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Krishnaveni - my childhood friend
- Shanta Dhananjayan, Chennai

September 22, 2004

Krishnaveni and Shanta in Usha Parinayam

Where do I start to write about my childhood friend Krishnaveni. 'Vrishnakeni' that is how I used to call her for fun. We grew up together not only learning all the nuances of Naatya at Kalakshetra, we also had a lot of fun climbing the windy cashew trees playing 'marakothi' and stealing the sour green mangoes which we shared with other friends. I still remember the times when during the annual sports meet, we both enthusiastically took part in all the games and shared the top prizes. While Krishnaveni was a day scholar I lived in the hostel, where we used to exchange her home cooked food for my hostel tiffin. Almost a whole year with a lot of fun, we both worked with Melattur Balu Bhagavatar (Thaatha as we called him) while learning the parts of Usha and Chitralekha in Usha Parinayam. Thaatha used to love us like his own daughters.

Both of us had great interest in Tamizh literature and used to share reading Kalki, Anandavikatan and good stories together. When I left Kalakshetra we decided to exchange letters in chaste Tamizh while I was away in Malaysia in the years between 1962 and 65. Now I wish we had preserved those beautiful letters Krishnaveni and I exchanged and publish them as a book. She had such a beautiful creative and poetical language, which was of course an asset to her dancing career.

It was such a great experience to dance together to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our Arangetram on 13th January 2000 at the Varasiddhi Vinayakar temple, Besant Nagar. We definitely wanted to dance together again on our 50th anniversary which alas is not to happen. Both of us had very intimate understanding of each other and I think we were the best dancing pair in Kalakshetra. Probably that is why Rukmni Devi chose us to learn the same roles and always paired us together, including doing our Arangetram together with very simple attire.

Krishnaveni's sharp and agile movements with sweet and subtle Abhinaya were a treat to watch. Her dexterity in executing the most demanding 'adavus' and korvais were amazing. We both shared such a perfect understanding while dancing together and enjoyed every moment of our dance experience at Kalakshetra.

Dhananjayan, Shanta, Savitri Rao, Krishnaveni & Ambika Buch
at Shanta's 60th birthday celebrations at Kalakshetra

Exactly last year on this day (22nd September) all my friends including Krishnaveni shared a lot of poignant anecdotes while celebrating my 60th birthday at Kalakshetra auditorium. That is how deep our friendship was.

I think among all our close friends, Krishnaveni and I had a deep bonding and she confided in me more than any of her own family members. Having known her heart in and out, I appreciated her will power to swallow any emotional turmoil and tide over any difficult situation physically or mentally. The same grit was shown in her last days, when she never showed even a wee bit of her agony, fighting for life.

Our last meeting with Krishnaveni was when just for the fun of it, Dhananjayan and I, along with Ambika, Savitri and Kala, went out on an enjoyable outing in May 04 to Tiruvidandai temple and visited Nityakalyaneswarar after which we enjoyed watching a Tamizh movie with a lot of fun and frolic at Mayajaal (the Multiplex). We could go back to our youthful days and make noise in the theatre, because the hall was empty and it looked as if the film was being screened exclusively for us. Krishnaveni was irritated because of the violent scenes in the movie and constantly made remarks, which was typical of her. After that we had sumptuous iddlies at a restaurant. I never for a moment realized that this would be our last parting. I will certainly miss her calling me affectionately 'Shaantu'.

V P Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan are the artistic directors of Bharata Kalanjali, Chennai.

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