The Uphaar fire tragedy on On 13 June, 1997, claimed several innocent lives. But it raised many significant questions about our social values and our ability as a nation, to implement and enforce some of the most basic laws governing the safety and survival of our people.

In an attempt to commemorate those who lost their lives in the tragedy, AVUT (Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy) organised a concert of Hindustani classical music by the renowned singer Shubha Mudgal in the Capital.

Speaking on the occasion, AVUT president Neelam Krishnamoorthy said, “Twenty-one years ago we were devastated, when we lost 59 relatives to the Uphaar fire tragedy. It is with utmost pain that we have come to realise that for the policy makers and decision makers human life is of little value. The owners/occupiers are doing little to be fire compliant and the government agencies are compromised. Hence, AVUT has come up with fire safety tips, an initiative towards fire safety. With our campaign ‘HOPE’, we hope to make this country a safer place to live in.”

Expressing gratitude to the team of legal experts, Krishnamoorthy said, “AVUT’s legal battle would have ended even before it had began, had it not been for Mr K T S Tulsi. A special note of thanks to Mr Harish Salve.

” She also acknowledged the support of several “talented, highly respected individuals”, including Tabla maestro Dr Aneesh Pradhan, Harmonium player Sudhir Nayak, audio engineer Nitin Joshi and presenter Arshia Sethi.

In an interaction with Nivedita R, Shubha Mudgal spoke about her inclination towards music, inspiration in life and significance of classical music. Excerpts:

How did you get into the field of music?

From my childhood I started learning music, and it was basically because of the interest of my parents. My sister and I were given many opportunities to engage with the arts, not necessarily to learn to perform, but we were given the chance, as our parents believed that engagement to the arts enriches the life of an individual.

Were you always inclined towards music or other art forms too?

I was interested in all kinds of art forms. We used to go watch theatre, we used to have discussions on poetry and also we were encouraged to read a lot. Our parents basically tried to provide for us education within the arts. They really believed that arts enriched their lives. Therefore, they wanted to share that with us.

Whom do you look up to as an inspiration in life?

Life itself offers so many inspiration. Not just in the form of music. But I feel greatly inspired by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, for example, the members of AVUT.

Despite having gone through such terrible tragedy, their strength and will to fight for something that will actually not make a difference to their lives as their children and loved ones, who have gone in this tragedy, are never going to come back. Yet they continue to fight for over two decades for the society. Such people, their strength, determination and integrity are all very inspiring.

What do you have to say about today’s event?

I have known Neelam and Shekhar for many years. I had met them first before the tragedy, and I had met their children as well. Ever since, we have maintained an association.

Members of this association really fill me with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I feel a great sense of admiration for their strength and determination.

On the other hand, it saddens me that the systems in our country are not such that justice is done. Such events are reminders of the faults in the system and the strength of people like them, who are fighting.

Do you think not much significance is given to classical music in Bollywood?
The music must suit the script. If there is a script that can incorporate classical music then perfect. However, if there is no script in which that is required, why should it be then imposed.

Also, do you think the younger generation should learn more of classical music?

They should learn something that interests them. There are many youngsters, including children, who want to learn classical music. But I firmly believe that no one should be compelled to do something, especially in the field of arts.

If one wants to learn classical music or any other art form, then they should have opportunity to do what they love best in this country, where many art forms have flourished.

And, if it is classical music, they must have the opportunity and not feel worried about what next! I think that is the tragic situation, but not otherwise.

What advice would you like to give to budding singers?

I don’t really feel qualified to give any advice. I can only wish them the kind of companionship that music has given to me. I hope they find in music a similar kind of companion.

Do you practise every day? How important is that?

Not just singing, but I also listen to a lot of music to learn more about it. I have practised in the early morning hours as well and now I stay up late too and do the same thing (laughs). My entire life revolves around music.