Young vocalists Prasanna Venkatraman, K. Gayatri, Bharati Ramasubban and Manasi Prasad came together during the busy December season to exchange views. Belonging to different schools, the talented musicians are on the brink of making their career choice between music and their professions based on their academic qualifications.

Prasanna (M.Tech, IIT) knows he could do greater justice to singing if he didn't work as a chip designer. “But I have flexible work hours. Time management is the key,” he smiles.

With her Masters in Biotechnological Law from the Sheffield University (where “I had to warn my roommate not to be alarmed by the sruti box and the ‘strange’ sounds of music!”), Bharati Ramasubban freelances for a Delhi-based NGO in the emerging field.

An engineer with an MBA degree and the winner of the Aditya Birla Fellowship, Manasi Prasad turned down a job in the U.S. and joined a bank before realising that “managing two careers didn't work out.” Prasanna interpolates, “We have to make it work.” Bharati adds, “Until we are sure we can make it in music.”

“Typical chicken and egg situation!” Manasi chuckles.

A commerce graduate with an M.Phil in Music and now working on her PhD in the same subject, K. Gayatri faces no such dilemma. “All I want to do is sing. My research has to be, and is, linked to practice.”

All the four enjoy family support. Manasi waited for a year for the right job, which gave her time to pursue her art. She now heads the music project at the Brigade Group's Music Experience Centre, Bangalore.

Bharati decided not to stay back in England where her field offers enormous opportunities. Music remains an irresistible magnet. However, she confesses, “Both the fields excite me. Whatever I choose, I won't be a dabbler but a thorough professional.”

“Coming from a middle class family, I feel a sense of responsibility,” admits Prasanna. “An engineer can earn ten times as much, but what about satisfaction? Happiness? Only in music. So I'm biding my time.” Manasi agrees that nothing will work in the long run without that passion.

Gayatri's priorities will not allow her to consider a job in a company. “I can't do two things at a time.” Was it difficult to take the risk of opting music full time? “Not for me,” she says with a confident smile. Is such a decision easier for women in our society? Prasanna agrees. “Fewer eyebrows are raised. It's still different for a man, despite the enormous success of some male singers.” Bharati cuts in mischievously, “It can work against us sometimes. Musicians are not in great demand as spouses.”

Amidst laughter, Manasi says the situation is different in Bangalore where women singers are in great demand in the marriage market. “We are seen as perfect wife-material. When I got married, all prospective mothers-in-law, and with them half my audience, vanished!” she says.

Bharati and Gayatri are sure they will never marry anyone settled outside Chennai. Prasanna smiles in bashful silence. Manasi is happy with Bangalore. “My husband is returning to India from the U.S.”

All the four are aware that the competition is intense, and the rivals are highly equipped. What if at some stage they come to feel that they can't make it to the top as performers? Gayatri will face the problem if and when it arises. “I can still strive to be a true musician,” Bharati is candid. Prasanna points out, “But you have to be a true musician to be a good performer!”

Each has a cut-off date to decide the future, though their confident expressions tell us they don't expect anything negative!

“If plan A doesn't work, there's plan B. It's all about brand positioning,” Manasi says. “Love of music is for life, not for the here and now,” Gayatri concurs. “Watch out for stagnation,” Prasanna warns. “Quality is not negotiable,” Bharati agrees. “This is not a race. Whatever happens, our goal won't vanish,” Gayatri sums up.

Gayatri speaks for everyone when she says that internalisation happens only with undistracted sadhana. The four youngsters feel that music is not so much a profession as an addiction. They are defined by it, evolve with it. They must satisfy the audience craving for variety and evolve a specific identity of their own. Gayatri and Prasanna want to make niraval their forte, Bharati wants to emphasise sahitya bhava, and Manasi hopes to focus on Haridasa compositions. We leave the youngsters at a crossroads, alert, earnest… with dreams and hopes of sunrise and high tide…