Music composer Rekha Raveenderen believes that happiness is a state of mind.
“Happiness comes from within and when you’re content, you’ll be happy,” says Rekha, who is in her early 40s.
While the idea of happiness may seem to be out of step with the times, given the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, Rekha wholeheartedly believes that we can choose to be happy or at least choose to do things that bring us happiness.
It’s normal to have worries, she reckons, especially during difficult times. But it’s still possible to do things that improve our mood, she feels.
“For me, it’s counting my blessings every day, ” she says.
One thing she is grateful for is the opportunity the pandemic has presented for her to network with composers from all over the world through online programmes and sessions. Throughout the pandemic, Rekha joined many creative groups on social media and attended many free webinars and online hangouts.
“I’ve come to know a lot of people just through joining these groups and activities. Hanging out with like-minded people, even if it is online, and talking about music and exchanging ideas, inspires me and gives me happiness. It’s fulfilling.
“Just today, I logged on to a talk by my mentor, famed orchestrator Conrad Pope (who has collaborated with reknowned composer John Williams worked on films such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, Star Wars: Episode II The Attack of the Clones, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Julie and Julia among others) and his wife Nan Schwartz who is also another renowned composer and orchestrator. They were guests in a talk Musically Speaking brought to us by the Long Beach Symphony in Los Angeles.
“It was so nice to learn and get nuggets of information from them. And after that, I messaged them on Facebook and had a chat with them which was really an added bonus. Though I visited them in Los Angeles before, we don’t usually chat much. But these are means of connecting and they were grateful I tuned in from Malaysia, ” shares Rekha..
The pandemic, she shares, has disrupted work for her, just like many in the music and entertainment business.
“A local horror feature film entitled Rumah, produced by Mojo Projects, that I scored for and recorded with an orchestra in Bulgaria, was set to be released last year. But that was shelved due to the pandemic. Many other works I wrote for concert performances which were meant to be premiered in Ireland last year, have also been postponed indefinitely.
“With concerts on hold and film productions stalled, from a career perspective, I focused my energies on other areas of development which I sometimes lacked the time for, such as networking and researching tips and new methods to work on music notation and sequencing software. I also spent much time watching content over YouTube on a broad range of topics,” she shares.
It wasn’t necessarily all bad though as the pandamic brought about many avenues to connect and engage with people involved in the creative arts from all around the world, says Rekha.
“I actively networked online, attending webinars and zoom meetings — engaging with composers, orchestrators, directors and people from various industries. That certainly helped engage my mind and I often received much joy from just talking and sharing music experiences as I was so starved of live music and physical interaction with music folk.
“Kevin Field, former conductor at Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and Artistic Director at Bentley Music Academy initiated a Hangout session for students and music lovers.
“This was an event I looked forward to every week as he had very engaging topics and experiences to share.
“He would also draw experiences and views from participants and the knowledge sharing was very enriching. I even managed to secure a job from one of the participants from this event,” she shares enthusiastically.
Happy together as a family
As someone in the music industry, Rekha loves composing and playing music.
“It gives me immense joy. When I need to lift my mood, I just play the piano or hum, and that often triggers new ideas or I ‘hear’ new musical material which I try to capture before they disappear,” she enthuses.
“I also have ‘pet plants’ on my composing station. They’re great companions while I compose my music – that’s another thing that makes me happy,” she says.
Gardening is a new passion that has helped bring her relief during the pandemic.
“It’s really the simple things that make me happy, especially things to do with nature,” says Rekha. “When I see a new bloom or shoots from my plants, it makes me happy.”
For her family who are foodies, the pandemic has been all about trying new recipes in the kitchen.
“My husband and two sons took over the kitchen for awhile and that got them really excited because it’s not something that they get to do all the time,” says Rekha.
“They get really excited and happy when they produce something, and they produce really good stuff,” she adds.
“My husband is now an expert briyani maker and has also tried making bread, while my older son does more Western food and produces all sorts of gourmet sandwiches with cottage cheese, avocado, meat and mushrooms. And, my younger son would be helping out in the kitchen,” she says.
Playing games together as a family also makes them happy.
“It’s something that we never had time for before. Everybody is so busy with school and tuition or work, and we’re not at home for long periods of time together.
“So, during this time, we would make sure that we’re playing something – UNO, board games such as Cluedo, or chess - together each day,” says Rekha.
Having said all that, of course, there are ups and downs and not everyone can be happy all the time, she admits.
“Sometimes, the boys would be bored, especially my younger son because the age gap between my two sons is really big. My older son needs to study a lot as he’s doing his A-levels and my younger son would miss the interaction with his friends, and feel restless,” she says.
“There are moments of uncertainty when anxiety, worry or fear creep in, especially when we kept hearing about deaths, people getting ill, and all the crazy things that were happening in the midst of the pandemic,” she says.
“But, once again, I start to count my blessings at times of anxiety and remember all the things I’m grateful for. Despite all the uncertainty and fear of the unknown, there are also good things that have come about as a result of the pandemic, says Rekha.
“It was a time of reflection and coming together as a family. We’d talk about things and remind each other how fortunate we are and to be grateful for the things people so often take for granted,” she says.
Staying connected also helps keep one happy during the pandemic.
“We made it a point to connect with loved ones. Calling up loved ones and speaking to them can instantly lift your spirits,” she says.
Doing things that spark joy
Rekha believes that the International Day of Happiness is a great idea, although she only heard about it recently.
“It shouldn’t be just one day that we take out of our calendar to do something that makes us happy. But it is a good initiative, especially during times like this,” she says.
“Now that I’m aware of it, I’m definitely going to try and spread some joy and positivity,” she adds.
Rekha and her family have decided to spend the day spreading some joy to make others happy.
“We’ll be connecting with friends and relatives whom we haven’t seen in awhile because of the pandemic, to share some happy moments, in particular, an aunt who lives alone in another state.
“We’re sending her a gift basket and having a long video chat with her since we can’t drive across the state borders just yet to see her personally,” concludes Rekha.