The solitude of a gang where art does not pay

Rajesh takes his guitar, Shreyas hums to get to the scale of the song, Vishwa plays few chords and rambles few notes to set the tone of the music that is to be played. Three friends under the orange streetlight graced by the December night breeze in the deserted main road of a street surrounded by a three-storeyed supermarket, a five-star hotel, and a long shoe store entirely hiding a playground that could host a five by five football tournaments play music below the 2 A.M night sky with some passerby as audiences which they don't care about.

This might sound like a situation for struggling street musicians in the streets of London but in India, it is not a common occurrence. On the contrary, these three have their own day jobs perhaps the only job they want in their lives that pays their bills.

Rajesh has his own event management company, Shreyas is a photographer and on few occasions collaborated with Rajesh on few occasions, Vishwa is a graphic and a web designer, all coming from humble households who started their business from humble clients helping people around in their own area.

These jobs may sound fancy where you visualize them walking into an office holding a Macbook air under their arms but that is not the case. Shreyas and Rajesh now may own a Mac system due to their client expecting a sublime quality of work due to their display of portfolio Rajesh still takes care of his event activities and day-to-day tasks using just his smartphone.

All three make sure now to book only a client a month. The only thing common amongst the three guys jobs is that all three involves travel. They take their musical talents with them and make sure to perform in the streets or if they are lucky on a stage. So they work fifteen days on their business and fifteen days performing music in cities and in several different towns and villages.

Now from a business perspective what these guys are doing might sound erratic to guys reading this who are working in the business sector or have their own business. They don't care.

They put enough effort into their businesses for their survival and to satisfy the social approval needs of their parents. They don't put much thought into what others think about their social status. One big responsibility they have delegated to their parents is that to answer the friends and relatives about why these three won't get married until they feel the need to.

Let's be honest here for a second. These are nomadic art people living a minimalistic lifestyle and making it a point to do something that fills their hearts. Since college, they have been the same. Three hooked up through a music club. Became close due to very similar music interests and similar pursuits in producing music that is cathartic to them and also brings a deep sense of reminiscence to the audience listening to it. They start with covers of popular songs and insert their original compositions in between their performances leading to the cover of another popular song. Well, you also need to give people what they want.

They were popular in college for performing on stage during several events though not everyone was keen on listening to it they played for the sake of it. They participated in every inter-college cultural event under the sun.

But friends around them always thought they were going to achieve something big in music or collaborate with big-time musicians when they graduate. This enabled them to create a fantasy that when they leave college they are going to get a job, pursue music on the side and get an opportunity as soon as possible maybe within a year or at least regular paying gigs that supported their livelihood.

When you are out of the shell and face the real situations one realizes that it becomes excruciatingly exhaustive to do any other activities initially when you get a job. For these three who made it a point to score the bare minimum to get the degree getting great jobs is completely out of the way. Fortunately, they realized that art even as a side gig did not pay even the bare minimum.

Now with art, you either hit it big or be a pauper when all you do is art. Again this is not the case for everyone, there might be someone reading this going “I have succeeded in pursuing art full time, its all about the mindset bro.” I am talking to the majority out there.

They were tired, under stress, not familiar with the effort required to keep the job, and the mental toll it takes with all this it seemed that they were going nowhere with music. For two years they were playing gigs at restaurants, bars, looking for chances to collaborate with musicians but all of this worked to the bare minimum who results were negligible and they had to depend on their jobs to pay the bills. Now two years is very less when you are in the pursuit of achieving big in art, but in the middle-class scenario where they reside, that may not be accepted as certain things had to happen at a certain time.

They need to earn a certain amount of money before they turn thirty. They should be married before they turn twenty-eight. They should be doing something that their parents can boast proudly to their neighbors and to people in a social gathering. People who pursue art are seen as vagabonds living erratic lifestyles with booze and women. Even though these three don't care about what others think of their pursuit their parents do because they got to face people, who ask them what their children are doing, on a regular basis.

The three during a quiet Sunday evening parked their motorbikes by the lonely tea shop in the deserted street and came to a decision. They decided to embark on businesses and learn skills that will enable them to travel and give them time to spend on music and in turn make them earn enough money for their parents to walk the streets with a straight proud face devoid of shame. They decided to learn the new skill every day and also play music for the sake of it. They did not force themselves to get gigs or opportunity. They made the music they loved and that also the young ones in their streets liked. They booked restaurants and bars once in a while.

It has been six years since that Sunday evening. They make it a point to work hard for six months save up all the money and spend the rest of six months dedicated solely to music. Now they have even decided to work for twenty days a month and submit to music for the rest of ten days. They do play music every day though, but now people are calling them for events, and they are able to book gigs in different locations.

Yeah, one must be able to do only one thing and pursue that life long. But to be pragmatic there is a thing called money. We need to decide how much is needed for our survival and dedicate our lives to doing a job that earns some and do the art that fills our soul ’cause for the majority art does not pay.

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