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After singing in 12 countries, Mumbai beckons for Russian street singer Yuriy Deli

Meet Russian national Yuriy Deli, who after surviving by busking in 12 countries, is trying his luck in Mumbai

art and culture Updated: Apr 20, 2018 19:58 IST
Russian,singer,Yuriy Deli
Russian singer Yuriy Deli singing at the Juhu beach recently (Photo: Viral Bhayani)

Twenty-three-year-old Yuriy Deli’s globetrotting began in 2015 in Egypt, where he worked in hotels for six months. After returning home to St Petersburg, Russia, he started doing theatre. He says, “When I toured across Russia, I realised that I wanted to travel further. After the tour ended, I bought a laptop, a camera, a guitar, a backpack and a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. When I arrived, I had only $5 in my pocket.”

There’s been no looking back since. After stints in countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Bulgaria, Yuriy is currently in Mumbai, singing on the streets. In fact, the money that people donate to him while singing is his only source of income.

“I started my journey absolutely without a budget. From the very beginning, music was a universal and basic means of earning. Everyone loves music. Just stand in a crowded place, put your hat on the ground and start playing,” he says, adding, “Street music is enough to feed me and my girlfriend, to rent a cheap hostel and get a visa.” Once in a country, Yuriy often hitchhikes to go across different cities and states. “I rarely go by air. We often sleep in a tent and eat in temples sometimes,” he says.

Russian singer Yuriy Deli singing on Juhu beach with his girlfriend, who also accompanies him to different places ( Photo: Viral Bhayani )

Yuriy tells us that food was one of the reasons he came to India. He says, “The first time I tried Indian food was in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. We stayed in a guest house run by Bangladeshis. They had a small restaurant that served Bangladeshi and Indian food. After that, we would look for Indian food wherever we went.”

Other than his singing, Yuriy doesn’t have any other source of income. He says, “I don’t have a credit card and my family in Russia doesn’t support me. There were a couple of incidences when I fell ill and they had to send me money. But, those amounts were less than $50.” While staying in various countries Yuriy managed to get odd jobs. In Thailand, he’s worked as a model and an actor.

Yuriy sings only in English, even in Mumbai, where the preferred language of people is Hindi. He says, “When I flew to Egypt, I did not even know how to say, ‘How are you doing in English’ I just listened a lot and eventually spoke the language (English).” Soon, he will be leaving for Nepal. He will come back to India after saving enough money. He says, “I love everything in India except the garbage that people leave behind. Here, the people are very friendly. I never hesitate to ask anything from locals because I know they will help. For me, life is a movement and I cannot sit in one place. The world is big. I’m young and have the opportunity, so why not?”

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First Published: Apr 20, 2018 18:49 IST