Mission Delhi – Subhash Kumar Das, Chelmsford Road
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The evening sky is dark with clouds threatening to burst into a heavy down- pour any moment. The trees too are swaying, as the winds accelerates. Pedestrians at Chelmsford Road are quickening their pace. The traffic towards New Delhi Railway Station is getting denser. The air is prickly with the klaxon of car horns.
And here he is, chauffeur Subhash Kumar Das, holding a bansuri. He sits down on the pave, beside rickshaw-puller Maniram’s camp-like dwelling (the latter’s wife is asleep within, while his little Pomeranian dog is thoughtfully watch- ing the speeding cars and autos).
Subhash brings the bansuri to his lips. At once a wave of soft melodious tunes rushes into the rush-hour noise. A few of the hurry-hurry pedestrians vaguely turn their head towards the source of the music. The dog, though, abruptly gets up from his place, and turns towards the pavement wall.
Subhash pauses, bringing down the bansuri. “I was playing Raag Bhupali.”
Since he works and lives nearby, Subhash is often spotted along this pave, often fiddling with his bansuri. On another day, he was seen sitting on the passenger seat of Maniram’s rickshaw, playing this same raag. Like those poetry fanatics who cram their pockets with paper scraps containing lines from their beloved poems, he always carries a notepad jotted with musical notations. Hailing from Cuttack, Subhash started playing the flute five years ago, when he heard a bansuri vendor serenading those gathered outside the Andhra Bhawan Canteen. He sat rapt withal beside the hawker for a whole hour, finally buying a flute for 100 rupees. Since he didn’t know anybody who could teach him the instrument, “I helped myself to YouTube tutorials.” By now, Subhash says, he is able to articulate a range of raags. Meanwhile, his comradeship with the flute has become so ubiquitous that his friends call him the “bansuri walla”.
One June evening at this same site, while he was immersed in Raag Shivranjani, a motorist stopped to listen, and ended up inviting the pavement performer to perform on stage. Subhash takes out his mobile and shows a video of that function held at the 5-star Taj Palace Hotel. He received 10,000 rupees as the artiste’s fee.
He again resumes with Raag Bhupali…. oh, it is starting to rain.
[This is the 555th portrait of Mission Delhi project]