In December 1992 I attended the three month long Junior Command Course at the College of Combat (now Army War College), Mhow, India. The Army War College is a tactical training and research institution of the Indian Army. It develops and evaluates concepts and doctrines for tactics and logistics for the army. The college trains about 1,200 officers of the Indian Army, and also from friendly foreign countries as well as paramilitary forces each year.
The Junior Command (JC) Course aims to train Army officers who have gained theoretical knowledge of warfare and practical skills necessary to lead company-size units in various war situations and terrain.
I went to attend the course with Marina and our little daughter Nidhi was about 20 months old. As a student officer I was busy attending classes, outdoor exercises, working on solutions for the tactical discussion on the next day or reading. Marina found that she had lot of time at hand after I left for classes by 7:45 AM.
That was when Marina with the assistance of our neighbour’s wife, a Masters degree holder in music, tried her hand at honing her singing skills. As a child she had a passion for music and did attend a few classes in preliminary Carnatic music. Later she joined a boarding school and her musical interests perhaps gave way to athletic ones!
Marina learned to sing a few Hindi songs and Urdu Ghazals. On return to our Regiment after the course, at a party she sang two Hindi songs and an Urdu Ghazal. It was a real surprise package for our Regimental officers. A lady from Kerala who could barely manage to communicate in Hindi until then was now singing classical Urdu Ghazals. At the end of her singing, our then Commanding Officer Colonel Rajan Anand in appreciation remarked “Even if Reji hasn’t learnt much during the JC Course, Marina has learnt to sing pretty well.“
We had a Regimental Jaaz Band, led by Major Gulshan Kaushik and Marina became part of the band. Her Hindi and Urdu diction was polished up with the help of both Major Kaushik and Mrs. Ritu Kaushik.
Later, in 2001, while I was posted at Delhi, Marina sang a high pitched song during the Christmas party at home. Next morning, she was in serious trouble with her vocal cords, so much so that she just could not speak. She went to the ENT Specialist at the Base Hospital Delhi. The specialist, a Major from the Army Medical Corps, inserting a scope through her mouth (video-stroboscopy) and showing her the lacerated condition of her vocal cords said “You must have tried to sing at a very high pitch and you are not trained in classical singing. This is what happens when you suddenly strain your vocal cords.” He diagnosed it as a case of ‘vocal cord hemorrhage.’
Our larynx, or ‘voice box’ houses the vocal cords and has several groups of muscles that raise or lower it when we sing, swallow or yawn. Many singers raise their larynx unconsciously when they sing high notes. If the larynx is too high on high notes, it can actually strain the vocal cords. Vocal trauma, such as excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, yelling, or inhaling irritants can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels of the vocal cords. These may then rupture and bleed.
We are familiar with players or other athletes moving into the injured reserve list. Similarly, many singers too move into the injured list, resulting in cancellation of many of their performances. This often happens primarily due to vocal cord hemorrhage.
Diagnosis done, but the most interesting was the treatment – complete voice rest – मौन व्रत (Mauna Vrat). That meant she should not strain her vocal cords at all. She was advised not to speak for a week, else she may even end up losing her speech all together. She had to communicate with the children and me through writing and often through a comic sign language.
The news spreads fast – even in those days before the advent of cell-phones and social media – it spreads faster in the Army circles when an officer’s wife is sick. By evening there were many visitors calling on to enquire Marina’s health, especially those who were guests at the Christmas party the previous evening.
Every officer who came over had only one serious question “Who was the doctor? May be, I need to take my wife to him for consultation“
The lesson I learnt after the ordeal was that children must be put through vocal music training and I ensured that both our children attended vocal music training. To read more about it, please click here.