Recently, additional superintendent of police, Baruipur, Indrajit Basu, received a distress call from an Indian classical musician about the plight of another who was on the verge of taking his life following severe depression during lockdown post the outbreak of Covid-19. Immediately, efforts were made to reach out to this musician with food and financial assistance to help him tide over this crisis.
This incident was a wake-up call for the need to help financially-struggling Indian classical musicians in and around Kolkata who have no savings, work and pension. Basu, who is himself a performing musician, set up a WhatsApp group called Musicians for Musicians. Coming forward in this initiative is Haimanti Shukla, Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Pt Subhankar Banerjee, Pt Bickram Ghosh, Pt Tanmoy Bose, Pt Alok Lahiri, Pt Samir Chatterjee, Jayanta Chattopadhyay, Nandini Chakraborty, Subhojyoti Guha and Sandeep Chatterjee, among others.
Incidentally, foot soldiers in other industries have their associations to support them. Unfortunately, those from Indian classical music have remained largely unsung. They are accompanists playing the table or the harmonium. Some are small-time vocalists who are the local go-to music gurus before students graduate to the classes of acclaimed musicians. While acclaimed musicians might be running online classes, the “parar gaaner didimoni” have not really been that lucky. During social isolation, house tuitions have stopped. Nobody is ready to pay when no classes are being held.
“While there is a lot of respect for Indian classical musicians, there are many who do not have a financial backup. Following the lockdown, they are in acute distress. They can’t even disclose the problems openly because it is a sensitive matter. We are careful not to hurt their dignity. When Tejendra-da called me up to narrate the plight of this musician, I decided to set up this group called Musicians for Musicians,” Basu said.
Majumdar has donated the earnings from some of his online concerts for this cause. “Many musicians would teach abroad during this time of the year and earn enough to survive during the entire year. With all foreign concerts and classes gone, they are in a soup after the outbreak of corona virus. Nobody knows when the situation is going back to normal. That’s why it is so important for us to stand by them. As of now, we have reached out to 20 musicians,” Majumdar said.
Ghosh has already made a personal donation. “If required, I am also happy to play an online concert and donate the proceeds to them.” Banerjee, who has already donated to other organisations, said, “I know of so many musicians who are in dire straits. I am doing whatever little I can to help them.” Shukla too is worried. “My heart goes out to them and I really want to help out,” she said.
Those like Bose understand the plight. Stuck in a no-man’s land, many of them are succumbing to depression. They are not as unfortunate as the migrant workers but their uncertainties are no less. They have rents to pay and groceries to buy. With no earnings, their lives are fraught with miseries. But stories of their plight have remained untold and unheard. “I know of musicians who probably earn Rs 75 to Rs 150 per class for playing nagma on the harmonium while a singer does riyaaz at home. They aren’t earning anything now. But they are not in a position to stand in a queue in front of a police van to collect relief. I am doing whatever I can to help them,” Bose said.
In the cacophony of crisis, this effort is music to the ears.
Source: Times of India