Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
When I first met this particular groups of kids some four years ago, some were timid and shy and others were indifferent and agitated. Five months down the line they had started to change; only to transform into a happy bunch who liked to talk by the end of the year. What brought this big time transformation in them was music. They had learned to love music, themselves and the world around them, in that order.
Behind this was an extremely talented musician Sarita Mishra who had fought her own battle to train herself as a “tabla” player. Traditionally women and girls are barred from playing “tabla”, a pair of small different sized drums played by hands. But she had dared to defy the custom and had stood against odds to realize the dream of training herself in “tabla”. She went to become the first female professional “tabla” player of Nepal. Sarita says music liberated her. Moreover, she is committed to help the most vulnerable of children to find their own liberation through music.
Among the first group of children; whom I met for the first time about four years ago, majority were girls who were born to sex workers of Kathmandu valley. Given their circumstances of poverty, absence of social security network and lack of hope for future, there were high chances that these children would have been compelled to follow the path of their mothers. This was not acceptable to Sarita; therefore, she decided to intervene. With the only instrument that she had in her hands, Music.
She has full faith that music holds an ability to bring about a social change. She believed in changing lives with the power of music.
I was lucky to be able to study ‘Sarita’s children’, as she likes to call them ‘my children’, in their journey of finding their own selves. Initially they came to the music school reluctantly, full of doubts that music had any place in their lives. However, they had curiosity aplenty. It was for the first time that something was being offered to them with no expectation of anything in return. They were curious if it was for real.
Holding a musical instrument and being able to produce music was empowering to them. They had learned that they were capable of producing something beautiful. They gradually realized their own worth as creative members of the society. They had learned to respect their own selves. They had come to believe that they could strive for better lives and that it was a worthwhile endeavor.
More often than not young people in desperate situations get frustrated. They may suffer from profound feelings of helplessness. Since they are the least powerful in the society the only way to express their frustration is by hurting their own selves. At a point of desperation, the young people that Sarita had trained in the first batch may have turned to prostitution as a way of punishing the society by taking up a vocation that it despises.
Since the first batch of children, Sarita has taught music to groups of conflict-affected children, disaster-affected children and she recently started working with offspring of beggars. With a faith in power of music she is changing lives.
Hemlata Rai – Nepal
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 21