Padmashri Ananda Shankar Jayant – The cancer fighter
Please find the TED Video of Mrs. Jayant here.
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
ASJ: Ananda Shankar Jayant – Padmashree Awardee – Contribution to Arts
Me: How did you dance your way out of Cancer?
ASJ: As I said, even during chemo therapy my husband’s advise, of ‘ Think of it as Amrutam”, really helped. I have been giving full-fledged dance performances soon after surgery, during chemo therapy and during radiation also.
Yes your body does take a toll during chemo, but half the battle is in dealing with the mind.. If you are going to allow your mind to succumb to the bodily changes and weakness, then that will be one’s reality, but if you say to your mind, that this is good for you, and the weakness etc is only for a short phase, then immediately you get on top of the situation.
Further, focussing on the good that is expected to come out of the chemo is better, than focussing on the side effects.. Think of it as Amrutham.. nectar.. and whoever said that life giving nectar has to be sweet??!!
It is important during treatment, to focus on happy things, and not watch every miserable story being dished out on TV.. It is also important to keep the mind otherwise occupied, by reading, listening to music or whatever animates you (mine was dance), and not wallow in self pity.. that leads you no where except to more misery.
It is good to get a clutch of funny movies and watch them! It is also important not to give the cancer TOO much importance.. I said.. ‘Hail fellow well met but I really do not have time to indulge you!’
Remember, whatever you give attention to is your reality.. so focus on the good, and good will emerge dancing during therapy both my Doctors (Dr Raghuram a well known oncoplastic breast surgeon, Dr RV Rao, medical oncologist, and Dr Nalini, radiation oncologist) and my family have been of great support. They never stopped me. I was advised to listen to my body. If I felt I could, they didn’t stop me. On the other hand my family went all out to support me and be with me during such programmes. My mother in law, shifted to our home to take care of my diet, which needed to be a highly nutritious diet. They even accompanied me during my programmes.
A lot of emotional support from my sister, and friends especially from the dance world, helped. It is important for the family, to not mope around and look at the cancer patient like death incarnate!
They need to take it in their stride and go about their routine as normal.. Usually in such cases, I have noticed. that families, go around with the longest faces possible..:) and will go to visit a cancer patient and sit there recounting all the cancer patients, they have heard about, who died…??!! Can you imagine what that can do to the morale of the patient?
Visitors too need to observe prudence and know what to talk! .. reg strength
My biggest source of strength has been my husband Jayant Dwarkanath. He has never allowed me to lose faith. He himself has been so confident and sure, that it gave me immense strength. Sometimes when I would be miserable (especially during chemo therapy), he would cheer me up. Never once has he shown despondency. His strength has been supreme.
Further, he never stopped me from dancing, or doing anything I could. He never made me an invalid. On the other hand he would goad me to be up and about. This helped in a big way, as I never felt I was a patient undergoing a lengthy treatment. Only, patience, positive outlook towards a healthy future.I never questioned: Why me? Did I ask myself the same when I got national awards like the Padma Shri? So when I could take those with pride why can’t I take an illness with equal acceptance?
I would like to request all women over 35/ 40 years of age to take their health seriously and go for periodic check-ups. A mammogram after 35 years is an absolute must. An early diagnosis is the greatest gift you can give yourself or your loved one. So, men, instead of buying your wife/ girl friend/sister/ mother/ mother-in-law that pattu saree, gift her a mammogram, once every year. This is the best gift you can give any woman..
Me: How are you doing now? Have you fully recovered from cancer? Or you on medication?
ASJ: My 3rd year review went well. Im still on oral medication and this will continue for a few more years.
Me: Glad to hear that maam.
Me: Art is often considered as liesure.. But you are using it as a medication.. I also interviewed a lady by name Usha Rai.. who started painting at 60 to over come her accident trauma and has successfully conducted an art exhibition.. What is your view on this..?
ASJ: I disagree with you.. Art is not leisure.. Art is life.
And life will throw challenges at you. Art helps you ride out the challenge, and also learn from the challenge
Me: “Your mind is your final frontier!” I loved your words.. I find that people who are content in life.. have some kind of spiritual connection.. though various forms.. some find their connection through the work.. through art.. through service to man kind.. but this is very common.. What are your thoughts on spiritual development..
ASJ: Yes you are what you think! I think we as a race have started to focus so much on the outside world, that we spend all our time reacting to every little input from outside. Instead if we act upon the world, by having our mind in our control, then you paint the life you want and visualise
Me: What are your other initiatives or projects that you are working on..?
ASJ: Other than dance I love Carnatic music. Though I have learnt it I only sing at home. I have learnt the veena and am keen on pursuing it again. I read a lot.. anything.. fiction to philosophy. Im now also the convenor of Asha a breast cancer support group. Asha is a cancer advocacy and support group of the Ushalakshmi breast cancer foundation. Such groups are needed, because it helps, in patients and their families, understanding the illness, its recovery process, and also the million nitty gritties of questions that assail patients and their care givers.. such as what REALLY happens during chemo? Where can I get a smart wig? When will my hair be back? What diet should I take? What exercise can one do? Where to get a prosthetic bra(for those with mastectomy) Yoga lessons, meditation classes, etc, and sharing stories.. all these create a huge wellspring of confidence, which is usually at its lowest ebb for the patient Also Asha, raises funds for helping underprivileged women with screening..I think such initiatives, are very important, and takes the edginess off cancer
Me: Thank you very much man. You are indeed an inspiration and a great role model for Indian Youth!
Readers, hope you enjoyed this part of the interview.
Please find the previous interview Mr. Guruprasad – Collector of Rare photographs here. All interviews on CWS can be found here.