The difference between Kavitha Ramu’s passion and profession is vast – yet she gracefully manages both areas of her life with poise and purpose.
An IAS officer by day and a senior Bharatnatyam exponent in the evenings, Kavitha has been performing as a solo artiste for 20 years now; she has over 500 stage performances to her credit.
Born in the temple town of Madurai, Kavitha started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of four. Her father, M Ramu, was an IAS officer and her mother, Manimegali, had worked as a professor of economics before marriage. At her mother’s insistence, little Kavitha began learning dance from Guru Neela Krishnamurthy (sister and longtime Nattuvanar of the famous dancer Padma Subramanyam) of Madurai. In 1981, at the age of eight, Kavitha performed at the Fifth World Tamil Conference held in Chidambaram, her first major performance and an experience close to her heart.
As a civil servant, Kavitha’s father was transferred every few years and Kavitha studied in nine different schools during her early years of education. When Kavitha was 10, her family finally decided to move to Chennai and settle down there.
It was here that Kavitha met KJ Sarasa, the legendary Bharatanatyam dancer who had developed the Vazhuvoor style of Bharatanatyam. For the next 15 years, she continued to train under him.
She also learnt Nattuvangam (the rhythmic sound play of cymbals used to conduct and coordinate the choreography) from the famous Guru Smt. Indira Rajan.
Having seen her father serve the country as an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer, Kavitha had always wanted to follow in his footsteps. She was initially fascinated by the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) but, over time, decided on IAS as staying in India meant she could pursue her passion for dance. She has always been good in academics, and when Kavitha graduated in economics she was ranked sixth in the university. Her dance career continued to grow, with her performances receiving rave reviews from Chennai’s leading critics. Concurrently, she pursued a post graduate degree in public administration.
In 1999, Kavitha wrote and cleared the Tamil Nadu state civil services exams. In 2002, she cleared the extremely tough examination for the IAS. A little known fact is that in the same year, Kavitha was also busy making a mark as a Bharatanatyam dancer.
Amidst the painstaking preparation one needs to clear the civil services exams, she flew to USA and Canada to play the lead role of Annamayya in a critically acclaimed Bharatanatyam recital choreographed by noted dancer Dr M Balamuralikrishna.
When asked about how she managed to do both, Kavitha says:
“When I took up the exams, I was a widely performing-artiste and there was no reason whatsoever for me to forsake one for the other. They are both important aspects of my life and they feed off each other. My professional life has taught me discipline while dance enables me to manage my stress.”
As a full time IAS officer working in Tamil Nadu, Kavitha’s days are very busy. She has served as a Revenue Divisional Officer in Vellore, the Assistant Commissioner of Chennai’s Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department, and the Joint Commissioner for Relief and Rehabilitation in the Tamil Nadu Road Sector Project (TNRSP). She has also served as the District Revenue Officer for the Chennai district. She is currently the General Manager for the Tamil Nadu State Tourism Development Corporation.
One would think that her job wouldn’t give her any breathing space but it hasn’t stopped Kavitha from pursuing her passion.
Her day starts at 5.15 am when she leaves for yoga or functional fitness classes on alternate days. When she gets back home, she practises dance for some time before leaving for office by 9 am. She normally returns home by 8 pm but, if she gets back earlier, she likes to unwind by walking in the neighbourhood park. She also teaches dance to kids and loves reading and watching comedy films in her leisure time.
With over 600 stage performances and a handful of choreographic works and thematic presentations at dance festivals to her credit, Kavitha has been performing for almost two decades now.
Many accolades and titles have also come her way — from the prestigious ‘Nadanamamani’ and ‘Yuvakala Bharathi’ titles to the Balasaraswati Endowment Award. She is also an A grade artist of Doordarshan and an empanelled artist of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
“Earlier, when I was posted in other districts, it was difficult for me to practise and avail frequent leave to participate in dance festivals. But now, after 10 years in service and moving to higher positions in my profession, it has become easier for me to take out time to pursue my passion for dance,” says the talented artiste-bureaucrat, who has also coordinated the cultural events for the opening and closing ceremonies during the 1995 SAF games held in Chennai.
By straddling two different and demanding worlds effectively and effortlessly, Kavitha Ramu has shown that where there is a will there is a way. As the inspiring lady says,
“To be able to continue with my passion despite the professional requirements has been an incredible journey.”