“Wake up, out of your sleep. How much sleep do you need? You’ve got eyes, but you can’t see.”
Just how blind can you be?” And so the song goes. The melodious and serene voice of Choying Drolma floats through the air calming the fraying nerves, as the tender words slowly sink in to calm the humungous thunderous storm that fritters through the troubled heart and mind of her listeners. The song forces us to do away with our sorrows and open our lives to let happiness pour in.
Choying Drolma or Ani Choying Drolma as she is commonly known (Ani which stands for a Buddhist Nun) is a nun as well as a singer of international repute. But most will tend to disagree when it’s pointed out that she comes from a poor Tibetan family and is based in Nepal. Born in Tibet and later migrated to Nepal, Choying as a child had to bear physical abuse at the hands of her father. With a desire to find peace, she joined the Nagi Gompa Monastery in Nepal and from there grew up to be known as the singing nun. It was her singing that brought her fame and fortune which in turn helped her set up missions to help the poor and the downtrodden.
From a horrifying childhood experience with her father who’d beat her at every given opportunity, the scene completely changed as Choying grew up in the serenity of the monastery and went on to find due recognition for her singing talent. At a later stage, her father became totally depended on her for survival. But in no way, did she let her past effect her duty towards her family. She had only love to give them and the others around her.
At the age of thirteen when Choying joined the monastery, within no time she was able to completely understand what a true childhood was when her guru gave her ample freedom to be what she wanted to be. Breaking free of the bitter memories of her sufferings back home, Choying now was able to sing and dance and enjoy what children her age normally did. Highly intelligent and with a golden voice, she quickly mastered the traditional Tibetan style of chanting in the monastery and went on to take over the role of the chanting master.
Choying has been instrumental in providing additional opportunities for other nuns to shape up their lives just as her guru had desired earlier. At the same time, she jumps at every opportunity to helping the poor and the needy, especially the street children around Nepal. For her spirited and indomitable attitude, she surely has come a long way paving numerous distinctions on her journey through the spiritual world. Once such has been the distinction of being the first nun to drive a vehicle in Nepal. She is also instrumental in setting up a school for young nuns, supporting an elderly home for women as well as setting up a clinic.
God had been kind to her dreams when Steve Tibbetts, an American musician chanced upon her while she was singing in the monastery. Her golden voice moved him completely and the rest is history. Tibbetts recorded her first album and mixing it with his music, presented it to the world. And the world took notice of the singing nun. She went on to record a few more albums which was fulfilling in the sense that it provided her the finance needed to help her realize her dreams of helping her fellow nuns as well as the common man.
Choying Drolma, on her part owes her fame and her inner peace, to the harsh life she led as a child with her family. If God had not let her experience the harsh realities of life, she wouldn’t have been motivated to look out for the inner peace and in turn wouldn’t have joined the monastery. The monastery and her late guru, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche also has been influential in shaping her life for the better. Her guru always encouraged her in her singing and dancing while the rest of her fellow monastery mates pampered the girl child during her growing up days. Choying is keen to give back to the society what she got from her guru and the monastery. And singing is what is helping her realize her dreams.
From being the first Buddhist nun to driving a car in Nepal to being a judge for beauty contests, Choying has transformed herself from a simple student of the monastery to being a multifaceted woman now looked upon as an ideal idol to emulate. Despite all the stardom she has achieved, she still is rooted to her roots and still is as compassionate towards her fellow beings. For someone who idolizes A R Rahman, the Mozart of Madras, she has in turn become the singing sensation whom the world now idolizes. With sell out concerts across the world including in India, Ani Choying Drolma has certainly come a long way.
Choying has been the force behind the Nun’s Welfare Foundation in Nepal and later, the Arya Tara School for young nuns. Her desire for nuns to get the best of educations for young nuns who came from poor families, was the reason for setting up of the school. This belief comes from the very fact that she herself had received formal education only up to standard fifth. But the lack of education does not hamper her otherwise happy and content life.
With her autobiography ‘Singing For Freedom’ going on stands recently, Choying also realized the dream of setting up Aragya Foundation to treat patients suffering from renal failure. She had lost her mother to kidney failure in recent times and was determined to do something for the people of Nepal who couldn’t afford the expensive treatments currently prevailing in the country. However, she still has a long way to go before her clinic dream becomes completely real. And to raise the remaining funds needed for his huge project, she’s booked for concerts till the third quarter of this year across the world. This singing nun is surely God’s gift to Nepal and its poor people. While some critics might point a finger at her lifestyle (high flying despite she being a nun), she understands that it’s a part of her life and her karma. She is what she is. She is doing what she wants to do. And if she has to realize her dreams of helping her fellow sisters and the poor at large, then a few criticisms wouldn’t matter. The singing nun is here to stay and enthrall the listeners across the globe with her enigmatic singing. She is here to help her fellow people. She is here to spread love and compassion in an otherwise troubled life.