May 11, 2018 4:36:30 am
The slightly built man resting his back against a wall may not always catch the eye of hundreds who come to Churchgate to begin their homeward journey in the evening. However, what they don’t miss is his rendition of popular Bollywood songs backed by a karaoke speaker with the original score and chorus of the song intact. Many stop by and lend him a ear as he belts out Mohammed Rafi’s hits on a mic on the busy pavement outside the railway station.
For the last four months, a 25-year-old man singing into a microphone has become a regular fixture outside Churchgate station. Singing Rafi’s popular numbers including Shirdiwale Saibaba, which always draws a crowd, is Navin Poddar’s way of acclimatising himself to the city that has been his home for less than a year.
Like thousands of young men who head to Mumbai for work from different parts of the country, Poddar too arrived in Mumbai from Bihar in August 2017. “When I first came here, I did not know anything about he city. I did not know anyone here. Some friends know that I sing well and suggested that I sing at Churchgate,” he said. Since January this year, Poddar has been setting up camp outside the pedestrian subway just opposite the Western Railway headquarters, twice a week.
Poddar, who works at a call centre in Churchgate, makes a stop at the station for a couple of hours on the way home to Nallasopara. Starting at 7 pm, he goes on, at times, till 10 pm. “This is my way of meeting new people and getting to know how to make a living in Mumbai. Right now I do not know where to go if I want to establish myself as a professional singer,” he said.
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People passing through the station even during the rush hours give Poddar a few minutes’ listen. “Some people have told me that some film studios are located in Goregoan. That is how I am able to understand now where to go and whom to approach,” he said.
His public performances have also resulted in a few other gigs. Recently, he was invited to sing at a wedding in rural Maharashtra. With his office aware of his talent, he also regularly sings at homes of colleagues. “Singing is an addiction for me. When I sign I feel a lot happier,” he said.
Poddar, who spent several years growing up in Delhi, did not receive any formal training in music. He admits to developing interest in singing after studying music briefly in school. However, his earnings from moonlighting at Churchgate do not significantly add to his salary of Rs 10,000.
Outside Churchgate, Poddar has managed to hold on to a regular spot in spite of regular drives from the police to clear out food stalls, beggars and hangers-on. “There have been times when the police have asked me to clear out. But each time I have managed to persuade them to let me stay and sing. I don’t make a lot of noise and do not disturb anyone,” he said.
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