Geetha Narasimhan, a homemaker for 40 years, would have done what most others her age would do - engage in household chores. But Geetha chose to be different and pursue her childhood passion - of learning Carnatic music, that too online.
She was quick to grab the opportunity when daughter Poornima introduced her to Devki Nandakumar. Devki had innovated a virtual music tuition platform called Music Shikshan to help music aspirants with limited opportunities.
Geetha has been attending online classes in Carnatic music with Music Shikshan since 2013. Devki Nandakumar, 31, a rank-holder in MA Carnatic vocal music from the University of Calicut, started giving online music tuition through video conferencing apps six years ago. She wanted to use her skills to help a friend settled abroad give music lessons to her son.
But now, Music Shikshan is a virtual platform that helps more people of different age groups and domiciles to learn music.
Devki's tryst with music began when she was just five years old. She learnt the basics from her Guru Sumangala Devi. She then joined College of Music in Chembai music school after her Plus Two for a bachelor's degree. Her parents, a banker – public servant couple, extended complete support. After getting married to Sudheesh, a Kozhikode native and musician, Devki moved to Sudheesh's hometown in 2012.
Devki started dreaming of a career when she was left with a lot of free time after her household chores. She dreamed of starting a music school and got her first student in Aadi, her friend's son.
As Aadi refused to leave his teacher Devki and Carnatic music to go to the US after a one-month vacation, his parents urged Devki to continue the lessons online. So, she started a virtual music tuition platform for the little boy. “I was clueless about the whole thing when I first created a Skype id to interact with my first student. I had a poor internet connection back then. There used to be constant power failures too. Yet, I had a perseverant student who patiently waited till I fixed the connection problems one by one,” Devki said.
Delighted, Devki shared her new virtual teaching experience with her friends on Facebook. When she started getting more inquiries and admissions, her husband lent her a helping hand and started sharing classes with her. The couple divided students and working hours between them. The number now stands at 70 seventy and Devki started taking combined conference classes though Skype.
With the help of some friends who are into web designing, Devki created a website and named her venture Music Shikshan. She also fixed a standard fare of USD 16 per class. The couple moved to a flat in Thripoonithura, Kochi, and set up a customized sound studio at their home to help Sudheesh's recordings. Music Shikshan website now has pre-recorded lessons, demo tuition videos, videos of vocal performances by the tutors and interactive registration forms.
Devki has a word of wisdom for housewives who waste their valuable skills. “There are a lot of things we could do only if we get out of our house. Larger are the opportunities if you have a stable internet connection at your own home. Only message I have for my friends is that no one will imagine your own blazing career as vastly as you do. Unless you have an irresistible urge to manifest your skills, your window towards a global arena, the internet, will remain your child's play station,” she says.
Sudheesh, a proud husband and a business partner to his wife, told Onmanorama that Music Shikhan has never seemed to him as a profession or business. “We have never canceled any of our engagements for the sake of Music Shikshan. We go on family tours, vacations, outings and regular visits to hometowns. Music Shikshan just requires a stable internet connection and a silent ambience. We have given classes from hilltops and beaches,” he laughs.
Devki plans to expand her venture by inculcating a live video software to her website so that she can bid bye to Skype and become self-reliant. She also looks forward to recruiting housewives who are professionally trained in classical music as teachers. "I envisage the growth of Music Shikshan to a cloud of online music teachers under a single umbrella," she says.
The couple's four-year-old son is Madhav Maheshwar. Each session with Music Shikshan lasts 45 minutes. “I extend admissions only after a basic screening test. One doesn't need to be a singer to enroll with us but I ensure that no one takes it as a time-pass,” Devki says.