In this whole wide world, with its approximately 7 billion inhabitants, why do one's paths cross only with some? Indeed, this question has never ceased to intrigue. It reminds of the famous lines: "There are some people you meet for a season, some for a reason and some for a lifetime."
A chance professional meeting led me to the Neemrana Foundation, which began its journey with the Indo-French opera, A Fakir in Benares, in 2002 (Delhi) and 2003 (Mumbai) ~ a story of a woman, not beautiful in the conventional sense, who falls in love with a blind man. The twists and turns, the depths and highs of the story, when narrated by Priya Wacziarg, the lady taking the legacy of the foundation forward, strike a deep connect. This opera, which was directed by Muzaffar Ali, with its breathtaking costumes and sets, mesmerised its strong audience of about 2,000 viewers beyond imagination, serving the base for the "introduction" of this unique art in India. As I entered the foundation, which is housed in Nizamuddin East, in the Capital, I was captivated by the different strains of music and songs. It, somehow, made me question myself ~ what if I could sing too?
Having never had the courage to explore this creative field, thanks to judgements of the past, I suddenly felt the urge to prove myself, and others too, wrong. Perhaps, it was the encouragement to express, the chance to open oneself to unknown realms, the possibility to unknot and untangle oneself or simply a long-forgotten dream. It was here, at the foundation, during my very first visit, full of hesitation, that I met Jasmin Martorell.
He has been singing ever since he could remember and even formed a rock band, with five other members, called Fragile.
After having studied opera for 10 years and having performed widely, he took up a parallel passion of teaching, after completing his Formation Studies under renowned professor of singing, Richard Miller.
"Every voice has a unique quality and can be applied to some domain. You see, it is just like an instrument, which needs tuning," explained Jasmin. "I consider myself a gardener, who looks after saplings till they become beautiful trees. I always enjoyed singing but I love being a teacher. It is a very satisfying experience to untangle these numerous knots ~ psychological and emotional, which conditioning brings about, in order to unleash that hidden talent, that hidden voice."
As I joined the group of singers, to open my very own "Pandora's box of inhibitions", I felt a sudden surge of confidence, as if I had been singing for almost forever. The raw voice found meaning and understood that though it needed to be polished, it was very much there waiting to be explored. Besides "reviving" opera in India, the objectives of the foundation are to promote classical music in Indiaand to impart education in music, supporting young Indian singers and musicians to study in India and abroad. Besides, organising of workshops in order to build a chorus and an orchestra to support visiting music companies, as also creating a core group of world class musicians and opera singers in India are just some of the objectives.
Priya described the passion behind the foundation. "I fell in love with music at a young age and thereafter there has been no looking back. My father believed that all things inter-culturally beautiful and profound should find their way to India and viceversa too. Though operas are usually expensive affairs, we wish to continue building a repertoire of operas in India."
As I tried to continue my interview with her, Priya juggled between the logistics for her forthcoming productions and her family commitments. As I waited patiently for her to complete her various responsibilities, I asked her if she didn't find it all too challenging. "Isn't life all about challenges? And facing them? Next year, I plan to produce Cinderella. That will be my biggest challenge, but I think this is what I want to do. To do something that simply takes one's breath away."
As I walked away from the house that hosts the foundation, I carried mixed feelings with me. There is so much talent which is but waiting to be discovered… so much hidden talent, within us and in the world outside.
Why is it then such a challenge for those who wish to explore their hidden gifts and for those who want to help them do so? The words of George Bernard Shaw echoed in my mind: "Life is not about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself".