Tour guide Nagendra Prabu takes her work to a whole new level by incorporating classical dance moves into her tours

Tour guide Nagendra Prabu takes her work to a whole new level by incorporating classical dance moves into her tours

Last Sunday, VS Nagendra Prabu missed his weekly family reunion for the first time in two decades. Media interviews have kept him busy since a Canadian tourist catapulted him to stardom. “My family laughs at me because I have suddenly become so wanted. Only my mother understands, ”he says between disconnections of countless number of calls in an airy conversation with Metroplus in his house in Ellis Nagar.

Everyone now knows Prabu, the city guide who explains the nuances of Indian culture and our intangible heritage through classical dance steps to foreign tourists. A video of him taking foreign visitors through the history of Thirumalai Nayak Palace with graceful bharatanatyam and kathakali postures took the internet by storm three weeks ago.

Everyone loves Prabu, Madurai's dance guide

“For years it has been our family ritual for us brothers and sisters – four brothers and two sisters – to have Sunday lunch with our respective families, as we all live nearby. But in the last 20 days, I haven’t even had time to speak with my wife and daughters, ”Prabu explains.

Prabu was about to leave for work that day when a travel agency informed him that his video was going viral. “I haven’t thought about it much because I’m not on social media,” he says, “until more people started texting and calling me congratulating me.”

Everyone loves Prabu, Madurai's dance guide

From that day until now, Prabhu has given countless demonstrations of his rhythmic steps and movements to TV stations and the media, his smile not even fading for a moment. But what no one knows is his pain. Prabu suffered a spinal injury four years ago when he was struck by a bull at jallikattu in Avaniapuram.

“I was with four tourists from the UK and luckily they got away with it. But I was goaded from behind, lifted and thrown yards away, ”he recalls. The incident damaged both of his lumbar bones, subjected him to a year of treatment and eight months of forced bed rest. A few months ago, while he was lifting a flowerpot, he injured his back again and the pain returned. “But I can’t stop doing what I love to do,” Prabu says.

Everyone loves Prabu, Madurai's dance guide

“I have been taking tourists to Madurai and Chettinad for 12 years and have gone a step further to explain things differently with mudras and abhinaya. But it’s only now that people recognize me as an artist, ”he adds.

The soft-spoken guide from the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department says he is not a skilled dancer; but he knew he had it in him from his childhood. “I could easily get into a jig anywhere on any type of music. The expressions and communication came naturally to me, but both of my parents, teachers, were strict on academics, ”he says.

He was interested in history and after obtaining his Masters in Public Administration from Madurai Kamaraj University, he started working as a history teacher and changed four schools in seven years. “Although I enjoyed teaching, I was more involved in organizing the schools’ annual day programs and continued to move to where I found a vibrant atmosphere for cultural programs. “

Everyone loves Prabu, Madurai's dance guide

If he was able to partly follow his childhood passion for music and dance, that was not enough. “I had this feeling of being incomplete and briefly switched to organic farming in my hometown of Nachikulam, near Sholavandan, until my brother, who was already an established tour guide, told me about it. suggested that I also join the profession, ”he says. “And there has never been a day of regret. Everything I liked and wanted to do converges on my profession as a guide. I found myself, ”he adds.

Prabu says he enjoys his job because it gives him the freedom to change tour packages. “Information on historical sites is now available in books and much more easily on the Internet. Therefore, I take my guests on experiential tours and make them happy, ”he says and likens his work to pizza. “The base provides information to tourists and all I do is an extra garnish.”

For example, if he takes a tour of the banana market with his customers, he will dance in a posture that looks like a banana tree or a flower, give details of the use: from the outer core fiber used as thread to the white stem juice for good health, the benefits of the fruit, and finally, offer them a meal on the leaf. If customers have the Tiruparankundram temple on their itinerary, he takes them to see the young priests learning Sanskrit. “Even though it’s not included in the program and weather permitting, I take guests to see the doll makers of Vilachery or to the Saurashtrian weaving colony to showcase our vibrant arts and crafts,” says- he.

Prabu believes that of the 70 or so accredited guides in Madurai, he is the only one who gives tourists a demonstration of his knowledge and skills. And in return, he earns respect and love.

As one of the few “English-only” language guides, Prabu says he’s handled groups as large as 70 tourists at a time. And he can’t forget a Dutch batch who helped him with home remedies when he caught a throat infection in the middle of a ten-day package tour. “And when they found out that my birthday was falling during the tour, they even bought me a plane ticket from Kochi to Madurai so that I didn’t waste time traveling and I could be with my family,” he said. he remembers.

He says he wants to continue to surpass himself; but never imagined that his work would earn him such recognition. “As an artist, I am more than ever enthusiastic about the idea of ​​performing better and guiding tourists in a more interesting way,” he adds. “But I always pinch myself to make sure this isn’t all a dream. People recognize me now and want selfies with me, ”Prabu says, unable to help but groove to the music.


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