Her large eyes lit up as she recognized the amalgamate sounds of her voice, the pressure cooker and the television coming together in perfect harmony. Sangita had started appreciating music in her everyday surroundings, what was once an incessant annoying sound was now a musical pattern. I was happy to see the transformation in her, to see that she now had a new perspective to learning, something she developed with her interest for music. I have always had a perdurable love for the arts, especially music, fascinated at the effect it has on my body and mind. It seemed inevitable that soon I would work with an NGO to introduce other children to something my childhood would not have been the same without.

The recent pandemic had thrown us all into an ambit of fear and confusion, leaving us grappling with our confined surroundings. I was no exception, but it also made me realize that sometimes our experiences leave behind so much for us to reflect upon. I observed that the new norm we were thrown into provided me with time to pursue my passion for music. Music was my avenue of expression and source of happiness. I learnt that the arts not only forge vital connections in our brains, but also release an increased amount of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin in our body making us feel happy.

Continuing with my story, I was excited to introduce Sangita to my world of Do Re Mi’s and Sa Re Ga’s. She surprised me with her enthusiasm and confidence while singing a song in her native language with no balk at all. Excitedly, she also asked me to sing for her and I sang John Denver’s classic, Country Roads. I then realised the truth to music being a “universal language”.

Despite our diverse social and economic backgrounds, we were able to strike a chord with each other due to our interest and passion for what we were singing.

My experience with Sangeeta also demonstrated how music and the arts had the ability to solve a fallacy- the universal failure to communicate. In one of our sessions, she was singing a song with a straight face that lacked emotion; I asked her to explain what the song she was singing meant to her in words and she was unable to. However, when I asked her to act it out, she did so effortlessly. The human brain struggles compressing complex concepts into words and art helps decompress this and express it in a way not possible otherwise. The fact that singing and acting out the song enhanced her understanding of the song also points to the biological role music and other art forms play on the human mind.

During the course of our time together not only did her singing abilities improve but she also developed an obvious interest for music. I could see it translate in her conversations, her attitude and her whole personality. Observing me complement my singing with a piano, I saw her enthusiastically borrowing her neighbours’ toy keyboard for a lesson. Empowered and in awe of her own independence, Sangeeta played the scales we had been practicing. The same lesson, she even innocently requested if her 18 year old sister could join us. This visibly reflected her confidence and pride in the skill she acquired and her desire to share it with those whose approval she respected. She now felt a kind of ownership of music. From a background that does not offer much in terms of opportunities, she was resilient and fighting against all odds to make the best of her circumstances.

My learning and experience with Sangeeta motivated me to share my love for the arts and reach out to a larger community of children. Thus, I went on to organise a virtual concert for about

fifty children, from the same NGO. Along with some of my classmates and professional performers from Mumbai, we put together a show which included singing, dancing and instrumental performances. On my small laptop screen, I could see so many shy and demure children let go of all their inhibitions and feverishly sing along with us. The light flashing on the top of my screen as the zoom meeting was being recorded was symbolic of the light that evening would add to their lives. A young boy in a pale blue shirt even stood up and started dancing to a popular Bollywood number. This time spent with the children reminded me of how fortunate I was to have access to music so early in my life and how different I would have turned out without it.

As Chris Handerson stated, “when words fail, music speaks”. Arts play an undeniable role in our lives. If we are fortunate to have access to this gift to humanity, it is our shared responsibility to reach out in simple ways and help others discover this beautiful medium of expression. A little effort on one’s part to introduce the arts to a child, can have an indelible impact in shaping the child’s future and life to be more holistic. During stressful times, this feeling of liberation weundergo when singing along to our favourite song or touching up a freshly painted canvas can be brought into someone else’s life. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is – we must always pursue what makes us happy. By creating this space for someone else – old or young – we can help them find their window to happiness.