SINGAPORE- Mrs Namita Dalakoti looks forward to her weekly class at the Temple of Fine Arts, Singapore. She also looks forward to meeting her music buddy, Ms G. Vilasini. Both of them learn Hindustani classical music together under Guru Ravindra Parchure. The two friends met when they both joined a beginners class on Vijayadashami Day four years ago.
Over the years, Mrs Dalakoti, a permanent resident in her 40s who hails from Delhi in India and Ms Vilasini, a third-generation Singaporean in her mid-20s, have come to share so much more than music. Ms Vilasini enjoys north Indian food cooked for her by Mrs Dalakoti. She visits the Dalakoti home often and gets along very well with Mrs Dalakoti's adult children, Manasvi and Mayank. She recalls the many happy times she has spent with the family, practising music with Mrs Dalakoti, planning cook-outs with Manasvi or just "giggling and laughing with the family". She also looks forward to Mrs Dalakoti's mother's visits to Singapore as she says that "Nani (grandmother in Hindi) makes the best besan ladoos".
Mrs Dalakoti in turn, enjoys visiting Ms Vilasini's home. She feels very privileged to be one of the few non-family members invited for the annual Sumangali puja at the family home in Bishan on Vijayadashami Day in 2013.
"My interaction with Vilasini and her family have given me a much better understanding of local culture and way of life. It was a wonderful experience, sharing a traditional meal, served on a banana leaf, with the extended family and listening to the prayers in Tamil and Sanskrit."
In a country like Singapore, where different races have their own culture, language and religion, cultural organisations like the Temple of Fine Arts and the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS) play an important role in providing a platform for integration through shared interests.
Mr Christopher Choo (far right in black T-shirt) is a permanent resident from Malaysia who has lived in Singapore for over 20 years. He has always had a keen interest in music and dance, having trained in ballet and the piano, classical guitar and trumpet. As a natural progression of this interest, he came to SIFAS 31/2 years ago "to explore other genres of music and the nuances and aesthetics that are unique to that genre".
Today, he takes individual classes in four disciplines at SIFAS - Carnatic flute, tabla, Hindustani vocal music and bharatanatyam. He is very close to all his teachers or gurus and has immense respect for them. "All my gurus are professional musicians from India and my interaction and discussions with them have moulded my perspective on my passions, music and dance and on life itself. I enjoy spending time with them in class or over a meal at home."
Cultural organisations in Singapore offer many opportunities for interaction between people who call Singapore home. Ms Kana Gopal, principal of the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society and a Singaporean, elaborates: "Organisations such as ours are more like community hubs. Students of all ages bond over shared interests. Then we have so many occasions for meeting and celebrating as a family like our annual Academy Day and other performing platforms for our students. They attend rehearsals together, encourage each other and feel a part of the SIFAS community. Throughout the year, I see parents seated in our auditorium, waiting for their children and chatting with other parents."