April 17, 2011

INDIA: Who says old age is a burden?

MUMBAI / Daily News & Analysis / April 17, 2011

By Bhagyashree Kulthe

Saptak, a group of friends in their 70s who have been meeting regularly for the last 17 years, started learning music and now have graduated to performing musical shows for audiences of their age. This has helped them in keeping age-related diseases at bay. They cherished music in their hearts all through their lives, which helped them build a connect among themselves.

Saptak, a group of friends in their 70s, has been meeting regularly for the last 17 years to sing and play music. The group which started meeting just to enjoy music and each other’s company later started learning music and now has graduated to performing musical shows for older people just like them.

Saptak members meet every month and say music has given them the strength to deal with the ups and downs of life - Aniruddha Rajandedkar

Each one of them cherished listening to music or playing it on different instruments when they were young but unfortunately they did not find the time to develop the hobby. Most of them were college friends who later got busy in their respective professions. After retirement they started meeting and spending time singing songs.

Shrinivas Tophkhane, who was a marketing profession said, “We have been lovers of music since our college days. We thought it was a good idea to meet and sing songs instead of grumbling about old age problems.”

Some of them have had formal training in music. They helped the other members to find the rhythm and train their voices. Vishwas Bhopatkar is formally trained in the tabla and is also a ‘visharad’ in harmonium.

“Music was just a cherished hobby till I joined this group,” said Bhopatkar who has been instrumental in shaping the voice of the group members. Anuradha Pathak has learnt music for ten years and teaches music to the speech and hearing impaired. Arun and Vasudha Brahma nurtured their singing hobby at home and are now the duet singers in the group.

Arun was an IT professional while Vasudha worked as a librarian. Vasudha, who hails from Kanpur, has trained in Hindustani classical for ten years. “I improved on the Marathi style of music after joining the group. Since both of us practice at home, we sing duets during Saptak’s show,” said Vasudha.

Ashok Budhkar, who was a radio artist, is a versatile singer and equally good on harmonium and accordion. Having worked as an entrepreneur, he now performs on the harmonium in the group. They also have their own instruments which they use when they perform in the musical events.

“During 1953 to 1958, in our college days, we used to participate in the annual function as performers,” said Shashikant Tatke, whose in-depth knowledge about the history of songs and music won him the task of compering the shows of the group.

“Despite being in the finance sector, Tatke’s love for music grew with the passing years and so did his database of the old songs and its history,” said Chidanand Pathak who is also a part of the company.

Usha Kulkarni too is a good singer who had joined the group with her husband MR Kulkarni who is no more, but she continues to be part of Saptak, added Pathak.

They sing all types of songs from sugamsangeet, natyageet, lavani, film songs to qawwali. Social organisations, Ganesh mandals and senior citizen homes invite them for shows. “There is no commercial interest involved. We decide the theme, choose thesongs we plan to sing and rehearse. We now have a good database and interesting facts related to music,” said Anuradha Pathak.

Saptak has given them the strength to deal with the ups and downs of life besides keeping them occupied with the musical journey.

“We meet every month and keep planning about the theme and practicing at home for this awaited meeting. Music also keeps us away from old age diseases I believe,” said Budhkar.

Attending their meetings at Tophkhane’s residence is a joyful experience. Calling each other by pet names they actually relive their college days. This cheerfulness seeps into the music that they play thus bringing them peace and joy which they carry back to their families and closed ones. Who says old age is a burden?

©2011 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd.
Seniors World Chronicle adds:
Saptak (Devanagari: सप्तक) means "gamut" or "the series of seven notes".
It denotes the set of swaras, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni which comprise a musical scale in Indian classical music. In Sanskrit, saptak literally means "containing seven" and is derived from the Sanskrit word sapta which means "seven".
Aniruddha Rajandedkar

Aniruddha Rajandedkar