Thursday, 28 February 2008


For about seven years Namita Devidayal’s life was synonymous with music. In a tiny room at Kennedy Bridge in Mumbai, Devidayal learnt Indian classical music from Dhondutai Kulkarni. It was Dhondutai’s rich treasure of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana that turned young Devidayal into a knowledgeable person. No wonder then, Dhondutai is the leading character in Devidayal’s book The Music Room. I spoke with her on a sunny afternoon recently.

“I was taking a class of creative writing at the Columbia University, when we were asked to write the first chapter of a potential book. It was then I started to write this book,” Devidayal informs. There was no plot as such and “the words came flowing like music.” In fact her book keeps moving back and forth in time --- returning periodically to the sam, as it happens in classical music.

Comprising “extraordinary” anecdotes, The Music Room shows how music offers a parallel space to Devidayal. The author herself had suggested the title of the book. “For me, the music room was not just a physical space but much more that that,” Devidayal tells over a glass of soft drink. “It was like a second life for me; far removed from the usual hustle and bustle, and the title has a resonance in me” she explains. The book also deals with the lives of three fabulous musicians of yesteryears. The anecdotes “clearly show how devoted their generation of musicians were and what goes to the making of great characters like Aladiya Khan” as opposed to what we see now --- young musicians “seeking instant fame” rather than working hard to perfect their music. “The mindset has changed,” she sounds a little worried.

Born in Kolkata, Devidayal holds a degree in Political Science from Princeton University in the USA; it may seem standing in contrast to her musical orientation. The author disagrees somewhat. “My creative instincts got influenced and enhanced by music,” she explains. Evidently, the degree did not stand in her way to “experience the greatness of classical music.”
Recalling her early years, Devidayal mentions her mother --- an acclaimed painter herself --- who “pushed” her daughter to devote her time to music. “I used to hate her for that, more so when my other friends had fun with games and movies,” she recounts. But over a period of time --- mostly because of Dhondutai --- young Devidayal fell in love with music. Now, she has no hesitation in admitting the “fascinating risks” her mother took to “evolve and nurture” Devidayal’s sensibilities for finer aspects of life.

The Music Room is Devidayal’s first literary effort and it was the pleasure of writing that has prompted her to begin a novel on life in a business family. “The high that one gets from writing, the soul-touching satisfaction from contributing something meaningful to the world are incomparable,” she says. Besides, the discipline of writing often offers the opportunity to read a lot about other cultures. She specifically mentions Gabriel García Márquez, in this regard.
The author sounds extremely happy with the level that Indian writings in English have reached. “We have loads of talent and our writers are presenting their creations beautifully; that is very important to get recognition in the alenated English-speaking universe,” Devidayal elaborates. She also stresses on the need to translate writings in Indian languages into English and other non-Indian languages. In this context she informs about the initiatives to translate her book into Hindi, Italian and French.

From her experiences as a creative person, Devidayal declines to accpet the concept of ‘writer’s block’. “One needs to remain constantly in touch with words and must write at least something everday,” she opines. And that’s her advice to the upcoming writers.