While the country battles another wave, many performance artists have lost their livelihood.
New Delhi– Sadanand Biswas, a Kathak dancer and teacher in Delhi, had already been struggling to stay afloat in the first wave. However, the second wave has left him with nothing. His dance group, Kathak Dharohar, had no earnings. He said, “When the county first went into lockdown, I lost all my shows and all my classes closed down. But now the situation is much worse.”
Biswas said, “I asked people for help but very few came forward. In the second wave, I tested positive for Covid and after that, I had to deal with depression.” He said that the last few months had been very tough because one of his close friends, who was also a member of his dance group, died by suicide. “After all this, I decided to go back to Durgapur (West Bengal) and live with my brother. Now, since the weakness from the disease hasn’t subsided, I cannot even rehearse which means I might not be able to teach as well,” he said, hopelessly.
Biswas is not the only one whose art and livelihood is at stake in this wave. Many folk artists in the country are bearing the brunt of this scenario. “We have no help and no money. We were only respected for our art and now since we can’t do that, we are nowhere,” said Jai Singh, a chhau dancer, a renowned folk classical art from West Bengal.
Another international folk artist and a bhapang player from Rajasthan, Gafruddin Mewati Jogi has been distributing money to artists living in villages.
Biswas said, “Conducting online classes for something as practical and rigorous as Kathak is very difficult and people right now are not able to pay for classes as well.” However, some classical musicians have been able to hold on to their livelihood with the help of online classes. Prabhat Mukhopadhya, a santoor player and teacher, used to take home classes in Delhi but has shifted online. He said, “It is difficult to do it when the students are not face-to-face but I try to improvise and send them notations on voice notes.” He added that online classes have allowed him to teach some students who are outside India which is an advantage.
Radhika, a performing arts teacher at Indira Gandhi National Open University, said that when a crisis occurs, artists are always the last ones to be thought of even though many of them have represented India internationally. She added, “It is our heritage after all. The government should try and protect it.”
In the first lockdown, state governments like Rajasthan did launch schemes to help folk artists. However, this time no steps have been taken so far.