Delhiwale: And then there was music...
A musician talks about his pre-Covid-19 life and what is now the ‘new normal’.Updated: Jul 21, 2020 12:26 IST
They have left. His partner has gone back to her family in Jaipur, and he has returned to his parents’ apartment in Gurugram’s Sector 30. “Everything has changed... it’s like our whole world has crashed down,” he says, talking on WhatsApp video.
Indeed, musician Sidharth Gupta, 26, could no longer afford the rent of the second-floor barsati they had been calling home for almost a year, in Malviya Nagar in south Delhi. His resources quickly dried out as live performances, occasional assignments for music production and guitar tuitions had to stop when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country. As soon as the long lockdown was lifted and the Delhi-Haryana interstate border was unsealed, he gave up the place.
Now, at his parents’ home in Gurugram, where he was living until one year ago, the music man is trying to pick up the pieces of his pre-corona life.
In hindsight, those Malviya Nagar days in the BC (Before Corona) era seem like a dream, a kind of life belonging to artistes devoted to their passions. Sidharth would wake up around 9am. Mornings would always pass in a flurry of household chores that he would divide with his partner—jharoo pocha (sweeping) and cooking. Their terrace residence had two rooms, one of which he used as his “home studio”, and had filled with guitars, synthesizers, keyboards, speakers, and processing equipments.
Lunch hour would come and go and as soon as the clock would strike two, his bandmate Utkarsh Varma would arrive by Uber, from his home in Greater Kailash II. Sidharth and Utkarsh have been friends since their school days in Delhi’s DPS RK Puram, and both specialise in electronica and hiphop. They co-founded a band—Shoals—two years ago, and they also produce music for clients. Together in the barsati, they would spend hours creating music scores while Sidharth’s partner, who works in the academia, was usually busy with her own work in the other room. If the daylight outside was changing with the passing of hours, the two musicians wouldn’t know — the home studio had heavy thick curtains drawn across the windows, and the light within was always the same. They would call it off by 8pm, and Utkarsh would leave, except on evenings when they had planned a get-together with common friends. Then, they would all sit in the barsati terrace outside, their bare arms smeared with Odomos cream to keep off the mosquitoes. Those were pleasant nights of chitchats, beer and impromptu music.
That used to be the life back then.
In the ongoing pandemic-ridden days, Sidharth keeps working with Utkarsh, of course, but they interact over the internet, working separately from their respective houses and exchanging recordings from computer to computer as they move on. He also continues to teach a few students individually through video calls, and takes on projects that can be carried on remotely, such as mixing or production jobs.
“But the thing with music,” he says, “is that it is very important to feel the energy of your bandmate right around you.... and yet we have to adapt and change the way we work.”
In the new normal, Sidharth says, “my routine involves a lot more practice on the guitar, as I had slowly lost my connection with the instrument when life was busy with lots of projects and jobs.” After practising for a few hours, he eventually shifts his focus to the various commissioned projects.
Later, in his room, Sidharth poses for a photo shoot through the phone screen that connects him to this reporter. He sits on the edge of his bed littered with his laptop, synthesizer and all sorts of other instruments, and starts playing the guitar. Rest is music.