Melbourne, Jun 1: He claims to have seen extremities of wealth and poverty in India and overwhelmed by the latter, Australian pacer Brett Lee has opened a music studio for slum children in Mumbai.
The pacer, who is a regular visitor to India not just for cricket but also for music and film assignments, said it was his first trip to the country in 1994 which left an indelible mark on his psyche.
"I'll never forget my first experience of seeing the poverty in India on my very first trip there. I've seen extreme wealth and extreme poverty in India. I guess I''m lucky to have experienced that because if you only see one side you can''t fathom those extremes," Lee was quoted as saying by ''The Sydney Morning herald''.
The studio that the 34-year-old affable pacer has opened on the outskirts of a dumping ground in Mumbai, will offer free music lessons to children who live in the nearby slum.
Another center will open soon and Lee plans to have at least 100 such centers across India.
Lee was in fact felicitated by the Australia India Business Council for "his contribution to building relations between the countries."
"When we heard that Brett had opened the music center for underprivileged kids in Mumbai, we decided we wanted to recognise the contribution he has made to Australia-India relations," AIBC NSW president Dipen Rughani said.
"I think we can say now that Brett is an Indophile. He knows some Hindi, has sung with the legendary Asha Bhosle and is now doing good work through his foundation. These are all great things," Rughani added.
Talking about the newly-opened studio, Lee said, "It''s a beautiful place, the one we just opened in Mumbai, it''s like a sanctuary for the kids."
"They can learn different instruments, guitar, organ, flute, as well as learn to dance and sing from qualified teachers.
"To see the looks on their faces when I cut the ribbon, they came up and hugged me, they were singing and dancing. It was very moving. These kids have nothing. They''re wondering where their next meals coming from."
The instruments and teachers have been funded by Lee''s "Mewsic" Foundation.
"I could have easily helped out through sport or cricket," he said.
"But music is my passion, my love and I know that music has so many healing qualities and powers. That's what really appealed to me. It''s a chance to introduce young kids to music and help them overcome some of the things they've been through, whether it's losing their parents or leaving home very early or experiencing child abuse.
"Music gets you through good and bad times," he added.