My dear friend Vidya Rao’s labour of love is finally out. She has been working on this project for quite a while. Her book Heart to Heart: Remembering Naina Devi is a tribute to her teacher, Guru and inspiration who trained Rao as a singer..
Legendary singer, Naina Devi was born into a Bengali Brahmo Samaj reformist family in the early years of the twentieth century. A childhood replete with music, dance, theatre and social reform gave way to the grandeur and seclusion of the life of a young queen of the Kapurthala royal family of Punjab. Despite seventeen years of silence necess
itated by the norms of a royal household, she came back to music and a glorious career as a singer, arts-administrator, teacher and patron, after the tragic death of her husband.
Heart to Heart, traces Naina Devi’s incredible story as she told it to her foremost disciple, Vidya Rao. Naina Devi’s story traces the changes in the world of Indian classical music, women singers and women in Indian society over the last century. Learning seena-ba-seena, heart to heart, in a seamless blend of music and life-lessons, Rao imbibed not
just a knowledge of her chosen form, Thumri, but a sense of the very being of her teacher.
The evocative narrative weaves back and forth between history and memory, past and present, and between Naina Devi’s voice and Rao’s own, to illuminate the power and beauty of music, the lives of these two women and of many others, of courage, pain, joy and love, and of the deep bond between Rao and her beloved Guru.