As Saptaparni completes 10 years, its founder Anuradha Reddy counts every flower that bloomed.

‘Ten years is a long time’ says Anuradha Reddy and sighs, obviously attempting to capture the period in a thought capsule. Having recently completed the 10th anniversary celebrations of her brain child, Saptaparni, Anuradha Reddy is relaxed and is now looking forward to working on the music archives library at Saptaparni.

Nestling silently on Road no. 8 at Banjara Hills, Saptaparni isn’t a new place for those who love books, attending music sessions and doing anything which revolves around music, books, art and culture.

Saptaparni’s website will tell you it is “a concept devised to provide your child with an alternative source of leisure and learning, interaction and introspection.

What does the name Saptaparni mean? “It’s an exotic tree which has seven leaves at the tip of a branch and opens like a flower. It was a name suggested by a friend’s father who is a scholar,” Anuradha Reddy explains.

Centre for children

She adds, “This place wasn’t set up with an agenda or a business plan. It was meant for children and it has aptly met the purpose, I feel, when I see children walk into this area and feel absolutely at home,” she says. The parents are not left behind either. She elaborates, “This place is open for all. A parent can sit in a class that his/her child is attending. Moreover, parents use the open space to finish their work on their respective laptops. Many people also do their meetings in the open amphitheatre and go. As long as people don’t misuse the place we are happy to have everyone utilise this space.”

In the morning, this place is relatively less crowded and the smell of sambrani fills the air as strains of children practising their ragas with music from the ‘shruti box’ echoes in this single-level house.

Anuradha, dressed in a magenta raw khadi silk sari, catches the attention of her staff. “What is special today?” asks one of them. The shy and the rather reclusive lady replies, “All of us will have a photo taken today.”

In the first room of Saptaparni, just after the reception, collages hang from the walls. “This is ‘our’ 10 years in print,” she says.

What made Anuradha begin Saptaparni? “There was no definite goal; I just wanted a place for children to learn more about arts and culture in the contemporary context. In Chennai we used to frequent a book store by Tulika Publishers. It was called Good Books, that store was an ideal place for children of all age groups. The publishers published books to teach children a cross section of things in the most ideal way and the most common way was through the tool of story-telling. Their books also narrated Indian stories and when I had my children I kept thinking about the book store, the books and the tools they stored,” she recollects.

Interest in arts

Having been involved with SPIC MACAY and groups of Jiddu Krishnamurthi, Anuradha’s interest in arts culture grew because, “I was exposed to a gamut of things which otherwise I would not have known. That is why when the idea crossed my mind when my kids were growing, I didn’t wait for the right moment. My husband has been a constant support and let me follow my passion to help children discover art and culture,” she says.

When it first started, people walked in only out of curiosity.

Anuradha says, “That is the best way for people to discover a new place. There is no point creating a hype and then not meeting expectations. It should be a place where people walk in on their own and discover what we are all about. I have seen that those walked in on their own have been the ones who have stayed with Saptaparni. Some children have grown up but their parents are still attached to the place, that is the way I want people to bond with Saptaparni,” she adds.

That is how she says the debating forum Manthan has become a part of the place. “Manthan held its first meeting at the open amphitheatre in 2005. The group is a platform for thought leaders world wide to share thoughts and for high quality debates. Over the years because of Manthan several eminent personalities have come here to be a part of the meetings,” she explains.

So what is new from this treasure trove of art and culture? “It’s the musical archives library — Swara Raga Nidhi,” she says, adding “Renowned music composer and lyric writer Palagummi Vishwanatham was closely associated with Saptaparni and donated his books to us. He didn’t want the books to be confined to individuals and book shelves and said ‘It should go to people and we should pass it on to the next generation.’ He also recorded 100 songs with children on ‘oral traditions.”

With so many memories how does Anuradha plan to take the place forward?

“I have to credit my efficient team and my family for the support. These days, the people who make Saptaparni run are the staff and we have decided to keep it going just the way it is. For children, arts and culture always,” she smiles.