"My mother balances her personal and professional lives like a beautiful symphony. My father is a real source of inspiration for her. He, tells her, 'You sing and I will listen'" - Bhakti, Namrata and Ronak's daughter
Namrata Shodhan's first marriage ended in divorce several decades ago. A Punjabi based in Ahmedabad, she started life afresh with Ronak, a Gujarati living in the same city who, too, was previously married. Well settled in her new marriage, Namrata, who was trained in Hindustani music, began giving music lessons and singing devotional songs and garba at functions. It boosted her self-esteem. “It brought back my confidence,” says Namrata, 58. “It was my way of thanking God.”
A chance meeting ten years ago with Nikita Ghiya, a kidney patient who danced to support others with similar afflictions, added a greater purpose to her music. “I had gone for a performance where I saw Nikita dance with a swollen hand,” says Namrata. “I did not know she was a kidney patient until one of my students told me. I thought if Nikita could dance for a cause, why couldn't I sing for one?” Ever since, Namrata has been donating all the money she receives through her music classes and performances to kidney patients in hospitals in Ahmedabad, Nadiad and Rajkot in Gujarat.
Namrata invited Nikita to one of her concerts, and Nikita was extremely moved by her music. “She sings so well,” says Nikita, 45. “She sings with so much devotion.” Namrata considers Nikita a hero; Nikita feels Namrata is extremely down-to-earth. “The minute Namrataben knows I am not well, she rushes to my side,” says Nikita, who undergoes dialysis as both her kidneys have failed. “She can sense if I am feeling low or unwell simply by hearing my voice over the phone and immediately comes over.”
Namrata, who performs and teaches under the banner Satsang Parivar, holds around 50 concerts a year, mostly in Ahmedabad. Her students, aged between 30 and 80 years, support her cause by paying an annual fee of Rs1,500, which goes towards meeting the expenses of dialysis for kidney patients. They also accompany her on visits to patients with various illnesses, including leprosy. “Someone I know who has not met Namrataben donates money to her cause merely knowing what she does,” says Dr Suma Shah, a paediatrician who trains in devotional music under Namrata. “For me, going for music class means an hour of peace in great company.”
Thus far, Namrata’s efforts have helped provide dialysis to more than 10,000 kidney patients in grant-in-aid and trust-run hospitals, where dialysis is cheaper than in private hospitals. She also donated Rs10 lakh to Muljibhai Urological Hospital in Nadiad, towards research in kidney diseases.
While the money she donates has been life-giving to many, others find her music therapeutic. "A year ago, my father was disturbed as he had to undergo a major, unexpected heart surgery in the US," says Dr Alpa Gandhi, an anaesthetist based in Ahmedabad. “He had earlier heard Namrataben's music CDs and requested for a few to be sent to him. He heard her music before and after the operation and felt relaxed."
Dr Darshna Thakker, who is a friend of Namrata's, says, “The songs work as double therapy. They soothe those who come for performances and the money earned from CD sales goes towards providing dialysis." Thakker is in charge of the administration and logistics of Satsang Parivar through her Sparsh Foundation.
Namrata's pillar of strength, however, is Ronak. “My job is to keep Namrata happy,” says Ronak. “I have told her not to worry about me and not to bother about my breakfast. We have dinner together.” Yet, making his breakfast is part of her morning routine, which includes yoga and riyaz. On most days, she gives concerts or classes and meets kidney donors.
“My mother balances her personal and professional lives like a beautiful symphony,” says the couple's 30-year-old daughter, Bhakti. “My father is a real source of inspiration for her. He tells her, 'You sing and I will listen'.”
Namrata uses her songs to address various issues, including those concerning the girl child and menopause. “In future, we plan to include scientific facts about infertility in Namrataben’s songs,” says Thakker.
Namrata has no plans to expand her concert schedule. “I do it for my own pleasure,” she says. “If I am not happy, how can I make others happy?” Says Ronak: “She is not in any race and there is no competitor. If she increases the number of performances, there will be pressure on her, which we do not want.”
Namrata not only donates money for dialysis, but also spends time with the patients. “Namrataben is so committed and dedicated,” says Dr Sujata Rajapurkar, social worker at the Muljibhai Urological Hospital in Nadiad. “She does what she says. Once, I had planned a picnic on a Sunday for kidney patients but had to leave for Mumbai on another pressing assignment. I requested Namrataben to take the patients for the picnic. She, along with her students, did so willingly, not once complaining about the picnic being on a Sunday.”
Namrata believes her commitment comes from her love of music and God. “I wanted to help God,” she says. “By using music, I want to give back to Him what He has given me.”