Tuesday, 10 September 2013

I Am The Music I Could Never Be - Guest Post by Neeta Gupta

 Over the last few years I suffered a series of accidents that severely affected my cervical vertebrae. The only thing that helped was physiotherapy. And it seemed as if I would have to live with this debilitating pain for the rest of my life. I was also reading this wonderful book at the time, Anything Can Be Healed by Martin Brofman and his personal experience in healing was amazing. He uses something called “The Body Mirror System”. The system is based on the idea that the parts of your body that suffer reflect the parts of your life that are dysfunctional; that there is tension in your consciousness which causes these symptoms. To release a symptom, one has to release the stress that caused the symptom, and bring harmony to the parts of your life that have been, well, out of balance. 

When I looked within, I found an answer.

Now consider the fact that the cervical area is controlled by the Vishudha Chakra [i]. According to Brofman, “Metaphysically, this chakra is related to creativity manifesting in the physical world and the fulfillment of one's goals….This chakra controls the aspects of expressing and receiving. Expressing can be in the form of communicating what one wants and what one feels, or it can be an artistic expression, [singing, for instance] basically using a form for expressing and bringing to the outside what is within…” I realized that there was something I had been in denial about for over a decade. Of course there was disharmony.

There was a time when I was obsessed with classical music. There was a time when this music was like a secret language to me. It was the language that I used to express my thoughts. Not only was I training under a guru, I had also enrolled at a reputed music school to learn classical music theory. For me at the time, the raga was supreme: the be all and end all of my existence.

The word raga is derived from its root, ‘ranja’, which means ‘to colour’ or ‘to tinge’. And hence, ‘that by which all people are coloured or elated, that which gives pleasure to all, is raga.’

 A raga is pure aesthetics. It is the basic melody or phraseology of traditional Indian Classical Music. In the semantics of music, a particular arrangement of notes ‘colours’ or affects the emotional core of the mind. Every raga is composed of a set of principal notes which when employed in varying degrees, in a prescribed order - stressing on some, while bypassing others - achieves a particular shade or mood, building the character or personality of the raga. But a raga belongs to a realm larger than the notes it contains. The notes are just a key. A performance is not just a blending of swaras[ii] sequentially, and randomly achieving an effect. A performance actually deepens that ‘colour’ or mood in the listener.

Alternately, a raga has also been described as the language of the soul. This theory probably comes closest to explaining my own relationship with music. Each raga expresses itself under the pressure of a certain emotion. For instance, under the stress of sorrow, one might automatically render a particular raga; similarly we might sing a completely different tune on the wings of joy, irrespective of the time of the day. Imagine what songs we might sing in a storm of passion …imagine what joy we can communicate in union! A raga is richer than any musical outline of it could ever hope to describe. Any mental picture of it is limiting.

Coming back to my story, life and work took over and this music, which was so important to me, got relegated to being something I indulged in over the weekend, and then to something I went back to once a month or so--in a burst of enthusiasm, until finally I covered my tanpuras[iii] in velvet-lined casing about twelve years ago and there they remained, un-strummed.

By denying music, I had been denying myself my secret language, my self-expression.

And thus began a morning ritual of garam masala chai and riyaaz[iv]. Free of any formal structure or instruments. No rigours of taal[v]. No bandish[vi] of words. In this moment I dwell in the sphere of the swara. I dissolve in the deep concentric circles that surround each note, and as I go deeper and deeper in it, my only aim is to reach the centre—that ethereal space where my personal deity exists. It is a sacred journey I undertake each day. And every day I chance upon a different tune, thrown up by the vibrations and moods around me: mellow and sombre sometimes; playful and wanton at other times.

And unknowingly, a raga is born in that moment. And although it is born to me and of me in that moment, it has existed before. It’s just that I had banished it from my conscious memory but it had continued to exist in my sub-conscious. And slowly as I flesh out its texture, it takes on a life of its own. A known form - not bound by any bandish and taal, more like a gypsy tune that refuses to be bound by words, or ever be repeated. And for a few moments in that sacred space, this melody sings its song into my ear, and just as quickly flits away. Before I can catch it, before I can note it down, and later it is hard to recall. But for that brief moment I am captured by that sound. I am saturated with it, until I feel I might burst.
When I get up from this almost trance-like state, I feel as if I have been recharged by a high-tension main power line in space. And simultaneously from the very core of the earth this energy has both exhausted and replenished every cell in my body. I am in harmony.

And through the rest of the day I strum an imaginary tanpura in my head and as its music infuses my soul, I know that I may not be fully repaired but I feel strong and free.

Neeta Gupta has been working towards creating publishing connectivity's across different languages and cultures
 Link to artists :

[i] Vishuddha is positioned at the neck region, near the spine, with its Kshetram or superficial activation point in the pit of the throat. Hence it is also known as the throat chakra
[ii] The seven notes of the scale in Indian music
[iii] A long-necked stringed instrument used in Indian music to create a harmonic resonance on the basic note or keynote.
[iv] to practice
[v] literally a "clap"; used in the sense of rhythm
[vi] A Bandish provides the literature element in the music, for standard structured singing; another connotation of Bandish is ‘binding’.


  1. Shakespeare said if music be the food of love play on.

    In Sanskrit it is said “Saahitya Sangeet Kalaa Vihina sakshat pashu puchchhavishaan heena trunam Na Khadanapi jevaman stadbhagyadheyam paramam naranam.”

    A person who is not having( even little) knowledge of literature, music and art is like an animal without horns and tail, It is the highest fortune of the animals that he lives without eating grass.

    So keep on singing and ultimately you will find your soul.
    Uma Mausi

  2. Hi Neeta, I really like the correlation that you have made with music and healing in your life. Some years ago, I managed to pull my shoulder/arm muscles while lugging my baggage through three airports on a transatlantic flight and was in a lot of pain, similar to yours. My doctor explained that the pain was being expressed by the body not because of some injury that had been caused by the baggage load, but this had been just the trigger for it to manifest and the problem had been festering in my mind for at least 3 years before it had reached that point where the body could no longer cope. I then went in for some Reiki healing and, after what had been a creative hiatus of months, I felt inspired to do a whole series of drawings which revealed very complex feelings including anger. As I drew the pain left. I was reminded of this through your story. The Vishudha chakra[throat], is the chakra related to communication and creativity/expression which includes visual arts and writing too. Even today when I am unable to find clarity, I find my neck muscles stiffen and the old arm problem returns, reminding me that I need to look deeper within and I have trained myself to visually project what I am feeling rand then try and re-create these feelings through my art which creates very powerful cleansing. Thank you for sharing this touching, personal account.

    1. We need to talk this through over a cuppa garam masala chai! Your place or mine?

    2. Come over anytime Neeta. Would love to meet and talk. :)

  3. Thank you Gopika for giving me the space to say something that I've been dying to share with more people

    1. Neeta, every time I read your post, I am reminded of some healing that took place through art and today I was reminded of some students who experienced personal transformation during a workshop I did at NIFT and various others that I have seen grow while I have been teaching. I think that we forget how much art/music are for the self and focus much more these days upon performing, publishing and exhibiting when the real magic happens during the process of creating - doing something that allows us to connect with that fundamental creative spirit that the human being is endowed with - allowing us to create much more than music and art - most importantly, intercepting the story of our lives with intentions and desires through our imaginative faculties.

  4. What a beautiful post! Turning a negative to a positive, time found in re-discovering oneself and digging it out of one's own childhood. The wealth is already there, only one needs to re-discover it.

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. Dearest dear Neeta....as I sit on my verandah with the birds chirping around on an over clouded morning and I read what you had written...I am stumped for words...
    Everytime I have hurt I have written an article and have felt much better.....some of what I have written is on my facebook page called Anuspeak.
    And music !!! life without music does not exist........
    And the mood changes with the music !
    It was so lovely meeting you....and I will wait for you to come and visit......and spend a few days on my verandah...singing...talking...eating and just listening to silence !

    1. Thank you so much Anuradha Khandelwal!!! It would be a privilege to visit your home. So idyllic to just sit on your verandah and talk, and eat and sing!