Friday, December 5, 2014

Meet Our GEMS: Sudha Raja

Giving Voice
by Meera Srikant

Dr. Sudha Raja, Principal and Director of Suswara School Of Music, has been training children in Carnatic Vocal, Keyboard and Choral Music, for the past 25 years. A doctorate in Indian Music from the Madras University, she received a State Government Scholarship to pursue the research. She has been Conductor & Trainer of SARGAM - a Children’s Choir and SARGAM - a Female Choir. She is Principal Faculty of Rhapsody-Education Through Music, which has its presence in 65 schools in two states and handles 95,000 children everyday through all strata of society - since May 2012. She has been Conductor, Instructor and Member of The Madras Youth Choir, formed  by  late, M.B. Srinivasan, since 1979, and continues to be a member. She shares her views on gender violence and her reasons for being part of the Prajnya Campaign.

Why is this issue important to you?

Gender-violence is, according to me, cowardice, and women being the stronger of the two in all ways, should not succumb to it.

What is it you feel most strongly about?

I feel strongly about physical assault, maligning the fairer sex, be it with acid, cigarette stubs, or strong/sharp instruments. Where are the nails that God has given us? Should they not be grown and used to scratch and inflict the same wound and pain to the opposite sex, when one is being abused!

Tell us about your activity and what you hope to do with it

Music in all its myriad hues and forms is a great healer. Someone who is with Music, or is learning it, cannot think in a cruel and sadistic way, is my strong belief. Music teaches one to empathize, visualize and share emotions and also communicates one’s inner-most thoughts to others. That is why when one hears a song or attends a concert, some of it touches a chord in the heart. When one receives or communicates such musical and emotional vibes, it is impossible to think of hurting another Human Being physically or mentally. 

I strongly believe that through teaching music in all its forms, be it Carnatic, Bhajans, or Choral, it is possible to create a community of citizens, who give importance to core values in society. Indirectly, it creates positive vibrations, and fosters friendship and empathy towards fellow beings. I am also trying to involve all my students, be it children, adults, or parents, to donate some time every week towards this end, by volunteering to teach Music to the marginalized and the under-privileged children, as these kind of offences are rampant in their living spaces.

For my part, through My Choral Music Group-SARGAM, I train nearly 300-400 children from all strata of society, and I consciously do not charge them for these classes, as it is the least I can do. 
I am also associated with VIDYA VANAM, a school for tribal children, run by tribals, in Anaikkatti, near Coimbatore. I have been regularly training these first generation learners for the past eight years, and even now go there for two days every month. I am also directly associated with training and setting up the curriculum in 16 Chennai Corporation schools, and the NGO Agastya International in Kuppam, which reaches out to 600 villages, in 13 states of India.


Three things you would suggest to keep these individual actions going

Firstly, I think Prajnya's initiative this year was better than earlier because each of us took ownership of our campaign and the onus was on us to project your vision in our space and chosen field of activity. This model could succeed in the long run too, as there are numerous unsung heroes in our society, who would be more than happy to be associated with you too, in your glorious journey.

Secondly, I am sure that the awareness about gender violence and equality is more today than it was five years ago, and people are more vociferous about their views and taking it forward. This IS a good sign, as more people will rally forces to build this movement.

Last but not the least, I think each of us personally too need to stretch our boundaries, and also explore other venues and newer options or means to take this forward and spread the news that we are there for the victims and will not let the wrong-doers go scot-free. I also think that we should rally forces, and submit a petition to add a legislation/law to penalize the accused, in order to discourage this crime in future.

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