Dancing to her own tunes at work: Kavitha Ramu, IAS
By Sanjay Pinto

An IAS officer lighting the Kuthu Vilakku at a Bharathanatyam arangetram may be a routine sight. Not the officer herself performing on stage. But Kavitha Ramu has been nurturing a dual career with equal fervour. The daughter of M. Ramu, an IAS officer of the 1974 batch and Prof. Manimegalai Ramu, an Economics Lecturer at a Govt. Arts College turned homemaker, Kavitha, along with her brother Karthick Ramu, who runs a textile showroom, had a taste of what  government service entails. “I was in nine schools throughout my early years as dad used to be transferred throughout Tamil Nadu.” The administrative and academic genes teamed up with her indomitable spirit and hard work making Kavitha a topper at Anna Adarsh College, Chennai at both the Under Graduate and Post Graduate levels  in Economics and Public Administration. 

The Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission examination was an easy ‘adavu’ and Kavitha cleared it in 2002. Nine years on, she was inducted into the IAS with 2011 seniority. The last sixteen years have been more than sweet for the dancing queen in the corridors of power. As the RDO in Tirupattur and Chengelpet, Kavitha rescued child labourers and had plunged heart and soul into relief and rehabilitation work after the tsunami. Stints as the Assistant Commissioner – Civil Supplies and Excise Supervisory Officer at Empee Breweries were followed by her posting as the Joint Commissioner – Relief & Rehabilitation. “My work in collection and review of land revenue matters was quite satisfying.”

(Pic: Kavitha Ramu, IAS – Director of Museums, Chennai)

The revision of  guideline value of property and the Samadhan Scheme to encourage compliance in 2011-12 coincided with Kavitha’s posting as the DRO Stamps. And in the next two years, her innings as DRO Chennai witnessed computerisation of land records.

One of her favourite postings till date was as the General Manager – Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC). Under her sway were 54 hotels, half of which were run by the TTDC and the remaining by franchisees and 7 Boat Houses. “We were a self sustaining and profit generating corporation.” Funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) gave tourist centres like Mahabalipuram a fillip. “We renovated rooms at Ooty and Kodaikannal, spruced up boat houses at Muttukadu and Mudaliayarkuppam and ensured safety with life jackets for our adventure activities.”

In her present avatar as the Director of Museums, Kavitha has been actively promoting visits to the 167 year old Chennai Egmore Museum. Given her background in the Arts, she has organised an Iyalisai Event, roping in dancers and singers to the museum and an Ancient Musical Instrument Exhibition, which, among other rare instruments, showcased the Panchamukha Vadyam, which isn’t found anywhere, except the Tiruvarur Temple. To commemorate the recent World Book Day, Kavitha was instrumental in throwing open the Connemara Library’s old building with its stunning Indo Saracenic architecture, and rare books and documents, to the public for three days. The renovation of Green Rooms and toilets of the  Museum Theatre, which is the venue for the annual Christmas Pantomime by Aysha Rau’s Little Theatre, have been regular tasks ticked on her To Do List.

As for her first career as a Bharathanatyam dancer, Kavitha  reveals that it all started at the age of four and a half, when she staged her first performance. Her guru was the renowned K.J. Sarasa. “Of course, I had an official arangetram much later at the age of 21, with former President of India R.Venkatraman as the Chief Guest.” At the 1995 SAF Games, she was the Cultural Coordinator for the opening and closing ceremony and recalls with pride her Navarasam – Solo Dance Production at the World Tamil Conference at Thanjavur for which Sri Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan scored the music. The rigours of life as an IAS officer has not dissipated her passion for dancing. At the time of writing this column, Kavitha has a whopping 627 stage performances tucked under her Oddiyanam!

Had it not been for the IAS, Kavitha swears that she would have been a full time dancer and teacher. “In the late nineties, I had set up a Dance School – Lasya Kavie with about 60 students.” She still takes dance classes whenever a free hour beckons on weekends.

So who calls the tune when it comes to her official duties? “I have never encountered political pressure, if that’s what you mean. I do believe that political interference in the work of bureaucrats is exaggerated. As long as you are firm and explain the rules and constraints, no bigwig can cross the line.” The dancing queen clearly knows her onions.  

(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst, Public Speaker and Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)