Eighteen years ago, when I married Luis on New Year’s Day, I could not possibly have predicted how dramatically our lives would change in just four years’ time.
When we got married, Luis was a doctor in the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK. He had just made the shift from Gynaecology to General Practice, in the pursuit of a more structured day, which would allow him to do the things he really loved—visit museums, travel, and play violin in one of London’s most celebrated amateur orchestras. I joined him soon after our wedding, quitting my desk job at a PSU in Mumbai, and leaving behind everything and everyone I had ever known.
I’m not a musician, but I enjoy listening to all sorts of music. I married a man who had become a doctor because he “had the marks and didn’t know how to pursue music”. Yet music, specifically western classical music, is the foundation of everything he has done in his life.
In 2007, Luis made a stray comment (after seeing children selling trinkets at a traffic light in Mumbai) about how teaching street children music could give them a different way out of poverty. At that point, neither of us had any idea that such music projects existed anywhere. We were not actively thinking or talking about it, and we soon forgot about it.
This changed later that year. The BBC Proms—the UK’s largest classical music festival—had not one but two large orchestras drawn specifically from the demographic we had been thinking of earlier that year. Here they were, two professional orchestras from Venezuela and South Africa, performing on the world’s biggest stage for classical music. Through our research, we learnt of similar projects around the world—across South America, and in the USA, Europe, and the UK.
At the Buskaid South Africa Proms, when we bumped into some of the young players fooling around in Hyde Park, one of them said, “Music saved my life.” He explained that he could have been drawn into drugs or crime like many of his peers, but music lessons kept him away from those dangers. The violin in his hand had kept him alive, literally.
After that, things began to snowball. We began looking up existing projects, and writing to people involved in them. Then, before we knew it, we were talking to other musicians in the UK, someone offered us a promise of a grant to start, and lots of connections were made. In July 2008, we were back in Goa, which was home to Luis. I was two months pregnant, still reeling from a miscarriage the previous Christmas.
The rest, as they say, is history. We formed Child’s Play India Foundation in 2009 “to provide positive values and social empowerment to India’s disadvantaged children through the teaching of classical music to the highest possible standard”. It took months of talking to lawyers and dealing with legalese and paperwork, something that has now defined my life. But we knew music could make a difference, and change lives. With the launch of the Symphony Orchestra of India in 2006, the country’s only professional orchestra based at the NCPA in Mumbai, the timing of our launch seemed fortuitous.