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  • Writer's pictureGarima Raghuvanshy

#2 Gafruddin ji

(Names have not been changed in this summary)

Gafruddin ji is a kalakar from village Kaithwada, tehsil Pahari, zilla Bharathpur. He lives there with his wife and four children. Their eldest daughter is married. Gafruddin ji belongs to the Meo community and continues his ancestral tradition of singing and playing music. He is an award winning Bhapang vadak and the only person alive who knows all 2500 couplets of Pandun ka kadda, the fascinating Mahabharata of the Jogis and Meos of Rajasthan. In Gafruddin ji’s village people stand inside circles drawn with chalk as they wait their turn to buy essentials from the few shops open in the market. It is time for the wheat harvest, and people go either to their fields to do agricultural work, or to the market to buy necessities. Otherwise, they stay at home. No one goes to the city. In the market vendors sit far apart and sell their goods between 9 AM and 12 noon. There are a couple of private doctors, and also a government dispensary in the village. Gafruddin ji hasn’t had to go to the doctor recently, and since the lockdown began, he mostly stays indoors, so he doesn’t know if the doctors have gloves and masks and whether they use these while attending to patients. So far, no positive cases of Covid-19 have been found in his village. The Sarpanch sahab and Thaanedaar sahab are arranging meals for the poor majdoors of the village and for those who have come from outside and are stuck in the village now. Lupin Foundation has a sanstha in Bharathpur, and they have sent food for 30-35 poor people in Kaithwada.

The thaanedar sahab hands out food to majdoors in the village

Gafruddin ji believes that in most part the disease will not reach the villages. The villages have no connection with cities and other countries. Whatever connection was there closed 15-20 days ago. It is true that people returning to the village might bring the disease with them, but the government has said that these people will be quarantined in a separate facility upon their return. There is no such facility in place in Gafruddin ji’s village, but the few people who move about outside the village work as drivers. They came back before the lockdown was announced and have been in isolation in their homes ever since. People in the village are aware and alert. The media and messages from doctors shared via WhatsApp have been the main sources of Gafruddin ji’s knowledge about Coronavirus. “Bhaiyya thari samjhaa far padegi re, haath saafh raakho nahi bimaari aur badhegi re”; Gafruddin ji used to sing this song before the current pandemic. He has made new songs about the current crisis; he will share them soon. Daily life has changed significantly in the lockdown. Sec. 144 is in force and casually stepping out isn’t an option. He cannot go for a long walk or sit down with 4 or 5 people and have a conversation. These things keep the mind active and fresh, ek jagah baitha hua vyakti bilkul thak jaata hai. He is concerned that this routine of staying indoors all the time brings its own dangers of falling ill. The good thing is he finds time to sit and talk with his children. Nahi toh bhaag daud mein zindagi guzarti hai. He talks to his children about their studies, and about what they want to do when they grow up. The fear of the disease lingers at the back of his mind but iss bahaane bachchon se hass bol lete hein. Gafruddin ji, who is a kalakaar, has not given a single performance in the last three months. For a kalakaar like him, performances bring income. When money runs out between programmes and performances, Gafruddin ji takes out small loans from neighbours and friends and pays them back with interest after the next performance. Jab paisa rehta hai iske paas mein aapko maloom hai kalaakar kya karta hai? When he has money, a kalakaar spends it on living well. He wears good, clean, ironed clothes, he eats well, and shyaam ko, aapko toh maloom hai, glass bhi chalta hai. The money that is earnt is spent on these things, and the kalakaar thinks, I’ll perform at the next programme, paisa wahaan se aa jaayega. Now that future income is over for us behenji.

He is worried, kharcha kahaan se aayega? Kahaan se chalaaenge mahina, do mahina, jo kuchh ismein abhi lagega. For those who have money, there is no problem, 6 mahina baith ke kha lein. For those like him, who don’t have money and don’t grow their own produce, everything to eat and drink comes at a price, ghar ka kuchh hai hi nahi. Gafruddin ji had some 7000 rupees from a programme he did for the Tourism department. That money has been keeping him and his family afloat. About 2000 rupees from that sum remains now. Once that money is over, he doesn’t know how they will manage. Bhagwaan ke upar hai, Allah ke upar hai.

Gafruddin ji hasn’t been able to get a BPL card. Naam ke toh hum kalakaar hein na bade, hum naam ke bade kalaakar hein, ghar mein bhuke marte hein. When he tries to get a BPL card made, people exclaim that he goes abroad to perform. They remember that they have seen a photograph of his with the Prime Minister, or with a minister or some other important person. They ask him, aapko kya kami hogi? Log aise kehke taal dete hein, and Gafruddin ji hasn’t been able to get a BPL card yet. He isn’t sure if he has a 0 balance jan dhan bank account, but he says a card was made in the name of his wife and has a photo of every member of the family on it. He’s not sure what card it is or which scheme it is part of, but they haven’t received anything from it in the last two years or so. Maybe something will happen this time? He will find out what card it is.

People que to buy essentials in the market at Kaithwada

Economic and other challenges notwithstanding, Gafruddin ji is clear that the lockdown is very important, and a good decision. He believes it would have been better if the lockdown had been enforced earlier, and if screening and quarantining from the airport itself had begun months ago, when the disease had started spreading in China. But at the time such thoughts don’t come to mind, and people are reluctant to do such things anyway. Gafruddin ji sees the decision taken by Prime Minister Modi ji to enforce a lockdown as necessary. He says the shrey, or, credit of fighting this disease goes to India’s doctors who are working day and night and to the Prime Minister for taking this timely decision and coordinating the response to this disease. He says government could do better by helping those who are on their way back home. These people shouldn’t be unduly harassed. If they have the disease they should be given medical care, and if they are fine, they should be helped in reaching their destination.

(I had to ask Gafruddin ji more than once, what can the government do for you and for kalakaars like you? Only then did he give a response; )

There are 8 to 10 houses of his community in the village. They are 17 families in all. They follow their tradition of going from village to village, playing music and singing. They also perform in cities and programmes. In the village when a child is born, they go to that house and are given food. They also sing in weddings. But all these things are not happening now. Gafruddin ji spent his life keeping his ancestral tradition alive. He is 60-65 years old now. He could have opened a business or worked for someone and made a comfortable living. But instead he dedicated his life to saving his tradition. While doing so he always thought, humaara naam hoga, humaare baad ye kala chalti rahegi. Those more educated than he is should say, what can the government do for kalakaars like him?

For Our Information: Gafruddin ji says the govt. of Rajasthan keeps at hand details of artists across the state. These details can be found at Jawahar Kala Kendra and the state tourism departments has its own zilla-wise registers of artists.

Update 20/04/2020:

As promised, Gafruddin ji shared two songs he created about the covid-19 pandemic 🙂 He rues that he is singing alone, instead of with a group and several instruments, as he usually does. While Gafruddin ji sings within the confines of his home, one of this children recorded these performances on their phone;

Gafruddin ji’s song “O balma, ghar ke andar baith” about the Covid-19 pandemic

Gafruddin ji’s song “Mai toh keh keh ke haari” about the Covid-19 pandemic

Update 10/05/2020

Extensions to the lockdown have made things difficult for Gafruddin ji. He had some 5,000-7,000 rupees which have run out now. A large portion of that money was spent on buying fodder for his cow and her calf. Whether they give milk or not, Gafruddin ji has always kept cows, as did his grandparents and parents. Ye bhi ek kaam hai, punya ka kaam hai. It is part of their community’s tradition.

Gafruddin ji did receive some financial assistance earlier, but that time he had a little money still so he sent what he received from well-wishers to the artists who perform with him. They’re the ones who play the instruments and also sing with him. Now as the lockdown has continued, he is facing difficulties. Ab koi sahayata ho sakti hai toh aap karvao. Ab tangi ho gayi hai.

Update 04/05/2021

Restrictions on public gatherings, performances, and celebrations have been in place for a year now, and as a result, Gafruddin ji has been out of work continuously. The first wave had more or less subsided by the end of 2020 and things began looking up in March this year when Gafruddin ji booked a local performance during a holi celebration. But almost immediately after, the second wave hit India with merciless ferocity. Once again Gafruddin ji and his fellow artists are home bound and unable to practice their art and support their families. Gafruddin ji is part of a group of 22 artists who often perform together, as is the custom. Like him, they are all in very difficult circumstances due to the prolonged lack of work. If you would like to help Gafruddin ji and his group of artists, please consider donating here: Ration Kits For A Group Of Folk Artists In Rajasthan And A Basti In Blore

The funds collected will be distributed to Gafruddin ji and his group. Our target is to raise Rs. 2000 per artist per month to cover their ration and other basic needs.


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