Busking at Yamini 2023

The write-up is a first-person account by MGNF Fellow Srinidhi Gurunath from Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka

Somewhere in the midst of working for the livelihood workshop, we were told there would be an exhibition-cum-trade show where all the MGN Fellows would be able to exhibit products. Exciting!

A few weeks later we were informed it would be during Yamini, the dusk-to-dawn Indian music and dance concert, held on the eve of Republic Day by the IIM Bangalore Chapter of SPICMACAY. More Exciting.

It was the last leg of the academic modules of the programme and I wanted to prolong my stay at the campus. I arranged for a typewriter and asked for permission to busk at the festival, which was granted. Even more Exciting!

Festivals often provide the forum to forge connections and get meaningful experiences…and I wanted to contribute to that.

The initial idea was to encourage people to spend more time at the MGNF stalls during the exhibition, increasing the scope for connections and as well as purchases.

While being part of BlrBusking, a bunch of us would try and connect with strangers at the steps of the Blossoms Book House in Bangalore. People would talk to us about their day, their relationships, their journeys and difficulties and in return, we would create art for them or type out a poem on the spot with a typewriter. For me, it was a way of rediscovering that we are all more alike than different – especially during trying times.

In order to get more than just products from different districts, I tried to get visuals from the districts. I asked the cohort to share photographs from their districts for making photo postcards. We got 35 fellows to share photographs from their districts – scenery, people, humor, and the like. This soon evolved into another small postcard project where we printed excess copies so that the Fellows could exchange and share their farewells even before our year-long district immersion.

With some help from my fellow mates, we soon had 35 different photo postcards from 35 different districts. I decided to invite two other people from the old Busking team – Rahul, who usually spearheaded any of the busking efforts and Parvathy, who happened to be an NSR Pre-doc Fellow at IIMB. For the efforts we were putting in, the costs of the prints, we adopted a model of ‘Pay what you like’ (used and popularized by my friends at the Broke Artists’ Collective).

Parvathy busking before Yamini started, with the stalls already generating buzz during working hours

On the day of Yamini, I got a table somewhere in the middle of the stalls. Apart from the typewriter and the postcards, I did keep a couple of books as well for those who would prefer not to speak but still hang around.

In the age of the touchscreen phone and ChatGPT, the typewriter and a conversation with a stranger are relics. People are intrigued by the machine, and it starts a conversation. And the conversation often meanders to a point where we talk about the Fellowship. Otherwise, the people I talked to were from some of the districts that some of us work out of. At times, I could give them stories of some of my fellow mates or direct them to a stall which was selling what they were looking for. If not about the Fellowship, the photographs too were good conversation catalysts.

Me trying to figure out what exactly they want to type and send to their friends

Anjali and Swati help a kid get her spellings right as she practices on the typewriter

From 4:30 pm, Parvathy, Rahul and I wrote for more than two dozen people. Some people were interested in the idea and spoke to us and had a go at the typewriter. There were a bunch of school children who composed letters for their friends and family and got it typed out. People purchased the photographs and some stuck around to go through the books. In this enriching experience, I came across three people who had visited the district I work out of and two whose native was that district. These people shared insights and experiences I could not have gathered in field visits or from academic material. I could connect to several other students and workers from the different programmes of IIMB.

Conversing about past Yamini events and other memories with this family

Rahul chatting with Shama while ruminating for a poem internally

The busking, apart from the wonderful and wholesome experience, had yielded us enough money to cover the capital expenses and distribute amongst those who helped. Everyone who helped unanimously decided that the money could be put to better use.

Hence, the humble amount now goes to help fund training students from remote colleges of Chikmagalur in entrepreneurship through a Design Thinking Workshop.

  • I would like to thank my fellow mates Aditya, Bhomiya, Asit and Sai who helped me out with the Postcard Exchange Project, SRAs Anjali and Guruprasad for their support and Prof. Arnab Mukherji who permitted setting up the busking stall. Special shoutout to Rahul Kondi and Parvathy of BlrBusking who took time off and joined me while busking.




Rahul Dé

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