The things people do: Snapshots of lives on the edge of mainstream careers
The road to survival is rough and rambling, often taking travellers to uncharted career paths, but when it is a pandemic year and the work itself is unconventional the course is that much tougher and the future more uncertain.Powerbocking, extreme biking stunts, hip-hopping, freestyle football or simply the art of standing still as a living statue the many varied things people to earn a living and also fulfil a passion for the unusual makes for an eclectic list.
The road to survival is rough and rambling, often taking travellers to uncharted career paths, but when it is a pandemic year and the work itself is unconventional the course is that much tougher – and the future more uncertain.
Powerbocking, extreme biking stunts, hip-hopping, freestyle football or simply the art of standing still as a ‘living statue’… the many varied things people to earn a living and also fulfil a passion for the unusual makes for an eclectic list. After months of lockdown, however, the stars of the unconventional in the pre-pandemic era now find their work space shrinking perilously. Rohan Singh’s worker as a ‘powerbocker’ artist would have many looking for a dictionary to understand what exactly he does. Simply put, it’s the art of running, jumping and doing acrobatics on special stilts. Till the Covid pandemic hit in March last year, the 27-year-old was always on the move – and not just on stilts – as he travelled countries to take part in different events. Ultimate Striderz, the company founded by his brother Rahul in 2012, was India’s first and only powerbocking group, Rohan said proudly. It was also his only source of income.
“The entertainment and event industry faced a massive blow in the pandemic. Many businesses have reopened, but not ours,” Rohan told PTI. He even started working as a sales representative to makes ends meet but that did not work for very long either.
He is trying to stay positive and keeps himself occupied with Instagram videos and work outs to maintain fitness.
It’s a challenge to stay focused on a better tomorrow for so many others as well.
If Rohan uses stilts, Akshay Yadav juggles the humble football with various parts of the body (except the elbows and hands) as a mean of creative self expression and entertainment. The 26-year-old, considered among the best freestyle footballers in India, said he wants to change the perception of football.
But COVID-19 has hindered his plan.
Akshay, who performs for high end events and TV commercials and has spent years honing his art, suddenly finds himself with little work. The man, who shared space with stars such as Salman Khan and Varun Dhawan and earned plaudits from international football players Del Piero as well as Baichung Bhutia, said he was willing to even become a delivery boy.
“Due to the pandemic, all events shut down. International trips were cancelled, shootings were called off… I couldn’t even practice outdoors as all the parks and beaches were closed. All my savings finished and for the first time in my life I had to borrow money from a friend,” Akshay said.
With Covid numbers coming down, things are slowly beginning to look up.
“I have got two movies. I just grab any opportunity and at any price…,” he said.
Like Rohan and Akshay, 27-year-old Pravin too has travelled the world. He came into the limelight in 2016 when he represented India at the World Leisure Games in Chuncheon, South Korea. He was the only BMX rider in the Indian contingent and finished 15 of the total 21 participants.
Pravin, who has fought disapproving parents and indifference to the sport, was just settling down to some glory after the Chuncheon Games when his world came crashing down with Covid.
“All events and shoots were called off… I became a zero from a hero as there was no income. As I was uneducated, I couldn’t get any job. The lockdown has changed my life,” Pravin said somberly.
Girjesh Gaud is proud to call himself Mumbai’s “first living statue”. Gaud covers himself in gold and stands still so people can come up and take pictures with him. Quite like other living statues in global tourist hotspots, a centurion in Rome, for instance.
His first performance was on October 8, 2018 at the Gateway of India.
''I painted my face and costume under a tree and stood still for 45 minutes with a collection box. People were stunned. I earned Rs 800 that day,'' the 28-year-old said.
After trying out various venues, he settled on Bandra. He only performed at Bandra with huge crowds gathering to take selfies with him.
“Then the lockdown happened… parks and beaches were closed. My dress has been lying unworn since January,” he said, adding that he is making do with short videos.
The bright lights of showbiz, now dimmed, beckoned Gladson Peter too. But he strums a different tune – 13 in fact, and all at the same time.
The 24-year-old calls himself Mumbai’s only one-man band who can play 13 instruments at the same time.
“Things were different before Covid struck. I travelled miles for shows and events were on the high. The pandemic has shattered us,” he said, acknowledging the importance of a stable income which in his case came from teaching music.
He has started performing virtually on Zoom and Google Meet events but nothing is the same.
“I run a music institution where we teach the ukulele. Our brand, UKExperience, is one of its kind in India … I’m waiting for the world to open up,” he said.
Having touched fame and recognition, many other artists are struggling.
Gaurav Bhatkar, for instance, left his practice as an interior designer to follow his inner calling. He has painted world renowned-personalities, deities and done abstracts and stylised canvases too, and was getting ready for an exhibition last summer. That didn’t happen of course and he is now trying to sell his works online – without much success, “Three years of my work is lying in the studio…,” Bhatkar, 35, said, hoping for normalcy to return. Like him, Vishal Suryakant Shinde, well known for his eco-friendly Ganpati idols, is self taught. Shinde, who also exports fiberglass idols, has innovated for the Covid times with small eight-inch idols that can be immersed at home.
But business was down by about 50 per cent and Shinde is now earnestly hoping this year will be better.
Ranpise, the founder/organiser of India's biggest hip hop fest The Culture, is a Bboy artist who has participated in global tournaments and worked in movies, commercials, album launches, working alongside choreographers like Remo D'Souza and Ashley Lobo.
Once the pandemic ended it all, Ranpise, known as Bboy Virys, opened a new chapter of life. He started training workshops in calisthenics, weight training, cross-fit and freestyle movements. He is now cooking, and even started his own small catering business -- VR NUTRITIOUS.
As several wise people have said, when one door closes, another opens up. In pandemic times, there are many who looking for that other door of options.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)