and it was natural for me to toe their line. I started nurturing that dream even as a child,” she begins in a sweet tone but with self assurance that reminds me of Parvathy Ramanathan and Jeyam -- the announcers on All India Radio long ago. No wonder she is the official Master of Ceremonies at all State Government functions, the recent being the inauguration of the new Legislative Assembly.

Religious books

“Apart from books on medicine, my father's personal library had several Tamil books on religion. Even as a school student, these books kindled my literary interest. Stories of Manickavachagar and Tirunvukkarasar made me delve more into ‘Panniru Tirumurai.'

“Participating regularly in Tamil-based school competitions and those held during my Pre-University course at Vaishnav College, unwittingly sowed the seeds of oratory in me,” she says. At the medical college, she used to get puzzled glances from students and was looked down upon for speaking in Tamil.

There were people who did not like her taking part in many of the inter-collegiate competitions in the vernacular as they felt it would affect her studies.

“ But my interest kept growing. The added advantage was that my parents did not curb my keenness, and this fostered my knowledge in Tamil religious literature, while I simultaneously pursued medicine.”

Justice M.M. Ismail, the then president of Chennai Kamban Kazhagam, always encouraged the student community to read Kamba Ramayanam. Inspired by his lectures and books, Sudha Seshayyan went on to study the subject. She reveres him. The contacts she developed through Kamban Kazhagam, laid the foundation for her role of a religious orator. Learning Sanskrit in-depth helped her understand Adi Sankara's monumental works and she affirms that her spiritual quest too began after this.

Regarding the time when she first began giving discourses, she says, “I cannot recall exactly, but it was during my days at Kamban Kazhagam, when my lectures were confined to two or three days. After completing MBBS. I pursued M.S. and it was during this period that week-long or fortnight-long religious discourses became part of my schedule.”

Dr. Sudha Seshayyan made a special effort to shift to non-fictional subjects such as ‘Soundarya Lahari,' ‘Sivananda Lahari' and ‘Abhirami Andadhi' (which was around the late 90s), but says that all subjects are close to her heart.

Right from the time she completed her post-graduation, she has been in the State Government service. Her career growth has been steady and today she is the University co-ordinator with an additional charge as Registrar, Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University.

On how she balances both, she reveals, “I never mix official chores with my lectures. Travelling by bus to nearby places after 5 in the evening, for lectures, and returning to Chennai by midnight to attend office early next morning during my days as a beginner, has stood me in good stead.

“Travelling from Chromepet to Chennai by train daily to attend office does give one a lot of time to ponder over subjects and to plan. On my return journey, the planning continues as I travel to my lecture venue. I never use any reference material on stage for that creates a block between me and the audience.”

Professional approach

She became a civil surgeon at the age of 30 and her grooming in administration came from practical experience. However, she admits that the Bachelor's degree in Public Administration from Osmania University and Hospital Administration from Annamalai University have helped her adopt a professional approach to work. She has also written books for the public on medicine and health sciences.

Dr. Sudha Seshayyan is part of the International Editorial Board that published the revised edition of ‘Gray's Anatomy.' She takes credit for being the first publishing editor of the translated version of ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica' in Tamil. Her write-ups in popular Tamil magazines on various spiritually-oriented subjects are much sought after and some of them such as ‘Thevara Tiruvula' have been successfully published as books.

“I basically focus on the inner meaning of a story. It is just a format to convey invaluable principles of life. People hardly realise the values that lie deep in the Ithihasas and Puranas. I try to correlate all these in my lectures so that the audience can imbibe the bhakti rasa.

“Spirituality is only a sense of balance. Medicine also emphasises this. You fall sick when there is imbalance in your health. WHO defines health as physical, mental and social well being. In the past 25 years they have included ‘spiritual well being' in this definition. Spirituality as a state of the mind where there is balance, contributes a lot to good health,” she concludes and rushes off to the stage to begin her discourse.

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