Shubhada Varadkar - 1

Fighting Cancer With Dance – Shubhada Varadkar!

I have often found people saying, “Usko kya hai, bade baap ki beti hai.. Success to hoga hi!” How far is this true? I understand money makes it easier for one to get a smoother road ahead, but it is definitely one’s perseverance and hard work that shines on a longer go. Money may assist you to reach the destination but it is we, who need to walk through the journey of success and this is very well portrayed by Shubhada Varadkar, a popular exponent of Odissi, An Indian Classical Dance.

Shubhada has choreographed dances, performed and participated at various prestigious dance festivals in India and abroad. She is also an author for several inspirational books. Her life was what she always aspired to live – Eat, Dance, Write, Sleep until one day. It was during her performance in London in November 2006, she felt an uneasiness, a discomfort which she never felt. “I was bleeding but assumed it was a regular menstrual problem since there was no pain.” Considering it a regular period, she did not gave much attention; however, a little awkward flow forced her to fly back India for medical checkups.

The test revealed that she had a 10 inch tumour in her ovary. This wasn’t something to be taken lightly and hence hysterectomy and oophorectomy – surgical procedures to remove the uterus and ovaries was performed. All was okay, if she undergoes a prescribed amount of rest that doctors had advised; however, she had her performance scheduled only after 2 weeks!

Shubhada Varadkar - 3

Image Source:

Ms. Varadkar was obstinate about her willingness to perform but the doctors and her Padma Vibhushan late Guru Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra were nervous yet supported her decision. Though they did not allow her for practise, they approved her to perform. “I have never come across any dancer who has this willpower. She conceptualized the dance practice while on bed and directly after two weeks gave a fabulous performance.”

“I thought, I’d just do basic abhinaya, but ended up performing the whole recital. You acquire a different energy when on stage.”

Just few days post the performance, her reports revealed that she had two tumours – one in ovary and other in uterus. She had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation in 2007. She scheduled her performances based on the medical sessions. “I’d lock dates for performances three weeks after chemo, because, by then the blood count would be back to normal. While undergoing weekday radiation sessions, I’d perform on weekends.”

For her, cancer wasn’t a hindrance but definitely not a reason to discontinue her passion, it was indeed a motivator. As a dancer, she had to look presentable but she was losing her hair and her eyebrows too. The medication made her numb. Balancing herself on the stage with heavy costume and mukoot was far more challenging. Her family stood tall in her hard times. They not only encouraged her determination but her mother also crafted a special toupee that could be tied behind the ears.

“All I knew was that I wanted to dance and I thought if the truth about my health got out, I may not land performances. Here, the audience must not know that you are suffering. It is not their business.”

She doesn’t consider herself a cancer survivor instead imprinted her tough journey in an autobiography called ‘Mayurpankh’. She later achieved  the prestigious Mahari Award of Odisha in 2011 and recipient of senior fellowship by Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India for 2011-2013.

Such is her valour, she did not give up but battled the fatal cancer. Shubhada Varadkar proved us that malignant diseases can be cured partly on medicines when merged with complete self moral support and optimism.

Image Source:;

More from the Author