Sounds of the swishing and clashing of sticks reverberate inside the Rajarathinam Stadium in Egmore every weekend. Walkers halt briefly to watch children twist and twirl sticks and swords with ease under the guidance of their Silambam master G. Sridevi — a woman police constable.
Ms. Sridevi, 34, is a constable with the Royapettah All Women Police Station. She squeezes in time to teach the traditional martial art to over 80 children free of cost on Saturdays and Sundays between 7.30 a.m to 9.30 a.m. “I get some free time from work to teach during weekends. I want to ensure that they lead a healthy lifestyle and are able to defend themselves,” said Ms. Sridevi.
A national Silambam refree herself, Ms. Sridevi and her sister started learning the art in 1999 in her native Pudukottai. Her masters are Balasubramaniam and Gnanam. “While in college, I used to take free classes for schoolchildren in my hometown. Many have won State and national competitions. After joining the police force in 2006, I discontinued the practice,” she added.
A few years ago, her husband C. Suresh, who works in the Kilpauk law and order station, forced her to teach the art to their daughter. “I started teaching her in the ground and many parents came forward to enrol their children too. I got motivated and started teaching them,” she said. She said that the art has helped her get fitter. “This art is a stress buster, your focus improves while rotating the stick in different directions and you forget about the world for sometime.”
Mahasivan, a nine-year-old has been learning the art for the past two months and his mother Swarnakala said that she is already seeing difference. “He is more focussed in his studies now. He eats and sleeps on time,” said Ms. Swarnakala, whose husband Ganesan is with the Chennai Traffic Police.
Ms. Sridevi, who is now preparing for her sub-inspector exams, said she has a larger goal in mind. “I wish to teach more children and women constables too so that they can beat stress and get fitter.”