MANSI PRASAD-A PROILE IN COURAGE AND DEDICATION
I had occasion to meet a top government official in New Delhi who told me ruefully about a phenomenon that many of us may not be aware of. He told me that he felt sad whenever he travelled around Delhi at various times in the day including on his early morning walks as early as just after 4 am.
It appears that outside ANY embassy in the city[including Burundi, Rawanda, Somalia] at any time of the day you can see long queues of people seeking visas to every country in the world. It seemed that for many Indians leaving our country is in itself a worthwhile goal even if the destination is wartorn Iraq or Afghanistan. I myself recall a TV channel interviewing an Indian labourer from Kerala who had escaped the jaws of death in Iraq. He was asked what his plans were now that he was safely back in India.
His reply shocked me.
‘I will try to go back to Iraq’ he said without batting an eyelid. ‘In india my family faces the prospect of death by starvation. In Iraq I earned some money and kept my family afloat. .I am willing to take a chance of death by a bullet’.
If this is the urge of many to migrate to any country at all, what would you say of a young girl who spurned a chance to migrate to the US ,work in a Wall Street firm like Goldman Sachs and be paid a ‘princessly’ salary of over $250000 a year?
I first heard of Manasi Prasad a couple of years ago while I was in the US. My eyes popped up when I read about her. She graduated from IIM Bangalore. Her internship was at Goldman Sachs.At the end of her stint , that company,impressed by her performance offered her a job in Manhattan on completing her MBA.Such was her devotion to her work as an intern that she never got to see the city of New York! She worked late into the night and on holidays too.
It intrigued me as to why would someone spurn a job in one of the world’s most renowned Investment management firms in what may be called the Mecca of the financial world. Her answer was even more intriguing-she wanted to set up in Bangalore what she dreams will go on to be the Harvard of Indian classical music.
When I read this on the internet, I made up my mind to meet her once I came back to India.
Last week I was invited to IIM [B] for a talk on lateral thinking. It was just the trigger for me to try and get Mansi’s address which I knew was somewhere in Bangalore. A student helped me out .I rang Mansi up and expressed my desire to meet her and she readily agreed.
Mansi is a trained carnatic vocalist and also an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer. She belongs to a musically talented family and much before her stint at IIM[B] she knew that music is all that she wanted to do in her life.
She has travelled all over the world to perform at concerts -a fact that might be difficult to believe considering that she is less than 30 years old. Tanzania, the Middle East, Europe ,the USA–she has regaled audiences in all these countries.
How did her MBA help her in her musical pursuits?
‘I have brought into my music insights from Marketing like market segmentation’ she says Thus when facing a young audience she tries to sing songs that might connect with youngsters .She might avoid songs that are about ‘ Moksha’ or ‘ yearning for God’ and sing about love as a general and elevated emotion. It might be love for a friend, of nature of life itself. She finds that shorn of excessive appeal to religion or spirituality and imbued with emotions of a more earthy character carnatic songs are now beginning to appeal to the young–something that is important if the classical tradition is to flourish.
Mansi not only sings at concerts but has adressed people on how classical music should be appreciated , by explaining the subtleties of the art form .Few of us may know what exactly a’ raaga’ is ,what ‘taalams’ are and what is the creative element in a concert.
What are her plans to set up a ‘Harvard’ I asked her. She has been backed by a big enterprise in Bangalore to set up what might be called THE INDIAN MUSICAL EXPERIENCE .This will be an institution where people can spend time at a musuem displaying the artefacts that tell the story of the grand evolution of Indian music through the ages. There will be lectures on all aspects of our music, theatres where concerts will be staged, seminar rooms to discuss our traditions– all intended to not only acquaint ourselves with our heritage but to inspire us to take to a career in music.
‘How can a youngster dare to do what you did?’ I asked Mansi.
She was surprisingly candid about this .Not for her the splendid flights of fancy that many self help books write about.
‘ You must not let your heart rule your head’ she said
‘There ought to be a balance between head and heart .At the end of the day one has to pay the bills’ was her practical answer. What she meant was that some people are so passionate about something that they get carried away and sometime regret later. Thus it is not enough to be be passionate about, say your musical interests. You ought to objectively understand if you have the talent, the determination to hone your talents over long years of practice, the endless wait for public recognition and finally the prospect that despite your accomplishments you may not earn enough to lead a comfortable life.
Mansi was fortunate in having come from a fairly privileged background and is now receiving the full support of her young husband who left his job in the U.S to settle down in Bangalore to be with Mansi.
My conversation with Mansi and her husband could have gone on for hours but from the flurry of telephone calls Mansi received during my two hour conversation I gathered that she was readying for a concert at Chennai and thence to far away lands.
Truly a girl who dared to do something different.