Up-close with a folk singer in Lalitpur, bringing hope and joy in one of the most regressive regions of rural Bundelkhand
They say the mark of a true hero is when one can persevere and smile even in the face of great adversity. We bring to you the story of one such hero from the hinterlands – a happy-go-lucky singer from Lalitpur district of the Bundelkhand region who brings hope and happiness to the lives of the Bundeli people who are otherwise faced with crippling challenges on a daily basis.
One of the most underdeveloped regions comprising of 13 districts spread across southern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh, Bundelkhand is no stranger to economic and social hardships. Despite having huge reserves of sand and stone – both of which are instrumental in construction and developmental activities – the region has been grappling with acute economic deprivation for seemingly forever. This is because none of the governments so far have ever sincerely or effectively been able to regulate the mining sector in the region. Instead, they have all been silent spectators of huge multinational corporations depleting Bundelkhand’s mines beyond capacity and illicitly taking away its resources to amass profits while politicians, police and the press of the area happily allow their pockets to be lined with money. This has resulted in a staggering economy marked by large-scale unemployment and a dejected population struggling to feed themselves and their families.
In the midst of this struggle and despair, Nirbhal Singh Kushwaha symbolises a ray of hope. Born with a natural talent and a boundless love for music, Nirbhal has been an ardent fan of singing since day one. When he was just 14 years of age, Nirbhal made up his mind to dedicate himself to his one passion – singing. From that day onwards, he has gone from place to place showcasing his talent and bringing a smile to people’s faces – albeit for a few moments – through his enthralling voice.
With shining eyes, he chronicles his journey for us ever since that fateful day when he made up his mind to sing for a living. “I have always been very fond of singing – for as long as I can remember. Even though I went to school as a kid, I stopped going to school after class 3. I was not very keen on studying and had a knack for song and music, so I decided to give up my studies and learn how to sing instead. I was not lucky or privileged enough to have a music teacher or receive formal instruction in music. My teacher was simply the power of observation. I would carefully observe people for hours – how they expressed their emotions through their music, how they played their instruments. Soon, I began to pick it up and gradually became good at it. I picked up the harmonium like this as well.”
Over the years, Nirbhal has managed to bring together a group of impassioned individuals all of whom share a love for music. Amongst his accompanying musicians, he has people playing all kinds of instruments – from the banjo to dholak and from manjeeras to nagadas. they have gained immense popularity in the region and the locals invite them to perform at events and gatherings such as wedding, religious festivals and the like. And the best part is, not only does he get to do what he loves but also earns handsomely from it. “We earn about 25 to 30 thousand rupees from one performance, which we divide amongst ourselves. I simply love the feeling I get when I go up on stage to sing. Thera are so many people watching me – big, famous people – and I can my songs bringing them joy and putting a smile on their faces.”
This Khabar Lahariya article first appeared on Firstpost.