Monday, August 2, 2010


'Media plays a major role in propagating art among youth,' says Neelamma

Neelamma is a sprightly young 72, who has an unbounded zest for learning new things that will light up another person’s home and hearth.

SOM caught up with Neelamma to find out if she had that secret elixir to a happy life. Neelamma, who lost her husband a few years ago, has three children and also talented grandchildren. You would expect her, if she had been like so many others, to be sitting in the outer sanctum of a temple or the nearest park, chatting with her friends or watching that long running soap on TV.

Neelamma does not do any of those things. Maybe she secretly watches TV soap opera, but she spends greater part of her waking hours, full of enthusiasm for arts and crafts.

In the last seven decades she has mastered over a hundred traditional art forms that includes Mysore style painting, Rajasthani miniatures, Tanjore painting, rangoli, knitting, artificial flower-making and several others. Having learnt and mastered all these, she is still interested in learning modern art , from Cubism to abstracts.

Impressed by the magic she spins, weaves from her fingers, more than 50 institutions have held training camps all over India and invited her to teach her art to youngsters. The camps were held in far-flung places like Belgaum, Tirupathi, Raja-mundhry, Vijayawada, Vishaka-patnam, Hassan, Bangalore and other cities. She even went to Australia on an invitation to teach her handicraft skills.

She has participated in all the training camps conducted by the Handicrafts Board, Govt. of India, held at various places in the country like Bangalore, Mysore, Delhi, Chennai, Indore, Gwalior, Pune and Hyderabad. She has won several awards for her art during the Dasara festivals held every year in Mysore. She has lost count of the number of prizes won and awards received so far. She has been honoured by the Rotary, Lions, JCI and various private organisations including some Departments of the State Government like the Department of Horticulture and others. She received International Woman of the Year Award in 1995.

Neelamma started learning a variety of skills at home when she was just 10 years from her elder sister and mother. But this learning continues even after 60 years. Though she has been widowed, with all that pain and anguish that comes with widowhood, she has got over it and continues in her pursuit of acquiring and perfecting her artistic skills. She works non-stop for eight hours daily and is never tired. She lives for six months in Mysore (No. 216, 10th Main, 1st cross, Saraswathipuram) and the remaining six months at her son’s place in Bangalore. She is not dependent on any of them. She lives by the money she earns by selling her works. She also specialises in ‘Patch Work’ on fabric and quilting for which she has obtained orders from foreign countries.

Amidst all these she keeps herself fit by walking regularly and busy by writing down all the Rangoli designs that comes to her mind in a book.

Her message to the youth of present generation, "I don’t watch TV even for just half-an- hour. It robs you of the opportunity to learn new skills. All our ancient traditional art and skills are slowly dying out because it is not being learnt by today's youth as they waste time by watching TV shows and soap operas. The media plays a great role in promoting a variety of art and keeping the interest alive in these youngsters. They can spend their spare time learning and teaching these arts to others. This gives deep joy and immense satisfaction."

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