Singer hit rock bottom when husband died at Everest, Latest World News - The New Paper

Singer hit rock bottom when husband died at Everest

When musician Sushma Soma learnt of her husband’s death last May, the shock plunged her into devastating depths, to the extent that for a few months the professional Carnatic singer struggled to speak, let alone sing.

She still recalls the events of May 19, 2023, when she received a text message from her husband Shrinivas Sainis Dattatraya – via satellite phone – saying that he had summited Mount Everest. In the text, the 39-year-old said he was unlikely to make it down after contracting high-altitude cerebral oedema, a severe type of high-altitude illness that could prove fatal.

Despite a harrowing search-and-rescue mission that lasted a week, Mr Shrinivas was never found and Ms Sushma was forced to confront the inevitable – that she would not see her loving husband of nine years ever again.

To compound her sorrow, their pet dog Latte fell ill on the day he went missing, and died three weeks later from Stage 3 cancer at the age of 12. 

While Ms Sushma saw it as a “profoundly beautiful” testament to “how intertwined their lives were”, the double loss left an unfillable void in her home and heart. 

“The grief took its toll on my vocal cords, causing a voice condition known as muscle tension dysphonia, and I had to undergo voice therapy,” she told Tabla.

As the months went by and she recovered her voice, Ms Sushma turned to music as an outlet for her pent-up grief, and produced an album – titled The Mountain Has The Last Say – a moving tribute to her late husband. 

The idea for the album struck her as she was preparing for various shows in India last year. 

“Given my state of mind, I felt uncomfortable, like I was lying to myself. How could I sing in this grief? That was when I realised that my only real way back into music was Shri himself.”

In October, she penned songs based on poems she had written after learning of her husband’s death.  

“I wanted the album to revolve around Shri’s own words – ‘the mountain has the last say’. It was something he always believed in, and it stemmed from the reverence he had for the majestic mountains.”

She turned to her best friend and fellow musician Aditya Prakash and the duo recorded it at studios in Singapore and India over the course of three months until January this year.

“The moment I started work on it, I felt more at peace. By allowing myself to express my grief, it felt like I could move forward and experience other forms of music.

“When it was finished, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to release it to the public because it felt so personal – it was a diary into my mind, a piece of my heart.”

It was in March this year, when Ms Sushma listened to rock singer Nick Cave’s Ghosteen album written in the aftermath of his son’s death and Richard Skelton’s music following the death of his wife, that she found the inspiration to release her songs.

“Without even knowing their stories, I cried when I listened to their songs. How beautiful it is to share the experience with someone without even knowing their story? That’s when it hit me that music is so powerful and that even if one person could resonate with my album, that was all I wanted. 

“I wanted the album to be a blanket of safety, love and catharsis that could help not just me, but also my listeners’ own grief journeys.”

On May 19, exactly a year after Mr Shrinivas summited Mount Everest, she released The Mountain Has The Last Say.

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