I pause and freeze for a moment as I stand right in front of this house where I am scheduled to meet one of the finest connoisseurs of music. I hear a very distinct and varied musical instrument and in high audible form as I am led to the entrance of the spacious and home. I was to meet Dr. Anasuya Kulkarni, a mum, a grand mum who is presently 82 years has made a mark by her unique passion that she cherished and nourished over many years.
She holds the rare distinction of possessing over 300 musical instruments that she has carefully and painstakingly collected since the last few decades. Having a spouse who was working with the United Nations ensured she had the opportunity to travel the world. However her passion to learn, look for rare instruments to own them, practice and teach them too has put her in an incredibly admirable position in the world.
Speaking to Mums and stories over an one on one interaction, she shares, “I was trained in Carnatic music since I was young. My mom was very keen that I learn music, considering she was a musician herself. Once I was married, I would get to travel with my husband and when we were in Kabul my ‘guruji’ gifted me a swaramandala. Soon thereafter I came across an instrument called Rubab. It still didn’t occur to me that this was going to be a unique path but I think I followed the cues. It soon became a ritual where I would look out for the music and instrument of that country, that region and this became my window to their world, culture unlike food or clothes that would make most tourists to look for in a new place.
(Dr. Anasuya Kulkarni playing the Angklung with her students for Mums and Stories)
It surely helped that I was trained in music and when I was in Kabul, I had learnt Hindustani classical too. After this kind of journey had set in my life, I was invited by the Indian music academy to make a presentation on the Indonesian musical instrument Angklung. The very next year I had the opportunity to give a performance playing the instrument. This is one instrument that I am in love even to this day.” she says with a shy smile.
“My travels and especially my curiosity to find on new instruments of the region taught me that in many countries these musical instruments are worshipped like in our Indian culture where we give them a revered status.”
Dr. Anasuya has a special connection with the instruments and that is evident from the collection she so proudly showcases to her select visitors. At the age of 82, she still takes classes for those interested and it is not only the young who are there to learn from her. She believes it is a god’s gift that she was chosen for this journey.
Being a mother of two Anasuya shares, “My children are grown up and settled outside the country. In fact I am a grandmom. I saw to it that my kids when they were young had learnt drums, tabla, mrudangam as I believe art is required in one’s life. My husband is a huge supporter of what I could achieve in my life. He has been a very supportive partner and I am glad we are together in this journey.
As we continue the conversation, we are pleasantly interrupted with the sound of students playing the Angklung together. Anasuya then talks with a glint of sparkle in her eyes, “I was in awe of bamboo based instruments and even others that are huge and create magical notes. I go to concerts to give performances even now and I surely do my practice daily. I also compose notes and create fusion for my own CD’s. I used to be a singer but with age now I stick to only playing these adorable instruments. Many doctors have given me the feedback after listening to my CD’s, that this music that I am able to play on various instruments gives them the peace after a hectic day.
However I have to say, perhaps I wouldn’t achieved this kind of recognition and name if I was just a singer. God chose me and I did take the cues when he asked me to take steps. I should also thank my mother Amba who had begun to learn music when she was pregnant and she ensured I learnt music in all my growing years in Mysore.”
She wraps up by saying “I love what I am doing and for the person I am.”
It was an incredible interaction for Mums and stories to meet up with this inspiring individual.
(Reshma Krishnamurthy from Mums and stories in conversation with Dr. Anasuya Kulkarni)