No band, baaja with baraat: When life strikes a discordant note
Bookings with lakhs of rupees paid in advance have been cancelled and workers of band owners have returned to their hometowns and villages.Updated: Jul 10, 2020 11:57 IST
Weddings are now simple affairs due to the Covid-19 outbreaks, without band-baja and limited baraat, leaving musical band owners in the tricity virtually penniless, with some of them taking to selling vegetables from their workspace to tide over the crisis.
“Initially I waited for things to improve, but when we were on the verge of a breakdown and had nothing to eat, I decided to sell vegetables,” says Surjit Singh, owner of Hira Band in Manimajra.
Outside what used to be his workspace, where he would book clients for weddings and his team members would gather to practise musical numbers, Surjit Singh now keeps containers full of bottle gourd, tomatoes and potatoes.
He has to now get up as early as 4 am to go to the mandi and buy vegetables.
The family is surviving on whatever little he manages to earn, which he says is “enough for our meals.”
DEFAULTING ON RENT
The losses have been enormous. “We had received bookings worth Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for March, April and May. But because of the Covid-19 outbreak, all events were cancelled and I have been left bankrupt. I have not paid rent of around Rs 30,000 for stores where the band’s musical instruments are kept,” he adds.
Walk into one of the rooms and you see scarlet uniforms of the band members piled up in one corner next to trumpets and drums, all gathering dust in a room that is under lock and key since March 22, the day lockdown begin in Chandigarh.
Dharamvir Chihan, 47, owner of Durga Band, too, has had his finances drained because of a year’s advance payment of Rs 16 lakh to 20 men working for him. All of them have left for their homes.
“In this business, agreements are signed in advance and a huge percentage of payments are made at the beginning of the financial year. I had just paid my workers in advance when the lockdown was announced, because of which bookings of Rs 6 lakh to Rs 7 lakh were cancelled,” he says.
Every year Chihan’s band signs contracts to perform at about a 100 weddings, with business peaking from October to February and then from March to May.
Chihan has also defaulted on his monthly rent of Rs 20,000 for storage space for musical equipment other items belonging to the band. “What is bothering me is the uncertainty. No one knows when things will normalise. I have a brother and only know how to work in a band. Where will we get the money to start another business?”
Sustained by hope
Amit Kapoor, owner of Mohali Based Harish band has also started selling vegetables. About 25 of his bookings were cancelled due to the lockdown. His band members and other workers, too, have left for their hometowns and villages.
“We are hoping that work will restart from Janamashtami in August. Or else, we will have to change what we do. As of now I will continue to sell vegetables. I have to feed my children.”
His only concern is that if the pandemic continues he will not have any money left to care for his family and six horses they own and hire out for wedding processions.
There is no hope in Sanjay Sihaan’s voice when the owner of Krishna Band of Chandigarh says, “there is no business.”