“The hills are alive with the sound of music
with songs they have sung for a thousand years
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears”
Are the opening lines of the famous musical ‘The Sound of Music’. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the plot, the story takes place in a 1930s Austria and revolves around Maria, a free-spirited, young Austrian woman studying to be a nun. Maria had longed to be nun ever since she was a little girl, yet when she grew up she discovered it wasn’t all that she thought. Often finding hard to fit in the rut of the routine life in a religious order, she looks to the hills surrounding her abbey for respite. The hills become the sanctuary where she could be herself, and a symbol of the freedom that she so desperately missed.
Fortunately Maria’s Mother Superior (head of the abbey) gives her a chance at life outside the abbey and suggests she try something else for a while. She is sent to be governess to the seven children of a widowed naval commander, Captain Von Trapp, who ran his house like a ship after his wife’s death. The children who were initially hostile and mischievous come to like her, and Maria finds herself falling in love with the Captain. The Captain breaks off his engagement to a Baroness and they get married. She realizes that this is what brings her life meaning, that she was meant to love a man and his motherless family. In short, she has a feeling of being where she belonged. The hills now became a symbol of the struggle and time of uncertainty she went through before she could find her path to being herself.
I find myself drawing parallels in Maria’s story and my own. It is a realization that dawned to me on my visit to Patiya, a small village in southern Rajasthan, as part of the rural immersion module of the induction training at India Fellow. I remember the exact moment this thought occurred to me. I was sitting outside Bhura ji’s house at dawn, our host for the two days we were there. The sight before me was mesmerizing. The village happened to be surrounded by hills, and so there I was amidst structures of such beauty and awe. The hills formed a continuous chain of up and down, and were just the right balance of green and barren. From somewhere mid-way to the peak, the clouds hugged the hill around it but kept moving on to hug the next. The hills at a distance could only be made out by a faint outline in the fog. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so the air was fresh and crisp with a slight chill.
As I sat there in wonder looking out to the hills, and hugging myself to keep warm, I recalled the character of Maria in my all time favourite musical. The hills just naturally led me on to think of Maria, and I speak of it as if it were the most obvious train of thought considering the scene before me and my present state of mind. I will attempt to best explain my present state of mind and for that you will require to know a little background.
As soon as I graduated from University I went on to apply for a job to different organizations, big and small. With a background of technology in healthcare I found the best match in a start-up that hosted and ran an online E-learning platform for doctors. At that time I was sure about wanting to work in the start-up space where I felt the most creative innovations take place. I enjoyed the work I did and put my mind to learning all I could. I was given the space to work in the style I preferred and try out my ideas. What more could one ask for? This is what I wanted to do and yet it didn’t feel right. This couldn’t be what I was meant to do. ‘Something’ was missing, a significant and substantial ‘something’.
As most young people (and I am told even people well into their sixties) will tell you, the feeling of being uncertain and not knowing your purpose can occupy a lot of your mind and thoughts. From experience I can claim this is true. I was most fortunate, and I must thank my lucky stars for connecting me to the right mentors at the right time. I am thankful for the questions they asked me and realization they helped me reach. They became the Mother Superior to my Maria. Now, as a fellow in the 2017 India Fellow cohort I know that I have taken one step closer to my purpose. I was lost and am only beginning to find the path I was meant to be on. I know I belong here and I will be eternally grateful to the hills for that realization.
“…the hills fill my heart with the sound of music
my heart wants to sing every song it hears.”