Homeward bound to the lilting strains of the sarangi on Mumbai's locals

Satyanarayan Iyer Mumbai | Updated on February 25, 2015

Mukesh and Bharat make a living on Mumbai's locals by entertaining travellers with their prowess on the sarangi, a traditional musical instrument of Rajasthan.

Mukesh and Bharat with their sarangis.

Evenings can be irksome for Mumbai’s denizens who have to jostle with teeming crowds to board a train after a tiring day at work.

The only comforting thought at the end of the journey being to snatch some time with family and friends.

But train regulars in the first class compartments on the city’s Central and Western line have one more thing to look forward to — soulful music from Mukesh and Bharat as they play their sarangi.

Hailing from Rajasthan, the duo have been soothing frayed nerves in the evenings with their deft play of the classical instrument for the past seven years.

Heads turn and commuters cut incoming phone calls as they tune into an enchanting live performance. 

Mukesh (19) and Bharat (26) put their classical skills on display every evening and on good days earn as much as Rs 400 each from patrons who have come to enjoy their music.

The moment Mukesh rolls his bow on the string, the crowd on the Kurla-bound train is mesmerised.

Badiya bajaata hain,” says Hareshbhai, a passenger as he sways his head, shuts his eyes and rolls his head back soaking in the tune. It is this classical un-winding expression of the artists’ tunes that makes them endearing to travellers. 

In fact, these musicians are always welcomed into the train compartments, as passengers make space for them to create magic on their instruments.

Mukesh is often accompanied by his friend on the Central line, who uses a tin box as his make-shift dholki, while Bharat prefers to go solo on the Western line. Mukesh and Bharat were introduced to the art by their respective fathers who came to Mumbai some three decades ago. Much has changed since, but the cousins continue to live where their parent first brought them — alongside the suburban Khar Road railway station, by its walk-way.

 While Bharat’s father is no more, Mukesh’s father has returned to Rajasthan due to ailments. “Our ancestors have been playing the instrument for long...our fathers came to the city to further the art,” Mukesh adds.

Their ancestors specialised in traditional Marwadi Sangeet but coming to Mumbai changed all that. Bollywood had its influence and traditional music gave way to Hindi film songs.

Bharat says they play devotional songs for the elderly, old Hindi songs for the middle-aged, and the latest numbers for the young.

However, it is the timeless “ aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum,” which wins much appreciation, adds Bharat.

Their live show in a compartment lasts at least 30 minutes, and commuters who get off in between quietly slip Rs 10 into their pockets. The two work their instruments for roughly four hours in the evening and travel over a 100 km in the local trains.

 The aim is to entertain people and be known for the art form, says Mukesh. “We get some small assignments intermittently in colleges and housing societies during Navratri,” he adds.

Bharat is confident they will get a big break to take their art to a larger audience, as they make their way home and continue to live and entertain in this city of dreams.

Published on February 25, 2015

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