It would be difficult to describe Manta Sidhu in one word. Musician, Writer, Activist are just a few words in the bag. Sidhu, 28, lives with wonder, love and positivity in her every-day. Manta plays with Delhi based Alternative-Pop band MAP, and serves in many capacities as a songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. She is the Founder-President at Angel Eyes, an initiative for Animal Welfare. Her NGO operates an ambulance service for the rescue of injured or sick birds too!
Sidhu has 6 pets herself, four rescued dogs and two cats.
EMAHO, in conversation with Manta Sidhu.
What words, do you think, best describe yourself?
Being ‘passionate’ about what I do is very important to me, and so is being ‘positive’. And I’d like to believe that these two words describe me well.
As an artist, what aspects of everyday life inspire your creativity?
Creativity for me, finds inspiration in the intricacies of everyday life. From significant events in life to small things or instances that stir emotion or thought – there’s so much vibrant energy around me at all times, so much to get enthused by.
It is said, and generally believed, that an artists’ is a wanderer’s soul. Are you a happy homebody or more an always-on-the-go girl?
Both. It feels great to be up-and-about and on-the-go. Yet what better place to come back to than home? Being a Libran, I like to keep the balance going for me
Who, would you say, is the one person that makes your life go around?
My family, my band mates, and a few very special friends – I wouldn’t choose to trade them with anything in the world. They make my world special in so many ways.
You were at Hindu College, Delhi University. What are your most fond memories of your life in Delhi as a student?
My days at Hindu College were what made me the musician I am. All that time spent in the rehearsal room with my fellow college mates-cum-musicians is priceless. Also, it was during my first year at Hindu College that I decided to take up animal rescue as a serious and life-long activity. I started Delhi University’s first animal lovers’ club, along with three other like-minded college mates. We stuck together in pursuit of our commitment and today, 10 years later, we continue rescuing animals and birds together and feel blessed to have been joined by many more animal lovers along the way.
Why did you choose to work for animals?
I believe that when someone puts in one’s thought and energy into a welfare cause, it’s not so much a matter of choice, but more about what one gets naturally inclined towards. Some people are naturally drawn more towards animals, others more towards children, others towards the environment or trees for example. And having said this, I would also state that when someone gets inclined towards working for animal welfare, this in no way implies that human welfare or environment welfare or women welfare is insignificant to that person. I feel strongly for all these causes and certainly do hold my own opinions for each of these. Animal rescue or animal welfare is just something that fulfils me most and gives me peace of mind. Perhaps because animals and birds cannot speak for themselves.
Non-profit organisations in our country get a lot of flak. What is the sort of criticism that has come your way at Angel Eyes, and how do you deal with it?
Animal welfare can only be true and genuine if it’s unconditional and demands nothing in return. What matters for me is how many animals we can help rescue and how many we can help treat and recover. The levels of emotion attached to animal rescue are incredible. Amidst all of this, there is no room for letting what people say affect us. If we do let criticism affect us or make us react, it simply means that we are demanding appreciation or acknowledgment in return. Like I said, animal welfare can only be true and genuine if it demands nothing in return. Non-profit organisations mostly get a lot of flak for misusing the funds received as donation. Angel Eyes has fortunately never been a victim of such evaluations. Our work is completely transparent in nature, and so are our expenses.
Your organisation caters to neutering animals, mostly stray dogs. While there are glaring benefits of having strays spayed, isn’t that in itself a violation of animal rights?
When it comes to the right to bear offspring, let us not mix up human rights with animal rights. I would have loved to see happy and healthy little puppies on the streets…them and their mothers living a comfortable life. But when do we ever get to see that? A closer look into the lives of street dogs lets us in on the extremely difficult conditions they live in. Mothers don’t get enough food or water on the streets. It’s common to see extremely skinny and dehydrated feeding mothers with all their ribs visible. And we’ve all seen small puppies hit and run over in traffic. Those that do survive, do so by trying to survive off left-overs from the garbage dumps, from where they catch unbearable skin diseases. The scorching summers and brutal winters are merciless on them. And when they do try to take cover from the sun or the cold winds, they are likely to get kicked around by humans who want them off their vicinity for good. If life for street dogs was ever to become comfortable and if, humans and street animals would only learn to co-exist, I would be the first to oppose the spaying of street dogs. If this explanation does not spell the need for stray animal birth control, then from another perspective, very simply put – would any woman, human I mean, like to give birth to 5-6 kids all at once, that too every six months, for 10-12 years of her life?
Do you belong to the school of thought that believes it is imperative for all musicians to write their own music?
No. Anyone who chooses to devote time and energy to learning and performing music is a musician in his or her own right, be it about writing music or not. I’ve seen some interesting renditions of popular songs being performed by some great musicians. And I believe that eventually, a sincere musician will, sometime or the other, find inspiration to write one’s own tune.
Who is a writer close to your heart?
I’ve been a fan of Wilbur Smith while growing up, but no longer fancy reading fiction somehow. Am presently reading ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche. Next in line is ‘Kindness, Clarity and Insight’ by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. I’m very eager to get my hands on the series of books written by Cesar Millan, known famously as the Dog Whisperer.
You recently attended the Gulmarg Music Festival and the Woods Talk Festival. How was your experience? What are your views on the platforms/fêtes/events that encourage young, new, creative expression of the arts in India?
Concert Tourism is an exceptional idea, even though it is yet to pick up in India. Music festivals are for certain a great stage for musicians. Playing for fellow musicians is a treat in itself, here is where we can play original music knowing it stands to be appreciated. And the people who come to participate in these festivals too, are there more for the music than for anything else. Although small, we often get the best audiences at music festivals such as the one held in Gulmarg by Soul Curators and Synapsis Adventures.
Emaho means a moment of “marvellous realisation”, the essence of self-discovery. What has been the Emaho moment in your life?
Self-discovery is and should be a continuous process. And I’m an easily excitable person, so I tend to meet an Emaho moment every other day. If I were to pick one of the many, I’d choose the day that made me see my ability to translate my thoughts and feelings into words and then translate them into melody and finally into a song. The finished product was my first self-composed song ‘Broken Stairs to Heaven.’ I could see my ambition of being a writer merging so seamlessly with my ambition of being a musician.
Interviewed by: Ruchika Tara Mathur
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