Drowning personal woes in rhythmic beat

Drowning personal woes in rhythmic beat
Highlights

They are the ones who ignite the spirit of the participants at gala functions, events, parties and processions held across the city with their measured beats so that even lay people can’t resist shaking a leg.  And, if you happen to be a reasonably good dancer, you suddenly become a ball of fire.  

No drumbeat for the cause of daily wagers in band troupes

Hyderabad: They are the ones who ignite the spirit of the participants at gala functions, events, parties and processions held across the city with their measured beats so that even lay people can’t resist shaking a leg. And, if you happen to be a reasonably good dancer, you suddenly become a ball of fire.

Such is the magic wrought by trained members of band troupes, who carry the day also during Ganesh immersion, with the charges for hiring them going up phenomenally during the last 4-5 days. Sadly, since they are unorganized, what they earn individually, based on their proven skills, is peanuts when compared to what the persons engaging them, called in local parlance as ‘Band Masters’, pocket during the Ganesh chathurthi.

Band troupes, whose members get daily wages, are brought from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and other states during Ganesh festival every year. These foot soldiers of every band troupe in the city have widely varying experiences in terms of their accomplishments, journey, earnings and sufferings.

During the Ganesh festival, Band Master source these troupes at lowest possible rates, but rent their services to Ganesh pandal organisers at highest possible rates. Arun, a 26-year-old professional brass band artiste from Gulbarga, Karnataka, says that he works for Rs 1,200 per day during the Ganesh festival every year.

He has been coming to Hyderabad for the past few years. He admits that what he gets during the Ganesh festival here is relatively higher than what he earns at his hometown. “I am professional and hence get paid well, whereas others are paid only Rs 800 per day,” he adds. Hundreds of young men and youngsters join these band troupes in the city during the festival time.

Kiran Waghmare, hailing from Beed district in Maharashtra, says that he is being paid Rs 1,000 per day during the festival here. “Our work is very tough. We cannot take rest during the last days of festival. We need to go on foot all along the procession until the immersion takes place in tanks in the city. It’s good pay, but considering the hardships we go through, we deserve more", he observes.

Most of them are not professional band artistes, but daily wagers, farm labourers looking for off-season engagement, students, dropouts and unemployed youth from rural areas. They stay in small rooms provided to them for use during the entire festival season. There are also those who are forced to fend for themselves under the sky, since most of the band owners express their inability to provide them proper shelter and food.

Curiously, local band owners charge Ganesh pandal organizers heavily for hiring the services of troupe, with the rates shooting up during the last five days of the festival. The charges could be as high as Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per person for six hours during the processions.

Ramesh Singh, a band master from Asif Nagar, suggests that things are not all that rosy for band masters either. He says that he used to hire at least 150 persons during Ganesh festivals every year; however, this year he could hire only four dozen persons.

He says that charges during the last five days would be high. He says he must provide food, shelter and other necessities to those hired by him during the festival period. But, there are others among band masters who do not bother about such things.

Bhillu, a 20-year-old farm labour from Vidarbha area, says that he gets Rs 800 per day during the festival period. Notwithstanding the difficulties, hardships and issues involved, the stint here as band troupe member gets him ‘good’ money, he feels.

Prodded to be open, he concedes that band owners here exploit daily wagers. Another farmhand chipped in: “We cannot stop them or ask them to give us our due remuneration; so, we keep quiet and take whatever is paid to us.”

By Mohammed Younus

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