Arriving in Kolkata is like coming home for me, for many reasons. It is here that my intensive study of tabla crystallized six years ago, and it is here that some of Project Ahimsa‘s most innovative programs are flourishing. Rosalie Giffoniello of partner organization Empower the Children has been a major pillar for 6 programs featuring a wide range of musical and creative programming supported by Project Ahimsa. Today, I visited Prabartak School for the Handicapped, where orphans have been receiving support for music and dance programming from Project Ahimsa. It was truly humbling watching such musicality from children and adults who have been abandoned. Their clarity of voice, tone, and rhythm masked any handicap. Best of all, they sang traditional songs written by Rabindranath Tagore, the great Nobel Prize winning Bengali poet and genius.
It just continues to amaze me to see how happy humans can be when there is music, when there is an outlet for creative expression. I interviewed a few of the children and adults at Prabartak, to hear how they arrived at the school. Arjun was abandoned by his parents at age five, and was imprisoned. He didnt know why he was imprisoned. He was beaten there, and he told me how he was forced to do hard labor. He was finally released, and found his way to Prabartak. He says that his family still live in Kolkata, but they dont visit him here, and that they are too poor to take care of him. Here, he has found an outlet in music. He loves giving happiness to others through music. Another child here has tuberculosis of the bone, and it has rendered him completely handicapped. It is when he is playing music that he smiles. Each person here radiates joy when playing music, and I felt honored to play alongside them. They gave me a standing ovation, and it was probably the most incredible audience i have ever played for.