On Rediscovering her Talent
I have been trained in classical music; performing at national music festivals since childhood. As a medical student, I grew distant from my veena as a result of the intensive training that took over the rest.
After one night of absolute exhaustion from duty, I walked into my room and saw my dusty veena sitting in the corner. I took it and played for 15 minutes. I felt immensely calm.
In 2017, I got the opportunity to visit the Harvard Medical School as an international visiting student. The Dean took note of my passion for music and oncology. He advised I combine both. I was faintly aware of the power of music in helping people battling stress, anxiety and depression; all prominent symptoms with patients battling cancer.
I read up about it and as fate would have it, two years later, in 2019, I visited Stanford Medicine as an international student and I showed a clip of my performance to a faculty. His fascination with my work motivated me to start ‘Oncology and Strings.’ I performed on their campus.
Initiating a Change in India
India is a rich reservoir of music, but we have not started using it as an agent, balm if you will, for relief. On my return, I went on to deliver a TEDx talk about it and performed at Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, the Tata Memorial Hospital and AIIMS, among others.
The feedback has been encouraging. Hospitals are open to this therapy in India, but need someone to take the initiative. I have now started lending my music clips to hospitals to help their cancer patients. But this will not be enough. Change must come in tides. For this, a group of us are putting in a proposal to the Medical Council of India on the need for a centralised professional organisation for music therapy.
India is home to about 70-100 music colleges. Each year, students graduating out of these move on to teaching music to others or joining academia as teachers. Imagine if we could take all these graduates on board and set up a pragmatic system that integrates music into healthcare services?
If Indian music is entertaining, its classical music is equally healing. We need to open our minds to this very real possibility.
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