September 2, 2020 5:19:43 pm
The music has gone out of their lives, quite literally, and the band of men who made their living drumming up tunes for parties, wedding processions and sometimes funerals too are on the verge of penury, scrambling for every rupee they can manage.
Almost six months into the pandemic, those in the business of weddings bands have gone bust. With celebrations restricted to just a few people in the era of social distancing and no bookings, some like Khurshid Siddiqui are selling old clothes and others like Mohammad Ali are selling off the accoutrements of the trade the buggy, lights and even the mare.
Drummer Khurshid Siddiqui who ran the ‘band business’ from his ancestral shop in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar Market said there hasn’t been a single booking in months, not from weddings, celebrations such as births and not even the odd funeral of an old person they sometimes played for.
The 40-year-old said he has put his shop on rent for Rs 10,000 and is reduced to selling old clothes on the roadside. “All our old bookings were cancelled due to which even the little money that was left with us had to be returned,” Siddiqui told PTI.
“I have completely stopped the work that had carried on for generations in my family. I have sent some of the items to my village, sold some and am selling clothes,” he added.
Mohammed Ali, who owned the ‘Great Band’ close by, spent a hefty Rs 4.5 lakh in January to buy a buggy, lights and a mare, all necessary for a big fat Indian wedding that is incomplete without ‘band, bajaa and baraat’.
The mare, he said, cost Rs 2.5 lakh and he is now ready to sell it for just Rs 50,000 or rent it out for Rs 500 a day. The buggy is getting damaged in the rain. There is trouble from all sides. The coronavirus has devastated us. And the government is also ignoring us, the 40-year-old said.
The signs of the desperate times are visible in the ribs jutting out of the mare standing in a corner. Part of the buggy lies on a garbage laden road with children playing inside it. Some kilometres away near the Loni border, trumpet player Navi Jaan echoes the despair.
The 58-year-old said he had been working with a band but since 1985 but the owner shut shop and he has been jobless since. “I have been sitting without any work for the last five months. I called the owner on Eid for money but he refused, citing the lockdown. There are four people in my family who are dependent on me,” Jaan said.
Of his 35 band mates, some are selling vegetables and some are driving rickshaws, he said. Imran, owner of the Sahib Band Wala in Vaishali, opened his shop after five months, hoping to get some work with the lockdown being partially lifted.
The initial few weeks after the lockdown was imposed were still okay. But the constant re-imposition has created havoc. Because of the lockdown we couldn’t deposit the bills and our electricity was disconnected. Since we have had no earnings, we haven’t been able to pay the electricity bills and can’t resume work.
It’s a vicious circle, trapping scores of people. Sometimes, to remind themselves of the good times, a band member dresses up in the uniform, just wears the cap and picks up his instrument. It’s a reminder of the times that were.
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