She is a noted Thumri singer based in Delhi apart from being a consulting editor at Orient Blackswan Pvt. Ltd.. She has even taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University. There's more: she is a co-founder and actor at Vivadi, a theatre group that has been staging plays for over twenty years. This multifaceted lady is the energetic Vidya Rao, who visited Bangalore to discuss her book, Remembering Nainaji.

Shared experiences

As she shared stories from the life of her guru and close friend, the legend Naina Devi, with whom she spent eight memorable years, Vidya also provided interesting insights about her own experiences and beliefs. When asked about why she started singing in public only after the age of thirty, Vidya said: “Today, youngsters are in a hurry to perform for an audience. But it was fairly different in the 1970s and 80s. The idea of appearing on stage would hardly occur to us. Also, we were not pushed to sing or play in public.”

Although Vidya has attained national and international recognition as a classical musician, not many are aware that she has been editing books for many years.

To a question on the contrast between the two fields, she said, “I believe that there are some things in common between them. One must be able to listen to and understand what a writer is saying in order to make meaningful comments and suggestions about the subject and content.”

Vidya has contributed to various anthologies of essays on music and musicians. Further, she has written and spoken about the significant role played by courtesans in the evolution of Indian classical music and dance down the ages. Much of her research revolves around music and gender and the rendition of thumris and ghazals.

With her deep and long-term interest in Buddhism, Vidya has also been involved as an adviser and an arts faculty at the Deer Park Institute in Bir, Himachal Pradesh. Further, like her mentor Nainaji, she contributes towards the medical needs of elderly musicians.

When asked about how she fits these many pursuits into her daily schedule, Vidya turned reflective and said: “If you think of time as finite and measured by the clock, you may not be able to fit much in. But I believe that time is a musical, philosophical concept and is internal. When you are doing something, give it the quality of internal time and you will be able to accomplish what you want.”

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