When music works magic: After suffering from brain haemorrhage, vocalist Bombay Jayashri says listening to her guru’s compositions healed her : The Tribune India

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When music works magic: After suffering from brain haemorrhage, vocalist Bombay Jayashri says listening to her guru’s compositions healed her

When music works magic: After suffering from brain haemorrhage, vocalist Bombay Jayashri says listening to her guru’s compositions healed her


Shailaja Khanna

Known as the Nightingale of South, Bombay Jayashri was nominated for an Oscar award in 2013 for her lullaby in ‘Life of Pi’ and awarded the Padma Shri in 2021. In March 2023, she was nominated for the coveted Sangita Kalanidhi award. Within a week of getting the news, she suffered a brain haemorrhage while on a concert tour in the UK, throwing her out of action. Earlier this month, she made her first public appearance since the surgery to finally receive the award at a glittering ceremony. Later, I met Jayashri at her Chennai home in a rare face-to-face interview.

Jayashriji, you have just emerged like a phoenix from a life-threatening health crisis. You remained cut off from the world for months. As you reconnect, what are your dominant emotions?

The emotion that dominates my thinking every day is that of overwhelming gratitude. Every morning, I am filled with gratitude for all the people who made me what I am today. My gurus have painstakingly moulded me musically, instilled in me the discipline required to engage with this great tradition and given me the values to interpret the tradition the way it needs to be interpreted. Today, I am so grateful to all the people who helped me in my path, who remain my guiding force even when they are not present physically.

From the time I was ill, I have received the blessings and prayers of so many people; people whom I’ve never met sent prayers for my wellbeing. I got to know that someone came from South Africa to be present for the award ceremony just to see me up and about!

To what do you attribute this connection you have with your audience worldwide?

This can only be explained by my own link with music. Clearly, I have been able to share something through it that I myself experienced while singing. And that has created a connection that has lasted. Maybe it’s the sincerity with which I have always looked at music. I really don’t know what it is.

How are you spending your days?

Every day, I feel stronger. I am trying to eat more, to eat more often, but I believe it’s the nebulous unseen intake I am being sent by well-wishers that is more important in my healing. Sudha, who is taking care of me, has instructions to feed me every half an hour! My mother told me to not rush into teaching my students who are so precious to me. She wants me to focus on myself first. She knows my instinct is to help them. They are so beloved. They also understand that their ‘akka’ (Jayashri’s students call her akka, meaning elder sister) needs to focus on herself first.

What helped you recover so fast?

Amrit, my son, used to sing my guru’s compositions to me in the ICU. I heard these and was healed. It was the music and the doctor who treated me. Dr Jawad Yousuf was intrigued that music helped me in recovery. He wanted to know what I was listening to. For me, it was not the lyrics, it was the notes, the space between the notes, how one note leads to another... With me, it is music, always.

I also believe that my disciplined lifestyle has helped me get better — yoga, chanting, food intake. Without the support of my family, I would not have recovered.

So, now, what next?

I am in no hurry to start performing again. I will go with the flow, as I’ve always done. All I can say right now is that I am just grateful. I am not analysing stuff. I am not planning ahead. I am just thinking of the music lessons I have received, internalising the music, doing my daily riyaaz.


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