Speaker: Dakshayani Athalye and Mandar Karanjkar

On March 6th 2021, we had an Awakin Talk with a socially conscious musician couple - Dakshayani Athalye and Mandar Karanjkar. The call was moderated by Shaalini and Deven and it was hosted by Rahul. Here is the transcript of the talk. You can learnt more about the talk here.

Rahul:

A warm welcome from the team for today's Awakin  with Dakshayani Athalye and Mandar Karanjkar. So thank you again for joining and thank you so much, Shaalini, and Deven, who have agreed to moderate this call. A brief introduction of both Shaalini and Deven is due.

They have been volunteers with SerivceSpace. Both of them are, I would say Saddhaks at heart. Deven started as a financial services expert and was working briefly with securities management. And then the question of security and the courage to face the insecurity that life eternally is, brought him to attend a meditation retreat, which changed the course of his life.

And then he and Shaalini had moved to Auroville with their daughter Simran for the last three to four years and have been working actively with children. And that's where I feel there are so many resonances with the kind of work that Dakshayani and Mandar do with children and also, I guess  Deven's search for marrying the right livelihood which is, you know, earning money for a living has led them to this spot .And Dakshayani and Mandar in a way have experimented to marry what is the labor of love as well as their own interest, deep interest in Indian classical music. So thank you, Deven.

Shaalini is a product of one of the most prestigious engineering schools. She met Deven in Goa as they were working in a communication centric NGO. Shaalini is a gifted photographer as well as an artist, I would say in many ways. Shaalini also has this deep interest in children and as a parent to Simran, as well as, as a teacher to kids at Auroville where she's spreading her gifts. Thank you Shaalini and Deven who have agreed to moderate this call. Thank you both and over to you Shaalini.

Shaalini:

Thank you for all the warm words Rahul.  Namaste to everyone. Thank you for joining us from wherever you are. And today, we have the privilege of getting to know Dakshayani and Mandar and their Jugalbandhi with life. So a little bit about them before we dive into the course.

Both Dakshayani and Mandar have had music as part of their life since childhood. And after working in the corporate world for a few years, they decided to dedicate their life to the pursuit of music. How can they bring Indian classical music to the masses and make it available for children in schools across the country. And they've been working with children from different schools in  Pune which are Municipal schools and with visually impaired children. And  it's been a journey for them through the foundation that they set up.

And when Mandar is not busy taking Nada Yoga sessions or when he's not busy writing a blog or publishing a book, you can see him petting dogs. And when Dakshayani is not busy with school children or offering her gift of music and sharing her presence with them so beautifully, she loves to cook. And she loves gardening and she likes cycling around. Thank you for joining us today. And it's an absolute honor to share this space with you both.

So I would like to invite you to share a song to begin with. Thank you.

[Mandar and Dakshayani share a bhajan by Kabir.]

Mandar:

Hello everyone. Very happy to have sung this beautiful Bhajan by Kabir where he says Sleep is everywhere. Even though we are awake, we are actually under the spell of Sleep, under the spell of so many things. True awareness does not flower.  Night is gone and day has come. Half of the life is already gone. Why waste the other half? When you realise this, just wake up!,

Deven: Beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. Once again, Mandar and Dakshayani, it was  so beautiful. I would love to begin a conversation today with this aspect of Indian classical music as a Practicing art that you speak about, like there is a performing aspect of it and then there is a practicing aspect of it, which one does for once own self development, for Yoga Sadhna( spiritual practice), which is kind of referred to as in the shastras (scriptures) as Nada Yoga(Nad: Flow of Sound, Yoga: Union/ Yoga of Sound or Union of Sound). So maybe for our listeners, we can begin by sharing your views from your own experience on Nada Yoga and as a practicing art.

Mandar: I think of when we're talking about any practice, like Nada Yoga is just one form of practice,  there are several such practices. One thing that we have to take into consideration is that it is a two-fold process.  For example, a fruit falling from a tree after it is ripe. There are two aspects to this,  one is basically the fruit getting paripakva, maturing and then in a moment it falls. That process to ripen, it needs time, it needs some effort, it needs some doing on your part, and once that process is complete, when that falling(falling of the ripe fruit) will happen, that no one knows. So then one has to just be there at that point. And then it happens. It is part of Grace. It is not something that you can do. So I think Nad sadhna, like all other forms of practice, is the same. It helps you to ripen yourself.

So, when the fruit will fall, no one knows, but you can keep working on yourself, reach that point and I think I have been learning music since I was a kid, and then the whole education and all of that and then there was a break. I think you need someone who can tell you this aspect, who can show you this aspect, who has  practiced this aspect. Otherwise it's very difficult. I was reading a very beautiful book, few days back, which says: Let us imagine if you have to transfer  a bird to someone, an alive bird, which I want to take from point A to point B. So, we have to get it in a cage to take it there. What happens is that after it reaches there, the receiver has to unlock the cage and get the bird out. What happens most of the time we get attracted to the cage itself, how beautiful the cage is, what is the engineering of the cage, what material it is made up  from. We look at the geometry and the proportions and all of that and till we are looking and fascinated by the cage the bird inside dies. So I thought with all the art forms, with all the practices, this is something that happens if we get too interested in the cage. Same has happened with music also. People get fascinated by the skills that are required like the number of raagas (a piece of Indian music based on a traditional scale), number of compositions you know, how fast you can go, how low you can go, how high you can go. This is all a cage. The bird is inside. So, I think, when we say music is a practicing art form, we are trying to look at that alive bird which is in the practice and not like just mastering something and presenting it to someone. And as I said both of us were really fortunate to have met people who have looked at music from this point of view and taught us to look at it from this point of view.

As I said, it's again, Yoga, this word, Nada Yoga which basically means union, that separateness has to be dissolved. So I think it's all about that, how you come to that fact that you are not separate. There are infinite ways. Sant Gorkhnath ( founder of the Nath Hindu monastic movement) says there are as many ways as the number of people and he tried it in so many ways and that's why the word gorakh dhanda . He was doing what not to get that. So, I think, one just has to remember that everything is for that bird and not for the cage.

Deven: Beautiful! Thank you, Mandar. Those were really simple yet deeply insightful analogies of fruit ripening, and it's only Grace that determines when the fruit will ripen and fall and also this beautiful reminder of cage and the bird and not to get caught up in the cage. So beautiful!  Dakshyani,  you are also a trained  Kirtankar (kirtan: devotional music, kar: one who performs kirtan) which again is another form. The intent is again the same, the ripening of the fruit or the freeing of the bird, so from your experience of practicing the sole art of being a kirtankar, could you share some thoughts on this.

Dakshayani: So I think as Mandar has said, mostly, what's the point of it in a way.  I would just like to add a few examples from my end and one of them being that, when we look at the Indian classical music, when we look at the form of kirtan also, as a form they are very much performing art forms.

So you go out there and you perform and you sing for people, but the whole journey of going outward cannot happen without going inward. That is a very critical part of all these time art forms which we identify as performing art forms. So to all of us, we know them as performing art forms but I think the seed is always very small but the  tree can grow as huge as the potential is.

So in the same way the performing aspect in that sense, we can see it all over and it's flourishing and you of course see a lot of performances happening. When we talk about art, what comes to our mind is always exhibitions, is always the exhibition part of it, the performing part of it but there's a lot that goes behind that performance and that is actually the real thing in that sense. All great masters in a way, what they do is they bring that practicing aspect to the stage and that is why their performances are so impactful, that is why they're able to connect with you in such great harmony because they are harmonious in themselves. So all these art forms are focused on that point basically to bring harmony within oneself and then to later share that gift with everyone around. What we've felt in our work is that this aspect of focusing on the practice, focusing on the sadhna, in some sense, because we get very attracted with the performing side of one's art that gets neglected, or that's not highlighted enough is what we felt. And that is why, unfortunately, a lot of us miss out on the benefits, miss out on identifying these art forms as a path because what happens is usually they're identified with, 'Oh, I don't have a good voice, I don't have a good body, I don't have this, I don't have that.' from the point of view of performance. But that's not the point at all. The point is the practice. That is the first, most important thing and the benefit that has to offer to all of us, and then those benefits come to everyone as long as you are practicing it. I mean, that would be sharing from my side that we need to bring back that focus on the practicing aspect of all these art forms which is rather the strong side, which is that root, which is that way to get there and then of course all open to sharing.

Shalini: Mandar, you just mentioned that,  you need someone to hold you through this journey, for this union to happen and I was just reading through your book, Moments of the Master, and on the back cover there's this quote that says 'When the disciple is ready, the master appears'. I'm just curious to know the different masters that have appeared in your life and what has been your, key learnings and insights that emerged from being with them physically or in a different plane. So, it'd be wonderful to hear from both of you about the teachers or the masters or the gurus in your journey so far.

Mandar: Yeah. So I think the first master who inspired me a lot was Osho. So when I was in engineering, I rarely studied anything. I am an engineer by luck and many of us are. We are just engineers by luck. So I am also one of them. 

So there was a time when I would read Osho madly. When I was in engineering, exams were happening and lectures were happening. Nothing to do, we had a fantastic boat club at the Government college of Engineering. The river was passing by and everything was much less polluted at that time. So I would read and I think I was reading to such an extent that my father would give me Rs. 5,000 a month for my lunch and dinner and all of that. So I would actually eat a packet of bread and a bottle of jam and that was my staple diet. I would use all the money to buy the books. So a lot happened during that phase when I was reading that. 

Then the same happened with J Krishnamurthi. I was reading his books also. I think when I met Guruji Pandit Vijay Sirdeshmukhji, his mode was very different. He didn't preach anything. He didn't have anything to say as such. He looked like a very common man just like all of us. He was very silent and very humble. If he passes by, no one will recognize him too. He was that kind of personality.

So when I went to learn from him, I thought maybe he's like just one more teacher from whom you are just imparting new skills, basically. Like if I'm doing this, he will tell me to do this. And, if I'm doing something this good, he will teach me how to do it better. But when I started going to his place, I realized how deep he was gone into this whole world of sound.

And that was his language. He would communicate through his notes through the tanpura that he would tune and he wouldn't talk much. Like if you ask him a question, the reply would come after five to six minutes if it came otherwise it won't come.

So, I think many things changed after meeting him. It is like, when a python eats a large animal, it keeps digesting it for months and months. In a cave or somewhere, it is silently sitting and just digesting it. I think with the master, it's like you get a fraction of the master and you have to keep digesting it for all your life.

So I would honestly say that's happening. If we could, we could pick just a fraction of what he had. And I think that will also take a lifetime. And of course then there are many other mentors and Kiran Kallappu was there a few weeks back. So he's like a mentor for us. We learn so many things from him.

I think it's no more of a one-on-one relationship now. Your guru might not even know that he is my shishya because of the internet. Because of all of these things, there are so many gurus all around. So yeah, but I think so far Vijayji has been, from a sound perspective, an invaluable guidance. 

Dakshayani: So, for me, interestingly I've had a background with a lot of religious and spiritual background in the family in some sense. I've always been fortunate to be modest in those kinds of environments which I didn't really even understand for a very long time.  But I have realized that there are a lot of things subconsciously that I've picked up, and that has been a blessing, and I was learning from a very young age, so again, without much of knowing, without being able to articulate what I was listening to, what I was learning, I've been in a part of some of these beautiful things, the gifts that have been shared with me by a lot of adults around me. So that has been in some sense my initiation. More or less, all this time I have always been a doer. Whatever inspires me and whatever touches me, I sort of go and through that doing, I realized a few things, and, and so those actions and they've in some sense led me to you know one after the other, they've led me to things, and I feel fortunate to have done so in my life. So in particular for me has been a great source of inspiration and direction, or rather he makes you quite directionless,  because he tells you a whole lot of different things. And then, it brings you to a point where you have to see that, this is what you choose to do and you choose to expand, and try for yourself and then through that doing you realize more. I've been very fortunate to have read him and, and of course J Krishnamurthy now, very late, very recently, but yes, J Krishnamurthy.  And Guruji of course I think he was definitely special to Mandar because Mandar was directly learning from him and I was fortunate to have accompanied Mandar on all these classes basically and hardly left anything. I was very fortunate to be in his presence. I think, of course, the music that he offered us,  whatever you know, as Mandar said, he was someone who hardly spoke about his thoughts or his feelings, or anything like that. But, to be in his presence, has been a great learning. So, he could have easily shared a lot. But, knowing that you don't have to talk, you don't have to share, you don't have to articulate and you can just be, and be very happy with that. So that has been a great learning, to be with it.

Deven: And I believe towards the end of his physical life, you decided to also go and stay with him and take care of him, you know, as he was going through a certain illness. So during that moment, when you were actually staying with him and all 24 by 7 with him, could you share some of the insights or remembrances from that time?

Mandar: So he, for the last 10, 12 years of his life, he was not teaching much. Like I think 2010-11 onwards, he was not teaching anyone a session. Like he was just, I think, engrossed in his own work, you know? And so when we first started learning from him, we were introduced to him by someone, a very close friend and a very close acquaintance of his. So he said yes, but he was not very, very willing, like that point. So he just didn't want to hurt this person. So he'd be like, okay, come once in a while and if you call him, he'd say, no, don't come in today because I have to go here or go there. And we would really feel like, does he really want to teach or are we forcing us on him, you know, what's the story. And then eventually what happened, we don't know, but this whole relationship came to the stage where he'd call us with the hemoglobin level of five and fever and all of that. And he would be like, you can come, I want to teach. And since he had a very low immunity, he was actually supposed to not meet anyone. But he didn't care even about that. He would be like, no, I want to teach. You have to come. I will teach. And many things, you know, that we got to learn from him. So one particular thing was we had requested

Mandar: And many things we got to learn from him. So one particular thing was we [00:30:00] had requested him to do a small <unclear word> presentation in a temple in Pune, which was like a very informal kind of about 10 - 15 minutes of presentation. And he very happily said "Ok I will come". And while we were walking one day, we would take him on a morning walk everyday, he said "Can you tell me the date again?". So I just told him, "This is the date. What happened?". And I was scared if he had any other commitments or if he changed his mind. So he said "No, nothing. I just wanted to check with you".  So all that happened, whatever the presentation was, happened very well. 

And later while talking to him, we got to know that he had been offered three concerts by the government of Gujarat, and one of them was happening on this day and he was like "I don't want to do it because I have already committed one of the dates to someone". 

So, in this world where musicians are so insecure about getting more performances, being in front, he was like, for him it was as simple as this, "Okay, I have confirmed earlier to him. So that's it. Now, even if the president asks me to come and perform, I will have to humbly regret it because I have already committed myself to something else". So I think all these things from his behavior and even from his music, there were so many things to learn about. Whatever we could not do in one hour of singing, it would be a disaster, he could create magic with just one breath. And I'm not exaggerating because he is my guruji and I have to praise him. Nothing like that, it's a pure fact that with one phrase he could make you cry, he could make you lose yourself. And I think that whatever is available online of his music, there are quite a few videos on YouTube, I would say it's not even 10% of what he actually was! Because he didn't like to perform much. So whenever he was in the performance zone, he was already in a compromised state. So I think what we experienced sitting with him, when he was in his comfort and he was in his mind state, that has been priceless! That kind of music you cannot listen to anywhere.

Dakshayani: <short laugh> yeah. I would definitely like to say that, it's just been a grace that we've had the opportunity to be with him. I think a lot of people around us and friends also keep saying that, "Oh, it was so nice of you that you could take care of him or be with him when he needed some help" and I keep saying and I keep feeling that it was our <giggles> good fortune and grace <giggles> to have had this opportunity to be with him in those moments. Because some of the things that he's shared with us, and like I said, ' just his being'! it's all priceless! One cannot put that in words. <giggles>

Deven: Beautiful! And I think just listening to these few anecdotes gives me goosebumps. So I can totally imagine what it would've been, being in his presence. So, thank you. 

Shaalini: Mandar, you mentioned that even if you had taken a fraction of him, his being in you, it would take a lifetime and I can totally imagine what it would have been like because some weeks ago when you both sang a 'Kabir' song, actually I started getting tears in my eyes and I had no clue why they were coming. They were just coming. Not that I understood the song or anything but it just transported me to a different space. So just holding a lot of gratitude for him whom we've never met, but through you, we are able to experience his presence. Thank you.

Deven: Thank you. So, now maybe shifting gears of the conversation to a little bit about your professional life, Both of you have had careers in engineering and law respectively. 

So, now maybe. Shifting gears, , the conversation to a little bit about your professional life, with a few have had careers in engineering and law respectively. And at some point you were balancing the two, you are having a day job, and then you were also doing music.  Of course you have a very beautiful understanding and definition of occupation, which I'm sure you would share, and then at some point you took this leap of faith and you quit the jobs and you started a foundation. So a little bit about that journey and how you were balancing, and then what inspired you and gave you the courage to take this jump , would be wonderful. 

Mandar: I think when I came for my engineering. In the first year I was in that whole race that I wanted to be a topper, then I wanted to earn.   Of course after that leave everything and start music.   I slowly realized that everything comes at a cost, like the kind of energy which a person has till maybe thirties or forties, a lot of damage happens. You know, if one goes through corporate life for a long time, yes. Then after  that you resign after 15- 20 years of working, you will have a lot of money, will have a lot of time, resources, everything, but the hardware gets damaged a lot. If you're not conscious. Okay. I'm not saying it happens, but you have to put in a  lot of effort. And I think I read Osho during my engineering, I started taking this whole education part, like very casually. I was like, okay, existence takes care. And so let's see what happens. And like that. So  what happens in the  funny part is that my professors, like I have not completed submission of one subject and I failed in that. So I went to the professor and he was like, why didn't you do submission? So I said, you know, I want to do music. I don't want to do engineering. And that's why I don't feel like it, so he said, okay, come  sit next to me. I also wanted to do something but I couldn't do it and I am stuck here. So I don't want you to be there. Okay. Just take one more day, do something, give it to me. You will pass. So what I realized was that if you make your intentions clear, there are people who want to help you. Because everyone is going through that same grind. so everyone is going through that. So if someone sees a possibility, okay. You know, I like to say at the middle of my life and someone who's just starting, he at least realized that, I want to get out of this. So let me help him. So what I realized is that you really don't need to take a leap of faith or anything. Because of the kind of world we are living in today, the positive forces are very strong. So just give a hint that you want to do something good. And it starts coming to you.  So you know that is what happened and  but again, you need, you need a lot of time to understand this. So even if you realize that you again get caught in your cycle of fear, the same thing keeps happening. So with me, I completed my BTech with the help of my professors and resources, you know, so many people, you know the whole college celebrated when I passed. So that's how I completed my engineering and, so I got the job also, but which was in Chennai. And I realize that I have to be for music for both of us to be together. So I started working in a startup and I started taking home tutions. And in all of that, luckily I got a job when I wanted it.  some stability in life. Otherwise I will be all over the place. So fortunately I got the job in a very good company. Like I was there for almost three- four years. I worked with them and I think that's where I got some space to experiment, you know what I really like. So I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. So I took admission to law while I was working.The company was very supportive. They were like, do what you want to do. I realized I don't like it. So I had this love for music.

 So, I said, let me test that out. Of course, I knew it could also be as illusionary as I had love for law. So, I started learning music again, and I realised I really liked it. I requested my boss to please allow me to work three days a week. And she was very happy, and she said why not. So that I did for one year. And then after that I was like, If I don't start doing, what I really want to, this will keep on happening for years and years and there will be excuses like,  I couldn't do this because I was doing this, so I thought , now so much of support was  there and it was my responsibility to take the step. That was the point when I decided to quit the job. But there were many friends who had their own small enterprises, who said give us one hour a week and do something for us and give us two hours a week and do something for us. So that is how I started consulting a little bit. And slowly I could manage these two things in such a way that I had enough work for a decent life, and I had enough of a space to really explore what I want to do.

Dakshayani:  For me it came to my education choice.  Like I've come to my occupation choice, out of the elimination, actually. So, I never wanted to really pursue Engineering or Medical that, I was sure. So, then what, then I didn’t want to do a BA or so then what. So that's how I landed up with law. And I did enjoy my college years and I did like studying it, but I was very short after the first two or three years of my law degree. I did a degree after 12 th.  I realised that I didn’t think that I could do it for my whole life. It doesn't inspire me.  It's not engaging enough and there are a lot of things in the profession that I will not be able to do. So, I was very sure that that is not what I want to do, and, and then I thought I have always felt I would be a good teacher   and I would be able to teach, and I would be able to adopt children. So, that's definitely what I fit. And of course, I was also in need of a job.  Then I was just about 18, so I decided that for a job, I could look out for in education, that’s how I landed up with my first job at Akansha Foundation and it was just purely a miracle as  that was probably the first thing that we searched for. We contacted and gave the interview and then there was a demo and within five days I had the job. So, it was really a miracle and I've enjoyed my four and half years at Akansha. 

And I enjoyed all those years. I had great learning experiences there, because that was my first job. And I was juggling between my law and work. So, I was doing both simultaneously.  I had a   morning college and then an afternoon and evening job.  In that period, I learned a great deal. Actually, there were a lot of things that I didn't want and my experience with Akansha, made me feel that, okay, this is something that I like, I understand, and I enjoy  and I would like to engage more with it. And that is what brought me to the Master's in education at Tata Institute of Social Sciences. So that was again a lovely period.  I've always worked starting from about eighteen when I was 18 years old.  So that was really good because I always understood how things work. and then what's academic or what's the other background? What's the philosophical background? So, I was able to test that or question that, so that's what brought me to education and it was actually through I remember both of us, I mean, we were twenty five years old and, having a conversation around the reach of Indian classical music, which we both loved and enjoyed. In fact, I was introduced to Indian classical music when I met Mandar. So, I didn't have a background in classical music, I've always been a Kirtankaar and for that, whatever music is required, I had learnt that, but I was never introduced to classical music as Mandar did.  I realised that where this music is, we get to hear a lot of it, but the schools that I was working in , I felt that these schools had nothing to do with Indian classical music.

 So, that is what brought an Idea of Baithak   to us.  And we felt that there's a great need to take this music to children.  And so that's how it all started. So, we were doing our day jobs and I was of course working, either at Akansha and after that, actually I shifted, as a CSR manager with a company. And when we were doing that, both of us would go on weekends and volunteer at the Teach for India centre and we would teach music. And that's what made us feel like, it's not though the students did not have a background. They would still be able to enjoy it because we also had our own questions, whether we would again be imposing ourselves and our ideas and thoughts on children.  But we could see that that was not the case that he genuinely liked and appreciated music.  So that's how It all started as a weekend project actually for about a year when both of us were working.

 And it has always been, as Deven mentioned that you heard the pressure of occupation, we're talking about, when we were discussing the interview, that for us it has always been the occupation of the mind, occupation of what we want to do and it's not so much about actually how much you physically do it, it’s more about, are you engrossed in it? Are you in it?  So   Guruji would also again say this in the context of music, many times that you don't have to constantly sing to be in music? All you have to do is to be in it. And you don't have to express it. You don't have to actively do anything for it, you have to be immersed in it, and in that sense, we always had music and it's again, a great fortune and a great luck to have it with us.

Shalini:  So amazing to hear your stories on how Baithak  foundation came about. And it'd be wonderful to hear how working with children has been for you. And especially given that the children have been from Municipal schools where access to good music and classical music has never been there before and   So, I would like to hear more about your learnings and insights from observing these children.  I’m sure when you introduce music to them, something must be shifting in them, and they must be developing some sounds, some skills, a different way of being maybe, after listening to classical music and how that can shape a child's growth? So any insights or your observations would really help, thank you.

Mandar: We get this whole thing from a scientific perspective. What music does to our brain, our body, mind, everything. I think we are at the infancy of the research.  So, the research is, of course there, say music helps brain development, like many things like mathematical aptitude and spatial understandings. And so many things are positive impacts of music, but we feel it is just a tip of the iceberg.   If we look at our bodies, for instance, we say it is Matter. But if we take this matter down, there are only molecules. If we take the molecules to their level, there are atoms and in between all of them, there is a lot of space. Like if we look at an atom.

I think there is like 99.99 % vacuum in it, like space in it and only 0.01 % matter in it.  Even in that matter, that is almost the same amount of space and matter and whatever is actually matter, if you go there, that is also vibration. Vibrating trillion times per second.   So, if we look at the whole perspective, I think we don't even know what music does to us.   We are just trying to understand from a very limited perspective. So when we go to schools with our music, what happens is that the kind of music  kids are exposed to is very different.

It's very loud, especially in the communities, the music comes only during Ganapati or Navrathri or the festivals of local deities, and it's all loud music.

Dakshayani: Just to add to that, unfortunately, especially in cities, the communities in cities, the traditional and local music is also disappearing. So it is not as if they are exposed to their traditional music, but it's more DJs. That shift has happened very quickly, and that is the music that children are exposed to.

Mandar: So, in fact, before we started baithak, we were randomly talking to students in a school, you know, which was like in the heart of Pune city. Probably like two kilometers away from this  school, a festival happens and this is a world famous festival. And we asked kids, who are the classical musicians you've heard of? So, you know, a few hands slowly went up, and we were very happy to know that kids have heard some of them. So, we asked the first child, okay tell me, "Honey Singh", the second child said "Honey Singh". So there was like one girl at the back of the room, she said Lata Mangeshkar, that is one girl, and that is also not classical in that sense. So I think, when we started working like initially we had these issues, you know, that our teachers had to resign because there were discipline issues. Kids didn't let them teach only. But when we studied this whole thing, we realized that it's our fault, because they have not experienced the magic of art form. Then how, why will they learn the theory of art form. So I think we thought first it's our responsibility to let them experience the magic of art form. And we actually turned our model upside down. So we started with doing concerts in the school and we didn't even talk about teaching. You know someone with the sitar and tabla we'd go and we'd play for an hour and come back. Then slowly kids started asking, how can you sit straight for such a long time? Or, this Santur is  so heavy, so how can you have it in your lap for such a long time? Or, to a dancer, how can you stand in this posture for such a long time. From there to, you know, we want to learn this, who will you teach us? How can we learn this? 

And where do we also get this on YouTube? So those were some of the questions, especially with older students. So, does this music exist, apart from, you know, when they see it in school? Because I mean, now we say that the internet has brought everything close to us and you know, everything is out there and online, but how do you access that? So literally even to know the names of the artists that you can type on YouTube and search for that, as basic as that. So a lot of students are then curious to know, this can be found on YouTube is it? So yes, of course. And that's how, so those are the small things that you notice. You know, Yeah.

Deven: Yeah.  I think mainly, if we talk about changes that happened, there are some schools that we have been working for the past three years now. So there are definitely changes in terms of behavior. So we don't impose discipline. but we observed that kids become disciplined. You know just by getting exposed to that one experience. Now the footwear will be in the line. They will sit silently. They won't talk in between. If they have to do something they will get up, they will go outside. Literally they will do it and they will come back and feedback that we get is that kids who have challenges while paying attention to something. There are many kids who find it difficult to concentrate for even 10 minutes. They will listen to a concert for one hour without getting disturbed. So I think kids to whom reaching through conventional languages is very difficult, you can reach them very easily in this way.

Dakshayani: And, I would say that those are just some of the observations, we are very sure there are a lot of things that children pick up, which maybe they are not even observing in that sense. Definitely one thing that we've also heard from students themselves is that, because you really have questions around how many years do you take to learn this art form and then, you know, to perform like you. So those are also the very obvious questions that come to them. And when they hear the fact that most of these dancers and musicians and instrumentalists have been working for at least like a minimum of 10 years, and then beyond that, and then the students realize because most of the times, unfortunately, they're constantly doing one thing and then leaving that and then doing something else and then leaving that. So, then they realize that, Oh my God, you know, to master something you really need to put in those many years and hours and be dedicated. So, they do understand, I think that that dedication aspect and that doesn't come because the teacher is forcing you, but that comes because you want to learn that art form better. So it comes from inside.  So we've seen that, in some of the schools where we've now started regular classes, and unfortunately, because of COVID, we've had to stop that.  But we had started seeing that how students can, the same students who, you know, you feel that there's been indiscipline, they're not concentrating, you know, they don't want to do this, they're just too lazy, maybe. You know, you'll probably have all those things in your mind, but you realize that once they really want to do it, how dedicated and how immersed they will be. So we definitely started seeing that with the classes that are happening, that a lot of the children are very dedicated and they definitely want to do it with full energy. So you see that too.

Deven: Beautiful and  happy to hear that about children. We have many more questions but its also eleven and we can see audience questions are also coming. So we'll now move now to the questions that we have received from the audience.  Dipti is  asking if you could explain in brief how Nada Yoga  works as a sadhana and whether it works on the chakras or the five pranas. So it's a technical question, but if there's something that you want to share briefly over there.

Mandar: Okay, See when we talk about all of these things,  one thing that we have to be very clear about is that it is all in pieces. We really don't know the full picture of anything, we  will have one sloka which talks about chakra, for example, but there is no research which is systematically done and then proven as to why this is going to happen. I think what we have to go by is individual experience and what happens to someone when he practices this art form or any practice. So two to three main points you know about the chakras, for example. If we talk about chakras in our body, there are different thoughts about what chakras are. Are they really knots in the body or disturbances in the flow of kundalini energy or are they hubs of energy in the body? What are chakras? Different saints have looked at them from different points of view, and  the number of chakras is also different. Some saints  say that there are four chakras, eight chakras , seven chakras, ten chakras or eleven. The numbers also differ. Many times one feels, was it very experimental? and if that saint could feel something at those four points in his or her body and hence he or she said that there were 4 chakras in the body. Some tantric felt there were eleven points and said, okay there are eleven chakras. So that is why when we are going in this practice, we should not go with any connotation or any predefined thoughts in our head because then we will create that, if it is there in our mind we will recreate it. So, fundamentally if we talk about Nada Yoga or sound practice, there are 2-3 important things that this practice does. So one is basically we have resonant cavities in the body. So we have abdominal cavity, chest cavity, facial and nasal cavity. Sound is a medium of vibrating these cavities. Sound is actually a medium of energizing and resonating these cavities. That is one aspect. Surrounding these cavities we have different glands. You know we have a gland here, and there all across your body. These sounds and resonance are impacting those glands also. It is also creating harmony in their functioning. Whenever we are singing, we are basically exploring the harmony of sound.
There is a lot of mathematics in singing and the notes Sa, Ri/Re Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni are not arbitrary there is a harmony and when we explore that harmony we are also in that harmony.

Second aspect, I often say, is listening to your breath. If my breath is disturbed my sound will be disturbed and if my breath is steady my sound is steady. Music allows us to listen to our breath or prana and know what is happening.  In gas, a chemical with a strong odor is added so you know if there is a gas leakage and in the same way the sound is added to your breath to listen to how it is moving.

Third part is brain development. In the discussions between J Krishnamurti and David Bohm they talked about neurology and that something has to happen in the brain for the immeasurable to manifest. Music practice rewires and creates new neural pathways in the brain, can change the size of the brain's lobes and help retain the grey matter of the brain.  So music practice also creates new neural pathways in the brain. It rewires our brain.
 

Dakshayani:It's important to clarify that practice is not so much off the skill of the art form or how many ragas you can sing but about being in tune and that is actually the work of a lifetime. To get your Sa right, tune your tambura correctly and to be in such harmony that you are listening and recreating that harmony with your voice is a lot of work. At the other end it is very swabha ( easy ) and the more mind and force you put into it will go out of your hands is equally true. I remember somebody saying very beautifully that to sing or create music two words are enough but for sadhana one word is enough. A great musician saying that is really indicative of something and is  not just something to sound humble. It is a fact that one note is enough to harmonize ourselves and that's a big job right there. 

Madar: Even with all of this said it from  a very narrow understanding of this practice.

Deven:Yeah. Beautiful.It's an ocean that needs to dive oneself to be exploiting the experience, so, thank you for those pointers.  I can see two threads of questions that are coming in: One is around the courage you have taken in leaving the mainstream narrative and job security.What gave you courage and what initial challenges you faced when you took that jump? The second trend, speaks of how this journey,has led to you relating  to each other in a different way as a couple working together. The personal and professional lives get blurred and hold space for each other as  individuals while working together.

Mandar:When the question of courage comes, one of our mentors and a very beautiful story.There was a wandering monk who would go everyday to some house to ask for a meal and whatever he received, he would eat that. He always had the insecurity if he was going to get food that tonight or the next day. One day he goes to a house and the lady opens the door and says, you can wait for a minute. I will get you something.That lady was about to deliver a baby and the monk, being a renunciate, thought there was something wrong with her body not knowing she was pregnant. He asks her what was wrong with her body and she tells him that she is about to give birth and explains how as a mother her breasts are full of milk to feed the baby when the baby arrives. The monk hears this and says to himself how foolish he is to worry about food. If even before the baby comes into the world that the food is ready then as the monk is already in the world then the food must also always be ready.                                                                      It is  not very easy to say this, but living like this is very difficult and we do at times get worried.        If you just take one step and if you see that you are being taken care of, you can take a bigger step next time.Try it out for something little, see it happening,  experience the happening and you will naturally take the bigger next step.                                                                                                                                  The 

Second question was  about holding space for each other. If we realize what we are,where we stand or how much space we deserve then automatically we start giving space to each other. In our case we know each other and we are good at and bad at and as long as we have that understanding then everything falls in place. It is not like we are very similar kinds of people or our personalities are very similar because we are radically different but we realize what we are good at and bad at and we try to do more of what we are good at and not do that at which we may not be so good.

Dakshayani: Absolutely and because we live together we naturally started to understand when the other person was in need of time, space or help. It's just a magnet of respecting each other and from there it works out.Fortunately definitely for us, our likes in some sense are the same, we both like music and have our own practice I would say. So that makes it easy, , in a way,  because both of those like music, , we have our own practice, how we look at life is similar and that definitely makes it easy. 

In terms of also how we look at life, in some sense that also matches. There's a consensus on  how much we want or we don't want, and what we want to do. We are aligned in that sense. So that of course, makes it easier than having to completely test different points of view. So that has made it easy, of course.

Rahul: Beautiful. Thank you once again.

There is one question asking about what are your plans for working with other musicians around the country, to take this work on a larger scale.

It may be also good for you to share about the other part of your foundation, which is already working with young artists.  So you could share a bit about what you're already doing, and then what you are open to, in terms of more work.

Dakshayani: A couple of projects that we've already been working on...I'll start with that, how we engage with a lot of artists, and then I'll talk about our next plans.

The first thing is that when we are doing concerts in schools, or basically teaching different art forms at schools, it's actually a lot of young artists doing this work. Of course not both of us are doing it.  

In fact, last year there were about a hundred artists at least with whom the foundation was engaged. So the idea is to, of course, work with younger artists to take these various art forms to school, particularly. So all our programs are also designed in such a fashion where artists are also seen as beneficiaries. When the artists themselves go and share their art form and they offer their gift and they teach children, they're also learning a lot in that process. And that is why we also prefer working with younger artists. So that happens, you know, and of course then artists get some regular steady income, also, so that's another aspect of it. 

But yes, in all of our programs, actually, we are working with younger artists. How we usually do that, is unfortunately, again, the case right now is a little different-most events are not happening- but what happens is definitely Mandar and I, we have two other people working with us.

We do attend a lot of concerts in the city and around, wherever possible, so that is one thing we definitely do to reach out to younger artists. 

We, of course, have a lot of artists writing emails to us, and that's how we start conversing with them. So that is how we engage with younger artists. That is one of our programs.

But one of the most important things is working with companies and working, for example, how we've come at other ways to engage with adults is the key, and conduct various workshops and intensives, or immersive sessions, which basically bring out this aspect of practicing art form and how all of us can better appreciate these art forms and learn for our own benefit.

So we hold music appreciation sessions and workshops. So that's another thing that we do. 

We also curate a lot of music. We've been fortunate to receive a copy of a beautiful archive that has music of great artists, so what we do is through online exhibitions we share that music with the public. Only if it's well curated can it reach the direct audience, so our idea is to create exhibitions and playlists and put them on the website to reach greater audiences.

And this curation is not only done by Mandar and me. Again, here is where we involve younger artists. So if you're a young artist and you want to create a playlist that you want to listen to, that can be done. That goes on our website. We also digitize a lot of material.

We have a few people who are working on that aspect also. So there's a lot of archive material that gets digitized and processed a little bit, so that it is there for posterity for all of us to consume in various modern formats that exist. So we do that work, too.

We've previously also worked on a couple of books and we're also in the process of working on two books.

Also, of course those will come. The books is one definite thing that we work on where

The idea is to share stories of all these artists and people, you know, to share their life stories with us. So that in itself is inspiring enough.

Mandar: See, what we would love to do now, when schools will open up after the Covid situation, if, let's say you are an artist in some city or some village and you have a school nearby, and you say: " I want to take responsibility for the school. I will go, I will perform, I will teach kids there. I know other musicians who can come, who can perform there, who can do workshops''. Just let us know, and we will be very happy to support it monetarily from us.

So our whole idea is, basically, you know, let people take charge for them because there is so much need. So we cannot get  artists everywhere. So just approach us and we have some format ready for conducting concerts.

So we don't do all those things, because I think that is what distracts the younger generation.  So we have a very simple format that anyone can implement in their school and all of the resources that you need to carry that out, the foundation will take care.

Rahul: Beautiful. There's one question, curious to know what does Seva or Service mean to you?

Mandar: It is something that has to happen very naturally. So, I think if we go with that attitude of Seva: "Look here, I'm doing this as Seva", we are already far from Seva. 

So, I think most of the time under the name of serving others, we are serving some of our interest in that sense. So, I think we look at Seva as it's just a gift. There is no expectation of profit.  

Dakshayani: As you were saying, it's "spontaneous sharing". You who are not actually thinking about it- that "Okay, now this is what I'm offering as service. You're actually not thinking about it, you're just doing it. 

Mandar: For instance, this talk which is happening. I think for the first time someone has so nicely written the bios! Otherwise the names are not correct. You know, so many things happen! And then you feel like, okay, people are doing service, but they have this feeling "I am doing this as a service". 

But in this case it's actually happening everyone is lovingly doing it. So I think that's what our idea of Seva is.  Not because you are doing it for free, you are giving someone something, you just do it. It's not like that. 

What Kabir used to say that everyone who is going to wear Sabari is going to be Ram. I think that is the attitude and mindset we need to have toward service. That is what we are trying to do.

Shaalini: Thank you. We just have one last question.  

Apart from writing nice bios for you, how else can the ServiceSpace community support you both? If there is anything, we would like to hear.

Mandar: If you know fantastic musicians whom you support, doing good work, they could be part of this program, let us know. We will be very happy to incorporate them, make them part of this project. 

Dakshayani: If you would like to volunteer...

Mandar: If you know any school where you would like music to happen, let us know, we would be happy to do that. I think just keep continuing the good work that you guys are doing. I think that's also such a huge contribution to humanity.

Rahul: Thank you. Thank you very much. We would love this conversation to go on and on, 

But the clock is saying now we have a few minutes left, so maybe we can end with another song from both of you. 

Thank you once again, both of you, and all the volunteers at the back end who made this call happen, and more importantly, all the listeners who came together to co-create this space.  

All the beautiful questions-we have some more questions, which we could not take- but maybe over email. There are some people who are asking for recommendations, for Spotify lists, so many such things which can be shared via email. We will get in touch with you.

Really, really grateful for this deeply enriching conversation from the heart covering both inner and outer. Kind of trying to, not even trying- you are living it as one, so that comes across. How you dissolve this boundary of inner and outer, have them merge and play along. Of course it's a journey.

Dakshayani: Thanks to everyone at ServiceSpace and all the volunteers and listeners who joined in today and especially volunteers. Everyone who's doing this wonderful work. If there are any mistakes-they're ours!