by Pankti Mehta
Pankti Mehta is the daughter of Sangeen and Milan Rajnikant Mehta. She has just completed the Bachelor of Mass Media course from Jai Hind College, Mumbai and will be joining City University, London for further studies.
A large hospital room is alive with cancer patients raising their fists in the air, joyous eyes glistening as they sing ‘Hum Honge Kaamyab’ along with the orchestra that performs for them. And this is no ordinary orchestra. ‘Aradhana’ is an orchestra that comprises 30 people in total, including patients of cancer, epilepsy, blindness and mental disabilities. “Music is magical”, according to Gopal Joglekar, or “Kaka” as he is fondly called. Kaka Joglekar is a cancer survivor, who claims to be helped tremendously by music therapy. The doctors had given him one year to live in 1994, when he was first diagnosed with rectal cancer. A musician at heart, Kaka continued giving music lessons even while his treatment was on, and gathered the strength to fight 24 chemotherapies and 28 radiations, an almost unimaginable feat. As soon as he was cured, Kaka set up organizations that would help other patients with music; Aradhana is one, ‘We Can Sir’ is another.
Music therapy is a scientific method by which music in its various forms is used as a healing power for patients suffering an array of ailments, from cancer to epilepsy. And the results are incredible. “It’s amazing how many people I have been able to help”, says Sunita D’Souza, who has been a piano teacher for most of her life. “I once had an old lady come to me, the grandmother of one of my students. She had just had a heart operation, and was psychologically scarred with the fear that she had grown old and unhealthy. The music helped sooth her nerves, and gave her the impetus she needed to get over her trauma.” Mrs. D’Souza also helped a student who was so petrified she could barely create coherent words – “Once she connected with her music, I saw her happier, freer. She is now more confident, less awkward, quite a lady!”
Music therapy is not a new phenomenon. Live music was used in hospitals in both World Wars as part of the recuperating regime for some of the soldiers. Music is also closely associated with Ayurveda, and its therapeutic role has been extensively dealt with in the Vedas, the ‘Sama’ Ved in particular. According to Ayurvedic study, music stimulates the pituitary gland, whose secretions affect the nervous system and the flow of blood. An ancient Indian study known as ‘Nada Yoga’ acknowledges the effect of different Raagas (sounds and vibrations) on the mind and the body. This is known as Raaga Chikitsa, which directly translates to Music Therapy.
According to this form, different ailments use different sounds as healers. For instance, Todi Raag is good for hypertension, while the Marva Raag is said to cure high fevers and malaria. Kaka Joglekar, too, uses Nada Yoga for his students and for the patients he visits. “Yaman Raag is especially good for diabetic patients, it helps them sleep better. Ahirbhairav Raag controls blood pressure”, he shares.
And this is not without scientific base. Dr. P. Jagannath, a cancer specialist, believes that music targets the mind, which is the strongest weapon a patient has. “Music is an easy medium to use to spread positive energy to the patient”, he explains. “In fact, it is much like excercise, whereby the patient feels better after listening to music, and mentally more fit. It works to create a psychological impact of the therapy – reduces depression, gives the patient confidence, even eliminates fear; and this is its most important feat. Once a patient has defeated fear, he has more often than not defeated cancer.” From his experience, Dr. Jagannath has seen that a patient determined to live will fight the disease and live.
This is true not just for cancer, but for dyslexia, Parkinson’s disease, Autism, AIDS, schizophrenia, among other diseases, according to Cajetan D’Souza, who heads the ‘Music Therapy Trust’ in Mumbai. The Trust staunchly promotes music therapy as a “creative and flexible medium through which clinical goals can be achieved”. It has launched itself in Mumbai this year, and offers post-graduate diploma courses in Music Therapy. “We want more people to benefit from this science, it might save lives.”
His words find evidence in some of the patients that form Aradhana. “I could never go out in public”, discloses Shweta Pandya, an epileptic patient who plays the keyboard. “But music has helped me gain concentration, will power, and has made me want to fight the disease. I feel confident playing for other patients, proud that I am not dependent anymore; I am doing something for other people.” Pandya has been suffering epilepsy for over 20 years of her 27, but has shown remarkable improvement since she started music.
Rahul Sharma, a 14-year-old who is being treated for blood cancer, is another musical fighter. “Since I started music, my fear of cancer has diminished”, he innocently says. “It gives me something to live for, fills my days with happiness. I am forever grateful to Kaka Joglekar for introducing me to music.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes perhaps was experiencing music therapy when he said “Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons; you will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.”
Pankti can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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