Walking That Extra Mile

In A Different Rhythm

It has been two years, since I've been teaching drums to the lovely kids of Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir(SSRVM), in the slums of Dharavi, Bombay. It all started when I did my first ever Art of Living workshop, the Yes!+ with Bawa and Dinesh bhaiyya in March, 2010. On the last day of the workshop, Shubhangi Ma’am, the principle of the school said that, anyone who wanted to contribute in any way to the school were most welcome. Something shifted in me, i kept thinking about it and i decided to visit the school the following Saturday. The craziest trip of my life started that day, when I tried to find the school. I didn't have a GPS enabled phone, so couldn't find the school easily. I was coming from Chembur so i got down at Sion and entered Dharavi. The address said SSRVM opposite Ganesh Mandir. I was excited and determined to find the place. Little did I know that there were more than ten Ganesh Mandirs in Dharavi alone. It took me more than two hours inside Dharavi till i found the place. In my quest to find the school, I was a witness to almost all the activities that go on inside Dharavi. I never cared about the destination, the journey itself was so fulfilling and I made so many friends on the way, shared smiles and was full of love.
I finally did find the school, after two long hours. When I went inside, only the watchman and one of the student’s parents were there. I told them that I would like to contribute to the school. They gave me the principal's number. When I spoke to Shubhangi Ma'am, I had no clue in what way I could contribute, so I just told her that i would like to teach them drums. She said excellent in the most beautifully encouraging manner. For the next two months there was no news of anything happening. And then, I got a call. Shubangi Ma’am said that we had received a donation of 20,000 Rs for this musical initiative. I was super excited and brought all the material required to kick start the class. I got a slot for Saturday 12 to 3 PM and began with teaching 15 students from the 7th grade. The girls left; I guess they wanted to indulge in “girly” activities, even though the drums never bias. With that, the class began! Ten crazy boys started beating the living daylights out of the kit. My first lesson to them was to love the drum kit and to look at it as an instrument that is an extension of themselves.

These kids are so passionate about the drums and are extremely talented, it’s just that they needed a little bit of technical training and guidance, and I was there to give them that. I started initially by letting them understand, love and feel the drums. This worked wonders because they started loving me as well. Then I started the technical gyaan and taught them about beats, bar counting and staff notation, which they amazingly started to grasp. I teach them drums as 'seva' without any monitory benefits, and I love it. The students are in such an advanced position that if they were to get sponsors they would easily be able to crack exams conducted by Trinity Music School, London, and we could form an act that could attract many talent shows. All the students are highly motivated after every class and this extreme positive energy after each session fills everyone with joy and smiles.
At one point I felt that it was necessary to expand and bring in good equipment, as well as try and spread the word to some famous drummers. It was a shot in the dark but it the mark. I got Mr. Ranjit Barot, a renowned musician in the industry, to donate a beautiful and imported drum kit to the school. Mr. Hitesh Rupani, from the Pro Guitar Academy has not only donated equipment but he also invited these amazingly talented students to perform at the Academy’s Annual Festival. This was the boys’ first ever live performance outside the school and they were extremely good. The current Principal, Renu Ma’am and the entire staff, continue to be of constant and positive support to this musical endeavor. 

As for me, I am working as a software engineer during the rest of the week. I have been learning and playing drums for over six years and now all i want to do is share this beautiful art with the whole world, because I know how much joy it gives me. I want others to experience it as much as i have. I have a dream to conduct a huge drum circle and get as many people of all age groups to join in and just beat away their negativity. I know, one day it will happen!

-Kunal Athreya

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