Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Slum kids enthral passersby thru their extraordinary talent

Those of us who were moved by watching the movie Slumdog Millionaire would be surprised to learn that right amidst us is a group of slum kids who come together regularly in a cemetery and play musical instruments made from used materials, entertaining the locals while struggling to make a living.

Watching them wearing those soiled knickers with hair disheveled and casting nonchalant looks, one could easily mistake them as a bunch of rag-pickers one so often sees near the street corners. But they are a musical band of ten talented slum children who can play over 31 varieties of music with their instruments — all made by themselves from discarded items collected from garbage! Empty paint cans, writing pads, tin plates, torn leather are some of the materials they use as their musical instruments.

Their skills, completely self-taught, have come a long way from tapping away on classroom desks during breaks to observing the elders in their community play in the courtyard. They have honed their skills by practicing on the drum sets they themselves have created.

They exhibit their talents during school functions and on occasions like Ganesha festival. These children, with their extraordinary talents on drums, enthrall cricketers who come to play at Manasagangotri grounds, who after listening to their drum beats offer some small change as tips. Without spending it on anything, the kids are saving this money hoping to buy some real instruments.

They stay at Kudremala, a slum near Manasagangotri, adjacent to AIISH-Panchavati.

Whenever they find a piece of scrap that can be used thrown away in the courtyard, the kids collect them and turn them into small instruments.

The team comprising of ten members is led by Suresh who is studying ninth standard in the nearby Government School.

Ganesha, Karthik, Manuvardhan, Kantharaj, Kiran, Sharath, Raju, Darshan and Anand are the other team members. Being fans of Vishnuvardhan, they have named their troupe as Vishnuvardhan Sangha.

Speaking to SOM, Suresh said, "Whenever we don't have classes and if there is a cricket match on Gangothri grounds, we all assemble there and play our assorted instruments. After listening to our music, some will give money. I give away ` 1 to everyone and keep the remaining amount with me hoping to buy a musical instrument in future. We have collected ` 200 till now. Once we bought a new drum, but it is now torn."

These kids are equally good in playing Kamsale and performing Yogasanas too. They even beat drums while performing various acrobatic stunts like climbing one atop the other, lying on the ground, completely bending backwards or sideways.

"When I was studying in fourth standard, my father once took me to perform at a Ganesha festival. After the show, I was paid `150. Thrilled by this, I decided to practice it and motivated others to join me. Now we have 10 members in the troupe. We made our own drums by picking empty paint cans thrown near garbage heaps and covering it's top with buffalo hide. A trader named N.S.Kumar who sells drums helped us by giving the hide freely. We use dried plant twigs as sticks for beating the drums," explained Suresh.

He is equally good in his studies and also in drawing and dreams to join the Police Department while others are dreaming of becoming Music Directors and singers.

Speaking about their practice, Suresh says, "Our neighbours will scold if we practice near our homes. So we come to this open ground near our school whenever we need to practice a new rhythm."

Not all these kids attend schools. Raju, one of the troupe members has left school. He goes around homes doing odd jobs and earning money. He gives some of that money to Suresh. Suresh is well aware that they have to study well in addition to playing music well.

Lend a helping hand

If anyone having a broken or discarded drum can kindly spare it, these kids will use it to practice, as purchasing one of their own is beyond their reach. Also if some good samaritan comes forward and teach these upcoming young artistes who are very much talented, they lives will change forever.

Suttur Seer offers help

Meanwhile, Suttur Mutt Seer Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Swamiji, on learning about these talented children, has agreed to enroll them at the JSS Public School at Suttur which is providing free education to children from rural families. The children, irrespective of all religions, castes, creed or section, are provided schooling along with hostel accommodation.

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