Doctors had declared that he would never walk. But even as a child, Koushik Bhattacharya knew otherwise. He did not understand why his parents were depressed. Their only son had been diagnosed with polio as a ten-month-old and they had braced themselves for life-sapping difficulties. But what the eminent musicians of the Andul Kali Kirtan gharana did not realise was that their child was curing himself with what Bhattacharya—a 45-year-old classical musician who uses ragas to treat psychological diseases—himself now calls the “healing power of songs”. Not that he wasn’t ever demoralised. The sight of other boys playing sports did produce its share of sadness, but all that would disappear when he heard his father, Pandit Pataki Bhattacharya and mother, Roma Bhattacharya do riyaaz.
“I felt intense happiness when they practised music and I started to realise that the positive energy this generated was having a direct impact on me physically,” Bhattacharya, now 43, recalls. “It made me feel elevated, as though I could do anything; it inspired me to try activities I was not supposed to be able to do. Regular riyaaz gave me so much mental strength and physical stamina, I began to gradually walk, run, jump, even climb stairs.” Today, he not only swims and does yoga, but drives to schools where he teaches music therapy—in South Calcutta’s Dover Lane and Bhawanipur, nearly 40 kms back and forth from his house in Andul, a suburb.