NASHIK: SMA Nirvana, an initiative by Shankar Mahadevan Academy Trust, completed 126 music concerts as of March 5, 2022, and has had more than 350,000 people yearning for more. Since its start in September 2021, SMA Nirvana has performed at more than 70 NGOs, Care centres and Social institutions.
The audiences at these institutions have been enthralled by 78 performing artists. This movement aims to fill happiness in the lives of people who are seriously sick, terminally ill, orphaned, or the elderly who have outlived their friends or have been abandoned by their family.
The central idea of SMA Nirvana is that loneliness can be filled with companionship. So, through online medium, SMA Nirvana hosts a 60-minute music concert and creates a “mahol” (atmosphere) where people who feel alone can come together as one community formed around shared tastes in music.
Sridhar Ranganathan, founder and trustee, Shankar Mahadevan Academy, calls SMA Nirvana "Dil Ka Langar", likening it to an age-old practice in Sikh Gurdwaras. Shankar Mahadevan, founder and trustee of Shankar Mahadevan Academy Trust, opined, "The Sikhs of Punjab follow an amazing tradition called Langar. This community kitchen in Gurdwaras serves food free of charge to all, regardless of who you are or where you come from. In SMA Nirvana, we feed the hearts of people who need some entertainment, some peace of mind, some kind of joy in their lives".
To bring the joy of music to its audience, SMA Nirvana partners with hospitals, palliative care centres (that rid people of pain), hospice centres (that give end-of-life care), senior-citizen communities and children’s homes. Every concert is free of charge.
Since SMA Nirvana was born during the pandemic, it has been conducted largely over the online medium. However, its musicians have performed live and in-presence too, at various NGO centres; an act to be revived after the pandemic.
The song list for SMA Nirvana concerts is chosen carefully to bring back memories of better days. It is part of the SMA Nirvana design. “Songs are a store of moments shared with loved ones. When people hear their favourite songs they relive the memories of people, places and times closest to them,” explains Sridhar. Thanks to the healing power of nostalgia, people forget their worries, troubles and pain.
"We are grateful for giving a one-hour gift of music to all our patients, children and caregivers. This gift was unique where we witnessed that they completely forgot their pain and suffering. What can be a better gift than this? I always say humanity is a wonder drug,” says Dr Sushma Bhatnagar, Professor and Head, Department of Onco-Anaesthesia and Palliative Medicine, Dr BRA Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital & National Cancer Institute, Jhajjar, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
"As their favourite songs play, we have seen cancer survivors pad up to face their day with renewed hope, we have seen people with fading memories recall happier times of their lives, we have seen grieving families find a way to forget their pain—even if it is for just 60 minutes. When people in bed forget their pain and agony, the unexpected happens," shares Sridhar.
A counsellor at a hospice centre in Bengaluru recalls, "one patient, who had not gotten up from bed nor responded to the nurses for a week, sat up and talked to them during the SMA Nirvana concert."
The farther it spreads, the more the people it touches as every movement brings change. Through SMA Nirvana, that change can be a much-needed return of kindness, compassion and human connection not just in medical care perhaps, also in the lives of people.