Sai Srishti Rath, a grade VII versatile student from Bengaluru, fondly called Rhea and even more fondly known as Happy Virus among her peers, dreams to work for Nasa. The 13-year-old endearing teenager brims with phenomenal multiple talents. Her delicate dance movements define her persona and music infuses oxygen in her. While her performances captivate the heart of her audience transporting them to a different world, the quest does not end here. She has a notable flair to pick up the languages. A chat with the spark was soothing but thought provoking on the diverse ideology of young generation.
Curious Hounds: We are glad to have you with us.
Rhea: Thank you. I am glad too. (giggles)
Curious Hounds: You are multi-talented. How do you cope with your academics, dance and singing?
Rhea: I like to give my hundred percent in whatever I do. That is why I can carry off my studies and passion simultaneously without any inconvenience.
Curious Hounds: How do you get time for your school exams and performances?
Rhea: I don’t waste any time. After school I am either busy in studies or in practising dance or singing. I am left with no extra time.
Curious hounds: What made you choose singing and dancing?
Rhea: My mother is a natural singer and an acclaimed Odissi dancer. As a child I would often see her practicing dance with lyrics. It enchanted me and I would look at her with awe. In fact, there is an interesting story that my parents tell me. When I was one and a half months old my mother got back to her dancing practice. The moment alaap started, I turned my head towards the sound of music. When I identified the location, my eyes were fixed there. Unbelievably, my mother tested my action by switching the music off and then again on, a couple of times. Also, I am told, I started talking at an early age of one. During that time, I would watch my mother dancing with different lyrics and ragas. God has gifted me with a fantastic memory, (shyly) so after her practice, at any given time, without any dancing and singing knowledge I could sing verbatim flawlessly and dance exactly the same steps. My parents recognized my talent, encouraged me, and thus my incredible journey started when I was only three. (gives a big smile) They say, I have an inborn attribute for singing and dancing.
Curious Hounds: That sounds terrific. What did you do at 3?
Rhea: My father was posted in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, during that time. In school function I ramp walked and sang Jagajit Singhji’s ghazal clearly without any mistake. And successively many times. This was a surprise for everyone as no one had ever provided me with lyrics. While even younger, I could sing all the oriya lullaby’s my mother sang to me. At the age of 4, in a school fancy dress programme, I participated as a Meerabai, danced and sang a Nand ke lal bhajan. It was very much applauded.
Curious Hounds: Any memory what inspired you to sing with such perfection?
Rhea: As far as I remember I just sang. I guess my keen observation, ability to retain and natural inclination towards music made me sing. Looking back, I always find myself singing. My mother says she would wonder where I had heard these. (quiet for a while,) By God’s grace I could sing ‘Rageshwari’ with all technical details.
Curious Hounds: Do you remember what you sang that early?
Rhea: Few of Hindi were, Kabhi kisi ko muqammal jahan nahi milta; Hoshwalon ko khabar kya bekhudi kya cheese hai; Aap ki aankhon mei kuch mehke hue se raaz hain; Aankhon mein teri ajab si adaien hain. Some very old oriya lullaby’s like Aa janja mamu saraga sasi mo kanhu hatare padatu khasi; kakara meena re kakara meena; jhulu re hatijhul baa pani khai ful.
Curious Hounds: We heard you sing Japanese and Korean songs also. Do you know the languages?
Rhea: My inclination towards the languages started around two years back. Also, my father being in army had a transferable job. Every place had a different native language which I picked up with ease like my mother who can speak many languages. I guess it comes naturally to me. As I like to hone my singing skills I keep myself busy on google finding the latest in music. On one such instance while surfing on Youtube, I came across Japanese and Korean songs. I liked the rhythm. I then googled to understand the meaning of lyrics. Later I sang them for Army functions and in different gatherings.
Curious Hounds: Did you take formal training in music?
Rhea: Not till late. In Bengaluru, it’s easier to find Karnatic music teachers but I am inclined towards Western music. Only from last five months I have started taking formal lessons in western classical music.
Curious Hounds: What is your next step in music?
Rhea: I write and compose my songs. I have given around 10 performances in local festivals and Oriya Association where young artists are promoted in the gathering of around 7000 people. I aim to release my own album in 2019. It gives me lot of pleasure when each successive year the festival crowd wants to hear me singing. There are instances, when, after my Odissi dance performance, I quickly had to change and sing within two minutes. Apart from this, I have sung many solo songs with orchestra; 3 songs for devotional documentary by ISCON. Though I have a tremendous understanding of rhythm in all the languages I want to understand and learn in a structured way, understand the technicalities and build up strongly.
Curious Hounds: Have you taken any formal training in Odissi dance?
Rhea: I have my mother as a teacher in dancing. She has her dancing school by the name of Adyasha Foundation. I started there at the age of four. As a student, I have always made her proud of me. I have a knack to pick up the steps faster than most students. During my early years in Vibgyor school (Bengaluru) I always stood first in dance competitions. My Principal liked my dancing and called my mother requesting her to enroll me for formal training in dance. Please don’t take it as boasting but the school created special programmes for my dancing and singing. I could dance ‘Pallavi’ which is one of the category of odissi dance based on techniques and fast foot work.
Curious Hounds. You are amazing. Music or Dance as your career? Or perhaps expert in languages
Rhea: Yes, I want to be a Rockstar, sing with a huge band.
But I aim to work for NASA. I like science, particularly Astronomy.
Curious Hounds: With multi talents and interests, how do you describe yourself?
Rhea: (quiet for a moment, then perks up brightly) I am a bright student and very much loved by my friends. I feel very comfortable, happy and carefree with them. They call me happy virus as I am always smiling. Music is my life and I cannot live without it. Dance is in my blood. (looks up to know if this much is okay)
Curious Hounds: Impressive! You look extrovert but very calm.
Rhea: (almost jumped) No. I am a blend of introvert and extrovert. I like to be balanced.
Curious Hound: You are too good to be true.
Rhea: (A wide innocent smile) Thank You.
Curious Hounds: What would you like people to remember about you?
Rhea: Rhea, Rhea, Rhea.
Curious Hounds: One last question? How do you feel off stage after a loud applause on your performance?
Rhea: I am nervous. So many people look at me and I have a constant nagging fear to come up to their expectation.
Curious Hounds: We wish the best in achieving your dream.
Rhea: (promptly) Thank you. I will be here then also.