Making Rainbows of Sounds

- Written by : Onkita Adhikary

“The best and the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart”- Hellen Keller.

Dressed in the soft pink kurta with a smartphone in hand, Aashita introduces herself with a confidence that is generally not seen in most teenagers. Her chosen raag is Yaman, a raag that is sung when the lights are turned on, a raag that pierces the darkness of the night and ushers in the peacefulness of the full moon in all its beauty. While singing “Ae re aali”, she toggles between the tanpura and tabla on a smartphone with dexterity and practised ease and glides through the nuances of the raga with her head swaying from side to side just like the zig zag pattern of the raga itself. Born 3 months premature, Aashita’s journey both in life and in music is the perfect ode to the name, Aashita, meaning “hope”. They say if you choose “hope” anything is possible and in Aashita’s life, hope is chosen consciously every day.

She was born with a rudimentary gastric tract, but she was born to a mother whose steely resolve would one day make her child much more capable than most her age. Diagnosed with hydrocephalus, she had to undergo surgeries to have a shunt placed, a hernia operated upon, operations of both eyes and as her mother, Sumona Ganguly, puts it, “our lives went by shuttling between home and hospital”. A teacher by profession, Sumona lives by example. Sumona and her husband’s vision for their daughter’s future would eventually eclipse the darkness in their child’s life. Both were keen observers of  little Aashita’s needs, inclinations and abilities. As Sumona recalls, Aashita’s first brush with sounds was with the cap of a regular toothpaste tube at the age of 3. The cap firmly clasped within Aashita’s tiny fingers were her first percussion instruments and yes her first connection was with hindi film music with the song “Beintehaan”. By the age of 5, she was drumming on kitchen utensils, covers and anything she could percuss. Her proclivity towards musical instruments and her ability to play the flute, keyboard, harmonica and even some basic tunes on the mouth organ gave way to her passing Grade 2 exams conducted by Trinity College, London with 98% marks for flute recital. But, her mother kept going, her focus acutely clear; anyone could play an instrument, but what made Aashita unique was not her breath, but her voice and hence vocals were the next thing on the cards. She enrolled Aashita in a music school, but then something changed.

Aashita is an acoustically gifted child and was quick to critique, even herself and just a year into the taleem, Sumona’s daughter fell silent. She just would refuse to sing and Sumona could not coerce her into singing. Episodes of crying, despair and frustration would eventually lead her to stop vocal lessons completely. Undeterred, Sumona persevered with her academics. But academics, especially in India, demands a child to learn about wars fought by unknown men, answer questions about unseen places and slowly the chasm that lay between gathering useless information and actually empowering a child with special needs would grow wider over the years. When asked what was the toughest of subjects to teach, Sumona takes a deep breath, one can sense her pain, bravely she holds back her tears and says, “the chapter of Light in Physics”. The pain is real, almost tangible but when you are God’s chosen one, your journey is going to be eventful at the very least. Just a few years into the story, Aashita’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and life took its most tragic turn. Endless chemo sessions, radiation and surgery and then the pandemic struck.

It was at this point that Aashita’s mother got in touch with Sangeet Sadhana and enrolled Aashita since nothing else was possible to keep her busy. Guru Debojyoti took up the broken thread of Aashita’s silence and started beading it with the magic of the swaras and raagas. His patience and sensitivity would help Aashita, who was silent all these years, start to enjoy the sessions. She would later say how she thought it was the institute and its gurus who had revived that lost voice within her. Sumona gushes as she says, “I love to see her singing these days, infact there are nights when I have to tell her to stop, else the neighbours will complain”, she laughs.

The path that has been travelled has been hard for both Aashita and her family and now with her mother’s health issues, the future looks like another tortuous trek. They say the best views are from the top and Sangeet Sadhana wishes them wondrous views once they reach their summit. Their roads may be tough but Sangeet Sadhana will try to line it with the softness of Yaman, the wonder of Behag, the beauty of Vasant and ensure that they make rainbows of sounds with all the seven notes and find them as their everlasting companions.


Sangeet Sadhana
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