Kareena, 30, a stage orchestra dancer from Bathinda, performs at big fat wedding functions across Punjab, Haryana and Delhi to earn enough to support her family of five. But ever since the coronavirus outbreak began, it has become difficult for her and many others to make ends meet.
Kareena said orchestra performers earn most during wedding season, which starts from mid-October and ends by March. She had been earning Rs 3,000- Rs 3,500 per show, but now all her savings are over and she is reeling under debt, with no hope of getting new bookings.
“Whatever I had earned last season ended before March this year. As wedding events were canceled, I have spent everything. At present I am under huge debt that even having a second meal a day has become difficult. I am the only earning member of my family. I don’t know when things will go back to normal,” said Kareena.
Gurvinder Singh, another orchestra performer, part of the Folk Punjabi Bhangra group and member the Bhangra Culture Union in Punjab, said that from his Bhangra group of 10 youths, many expert performers have moved to other works, and have started selling vegetables or working at brick kilns.
“There is an orchestra industry in Punjab which manages the stage at big wedding functions. People in Punjab and other states make big bookings for orchestra performances and the price they pay ranges from Rs 35,000 to Rs 1 lakh per show. Before the lockdown was announced, the last wedding function where we performed was on March 18, and later all events were canceled. Since then, due to the government restrictions, we haven’t been able to get any bookings,” he said.
He further said, “From October to March, we have performed at around 105 wedding events across Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana. The income is during the season of weddings, but now with the pandemic, the future of stage dance professionals is bleak.”
At every function, a team of 25-30 people manages the stage, all of whose careers have suddenly fallen apart, said Gurvinder.
Naib Singh, who used to host wedding events, is now selling vegetable and fruits on rehri. “Earlier as a stage anchor I earned Rs 40,000 in six months. But when the savings got over in April, I had to run a rehri to earn a livelihood,” he said.
“I hope that like the other businesses, the government relaxes restrictions on weddings events too, so that there is a hope for orchestra professionals like us,” he added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines