Sheena Raju. An artist, a dancer, a mother and a teacher
For our “Living Your Dreams” series, we have been determined from the beginning to find and write about people around us, people from our everyday lives. And when we looked, we found ourselves surrounded by such.  Today’s story is about my daughter’s art teacher, Sheena Raju, who runs an art studio for kids. 

Sheena is an artist and she could have chosen to remain one in seclusion. But instead she had decided to impart the knowledge of her art form to little kids and anyone interested. She does not restrict herself to that, she allows them to be dreamers and gives them the freedom to be artists of their own kind. I was intrigued and I knew there was more to it than just creativity.So I met up with her for the only scheduled interview of this series and I discovered the artist, the mother, the teacher, the dancer and the dreamer and how a dream unfolded quite unknowingly. Excerpts from our conversation : 

Piya : Lets start from the beginning. Were you always interested in art ? 

Sheena : Yes, always. When I was very little I was always drawing, sketching, coloring, tinkering etc. On my mother’s side of the family everyone is  extremely creative. They all have an appreciation for art be it playing different instruments, drawing, singing or simply being crafty. I was fascinated because they grew up in a rural village and all these skills  were self taught. I think I inherited some of it. But for the rest,  I think it is because I worked towards it. (Take a note) When I was five, I formally started learning from an art teacher. That really created the definition for me. I also picked up a lot of my crafty side from the same teacher.

Piya :  Did you grow up to study art formally, like in college ? 

Sheena : No, I did my engineering with a graphics course as part of the curriculum. I never pursued a formal degree in art but  was involved with art the entire time.  In college in fact I was a Kala-thilakam(best all round artist at the annual Art festivals) for a couple of years in a row. I was always convinced I could do anything I wanted to do with my hands (be it stitching, embroidery, carpentry, carving, pottery etc).  

I have learnt classical music and instruments for quite a few years , but the one thing that used to terrify me was dancing. My Achilles heel has been my two left feet and I have always felt awkward when it came to dancing. And then thanks to a few persuasive friends from church, I tried it about 4 years ago in an attempt to at least try it once in my life. That worked out surprisingly well and a few stage performances have happened since. Though I still cant claim to be a graceful dancer today, I can with pride and experience tell my kids and my students, how awesome it feels to conquer your own fears and to just go for it. . 

( We take a break at this point to see pictures on Facebook from her recent dance performance for Onam (an Indian festival). 

“Conquer your fears” – she tells her kids and students. 
 Piya : So you are an engineer, an artist,  a dancer and a mother. How did the teacher happen ? 

Sheena : few years back, I started painting again and started painting Indian Dancers and different dance forms. I would be lost in my work for days at a time. Everything else got placed on the back burner; getting less attention than it demanded. I am a mother, I felt hopelessly guilty. But it also got me thinking about how I was just doing this in the solitude of my studio  / my home for myself. The only person benefitting was me and this was my private sanctuary. I needed to channelize this energy and put it to better use.

So I began with something very small and humble and from there on figured this is that creative process that makes me the happiest. I did not really know but now I think this may just have been my dream. I am lucky I have a husband who has encouraged me and helped pick up the slack at home. I cannot thank my family enough for tolerating my quirks and making this dream possible. 

Piya : What is the most important thing for you to teach your kids ? 

Sheena : Attention to little things, the finer details. When the children look at a picture, I repeatedly tell them to look closely. It matters to me if they notice the curve on the branch of the tree or that little bird that sat unnoticed on it. 
Paying attention to the little details in life can mean the difference between a mundane and awe-filled existence. 

Piya: I agree. Better artists. Better human beings. Just like their teacher. 

Sheena : (She smiles upon hearing that.) 

Like all of our other personalities on “Living Your Dream”, humility is ingrained in artists as is their desire to do a lot of things at the same time. The same can be said for Sheena. But she has found her true passion in teaching art, you can tell. The signature of her emails reads this – “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso