City Moment – The Pavement Flute Concert, Central Delhi
Music of the street.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Here’s a ho-hum central Delhi pavement, complete with a snoozing dog and a free public urinal, unexpectedly bursting into live classical music. Certainly not something that happens every day.
In fact, car driver Subhash Kumar Das, 36, is regaling passersby with his bansuri (flute). Some pedestrians stop in their tracks to listen. He is perched on a parked rickshaw.
“It’s Raag Bhupali,” he says after concluding the brief performance, speaking in a matter-of-fact tone as if it is perfectly normal to come across live instrumental music by the roadside. Hailing originally from Cuttack in Odisha, he works as a chauffeur for a railway officer, “a job which is good enough to give me some spare time for music.”
Mr Das’s life as a flautist started a mere two years ago when he heard a pavement flute seller playing outside his favourite luncheon eatery, Andhra Bhawan Canteen, in central Delhi. “It was so beautiful… I sat beside him and listened to his recital for more than an hour.” He ended up buying a flute from the seller for 100 rupees.
But then he faced the real challenge: how to go about playing the instrument?
Mr Das didn’t know anybody who could teach him music, “so I helped myself to YouTube tutorials.” By now he believes himself to be sufficiently well-versed with classical ragas though he doesn’t aspire to be a stage performer. “Playing the bansuri gives me anand (joy)”—is his simple explanation. A note pad lying beside him is jotted down with hand-written musical notations.
Picking up the instrument, he now plays what he calls Raag Brindavani. A pedestrian is carefully listening. He later says in awe: “See, the hair on my arm have literally stood on end listening to this fine music.” It’s a beautiful moment.
The rest is noise