Nizha Periaswamy

It would not be wrong to say that SK Durai is sort of a 'brand name' in the local yoga scene. The 34-year-old runs the Sakthi School of Yoga in Kajang, Semenyih, and Puchong. To date, he has trained over 120 yoga teachers nationwide, and up to half of his students now conduct their own lessons and classes.

Astro Ulagam recently sat down for an interview with Durai to talk about his involvement in spirituality, and eventually, yoga. Here's his journey, in his own words.

Q: What were you doing before yoga? Your profession, hobbies etc?

A: Before starting yoga, I was working as an IT professional, while being involved in certain social causes at the same time. It basically revolved around the Indian community in the country, and I ran a blog which I used as a tool to disseminate my message to the public. At the same time, I used the blog to generate funds for the social cause I was championing.

Q: What attracted you to yoga, and spirituality?

A: I have always been inclined towards spirituality, rituals and religion, since I was young. By the age of 13, I had developed great admiration for spiritualism-related reading. I was particularly interested in matters pertaining to Hindu rituals.

Another concept that mesmerized me and made me curious was 'God' possessing the bodies of mortal men. Who are these men, and why was 'God' coming into their body at their will? Temples deep inside the jungle and graveyards were my playground after school. I spent hours and hours helping others 'download' God into the body of those who came to seek such attainment, in the shady temples, and I was led by my 'seniors' in the field.

It can often get scary, with some men being strongly possessed by deities such as Kali, Madurai Veeran and Sanggili Karupan, and them demanding live animals as sacrifice, which turned the location into a bloodbath.

Q: How was your teenage life like, and what kind of environment influenced you?

A: I grew up in one of the most notorious neighbourhoods - Taman Sentosa, Klang. Although Sentosa translates into peace in English, the neighbourhood saw anything but that. Fights, robberies and even murders - you name it, we had it in Sentosa. It is in this place that I experienced life in its totality , seeing the darker things in life, first hand. I saw how ugly a human being can become, and I grew up thinking that as a member of an 'oppressed' community, it is perfectly fine for me to cause harm to others.

As for my upbringing, I grew up in a lower middle class family, where both my parents worked hard to provide for us. I have never experienced hunger - we always had the bare minimum basics to survive by.

By the time I was 17, my youth, coupled with the exposure to the surroundings, made me pick up habits that are considered 'morally unacceptable' by the society. But in my social circle, there was more acceptance. I spent most of my time learning various rituals related to the 'Gods' and demigods, particularly Goddess Kali.

Though I was 'wild', my interest in reading rewarded me unknowingly. At night, I studied world events, and about crimes that shook the world, and biographies of criminals. In a way, it fascinated me that there are so many books about crimes and criminals, yet very little is known about saints and great men who shaped a better world for us. Perhaps, I did not spent enough time finding subjects to that effect.

Working in a fast food restaurant for a salary of mere RM2.50 per hour after completing secondary school also made me witness the worst that humanity per se. Not the outlet customers per se, but the night club patrons who often frequented the joint after being intoxicated from nearby entertainment centres. Having to clean after their puke, being sworn at and made fun of at their expense, you name it, I have experienced it.

Q: Tell us about your foray into blogging

A: Straying wildly without a direction in my life, I eventually started a blog ( I felt there was a lot of injustice happening to the Indian society in general, and there was no one willing to listen or highlight it.

My blog, and 'loud' approach on social media, as well as in real life, became an instant hit, and resonated with many people. I made tons of followers, but with the little fame, came trouble as well. I often found myself among people who wanted to hurt me. I was, however, fortunate that I was well protected by many people during my days of active writing.

My mission (by blogging) was to expose the social injustice that was happening in the Indian community, from gangsterism to corruption in Tamil schools, and so on. I also wanted to empower and uplift my society in my own way. My security was always put under risk, and I often found myself in hiding for some time, for my own protection. Amid all this, I had a realization about death. This was a period of time some years ago where street shooting was rampant. I was constantly looking into my car mirrors whenever it stopped at traffic lights.

This is the first of Astro Ulagam's two-parter interview with SK Durai. Tomorrow, he talks about his foray into yoga and how it has changed his life, and others'.

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.

Photo source: Sakthi School of Yoga