What is true collaboration?

‘Collaboration’ the golden word of today’s times. Every time you read about an event or read about any kind of work that gets done; you read who collaborated with whom. The best part about collaboration is that you do what you are best at and let the other partners do what they do best. 

However many times when we collaborate we feel frustrated, irritated or unhappy. Why so? For the past 4 years Baithak has collaborated with a large number of individuals and organisations and here is what I have observed and learned from these ‘collaborations’. I intent to share my experiences so that you may choose your true collaborators. 

Giving funds is not enough. 

I am sure all organisations will agree that there is always a paucity of funds. Our ideas are infinite and funds are always finite. To convince someone to financially support a cause is not very easy. Out of a hundred options that a donor may support ‘why’ your project? Thus funding is always important and one needs collaborators who can provide  enough funding to actualise ideas. However finding funds is relatively easy than finding a sensitive patron. A patron who supports the cause must be sensitive to the intent behind the work. Is it just another cause that he/she is funding because he/she has lot of unspent money or does one feel for the cause? Is the funding available unconditionally or has strings attached? We have seen collaborators who start dictating the program terms without even understanding the purpose and the depth of the intervention. Is such a donor/patron a true collaborator? Do we accept funding from a partner who is not sensitive to the cause? We have come to a realisation that implementing few ideas in a manner that you intend to implement is better than doing multiple programs where not even a single one is in-line with your vision. Thankfully Baithak has some highly sensitive patrons!

Mutual marketing has limited results. 

In this  digital age everyone is looking for collaborations which bring more followers, more likes, more comments and more views. We want to be on each other’s pages so that we are noticed by a pool of people who don’t know us. We want some celebrity to share our story, tag us and say we are doing good work. Does this work? Maybe yes…maybe not. 

If we intend to be famous then it’s a yes but if we intend to touch people then it’s a no. A post shared by a celebrity gets hundred or thousand more likes than usual but that does not translate in funding, or increase in the number of volunteers or passionate interns. We may create a social media hype but that does not mean anything on ground. Sometimes you may lay hands on a unique opportunity but that’s not a guarantee. Personally, I also find this deceitful. If someone likes the work they will share about it; why do we need to say we are collaborating to promote the work? Why this obligation that in return, one will get a program or a token of appreciation or anything like that? 

Providing four walls and a roof is not a venue partnership. 

There are multiple venue partners with whom we have worked and it has been great joy to work with people who have created spaces out of sheer passion. Pune’s Pagdandi Bookstore Cafe is one such happy place. They are diligent about marketing the event and are equally invested in it as the curators. The space is well set-up before the event. The mats are clean, there is water for everyone and a cup of warm chai. They do this without you asking. When one provides a space (for free or rented) what is that one is truly providing? I have always felt that a space holds energy; when we enter it we are infused by it. All these small gestures, smiles and love; give you the energy to deliver an event. We will give the space, you do what you want; does not give the same energy. There are multiple people who offer us collaboration opportunities by providing their space; however in only few spaces we feel equal involvement. It is always wise to choose your space and not the other way round. Fortunately Baithak is blessed to have found multiple such partners! 

Content collaboration is the toughest. 

Sometimes the funding is readily available and you are requested to work as the content curator. This is my favourite place. It saves you the energy that is sometimes drained in organising things and managing funds. However this is the toughest one! When you have ideas and a detailed execution plan communicating your vision is difficult. At every step you need to ensure that you communicate the ‘why’ behind your work. You must always devise mechanisms to share openly and clearly state the non-negotiable elements. 

When do two organisations or individuals truly collaborate? 

I like to think of collaborations as relationships. You give and take not because you are obligated; not because it benefits but because you truly feel so. Relationships based in unconditional love last long. It is not possible that you have the same kind of relationship with everyone and the one’s which nourish you will always be few. Organisations which are absorbed in the love of the work they and their collaborators do are the best partners. 

How do I identify the non-ideal collaborators? Well, it’s tough to say exactly how that happens; I mostly go by the vibes. Also if I hear any of the following lines, in a tone that I feel is non-caring; I feel that’s not the right person/organisation. 

  • This was not our responsibility. 
  • We didn’t know you will need water. You should have told before. 
  • Oh, we forgot to put your logo. 
  • You will have to write a mail asking us to send you the recording/photos or else we cannot share. 
  • I can’t do it. 
  • Everyone does this, we will also have to follow. 
  • Oh, I thought you will get your mats. 
  • We can’t pay you. Just letting you know.

Beware of collaborators who say the above quickly without any discussion or any feeling of guilt whatsoever! With them you will always have to fight for everything. 

Whereas, the following sentences in an inquisitive tone is what I love to hear. 

That’s obvious, we will make sure it happens. You don’t have to mention all these small things. 

Please send us your logo. We will get the creatives made. 

Is this text ok to go on public platforms? Let us know if you have any suggestions. 

Who should be credited in the news? Can you send us the exact names and the correct spellings? 

I am very busy but I will try. 

Do it the way you think it needs to be done. You know your job better. 

People and organisations who love your work and who are interested in touching real lives are the people and organisations we love to collaborate with. I have been disturbed, have felt anger and have passed many sleepless nights when I have made wrong decisions. I have learnt my lessons and I continue to learn. Thought of sharing my learnings so that some of you don’t have to face the same. 

Recently in association with Precision Foundation we did a series of Tune IN workshops in Solapur. We haven’t yet met any other Foundation that truly understands collaboration as Precision does. They own the program like you do. The arrangements are just right. Credits, acknowledgement and mentions are always done appropriately. The responsibility is shared and the mechanisms are transparent. We feel so lucky to have met them and have this wonderful opportunity to collaborate with them!

Check the backdrop. We had not asked for this but Precision did it willingly and mentioned not just their Foundation but ours too.

Collaboration means to stand on each other’s shoulders. We must care for each other beyond our obligations; truly share the joys and the pains. Hope you find a responsible collaborator!


A Letter to Tyeb Mehta, One of India’s Greatest Artists…

Hello Tyeb,

When I saw a painting of yours in an exhibition catalogue, for the first time I came to know that a person like you exists. For me, the world of colours and lines was restricted to M.F. Hussain, Picasso and other such celebrated names.

Do not be mistaken. I have no knowledge of paintings. I was sitting along with an accomplished print artist who was touching up photos of a musician for us. And, I hated you because, someone would call him and he would keep aside our work and start touching up your celebrated work, Kali.

But, my hate lasted for only a minute. As I saw this accomplished print artist playing with the scary blue colour of your Kali and trying to match the scan colour with original painting, I could sense my heart melting in the blues. Honestly, in spite of this, I truly got interested by you when I read the auction price of a few crore rupees noted against Kali.

“He is really something!” I thought.

After this short interaction with you, I absolutely forgot you. But, our meeting was not supposed to be so short. Two days ago, while I was having a cup of coffee at the Zen Cafe at Amdavad Ni Gufa, I saw a book store around. From their glass walls, I could see piles of heavy and costly books.

As I entered the book store, Ideas Images Exchanges was the first book to greet me. Though I had to catch a flight and had very little carrying space, I bought the bulky book along with Svaraj written by Ramchandran Gandhi.

For past two days, your colours, strokes and immortal figures from your famous Shantiniketan Triptych have been haunting me. I call those figures immortal because they touch human or life instincts which are temporary yet perennial. How can you, on a piece of paper show something which is trivial and then something which is significant; as significant as the existence itself?

At first, your paintings look absurd. To a novice like me, the dark blues and reds in them might even look obscene or Bibhatsa. It was Ramchandran Gandhi who held my hand and showed me what richness you had put together on the canvas.

As a student of music, I am more touched by you and your work. We musicians have a Tanpura which gives some reference to us. Though finding a correct shade of a note takes lifelong practice for a musician, I wonder what it must be taking for a painter to select a shade of colour to convey what he or she wants to!

I know, your paintings are nothing more than just a drop of what you are and what you have absorbed looking patiently at life around you. A painter or any artist, can never flourish if he is only concerned about his art and not bothered about the play, leela happening around. And then, the artist also has to master the Sakshibhav, the role of a witness to see through this Leela. I deeply admire you for the fact that you managed to be on both the sides of this curtain of Maya and managed to show both the sides of it on a single canvas.

As I google more about you, I understand how your paintings being sold for crores of rupees helped little with your financial situation. Who am I to tell you that you have accomplished much more than piling up huge sums of money?

Through your works, you preserved a seed which will blossom when the right time comes!

music Pune Society

Teenagers, Respect and Indian Classical Music

Three years ago, I and Dakshayani were quite frustrated this time of the year. Very enthusiastically, we had appointed 3 teachers under Baithak Foundation to teach at our three partner schools. This was a very concrete step to take Indian Classical Music to kids from underprivileged backgrounds. 

Through lot of ground work in the communities across Pune, sadly, we learnt that Honey Singh was the only ‘classical’ singer our next generations had heard of along with an ‘old lady’ called Lata Mangeshkar. 

What can be done to introduce our kids to our rich heritage? We always wondered. 

“Shall we appoint teachers to teach music in the schools?” Was the first idea that came to our mind. 

Since funding was not a constraint at that point, we started interview processes and also started creating a curriculum which could be taught in the schools. Our enthusiasm took a serious blow when we got to know the teaching skills of practicing young musicians. 

“We will train them” we were determined. 

After the recruitment, with initial training, we let the teachers go into the classrooms. The model was devised in such a way that all the grades would have two music classes every week in which we would talk about how music originated, types of instruments, some basic concepts like Swar, Taal, Lay, Raag etc. Initially both I and Dakshayani would attend the classes to give feedback to teachers and course-correct. We would often conduct informal meetings as well as well curated trainings for these teachers. 

Teachers often complained of discipline issues in the class rooms. One of the major complaint they had was lack of respect. 

“When I take classes at my home, the collector’s son comes and learns from me. He touches my feet every time he comes. These kids do not even know basic manners.” Said one of them, oldest by experience and age. 

We would also have meetings with the school staff and would request their intervention in the classes so that they went on smoothly. 

In spite of all this, just within three months, we saw resignation from the first teacher floating in our inbox.   

“I know your intentions are good; but these kids can never learn our music because they don’t know how to respect.” Said the same teacher whose relationship with kids had almost become hostile by then. 

We accepted the resignation and thought of finding a replacement. Before we could do that, came the second resignation. The program at third school was halted because of multiple issues, incompetency of the teacher being prime one. 

In short, our program had miserably failed. It was same feeling a start-up founder would have when his product backfires even though there is plenty of seed funding. 

It was very easy for us to conclude that these kids really do not deserve this kind of music and why force-feed them? This has been the common notion about Indian Classical Music anyways. Many musicians had told us this theory of how this music is meant for the rich- economically and socially. 

In spite of all this, both of us had a feeling that we were doing something wrongly. Instead of blaming it all on the kids, let us carefully examine the flaws in what we were doing.

The very first mistake that we realised was, we forced this music on kids. They had never heard it, never experienced it. So the first correction, we thought our program needed, was eliminating ‘compulsory’ aspect and making the program sign-up based.

The second grave mistake that we were doing was teaching in classroom an art form which was highly experiential. Can we make them experience the art form rather than teaching it in a classroom?

Baithak@Classes program was an outcome of these two learnings. We decided, for first two years, let us just do concerts in the schools for which kids can sign up if they wish to. No one is forced to attend. 

Out of the three schools we were working with, we rolled out @Classes program in two schools. We created nice poster for the first concert and put them in the respective schools. 

As the principal of one school says, “I thought, hardly ten students will sign up. Within one hour, I had fifty sign ups with me. I was surprised.” 

The concert was very well appreciated. We got similar but more engaged audience for all next concerts. 

“We liked Kathak. How can we learn it though?” Getting such questions from students became very common.  

Due to increasing demand from the students, @Classes program was further evolved to include workshops in it. 

After two years of concerts and workshops, Baithak, school and students – all felt thinned for deeper engagement. Everyone thought that we needed regular Art Clubs in school.

This is how The Taalim Project was born. We designed a fellowship program where fellowship was awarded to a musician who would teach a batch of 10-20 kids once a week. 

Acclaimed dancer and Guru, Arundhati Patwardhan joined us as our first fellow and took the bunch of 15 boys and girls under her wings. 

Arundhati Patwardhan in middle of a mesmerising performance at a school in Solapur. This concert was organised in association with Precision Foundation, Solapur.

After teaching these kids for couple of months, Arundhati Tai once proposed – “Can we arrange a small performance of these kids in our institute’s annual event?” 

That moment was truly priceless for all of us! 


Dakshayani was standing in the stage wing of Tilak Smarak Mandir, where Kalavardhini’s annual event was going to happen. Kalavardhini Team was kind enough to give a slot for Arundhati Tai’s students to perform a Vandana. 

The fifteen boys and girls were excited as well as confused; probably it was the very first time they were inside an auditorium; that too with a few hundred connoisseurs waiting to watch their performance. They were all dressed in a particular manner, to which they were not used to. 

The students were nervous, under extreme pressure, in a different air altogether. To everyone’s surprise, without anyone telling them, each of the kids touched Arundhati Tai’s feet before they began their performance!

Students of iTeach Ahilyadev Holkar English Medium School with Arundhati Patwardhan.


The same bunch of kids, which could have been easily labelled as ‘manner-less’ reached a stage where they felt like respecting their teacher. Can respected ever be demanded? Or it has to be earned like Arundhati Tai did through her unmatched commitment towards her kids? 

The kind of ecosystem and patronage in which our music flourished ensured that this respect was always paid; either genuinely our out of force and fear. Now, the situation is very different. The respect must be earned. The process of touching the hearts of young ones and gaining their ‘true’ respect is very beautiful and worth all the efforts involved.   

To know more about Baithak Foundation’s work, visit :


The Art of Swimming Through Life Without Getting Entangled : Wisdom of Sant Kabir


When we hear this name, the picture that our minds create is of a saint, living a minimalistic life while maintaining a distance from the society. Living silently in his Kuti, may be surrounded by a few disciples. Loi, which we all assume to be his wife, would be sitting silently in a corner. The constant sound of this weaver’s loom might be the canvas on which the couple lived their ‘non-happening’ life.

Kabir might be going out every day for a few hours to sell the fabric he religiously wove. On the way back, he would be buying few vegetables and some rice. Such a boring life!

On the face of it, the life of Kabir seems so much devoid of ‘life’! People writing and talking about Kabir or singing Kabir have much busier and much more happening lives than the saint himself!

Was Kabir happy with his life? If he comes back on earth now, having lived a simple life, how will he feel when he finds out that people singing his Bhajans and Dohas are celebrities? Kabir, the ultimate creative being, might have lived in a leaking hut all the life. Will Kabir get depressed looking at the scenario around now?

I know the answer. In fact, I know it because Kabir himself has given the answer in one of his Doha’s. He says,

फुलवा भार न ले सके, कहे सखियन सो रोय |
जो जो भिजे कामरी, त्यो त्यो भारी होय ||

We are so delicate, that weight of even a flower is too much to bear! Still, we get involved in life and become heavy like a drenched blanket!

In these two lines, Kabir has beautifully demonstrated a middle way to live life. We are used to live life at the poles; either we get extremely involved in the life or we start rejecting it straight away. Not even one of Kabir’s Dohas are against life. The very fact that Kabir worked as a weaver tells us how well he accepted life and was a part of it.

Kabir asks us neither to get involved in life nor to reject it. He hints at the third possibility – living life totally, without getting entangled in it. The problem is not with life; the problem is when we start getting entangled in it.

To be honest, Kabir is not the only saint who has emphasised this middle way. Another mystic from India, Ashtavakra Muni, who lived much before Kabir, has said the same thing. In fact, not running from life, but living it and looking at it without getting attached has been a central thread running in the wisdom of most of the Indian saints and mystics.

If we take a closer look at the above Doha of Kabir, it is quite clear that the saint was against even slightest of attachment.

We are so delicate, that weight of even a flower is too much to bear!

Attachment is the problem. How large or small that attachment is, makes no difference.

What’s wrong with being attached?

The most fundamental principle in Eastern Philosophy is the principle of ‘negation’. To put it simply, truth cannot be found out positively. Rather, you can just find out what truth is not.

Kabir says,

साहिब है घट माही

Which means, god or truth is within you, rather, you are it!

The problem is, we have identified ourselves with too many things which we are not! In other words, we have attached ourselves to what we are not. When we detach ourselves from all that we are not, we are left with what we are – the Truth.

So, the shortcut to finding god or truth is not finding out what we are, but rather realising what we are not!

We misinterpret that all the saints, including Kabir, are against life. It’s our misinterpretation. They were in fact very much for life; but life devoid of attachments. More entangled and involved we are, farther we are from the truth.

How to cut through the entanglements of life? Again, the answer comes from Kabir.

राम निरंजन न्यारा रे, अंजन सकल पसारा रे

Ram is not the god that we worship. The Ram in Kabir’s Dohas and Bhajans is located inside us. The one who gets entangled, attached and involved.

Kabir says, the Ram within you is the only truth and not the things in which he is involved.

To make it simple, when we get attached to something, we should move the eyes within and try finding out the one who is being attached. When this process happens more frequently, one realises that this feeling of attachment is just an illusion. The Ram within is beyond any attachment.

The simplicity in Kabir’s life is not because of lack of life; that simplicity came out of lack of attachments. Though his life looks non-juicy on the face of it, it was throbbing with the nectar of life!

Steering through life without getting entangled is one of the most precious pearls of wisdom which Kabir gave the world!

art music

It’s the time Indian Classical Musicians stop underestimating their own art form!

What’s art?

Is it an activity that we do repetitively to entertain ourselves and others?

Is it a vocation? Where we sing or dance or play with a few stretched strings to make a living out of it?

Or is it a ladder to climb up the ever increasing heights of our own ego?

More importantly, can art be same for each artist? And is it necessary that it serves the same role in lives of the audience that it does in the lives of the presenters of the art?

When one looks at any art and especially Indian Classical Music in the light of above questions, one will realise that it is very difficult to realise the full potential of this art form, even for those who practice it for their lifetimes.

Let me give you an example. What is sun? For a little kid who knows nothing of the world, it is just a red ball; probably a lollypop. As we grow up a bit, it is the sun – which does the arduous job of defining day and night for us. As we grow up a bit more, we realise that sun is what drives us. It is our source of energy. It is the very foundation of our survival. Our experiences and knowledge decide how we perceive things.

In same way, art can be looked at from different levels. Many will say that Indian Classical Music is like a prayer for them. While saying this, many conveniently forget that we do not pray to get fame for ourselves or in a prayer, there are no rivalries. A prayer has absolutely zero scope to show our intelligence and knowledge.

Many artists will say it’s their passion; something which they like as well as something which earns them a living.

For many, whatever they call it is, it’s the only thing they can do apart from basic reading and writing.

While I do not want to choose which answer is right and wrong, as it is an impossible task in itself, all these answers are from the perspective of the performer or the practitioner of the art.

What is Indian Classical Music, or rather, what role could Indian Classical Music play in the life of its audience? What’s in it for a kid whose parents barely manage sending him or her to school? What’s in it for a new born baby? for a coder who spends ten hours of his day in an artificial and stressful environment? What’s in it for a parent?

For any art, especially when it is a performing art, audience is as important as the performer. While artists spend so much time thinking about what role art plays in their life, do we really think about what our art has to offer to each of these audience members which at times cluelessly come to concerts?

It was quite a controversy when someone tried patenting turmeric. Indians suddenly woke up; we have been using turmeric for thousands of years may be. How can someone patent it?

Quite often, due to conditioning – by media, by peers, etc. or because of abundance of something, we start underestimating it.

Thanks to my mentors, as I get properly introduced to Indian wisdom, let it be about food, exercise, medicine, music or anything in general, I realise that our forefathers rarely discussed ‘why’. They just told us what to do but never told us why do it. In the age of science, reason and logic, lack of why was conveniently equated to absence of substance. As westerners take more and more efforts to study Indian wisdom, interesting things are surfacing up. Sadly, even now, when someone is throwing the ‘why’ right on our faces, we are unable to realise the significance and value of our own tradition. The same applies to the art of Indian Classical Music.

While so much research is popping up which clearly highlights the impact of music on brain development like this Swiss Study, we see a stark lack of awareness about all these things in young and even senior musicians who have been practising Indian Classical Music full time.

What happens in your brain when you are singing? Which neurones get fired up? Which centres are activated? How they communicate with each other? While western researchers are putting their best to study and document all these effects, the musicians will turn blank if you ask them these questions. I do not expect musicians to know about neurology but in today’s age, they should at least know how practising their art form helps the practitioner.

Through Baithak Foundation, we have been lucky to host more than 60 talented artists in schools and construction sites and thanks to community support, the work is expanding; but, as my general observation goes, most of the artists look at themselves just as performers and not as agents of transformation. Have they ever tasted the experienced the transformational power of music?

We have been taught by our Gurus that this art can change the life; it can bring about an instant transformation. We theoretically know it. Yet, hardly a few artists truly believe in the transformation quality of their art form.

While artists are happy to perform in small venues, as we interact with more artists, the subtle aims and objectives of the artists are quite defined – performing in famed festivals, at large scale events which bring huge publicity and money. There is nothing wrong about it; everyone is free to decide what they want in their lives.

But, more than justified focus on ‘eventizing’ Indian Classical Music is leading to another problem – there are hardly any artists in India who have first hand experience of the transformational power of music and are interested to take it to more people in that manner. On the other hand, a large number of western students and practitioners are getting increasingly attracted to Indian Classical Music and its transformational powers. Many are actively involved in integrating it with Yoga and other branches of Indian wisdom and are working towards creating valuable experiences. What happens if there are attempts to patent certain musical practices which we have been doing for years?

As the society matures, shift from entertainment to mindfulness is logical. As more and more artists get caught up in the rat race of concerts, unexplored opportunities exist for artists to absorb the practising aspect of Indian Classical Music and taking it to more people.

We should stop underestimating our own art form!

About the author

Mandar is a co-founder of Baithak Foundation. He is a passionate believer in the power of music as a tool for all round human development. Mandar brings his formal education in engineering and has many years of consulting experience with start-ups and MNCs. He is a published author with two books to his credit. He is a student of Indian Classical Vocal Music.

Famous Musicians of India

Pt. Sharad Sathe: A Life In Music

“We have been coming to your place frequently. Now it’s your turn.” I proposed.

“Yes, of course. How about sometime in the next month?”

“Yes, works very well with us. Shall we plan a dinner?”

“Not just a dinner. I want to sing at your place; and of course, dinner after that!”

I was having this conversation not with a friend, but with one of the senior most masters of Indian Classical Vocal Music, Pt. Sharad Sathe. Sharad Kaka’s simplicity, his rigour to sing and share the treasures he had was unmatched. I knew him only for a short span of last couple of years of his life. His generosity, energy and enthusiasm always amused me.

Many musicologists, music critics and musicians have written at a length to describe his rich Gayaki and his refined aesthetics. While it is imperative to talk about his music, it is equally essential to talk about his persona and some values he firmly believed in and lived up to.

What I admired the most about him was his generosity; he never held back anything. We used to meet him often as we had initiated a project to document his life and publish it as a biography. In one particular meeting, I asked him whether there were any recordings where he spoke about music and theoretical aspects of it. He immediately got up from his chair and got a handful of CDs and DVDs. Not all of them were talks and speeches. Many of them had his concert recordings as well as some studio recordings. Without even checking what recordings the CDs contained, he handed it all to me.

In many of his baithaks that we attended, he always obliged to the farmaish of his students and chahetas.

Two years ago, we hosted Sharad Kaka at our place in Baner. After singing a full length Chhayanat and two other short Ragas, he took interval. In the interval, I and Dakshayani were running across; managing tea and coffee for everyone. After his tea was over, he was trying hard to locate both of us in our apartment, which was crowded with more than 60 odd people. It was only when both of us were settled, he began singing.

“The hosts should enjoy the concert first!” He said with his gentle smile. The kind of alertness and sensitivity that he had at the age of 87, that too in the midst of a concert, was truly unique.

During one particular meeting that we had at his place, by mistake, I told him about my concert happening in the city the next day.

“Both I and Sunetra will definitely come to listen to you tomorrow.” Sharad Kaka said when we were about to leave and I realised what a grave mistake I had committed. He was so full of excitement and energy that I was pretty sure he would be coming.

“You are most welcome to attend but honestly, I do not think I sing that well.” I told him humbly.

“Let me at least listen to you!” he said with twinkle in his eyes.

I was sincerely praying that Sharad Kaka either forgets about the concert or gets busy in something. I honestly did not want him to take all the troubles to listen to my immature singing.

The next day, while tuning the Tanpura in green room, I was hoping he would not come. When I reached on the stage, I missed a heartbit when I saw Sharad Kaka and Sunetra Kaku sitting in the front row.

I sang and in the interval went to him, touched his feet and requested him to forgive the mistakes.

“Not at all. You sang really well!” I thought he must be saying this just for the sake of it.

After the concert, I reached home and as a daily ritual, checked my email. On the top of a few mails from my clients, there was an email from Sharad Kaka appreciating my singing and our sincere efforts to take music to more people. He also insisted that I invite him for all future programs.

Of course, my music was nothing close to deserving his praise. But I was touched by his attitude, his openness and the way he encouraged me to continue my Sadhana.

I had invited him for the launch of The Kabir Way, which happened almost two years ago. He could not come for it as he had a concert the same evening. To my surprise, in his next concert, he had come prepared to sing a composition of Kabir in Raga Jaunpuri, just for me. Just to clarify, I was not the only one for whom he cared so much. He had such intimate bonds with many of his chahetas and in each of his concerts, he tried his best to sing something to which they could specially relate.

In one of our meetings with him, he showed us the diary in which he had written compositions which Prof. B. R. Deodhar had taught him. He had meticulously noted the date on which it was taught to him and also the source from where Deodhar ji had received that particular composition. Not to mention, all of this was written in his beautiful handwriting.

I have not seen any musician being this particular and meticulous. He communicated efficiently and promptly on emails which many young musicians find difficult.

“I want to come and see the work that you do at municipal schools.” He would say this quite often. Most of the venues where we operated were not easily accessible. So, we always hesitated to take him there.

When he came to know about we organising a workshop by his daughter and accomplished Bharatnatyam performer Smita Mahajan, he declared that he would definitely come. The workshop was organised at a municipal school in Yerawada and the venue was on the third floor.

He came, climbed up the floors slowly, at his pace and attended the workshop.

We were fortunate to host him second time at the place of his disciples, Alhad and Alok Alsi. It was quite a scene to see audience of fifty people singing along with him when he approached the Sam. He needed no time to create the magic through his music. In each of his performances that we attended, he not just sang; rather, he tried innovating in situ. A few times, he would find it difficult to sing a phrase that occurred to him; but he would not give up. Again, with twinkle in his eyes, he would sing the phrase, to his satisfaction and the audience’s delight. A few times, while singing a difficult fast-paced composition, though the audience was mesmerised, he would not be happy with his own singing. I have seen him apologising with an open heart when something like this happened. Probably it was this honesty and sincerity to present best music which took his art to the level it was.

Pt. Sharad Sathe performing in a private concert.

Pt. Sharad Sathe’s life and his musical journey clearly highlight his simplicity and integrity, both things disappearing fast in today’s landscape of music and art.


What prevents us from creating a safe and harmonious society?

Social media is full of cries; cries of people like you and me saying that India is no more a safe place to live. The same feeling of fear, insecurity and vulnerability exists among people everywhere, irrespective of the country in which they live. The feeling might exist at different extents; in some countries it would be very explicit whereas in some it would be like a mild flame of distrust and insecurity.

In spite of many governments of different ideologies ruling the country, each following their own steps towards ensuring safety, we are far away from creating a society which is safe and harmonious. Many friends and relatives I met, were horrified by the incident which took place a few days ago, where two young men attacked a girl in the night. We started talking about it and wondering about our own safety after this incident; clearly because it took place in our locality. We suddenly started feeling vulnerable because, the person who was attacked, resembled us. She was from a socio-economic background to which we also belong. Unfortunately, we hardly notice how security and safety of people who belong to a different socio-economic class is at stake, many times by our own actions.

The whole problem of safety and harmony is not solved even after thousands of years of civilisation just because of the fact that we look at ourselves and society from a fragmented point of view.

Let me give some examples.

The area where I live, is one of the fastest growing and probably one of the ‘elite’ localities in Pune. If I open any of the windows of my house, I see tremendous amount of construction going on. The construction labor, their wives and their kids, stay in tin sheds. These shades are highly un-livable. They get unbearably hot in the summers. These workers and their wives bathe in open as they have no toilets and washrooms. They spend their entire day in concrete. All this is going to land them in serious diseases and whatever little money they earn, they will end up spending it on their own health and will certainly have shorter lifespans, full of pain and disease. Is this not breaching someone’s safety? Is safety compromised only when someone attacks you? Don’t we define safety from our own point of view and very easily neglect how safety of so many people is at stake?

There is one more example.

Once a week, I visit one of my clients whose office is very close to my house. So I prefer to walk. When I walked for the first time, I realised how difficult walking on Pune streets has become. When I do not allow pedestrians to cross the road, rather when I see a pedestrian about to cross and overspeed so that he or she does not get to cross before me, am I not abusing someone?

If we open our eyes and look at people around us and the way we behave, we realise that unknowingly, we are spreading so much of violence which gets multiplied and comes back to us.

Imagine you have to spend your entire day in a cab without being able to find a toilet to pee in, what kind of violence and frustration it will build in you.

We have conveniently learnt to live our life in fragmented compartments. We will be very polite, well mannered with people who fall in that compartment. People who are outside that compartment, for us, they become commodities. This builds up disconnect between these compartments which transforms into violence.

The purpose behind writing this post is not justifying the violent acts or simply saying that the humans who do these acts are not responsible for those. What I am saying is, WE ALL are responsible, equally.

Many of us would say that it is responsibility of government to ensure safety and harmony and I am responsible for and should be accountable for my personal life only. This is where the fragmentation begins. I remember, when I was a kid, my family was connected with the family of servants who worked at our house. Their problems were looked at as our problems as well. Many times, when they had emergency, the family supported them. This kind of connect is lacking in the society. I hardly even look at the watchmen who guard our society. Many times, the staffing agencies shift watchmen on daily basis. There is so much of disconnect and indifference that it is foolish to expect harmony.

Stronger law enforcement, prompt punishment, better vigilance will certainly help reduce these issues to some extent. If we truly wish to create a society which is truly peaceful, safe and harmonious, we need to seriously challenge our fragmented views. We need to come out of these compartments, we need to look at human beings as human beings and engage in a relationship which is built on love and trust.


This is the time corporates should focus on wellness of their employees!

Many times, we grapple with our work so intensely that we forget what’s it that actually allows us to work at optimum levels. Corporates, government offices, educational institutes and not for profits, all are quite concerned about increasing the efficiency and productivity of their teams. Doing so without paying much attention to the fact that wellness of the employees is the single factor which drastically affects their productivity is of no help. 

Through Baithak Foundation, we consistently conduct de-stressing and mindfulness sessions for corporates, which include manufacturing and software companies, educational institutes and not for profits. Titled as Naad Yoga, these sessions are aimed at introducing the healing and de-stressing power of Indian Music to the participants.     

As we conduct more and more sessions, we realise that if companies do not give due attention to the healths of their employees now, the situation might just go out of hands. 

For those who think I am exaggerating the things, here are some observations: In most of the companies, after sitting down for 7 -8 minutes, the participants become uneasy; a clear indication of poor upper and lower body strength and weak respiratory system and blood circulation. Almost all the participants are constantly shallow breathing. Many of the individuals are just unable to sing in their natural voices and indicator of constant fear of being judged. The attention spans are coming down too fast. In any weather or season, a third of the lot is suffering from cold and cough. Most of the participants look pale or sleep deprived or under immense stress. 

As the age old wisdom goes, a healthy mind is cultivated in a healthy body. Lately, we have been taught to look at our body as a magic-machine; capable of running at optimum levels in spite of being abused consistently. On the contrary, our body is like an asset, which like any other asset, needs proper maintenance, care and rest. Same is the case with our mind which is constantly abused by unwarranted stimuli. Yet, we hardly do any activity (or remain without any action) so that the mind is rejuvenated. Imagine, you are expecting your axe to cut more without sharpening it. Eventually, you will need more force and rigour to cut same amount of wood with the blunt axe. The higher force will further damage the axe and also your body. Also, the quality of wood that is chopped will go down. The most simple solution to the problem is, dedicate some time to sharpen the axe. This sounds so logical then why we do not we apply this wisdom to our body and mind? Why we just keep stretching them? Why cannot we ensure that we spend some time, even ten minutes a day, for wellbeing of our mind and body? 

Music practice can directly impact the wellness and hence the productivities of the individuals in multiple ways. 

First of all, music practice can significantly improve the breathing of the practitioner, positively impacting the overall wellness, mindfulness and energy levels. Music automatically makes us take deep breaths and prolong our exhales. This tends to push participants in the parasympathetic mode of nervous system. 

A large number of studies point out that singing calls for coordination between a large number of centres in our brain. Practising music regularly can have measurable impact on memory function, creativity, attention spans and many other  pointers which not only improve the wellness of the practitioner but helps him or her to do in a better way whatever they do.  

Music practice is a superb way of enhancing one’s emotional quotient. Singing and learning music can help enhance the understanding of situations, scenarios and people and their mindsets. Music is also a great medium of expression. It makes one sensitive of his or her own emotions, thereby enabling to better understand emotions of others. 

Listing even proven benefits of music practice will make this article very long. The point is, many times, the solution to most pressing of our problems is not difficult or costly to implement. Most of the times, it is so easily available that we tend to neglect it. A fifteen minutes music practice, when done consistently can result in long term benefits. As we are providing this experience to larger number of companies, we see increasing awareness and willingness to practice and learn music. 

Do get in touch with me if you would like to organise one such session at your workplace. 


संत साहित्याच्यी कालाबाधितता

काल मला आणि दाक्षायणीला पुण्यातील वाडिया महाविद्यालयाच्या वाणिज्य शाखेच्या विद्यार्थ्यांनी ‘संत साहित्य – एक साठवण’ या विषयावर संवाद साधण्यासाठी बोलावले होते. थोडं बोलणं आणि थोडं गाणं असं कार्यक्रमाचं स्वरूप होतं. आजच्या काळातही संत साहित्य ताजं आणि उपयुक्त का आहे? या विषयावर तुम्ही नक्की बोला असं त्यांच्या प्राध्यापकांनी सुचविलं.

संत साहित्य कालातीत का आहे? याला अनेक कारणे आहेत आणि यातील सर्वांत महत्वाचे कारण म्हणजे संत साहित्यातील ‘फॉर्म’ आणि ‘फंक्शन’ यांचे संतुलन. फंक्शन म्हणजे ते मुख्य काम जे करण्यासाठी एखादी गोष्ट बनविण्यात आले आहे. उदाहरणार्थ, अंग झाकणे आणि प्रतिकूल पर्यावरणापासून संरक्षण करणे हे कपड्यांचे फंक्शन. फॉर्म म्हणजे त्या वस्तूचे दार्शनिक रूप. कपड्यावरील चित्र, जरी, नक्षी म्हणजे फॉर्म.

संत साहित्यात ‘फॉर्म’ हा अगदी गरजेएवढा आणि नेटका असतो. संतांना जे सार सांगायचे आहे, ते सार स्पष्टपणे श्रोत्यांपर्यंत पोहोचविण्यासाठी आवश्यक तेवढाच तो असतो. त्यात गरज नसताना अलंकार वापरले नाही आहेत. गम्मत अशी, जशा लोकांच्या आवडी बदलत जातात, तसा त्यांना आवडणारा फॉर्म बदलत जातो. २० वर्षांपूर्वीची चित्रपटाची गाणी आजच्या पिढीला आवडत नाहीत. यामागचे कारण फार सोपे आहे. त्यांचा फॉर्म आजच्या पिढीला जो फॉर्म आवडतो त्यापेक्षा फार वेगळा आहे. संतांनी त्यांच्या वाणीत लोकांना ‘खेचण्यासाठी’ फॉर्म चा वापर नाही केला. त्यातील सार हे फार उच्च दर्जाचे आहे आणि म्हणून ते कालातीत आहे. अनेक लेखक, कवी हे त्यांच्या काळातील समाजाला रुचेल किंवा आकर्षित करेल असे लिहितात. संतांनी अतिशय सध्या आणि परखड भाषेत सत्य लोकांसमोर मांडलं.

आपण कितीही उत्क्रांत झालो असलो, तरीदेखील हा ओंगळपणा तसाच आहे आणि संत साहित्य नेमके त्या ओंगळपणावर बोट ठेवते.

आपण सर्वच मानवाच्या उत्क्रांतीबद्दल जाणतोच. परंतु जे. कृष्णमुर्ती याबाबतीत फार सुंदर बोलायचे. ते म्हणायचे, कि उत्क्रांती हि फक्त शरीराची आणि बाह्य गोष्टींची झाली आहे. आपल्या मनातील हिंसा, राग, भावना इत्यादी शेकडो वर्षांपूर्वी होत्या तशाच आजही आहेत. दोनशे वर्षांपूर्वी माणूस प्रसिद्धीसाठी जितका हपापलेला होता, तेवढाच आज देखील आहे. संत साहित्य काळाच्या बदलापासून अबाधित आहे कारण कि ते या मूळ मानवी मनावर आणि त्यातील ओंगळपणावर भाष्य करते. आपण कितीही उत्क्रांत झालो असलो, तरीदेखील हा ओंगळपणा तसाच आहे आणि संत साहित्य नेमके त्या ओंगळपणावर बोट ठेवते.

आपण कितीही झाकायचा प्रयत्न केला, तरीदेखील आपल्यातील कोतेपणा आणि त्यामुळे आपल्याला आणि आपल्या आजू-बाजूच्यांना होणारा त्रास आपण उघड डोळ्यांनी बघत असतो, त्यापासून मुक्त होण्याचा प्रयत्न करत असतो. संत साहित्य हा त्या दिशेत मार्गक्रमण करण्यासाठी एक आश्वासक मदतीचा हात म्हणून उभे राहते. हेच त्याच्या कालातीततेचे रहस्य.


अतुल पेठेंची ‘किमया’

आपण स्वतःहूनच ओढवून घेतलेली पण आपल्याला अजिबात न सोसवणारी आयुष्याची गती; आयुष्यात सतत अजून काहीतरी मिळवायचे आहे हे वेड, आयुष्याच्या परिपूर्णतेबद्दल असलेल्या किंबहुना लादलेल्या किंवा उसन्या घेतलेल्या मृत संकल्पना; या व अशा अनेक कारणांनी आपण आपले आयुष्य गचाळ आणि गलिच्छ करत चाललो आहोत. या सर्व गदारोळात ‘घर’ या संकल्पनेला किती महत्त्व उरणार? काचेच्या निर्जीव खिडक्यांनी बनलेल्या आणि एक तुसडेपणा निर्माण करणाऱ्या, गारठवणाऱ्या वातानुकूलित ऑफिसात अर्ध्याहून अधिक दिवस घालविल्यानंर घराबद्दल, त्यातल्या रंगसंगती आणि रेषांबद्दल, त्यात विराजमान झालेल्या अवकाशाबद्दल कोण विचार करणार? 

घर हे केवळ चार भिंती नसून तो आपल्याला स्वतः बाहेरील व स्वतःतील अपरिमित अवकाशाशी जोडणारा दुवा आहे हा साक्षात्कार केवळ एका तासात घडविण्याची ‘किमया’ अतुल पेठेंनी केली. निमित्त होते प्रसिद्ध स्थापत्यकार माधव आचवल लिखित ‘किमया’ या पुस्तकाच्या अभिवाचनाचे. संकल्पना होती ज्येष्ठ नाटककार अतुल पेठे व सोलापूरचे अनुभवी स्थापत्यकार अमोल चाफळकर यांची. सादरकर्ते अतुल पेठे! अतिशय नव्या धाटणीच्या या प्रयोगाचे स्थळ होते अनुपमा कुंडू या अतिशय सिद्धहस्त स्थापत्यकर्तीने साकारलेले संवेदनशील चित्रपट दिग्दर्शक क्रांती कानडे यांचे घर. ज्याला आपण नेहमी दुय्यम लेखतो ते चार भिंतींचे घर आपल्याला, आपल्या भावविश्वाला किती हळुवारपणे स्पर्श करते याची जाणीव घराच्या अंगणात पाय ठेवताच झाली. मन्सूरांच्या गाण्याने स्वतःची एक वेगळी ‘स्पेस’ निर्माण केली होती. बघता बघता दिवाणखाना पूर्ण भरला. ठीक वेळेवर प्रयोगाला सुरुवात झाली. 

पहिल्या काही क्षणांतच आचवलांचे एखाद्या चित्रकाराच्या लयबद्ध रेषांसारखे शब्द, पुस्तकातील मृत शब्दांना पुन्हा जिवंत करून संप्रेरित करणारे अतुल पेठेंचे वाचन आणि कोणाही व्यक्तीला आपल्या पोटात घेऊन लगेच आपलेसे करणारे क्रांती कानडे यांचे ‘घर’ – या तिघांनी मिळून आम्हा श्रोत्यांच्या बोथट झालेल्या संवेदनांची कलेवर आमच्या समोर टांगली. खरंच की – आपण किती यंत्रासारखं आयुष्य जगतो; घरांचे आकार, त्यांची मांडणी, त्यांना कुशीत घेणारी आजूबाजूची झाडे, घरांचे रंग, त्यांचे सभोवतालच्या निसर्गातील रंगांशी होणारे संवाद, खिडक्या, पुढील गवतावर खेळणारे सूर्यकिरण आणि ते पाहतांना घराच्या चेहऱ्यावर पडलेला समाधानाचा सोनेरी प्रकाश; आपण ज्यांना निर्जीव समजतो ती सर्व घरं जिवंत असून फक्त आपणच निर्जीव आहोत हे उमगलं. फार कमी प्रयोगांतून साक्षात्कार होतो. किमया हा त्यातला एक.      

थोडक्यात, आपली घरं हि आपल्या ‘मी’ ची प्रतिबिंब आहेत. किमयाचा प्रयोग अनुभवून घरी आल्यावर केवळ माझे घर बघून मी स्वतःबद्दल खूप काही शिकलो. घराच्या भिंती, त्यांचे रंग, टापटीप किंवा अस्ताव्यस्तपणा; सर्व काही मला माझ्याबद्दल खूप काही सांगून गेले. 

आपल्या सर्वांच्या आयुष्यात एखादा मंच असतोच. वक्त्याचा मंच म्हणजे तो जिथे व्यक्त होणार ते सभागृह; गायकाचा मंच म्हणजे तो ज्या ठिकाणी गाणे सादर करतो ती जागा; किंवा शिल्पकाराच्या मंच म्हणजे त्याचे शिल्प ज्या ठिकाणी विराजमान होणार ते स्थळ. परंतु आपण सपशेलपणे विसरतो कि वरील सर्व मंच हे व्यक्त होण्याचे आहेत आणि आपल्या सर्वांचा सृजनाचा मंच म्हणजे आपले घर. नाटकाच्या स्टेजवर कागदाचा एक चिटोरा देखील आपण खपवून घेत नाही पण घरात मात्र कपडे, पुस्तके, सामान, कागदपत्रे, जाळी-झळमट, सारे काही आलबेल. अलगदपणे श्रोत्याला पुरते कळून चुकते कि आपण आपल्याला सामावून घेणाऱ्या आपल्याच घरावर आणि आपल्या वस्तूंवर किती अन्याय करत आलो आहोत. 

स्थापत्यशात्रातील काही किचकट संकल्पना या अभिवाचनातून फार सोप्या आणि जिवंत पद्धतीने उलगडल्या गेल्या. अशीच एक संकल्पना म्हणजे अवकाश, किंवा स्पेस. किंबहुना घर या संकल्पनेचा उगमच अवकाशाच्या संकल्पनेतून झाला असावा. नाही म्हंटले तरी आपण सर्वच ‘मी’ च्या जाणिवेने ओतप्रोत भरले आहोत. आपला हा तोकडा ‘मी’ अपरिमित अवकाशात कसा जगणार? म्हणून मग छोटी अथवा मोठी घरं. थोडक्यात, आपली घरं हि आपल्या ‘मी’ ची प्रतिबिंब आहेत. किमयाचा प्रयोग अनुभवून घरी आल्यावर केवळ माझे घर बघून मी स्वतःबद्दल खूप काही शिकलो. घराच्या भिंती, त्यांचे रंग, टापटीप किंवा अस्ताव्यस्तपणा; सर्व काही मला माझ्याबद्दल खूप काही सांगून गेले.     

    बिंदू, रेषा, अवकाश, प्रकाश, बाग, जलस्रोत अशा अनेक घटकांनी वास्तू साकारते. आणि हा प्रत्येक घटक म्हणजे जणू काही एक शास्त्र. रेषा एकत्र येऊन अवकाशाचा एक छोटा तुकडा कसा कापून वेगळा करतात हे एक शास्त्रच आहे. किंवा आचवलांनी पुस्तकात नमूद केल्याप्रमाणे वास्तूच्या सभोवतीचे जलस्रोत तिला कसे एक प्रकारचा हलकेपणा आणि गतिमानपणा देतात; हे देखील एक शास्त्रच. विविध वस्तूंचे आणि घटकांचे योग्य परिमाण साधणं; हे देखील एक शास्त्रच आहे की! किमया अशा नानाविध शास्त्रांना उकलते आणि त्या किचकट शास्त्राचे रूपांतर कोणी अनुभवू अथवा जाणून घेऊ शकेल अशा एका बोलक्या भावनेत करते. 

किमया चा एक तास घरात नाही मावणार इतकी श्रीमंती देऊन गेला. खरंच, स्थापत्यशास्त्रातून येणारी संवेदनशीलता आणि श्रीमंती हि घरात न मावणारी आहे. घराच्या दार-खिडक्यांतून बाहेर येऊन ती बाग आणि अंगण इथपर्यंतच न थांबता रस्ते, आजूबाजूच्या वस्त्या, नद्या, असा विस्तृत प्रवास करत प्रसरण पावते. आपण संपूर्ण अवकाशाचे आणि त्यातील सर्वच घटकांचे खूप मोठे गुन्हेगार आहोत हि जाणीव पाण्यात बनणाऱ्या बर्फासारखी आपल्या आत स्थिरावते.  

एक प्रयोग म्हणून ‘किमया’त अनेक बाबींचा सखोल विचार झाला आहे. प्रयोगासाठी घरांची निवड फार काळजीपूर्वक केली जाते. प्रत्यक्ष प्रयोगाची तयारी सुरु होण्याच्या आधीपासूनच अतुल पेठे व त्यांचा संच वास्तू समजून घेतात, तिच्याशी संवाद साधतात. प्रयोगातील प्रकाशयोजना समर्पक असून नरेंद्र भिडे यांनी केलेले संगीत नियोजन नेटके व साजेसे आहे. वाचनातील निरनिराळ्या संकल्पना उलगडण्यासाठी केला गेलेला ‘प्रॉप्स’ चा वापर फार विचारपूर्वक करण्यात आला आहे. अनेक तरुणांनी हा प्रयोग साकारण्यास हातभार तर लावलाच आहे त्याचबरोबर प्रयोगादरम्यान देखील अनेक मदतीचे हात शांतपणे कार्यरत असतात.

‘किमया’ चे खरे यश कशात आहे? माझ्या मते, एका व्यक्तीला तिच्या घराबद्दल संवेदनशील करण्याच्या या प्रयोगाच्या अफाट ताकदीत त्याचे यश आहे. आज शहरे, त्यांचे नियोजन, रस्ते, वाहतूक, गावांना मिठी मारणारा भीतीदायक गलिच्छपणा, नाले झालेल्या नद्या, हे सर्व आपण जाणतोच. माणूस एकदा त्याच्या घराबाबत संवेदनशील झाला, कि त्याचा पुढचा प्रवास आपसूकच सुरु होतो. स्वतःचे घर नेटके करण्याची फुरसत, किंवा ओढ जोपर्यंत एखाद्या व्यक्तीत निर्माण होत नाही, तोपर्यंत तो आर्क्टिकवर वितळणाऱ्या बर्फाबाबत फक्त समाजमाध्यमांवर ‘शेयर’ करण्यापलीकडे काहीच करणार नाही. अगदी सरळ शब्दांत सांगायचे झाले, तर किमया फारच ‘ऍक्शनेबल ‘ आहे. त्यावर लगेच कृती करता येते. ‘किमया’चा एक प्रयोग त्या व्यक्तीला पहिल्या पायरीवर चढवतो- स्वतःच्या घराची. हि एक पायरी चढण्यातला आनंद इतका असीम आहे कि पुढच्या पायऱ्या ती व्यक्ती आपोआप चढणार. किमया हे केवळ एका पुस्तकाचे वाचन नसून ती मानवी संवेदनांची पुनर्मांडणी आहे. किमया व्यक्ती आणि समाजपरिवर्तनाचे चक्र आहे. ते नुकतेच फिरू लागले आहे. गतिमान होण्यास वेळ नाही लागणार!

किमयाचे अधिकाधिक प्रयोग होणं आवश्यक आहे; आपल्या व आपल्या पुढच्या पिढीसाठी आणि समाजाचे धागे टिकवून ठेवण्यासाठी ‘किमया’ एक आशेचा किरण आहे.