In rural Bundelkhand, a Lalitpur singer's music brings joy to people who suffer great hardships
Nirbhal Singh Kushwaha, who has received no formal training in music, has brought hope to many listeners in Bundelkhand — a region that has suffered economic deprivation for decades
They say the mark of a true hero is the ability to persevere and smile, even in the face of great adversity. Here is the story of one such hero from the hinterlands – a happy-go-lucky singer from the Lalitpur district of the Bundelkhand region who brings hope and happiness to the lives of the Bundeli people, who are otherwise faced with crippling challenges on a daily basis.
One of the most underdeveloped regions comprising of 13 districts spread across southern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh, Bundelkhand is no stranger to economic and social hardships. Despite having huge reserves of sand and stone – both of which are instrumental in construction and developmental activities – the region has been grappling with acute economic deprivation for seemingly forever. This is because none of the governments so far have ever sincerely or effectively been able to regulate the mining sector in the region.
Instead, they have all been silent spectators of huge multinational corporations depleting Bundelkhand’s mines beyond capacity and illicitly taking away its resources to amass profits, while politicians, the police and the press in the area happily allow their pockets to be lined with money. This has resulted in a staggering economy marked by large-scale unemployment and a dejected population struggling to feed themselves and their families.
In the midst of this struggle and despair, Nirbhal Singh Kushwaha symbolises a ray of hope. Born with a natural talent and a boundless love for music, Nirbhal has been an ardent fan of singing for a very long time. When he was just 14 years old, he made up his mind to dedicate himself to his one passion – singing. Since that day, he has gone from place to place showcasing his talent and bringing a smile to people’s faces – even if it was for only a few moments – through his enthralling voice.
With a twinkle in his eyes, he chronicles his journey, starting from that fateful day when he made up his mind about taking up singing as a profession. “I have always been very fond of singing – for as long as I can remember. Even though I went to school as a kid, I stopped going to school after Class 3. I was not very keen on studying and had a knack for song and music, so I decided to give up my studies and learn how to sing instead. I was not lucky or privileged enough to have a music teacher or receive formal instruction in music. My teacher was simply the power of observation. I would carefully observe people for hours – how they expressed their emotions through their music, how they played their instruments. Soon, I began to pick it up and gradually became good at it. I picked up the harmonium in the same way too.”
Over the years, Nirbhal has managed to bring together a group of impassioned individuals, all of whom share a love for music. The musicians who accompany him play all kinds of instruments – from the banjo to the dholak, manjeeras and nagadas. they have gained immense popularity in the region and the locals invite them to perform at events and gatherings such as wedding, religious festivals and the like. The best part is, not only does he get to do what he loves but also earns handsomely from it. “We earn about Rs 25,000-30,000 from one performance, which we divide among ourselves. I simply love the feeling I get when I go up on stage to sing. There are so many people watching me – big, famous people – and I can see my songs bringing them joy and putting a smile on their faces.”
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