Meet A Child
Story So Far
  The story of Rasa

Ramana Sunritya Aalaya Trust
Script: Mrs. Hema Srinivasan
Sketches – Sridhar (Rasa Special Student)
The Story of Rasa is one of belief in the joy of existence in one of conviction, a conviction that many things can be possible if pursued with will. It is a story of hope which is a life blood of human nature. It is also a voyage of discovery of an exploration of possibilities within an individual and a celebration of the immense potential which lies within every human being.

Rasa was a fledgeing in the words, excited by the unexpected avenues, untrodden paths, but determined to pave the way, open up and illumine a whole new world for the special people.

So it was, that man’s earliest medium of expression, communication, interaction, before he was even articulate – all that which has come to be ART today- all its wonderful forms – mime, drama, rhyme and dance, music and drawing, painting was rediscovered as the most effective tool – to empower and enrich the lives of people with special needs.

What T.H.D (Theatre for Holistic Development) today spells at Rasa and in the lives of hundreds of special people, is the result of an odyssey into the realm of creativity, research and unrelenting application by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, an eminent artiste in the field of classical dance and music with many performances and awards to her credit and a doctorate in Natya Abhinaya from the University of Madras.

In the midst of people skeptically wondering what is the role of music and dance (only for normal people!) in the lives of challenged unfortunate. Dr. Ambika Kameshwar staunchly believed it, to be only holistic answer for the needs of special people.

Thus a young vision unfolded…… A flash back to the year 1993…… Ambika who has intensive training in dance and music was invited by Mr. Srinivasan who was heading the Ramana Maharshi Academy for Blind, Bangalore to train their children – with visual impairment – Ambika would demonstrate each mudra and her students would feel her hands and imitate the mudras perfectly. They would measure her steps and do every single step without a single mistake.

In 1985 the Spastic society of India Chennai threw open its doors for her experiments with Dance and music as developmental tools. For the first time art as the non-threatening therapy was experienced by these students. It was about this time Ambika met Babli of Mathru Mandir. This little girl’s love for dance and Ambika made her enrole as Ambika’s student. Infact Babli’s entry into her life widened the scope of Ambika’s work and her work spread to several more special schools of the city of Chennai.

The need was felt to start and organization – a team was required to work together to spread this new methodology and thus Rasa – Ramana Sunritya Aalaya was registered by Ambika on 27th September 1989. The encouraging response of the Children was the greatest impetus to thereafter, launch the first big step “the outreach programme” with a small but dedicated tram. Within a remarkably short span of a year Ambika Kameshwar brought into her fold about 400 children from various schools catering to varying special needs.

The approach refreshing, the methodology scientific, the special sessions of Dance movement, Music and Drama therapy were sessions which the children joyously came to look forward to. The methodology came to be popularly termed a C.M.E (Creative Movement Education).

It was the time for the children to share their newfound joy with the rest of the world. For us at RASA the first Annual Day celebrations presenting children from various schools was a unique day of joy and pride, proving beyond doubt the efficiency of CME, totally imparted and imbibed with joy, fun and frolic, the spirit of RASA.

Through the years, now CME as a rehabilitative possibility came to be acknowledged even by the medical specialists. Now it is being recognized and accepted as a holistic developmental teaching methodology and goes by the name “Theatre of Holistic Development”. Needless to say the movement would not have grown and the methodology would not have benefited so many if the team had not expanded.

Dr. Ambika Kameshwar’s knowledge and experience was encapsulated in a yearlong Diploma course in T.H.D for scientific training of people with a keen interest and aptitude to work with people with special needs. As a comprehensive short course, including lectures by medical specialists and online exposure to work with the children, the course continues to turn out highly selective and successful candidates who are absorbed into the staff stream.

The need for the children for comprehensive full day session of THD on daily basis was felt and this gave birth to The RASA Day Centre. The RASA Day centre was begun with a handful of children getting daily inputs in THD. Today we have strength of 75 Special Children and young special adults. We are proud to have received the recognition from the state government in the year 1999. The RASA Day Centre is now recognized special school.

Creating an extensive awareness about THD amongst the special schools, parents an public has always been a task that RASA has recognized and addressed almost since inception.

“Language of Dance” – Cultural seminars organized by RASA delineating this form of art as an effective mode of communication and self- expression, was the first major step in this lecture demonstrations orientated towards bringing the knowledge about the power of Theatre as Holistic new tool to a wide cross section of people ranging from children of normal schools to parents, teachers, artists, and connoisseurs and the layman.

2000 – 2002
The ultimate objective of RASA is to create through THD a complete Socio-Economic independence. Vocational training of-course is the answer. It has been a wonder (or really no wonder) to watch our children who have graduated from just dabbling with colours on paper to becoming wonderful expressionists. .. Doing block printing and clay moulding, carpentry and hand work to name a few with professional perfection. Showcasing these special talents saw the start of ‘Curtain Call’ the elite gift shop.

Acceptance of THD as a complete rehabilitative methodology, become evident with the number of application that came in, from parents of children and adults with disabilities. The products made by the special adults were regularly displayed and sold at various exhibitions. The teacher training course now renamed P.G. Diploma in Theatre for Holistic Development was recognized by Mother Theresa Women’s University, Kodaikkanal. Complete training in independent living is being given through “The RASA Home”, where adults with special needs stay-in and learn all house keeping skills.

On and on the vision is waiting to unfold endless wonders… Each and everyone in the big RASA family is a blessed magician. Each and every child the magic wand….

In the beginning of July 2004, RASA HOME was started with two residents. Here adult boys with special needs were taught to cook, clean, shop and manage a home independently.

Parivartana – the team of Rasa – incharge of awareness and Public relations came into being. An Advisory board of well wishers of RASA was formed.

Paatra – a role to play, was the festival of Indian Theatre with artists of National stature participating in a confluence of good theatre, music, dance and other art forms. This was planned and staged in the year 2005.

Breaking barriers – sharing work was the theme of this year’s forum discussion. Eminent people with a theatre background, like Dr. B.V.Rajam from Bangalore, Dr. Ambika Kameshwar from Rasa, Shri Srinivasa Shastri of Karnataka Kala Darshini, with the students of Ramana Nritya Kala Ranga. Na Muthuswamy and Gil Alan with Koothu – p- pattarai were the participants for this year forum discussions. Performances were by Usha Ganguly, Anitha Rathnam, Dr. Ambika Kameshwar.

Another Hallmark in the year 2005 was the beginning of a newsletter INTERACT for internal circulation for members of the RASA family.

A giant leap in the direction of structured performance of Dance, Drama and Music by the special children happening with the Production – Ramanavataram. This was a full length dance drama with recorded music and rich visuals

2006 – 2007
THD, the unique and pathbreaking methodology was revealed in a simple and interesting manner through a book written by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, ‘Theatre arts for Holistic Development’. This book was released in March 2006.

The first comprehensive seminar on THD was also held this year. The topics covered were, The Genesis & Growth of THD, THD & Special Education – how they can supplement & complement each other, Theatre activities for each developmental stage & the success stores of THD for people with special needs.

True integration was seen this year, when two of Rasa’s students Jagan and Ramu become full time employees of Facility management company SINAR JERNIH. This is a major benchmark in RASA’s history as our students have moved into the “real adult world” and are doing very well in their present company.

In September 2006, Nava Vidha Bhakti – ‘ A total Theatre’ presentation by 200 children with special needs was presented at Narada Gana Sabha. This explored the various kinds of Bhakthi or devotion. A group of special children and adults enjoyed and experienced the different kinds of Bhakti through dance and drama presentation.

RASANUBHAVAM 2007 was a four day cultural extravaganza, based on the tools of Theatre – ‘Dance, Drama, Music and Storytelling’. Each day there was a performance by popular artistes. This was held in February 2007 and was successful in raising support for Rasa’s work as well.

The story continues – We look forward to documenting the landmark events of the coming years…