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The melody of empathy

ALL FOR HARMONY Sunita Bhuyan

ALL FOR HARMONY Sunita Bhuyan  

Before violinist Sunita Bhuyan takes off to Vatican to attend the canonisation of Mother Teresa, she tells us how music has the creative force to alleviate physical pain and social distress

This Sunday the canonisation of Mother Teresa is to take place at the Vatican. Attending it is indeed a great honour which has been bestowed on Mumbai-based violinist, Sunita Bhuyan in her capacity as the Joy of Giving Ambassador for Don Bosco. Feeling humbled and blessed, she says, “I never realised when I started this journey with street kids at Shelter Don Bosco, Wadala that my weekend rendezvous of using music therapy would get me an invite to the Vatican.”

Sunita’s tryst with music goes a long a way. An MBA in Human Resources, music was always an integral part of her life since childhood. “My mother Minoto Khaund was a Hindustani classical music violin player and I too was automatically drawn towards the genre and instrument. I was trained by her and later I learnt from the Pandit V.G. Jog,” she says. In fact, while doing her MBA in human resources, she also simultaneously completed her masters in music. The association with music never ended. Quitting working in corporates, she now holds workshops on leadership and change while working with less privileged children and cancer patients using music as a tool.

“Music as a creative force has the ability to connect with people instantly thereby not just enhancing their skills but also reducing their pain and distress,” explains Sunita. Interacting regularly with street children and those abused physically and mentally, she helps them to open up. Breaking the ice by talking to them, Sunita sings and plays violin. She does not confine to Hindustani classical ragas and bandishes but performs Bollywood numbers too. “These catch their attention and I use to them explain how the popular numbers too are based on classical music. I play tunes on the violin quizzing them about the film, singer and composer.” Once hooked, they slowly tend to share their joys, sorrows and thoughts not just with her but others too. Even though many take up learning instrument or singing, the main objective is to inculcate the value of discipline and hard work. “It is amazing how music makes them want to learn new skill sets and get educated. It gives them an entirely new perspective of life making them realise their true potential and work towards it.”

Despite her regular commitment of working with Don Bosco street children in Mumbai, their child friendly project in Guwahati and Syntel S Prayas, Sunita does take time to use her violin skills as music therapy. Delving on it, the artist explains: “Striking a chord win an individual, music affects the brain. Processing the sound the mind sends messages to calm down agitation while helping reduce pain. This leads to a situation of happiness and relaxation thereby making the body rejuvenate and regenerate. Melody is a great stress buster too.”

Sunita has had first hand experience having sung and played violin at Shanti Avedna Sadan Cancer Hospice, Bandra and Deepshika Cancer Care Foundation’s Arogya Bhawans in Navi Mumbai. Recalling her experience she says, “At Shanti Avedna some of the terminally ill patients were brought in on stretchers. On listening bhajans, melodies and film songs, many sat up while several joined me in singing. Clapping and dancing, they underwent a change . All of them said: ‘You made us forget our pain’.”

Partnering in a study with National Brain Research Centre on the effect of music on cognitive preservation, Sunita states that that even though music therapy is still in early stages in India, it will definitely catch up. “People are exploring more and more alternative therapy methods and music therapy is sure to grow.”

Unlike many classical artists, she is neither averse to fusion nor learning new genres. “I believe the seven notes are the universal thread of world music. In fact, classical music background makes one adept in adapting to other genres very easily.” She recently attended a workshop in Glasgow where a fusion of Gaelic and Indian music was designed to be staged at the Glasgow Mela music festival and she taught Bihu music to Scottish musicians.

Referring to working with children and patients as her passion, Sunita is upfront that she is able to only devote 25 per cent of her time and resources to this work. “One needs to earn bread and butter too,” she quips. So what constitutes the remaining part of her persona? “I run workshops for leadership and development. Here too using music as a metaphor and example, I stress on the need for collaboration and team building and spirit to enhance productivity and efficiency.” Drawing a parallel between music and leadership, she cites, “Just like a musical performance cannot be complete without percussion and other accompaniments similarly a business leader cannot achieve the company’s goals without the help of his fellow-employees.”

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2020 1:45:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-melody-of-empathy/article14620168.ece

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