I have been a professional musician for a long time now, and in the process of having to create a profession from my passion, I have had many junctures where practicality and idealism have come to a head. It was just a few days ago that while in the middle of one of my Riyaaz sessions, a moment of inspiration came as a whiff, threatening to slip away as easily as it came in. As I was trying with full concentration to grasp that musical phrase that was lying just beneath my subconscious mind, the door of my room banged loudly accompanied by screaming from my eight-year-old. Children have their needs, and apparently my Riyaaz paled in comparison to a moth that had flown in and seemed to threaten the household, at least in the eyes of my child. I had to let go of my inspiration and pay attention to that pesky moth that not only ruined my Riyaaz but also the peaceful silence in the home that was conducive to inspiration. At that moment, I could not help but feel frustrated at having to juggle roles as a mother, a homemaker, a musician and an entrepreneur.
When one is in the middle of an inspiring creative musical moment, one wants to be nothing else but a musician. And when one sees one’s child hanging upside down from the sofa, with sheets of pending homework around, one wishes there were no distractions from parenting. And when one is in the throes of a professional conundrum, one only wants to be focused on business and work.
Art as a profession is not easy. By definition, art requires time, solitude and contemplation, luxuries which are almost unimaginable to a familied or working person, even if the work happens to be running a music enterprise with staff, administration, students and clients.
So how does one find the balance to make it all work? It has taken me years to come to a few realizations. These have worked very well for me, and are priceless for anyone in the field of art who is trying to make a viable profession out of it while still desiring a normal family and social life.
Firstly, what helped me cope was to reduce my expectations from idealistic to realistic. If that meant that I got to do Riyaaz only for one hour a day and could cover only one Raag in a month, I came to terms with it. I moved my focus from the broad to the narrow. If I sat down to do just some parts of my usual Riyaaz, I focused on getting that right, rather than feeling disgruntled about not covering more ground. Even in terms of home and family, I brought down my expectations to those that were realistic, achievable and important. So, if that meant prioritizing family commitments and cutting down on social chatter, I became okay with that. Instead, I focused on spending quality time on things close to my heart with awareness and attention. My venture Music Vruksh is like my child too. My staff, students and clients are important to me, and so is the cause that is dear to me, that of spreading love and access for learning classical music. So, I take time to understanding my staff personally and professionally, and make an effort to be there for them when they need me. I am there when students struggle with something too. I try and employ wisdom insight and compassion while dealing with people.
In my profession as a performing artist I stopped aspiring to be the perfect Hindustani or Carnatic classical musician who could handle hundreds of Raagas and compositions. Instead, I chose to do what I love best, which is to focus on those Raagas that move me and that make me feel fulfilled. I chose to do justice to those rather than go overboard with my expectations of myself.
As I started cutting out noise and focusing on things that mattered and being there completely for them, I realized I was much closer to perfection than earlier.
Life is more fulfilling and complete now. I may not cover the kind of ground that some other musicians have in terms of number of Raagas or number of compositions. I may not be able to delve into rare Raagas or do sparkling fireworks with my voice. But I do know that the place I have chosen is unique, and bears my unique stamp. I know that I can create music that reaches my audience and fulfils my sense of purpose in a way that is only mine. And to me that is perfection. When my staff extend their loyalty and commitment to Music Vruksh, that is a moment of perfection. When my family appreciates the little things I do and feels loved, to me that is perfection. When I am able to be there for my close friends when they need a shoulder to lean on, to me that is perfection.
Perfection is an illusion. True perfection comes when we live life – grounded, full and aware.