By Dharna Noor (Intern, mid July-August 2010)
Dharna is 17 years old, from Baltimore, USA, studying at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology ’10.
For as long as I can remember, summertime has meant annual trips to New Delhi from my home in the United States. This summer, rather than opting for the usual five weeks of visits to family of friends of family and exhausting shopping ventures in Cannaught Place, I decided to find an internship. An aunt told me about Music Basti in an email. As someone who has studied music since the fourth standard (and someone who has felt more guit ridden with every haunting stare from a hungry street child into my family’s rented air-conditioned car), I had a vague idea that it might be interesting. To say the least, I got much more than I bargained for.
I began my work at Music Basti with an entrance interview in which I was briefed about the organization. After learning about the workshop-based program that seeks to bring music appreciation to underserved kids in three homes run by the Dil Se organization, I was asked what it was that I’d like to learn from my experience as an intern. I remember remarking that I really didn’t know what I wanted to gain because I really didn’t know what to expect. Looking back, I could not have been correct. I could never have expected to learn so much from a few meetings on websites’ information on music education. I could never have expected to meet so many driven young people over such a short time span. I certainly could never have expected to be so enamored and impressed by the kids in the homes without even really meeting them (I think it was an old program needs assessment that sold me: the same kids who said they were afraid of “ghosts” were also explaining that poverty, corruption and addiction should be banished from the world).
Growing up, I was always taught that the four basic human needs are food, water, shelter and clothing. Research for Music Basti gave me a thorough understanding of how these needs can be used to determine poverty lines. Music Basti’s workshops, however, provide kids who have sunk far below those poverty lines with what I’ve come to see as the fifth basic need: joy. I say this with a full understanding of how cliche the sentiment sounds, but I honestly believe it to be true. The first of two workshops I attended was at the boys’ home near Qutab Minar. I entered with people who knew just what to expect from the workshop, but I was almost embarrassingly moved by the experience. So many boys in the workshop room seemed enraptured by catchy, four-chord songs and simple sargams, whether they were just playing “I-Can-Shout-Louder-Than-You,” or actually crooning out the lyrics in perfect tune with shut eyes and thrown-back heads. When I shared this realization with a workshop conductor, he simply responded, “yeah, they love me!” This actually seems to be true. These kids seem to love the idea that young adults are willing to take time out of their days to teach them about music and the right to expression. They also seem to have some grasp on that right to expression, because the music taught in the workshops really does seem to provide them with a sort of freedom and a sense of security that food, water, shelter and clothing cannot provide alone. Despite their experiences of sinking below the poverty line, music was helping them to stay afloat. My contribution to Music Basti has been small, but to have been a part of it at all was an experience I won’t soon forget.
Photo by: Sikandar M Kumar