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Using Music To Break Our Isolation

It is the month of September. I am in front of a bunch of a hundred kids awaiting a Bharatnatyam recital to commence. The school is in the first year of Baithak Foundation’s three years long program designed to introduce Indian traditional music to the young listeners. The artist would be taking charge of the stage in ten minutes as she is getting delayed due to heavy rains and the consequential traffic jam. The school team has done their job of getting students seated quietly quite well. My responsibility is to engage the children and disappear from the stage when the artist arrives. 

I thought, instead of chatting, singing together would be a better idea. I saw the dark clouds outside from the windows and wondered, what could be better than a bandish on rain? 

“Which Ritu (season) is this?” I confidently asked the question hoping to get the answer the next moment. I didnt get an answer but I got answers. While many students said it was the season of rain, there were quite a few who said it was the summer. 

It is not the question of right or wrong answer but about the isolation in which we live – especially our next generation. 

The other day, a friend was narrating an incident. He was enthusiastically showing his lush green garden to eight years old daughter of his friend. He pointed out to a tall papaya tree and told her that that’s where we get papayas from. 

“When would the tree start giving mangoes?” The little girl asked. 

The isolation has gone far beyond our imagination. Is this something to worry about? I think this is the ONLY thing to worry about. All our problems – from apparently timid ones like stray dogs to existential ones like climate change – originate from this isolation. 

The school I mentioned above – thankfully, students there at least knew what Ritu or season means. There are so many out there where these words would not even ring a bell. Forget kids, the isolation and fragmentation among grown ups is also way beyond what humanity could manage with. We are isolated from nature, from other humans and even from our own families. 

Anyway, students and I had  fun with our bandish and soon, the artist arrived. We title these concerts as Anubhav (experience). The idea is to break the isolation between children and music by giving them first hand experience. We request the artists to present their best and also explain why they do what they do. 

The artist began her concert with the Vandana – salutation. Every Bharatnatyam performance begins with saluting the ground. 

“Why did I do Vandana?” She started explaining to the kids. 

“We live and grow on this earth. It is where our food comes from. As I dance, I would be hitting it with my feet and this our way of showing respect to it.”

I could see a distinct wonder in the eyes of most of the students. They were fascinated by the idea of saluting the ground before dancing on it. This act of the artist gave students an opportunity to break their isolation and make the ground – the earth, a part of their existence. We take so many things and people for granted without even acknowledging their role in our survival and flourishing. 

Whenever we talk to teachers, parents, or even our patrons or supporters, this is what we emphasize – our program is not about creating more performers. It is about widening our lives. Using music as a tool to break our isolation, to become whole again. More isolation is going to skew the things further. Breaking it is our only way out. 

Artist Shruti Ranade conversing with students during her performance.

Music helps sensitizing the children. When a vocalist tells them about gourds being used for making the quintessential tanpuras and climate change affecting their availability, students get the point – the damage that we are causing is already affecting us in more ways than we can imagine. 

When the children observe coordination between an artist and the accompanists, they experience the joy and power of coming together and co-creating something. Each person offering his or her best to create something which is much bigger than them all. 

As we become more and more aware of the challenges created by isolation on personal as well as social level, one thing will come out very clearly – these challenges will not be tackled by just knowledge, technology, innovation or schemes. We need to start addressing this isolation. The earlier we do, the better it is for us. 

About the Author :

Mandar is a passionate believer in power of music as a tool for all-round development. A communication consultant, Mandar draws rich corporate experience and also conducts corporate trainings. He is a published author with four books. Mandar is a student of Indian Classical Music and learned from late Pt. Vijay Sardeshmukh.

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