Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 02/1/07 12:10 PM

Feature: Dhritiman Chaterji, Profiled

 On life’s stage


 I shifted base from Kolkata to Chennai 16 years ago. I have always liked the atmosphere in Chennai. It still retains an element of quietude and moves at a slower pace compared to other Indian metros. Now, I know enough Tamil to get by.

A decade ago, my wife Ammu, 56, and I moved from the city to the seaside, to the artists’ village of Cholamandalam. It’s a quiet life and forays into town have become  an act of will. My only child, Pablo, is a travel writer based in Mumbai. And I still have a home in Kolkata and go back often enough to not miss it.


I turn 60 this year. You don’t really grow old, only older than you were last year. That’s what Mrinal Sen said when I called to wish him on his 80th birthday. We can’t let ageing get on top of us. We must retain a sense of curiosity, interest, and passion. We need to stop resisting the process, to embrace it and grow old well. The essentials of a silver life are good health and strong bonds, whether they are with family, friends or a vocation. Elders in our country seem to feel the rest owe them something. They build up expectations that, of course, are largely unmet. Jettison those expectations and live life fully.

Of course, ageing does bring with it concerns. We are definitely more conscious of our physical limitations and inabilities. We have to think about disease, disability, and helplessness. We have to factor death in.


I still continue my advertising work, consulting for a few clients. I work for a brace of technology companies building up their corporate identity. I’ve also just finished a role in Chetan Shah’s English film (its working title is Framed) and have done some radio work, too – one, a dramatisation of Tagore’s Hungry Stones and another, an epic poem, Karna Kunti Samvad, where I give the voice for Karna.

Theatre is another interest. In 2004, I set up a repertory company with a few friends, called JustUs Repertory. We did a tribute to the late Marathi poet Arun Kolatkar; we had three to four stagings in Chennai and also at Auroville in Pondicherry. Then, we worked with Chennai theatre group Madras Players for Gowri Ramnarayan’s Rural Fantasy, which was staged in Chennai earlier this year.

I want to keep acting because I love it. It’s as simple as that.

This appeared in HARMONY magazine dated 1 Feb 2007.

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Sheila Kumar • February 1, 2007

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