Therapeutic Essence of Music – Ruma Chakravarty

Jyoti Shekar 

Nurturing has an ability to transform lives. And while it is not an emotion restricted to only women, undeniably nurturing comes naturally to most of the women. And gets fructified into an experience when the woman enters motherhood and moves into nurturing her family.

However, a few women go that extra mile and make it a passion not only to nurture their own people, but also others in society.

Aqua Craze_20171207_095948Today we bring you one such woman, Ruma Chakravarty. Ruma is the founder of SurManjari, a music education and music therapy foundation. It is an arm of Ruma‘s training and coaching company, Factorize.

SurManjari provides music therapy to patients suffering from simple stress to neurological disorders.

In conversation with Ruma, I realised what a huge potential this initiative has, especially for a country like India which is rich in therapeutic music and holistic healing.

Jyoti: Surmanjari seems to be a unique concept, though our culture has always encouraged and appreciated music. How did the idea to make music therapeutic originate?

Ruma: SurManjari (more details at the link https://musictherapyandbeyond.blogspot.in) is working towards taking Indian music to a level where our rich music system can be creatively and scientifically employed for mind-body synchronization of people. I came into the world of music therapy unknowingly, when I saw my mother-in-law, who was a dementia patient, responding to a particular raga based song that I used to sing. I noticed this when she regularly responded to that one song in a particular manner. This was during 2006/ 2007. That’s when I started researching about the influence of music in human body and brain.

Now, music & rhythm therapy has become an integral part of my life. SurManjari works with people at all ages and stages. We have developed SurMantra, the first music & rhythm therapy course in India with cultural blend for children. We teach this course as well as incorporate that in other regular courses from SurManjari and in school education as co-curricular activity. We work with differently abled children, dementia patients, senior citizens and with people having various disorders. Apart from that, we work with normal individuals and corporate houses and conduct innovatively designed applied music & rhythm therapy workshops and sessions. SurManjari is further affiliated to Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh and conducts courses from the institution. SurManjari also facilitates piano training and examinations from Trinity College London.

Jyoti: That’s really very interesting and useful to know. But is it difficult to find acceptance for music as therapy? In other words, do people keep it as a last resort or do they come in the first instance as well?

Ruma: In India, it is not very difficult to find acceptance for music therapy. People who understand music therapy do accept it well and do take much interest. However, the issue is most people do not know about the art and science of music therapy. It is the lack of awareness, lack of evidence based research on music therapy in India and lack of common platform where music therapists can meet, discuss, share experiences that is affecting this domain.

1BIn addition, there is no approved music therapy degree course offered by any institute in India. So, yes, acceptance is there and would increase if the essence of music therapy can spread. SurManjari is working towards that.

To answer the second part of your question, people first try to find a doctor always since until date, music therapy is considered as an integrated therapy that is employed along with medication. Although there are many evidences in western music therapy domain that music can cure many disorders, in India, this is yet to catch up. There are some music therapists who are doing wonderful work in India, primarily with differently abled children, senior people with various disorders and getting good results too. However, the documentation process, the grading and scaling of the recovery and outcome of music therapy is not yet started formally, since these are not yet standardized. At SurManjari, we have developed our own scaling and grading system to capture patient responses. Further, we analyze the patterns of responses later. This is in the early stage of development and will evolve gradually.

Jyoti: Our society sometimes has a way of calling creativity, therapy etc. as ‘humbug’ (sorry for the term) or something that ‘women’ indulge in. What kind of challenges do you face while approaching people?

Ruma: People would call a thing to be ‘humbug’ until they have a subjective experience of that aspect. It is our responsibility to change that perspective by educating them and making them aware of such aspects. I strongly believe that therapy, creativity etc. are not gender specific. There are so many males out there in creative or therapeutic fields. In fact Dr. TV Sairam, a former member of Indian Revenue Services, is one of the firsts to start spreading awareness regarding music therapy in India and still working relentlessly in this domain to bring music therapy to the mainstream clinical practice.

So far, I did not face any challenge while approaching people to make them aware of music therapy or while offering music therapy. Fortunately, I have been and am accepted very well. However, I foresee some challenges in standardizing music therapy practice in India where we need active involvement of the Government, medical practitioners, music therapists and educators. We need to have proper university courses for music therapy that focus on our structured & scientific Indian music system and other scientific & quantifiable aspects.

Jyoti: Your reply is quite encouraging and makes me believe that once we set our mind to something, nothing can stop us!! Moving on to my next question, you have another initiative called Factorize, which deals in coaching and mentoring. Tell us a little more about it.

Ruma: Factorize (www.factorizeinc.com) is a company dedicated to coaching and training. The company is focusing on both the technical skill-up as well as holistic development aspects of people. In coaching segment, we work with Business/ Executives (including C –level )/ Professionals/ Students and others for their holistic development.

In Training segment, we have run Skill‘UP’ programs in areas of data science training, industry research training, smart-skill, self-management, multiple career mastering. Specifically for school children, we run programs on Spell-Bee, music therapy, Yoga, Data Science for School, Entrepreneurship for children etc.

SurManjari is the social welfare foundation of Factorize.

Jyoti: Lastly, but the most essential from the perspective of what we are doing at Eyra, any advice for women entrepreneurs in terms of running a business, facing adversities and most importantly, getting funding?

Ruma: Not really a piece of advice, just sharing some perspective from my experience. For women starting new business, I would tell that ‘if you want to do something, shape that up as you want’. Very importantly, if most of your thoughts are filled with the thing you want to do knowingly or unknowingly and gives you the same kick everyday for a month, don’t look back. Just go for it, as your passion has already taken flight and the blueprint is already there in your mind. Otherwise you might need to think again before taking a plunge.

Secondly, in times of adversities, look within and not to the world outside, and you will find all the answers. Then, take the right actions to overcome each challenge practically and positively. You might as well hire a coach (coaches are not advisors, they are the people who help you to find your own solutions to a challenge).

Regarding funding, I would not be the right person to answer since my venture is 100% self-funded and I have not approached any form of funding options yet. However, I can share a few perspective on spending money judiciously for new businesses who are not looking for funding initially or even if they are being funded:

  1. Be wise money-wise.
  2. Think of creatively setting up your business by spending the least amount of money. You might need to do some research for that, however, options are endless these days.
  3. Do not spend on buying or permanently renting swanky set ups if not needed. I find the concept of using shared office spaces brilliant while starting a business.
  4. Start small and expand in phases.
  5. Be open to cost-effective diversification that might drive your business to a new level.
  6. Last but not the least, invariably start creating wealth by investing a good percentage of your business profit. Ideally, from the first profit itself. You will live blissfully.

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