People, when beset with the pointlessness of a 9 to 5 routine, often take to dreaming of an escape. Quitting their job, grabbing a backpack, heading out on roads less trod. Meeting people so incredibly inspiring and seeing sights so uplifting that everything they knew about life is changed. Forever and for the better. And that’s where the fantasy ends as we grunt in response to the shrieking of an alarm clock or a demanding boss. Or so goes the story we are all fed to ensure a grudging loyalty to monotony.
Debojyoti Nath, however, managed to forsake that loyalty and break out of the mindless interaction between phone and computer screens that was replacing actual human communication. He took on the avatar of The Busking Man and got people to look up from a glowing LCD to watch him strum out a tune. And he did it in all 29 Indian states becoming the first one to do so. He started with….well, he tells the story better :
“I was working for Radio City 91.1 FM in Delhi and saw a lot of mindless violence and fighting all around me in the city, in India and pretty much all over the world. After I left Radio City I started working for ScoopWhoop.com as their Social Media Manager and realized first hand how human socializing and interacting was getting limited to their phone screens or laptops. I was also going through a difficult phase in my life where everything around me was falling apart and where I wanted to do something I loved. And one evening it just hit me that I should take my guitar out to the streets, play my music and spread the message of Peace and Love and be the change I want to see happen in this world. I love music and travelling and meeting new people and making them happy in whatever little way I can. So I decided to start busking in Delhi while working. My first busking session happened on a Sunday at Connaught Place on a November evening. I busked a couple more times in Delhi with an amazing response and soon after decided to quit my job and busk all across the 29 states of India within 7 months before I turned 30 on July, 2015. I started busking from the 1st of January 2015. Everything fell into place, I would play music on the streets, I would in my own little way talk about and help spread the message of peace and love and also travel and meet new people. It was the perfect amalgamation of all my dreams.”
And so it began. But, of course, anyone wishing to replicate his lifestyle is probably wondering about the pitfalls of busking in a country where its not a thing ( and by “not a thing”, I mean a lot of people don’t know the word exists). Debo however says a potential busker has very little to worry about :
“Considering that busking is something unheard of in India and never been done on the scale I was doing, it actually wasn’t difficult at all to busk in India. The only difficult thing for me was when I first set out to busk. I was insanely nervous and scared and had no idea how people would react. But once I took out my guitar and started playing, everything was super fantastic after that and the people loved it too even though it took them by surprise. So the only difficult thing for me was to convince myself that I could actually do it and let go of all inhibitions.”
And he has met other buskers, though not too many. He jammed with one in Mumbai, met two others in Delhi and found a few in Darjeeling who regaled the skies with the sarangi and were singing traditional folk songs.
But there is more to Debo’s art than merely eschewing the shackles of repetition inherent in everyday existence. It emphasises “peace and love” and uses the much-spoken of topic of conveying harmony and espousing the undesirability of violence. To quote the man himself :
“Everything I did while on my busking tour had everything to do with peace and love. Peace and Love is not about being hippy. Peace and Love to me means that people live in harmony and not harm or kill each other. Like I once said, I’d rather see people holding hands or people kissing on the streets and being there for one another than people holding guns, sticks or stones and killing each other. Wherever I busked on the streets across India people came to me and would ask me about the little Peace and Love placards I display and I tell them the same and till date each and everyone agreed to the fact that this world could use a little peace and love. This is the age of advertisements and so I think it be fair to say that this was my way of advertising and endorsing peace and love. I strongly believe there is hope in this world which is plagued with depression and fleeting humanity and it doesn’t take much to be kind and caring to one another. And like the Dalai Lama said, the planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
And it has been rewarding. Turns out, if you give the world a chance and open yourself up to it by taking a chance, its not all that bad. When asked about Debo’s memorable experiences, he had plenty to say :
“…every place was memorable in its own way. The thing is that every place comes with its beautiful memories. My memories range from bridging religions, to composing impromptu Hindi songs in the North to connect with people, to playing songs for children still suffering at the site of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, to meeting some of the most amazing people along the way who shared their lives with me, to having an eunuch slap me and then become friends, to playing bhajans for the old women at an old age home, to meeting and singing with the kids at Dharavi, to meeting fellow buskers and jamming with musicians in a train, to shooting an impromptu jam with a French guy in Goa, to helping raise over Rs. 5000 within a span of three hours for the Nepal Relief Aid in Darjeeling, to meeting Rudy Wallang and Tipriti Kharbangar of the famous Indian blues band Soulmate and spending my most memorable time with them, to playing songs for an auto rickshaw driver in his auto, to reaching McLeodgunj with just Rs. 250 and having the best time there, to being detached from the world of technology when my phone stopped working which was a blessing in disguise, to simply taking a shower under a waterfall in the wild!”
So, one can’t blame him when he articulates his affinity towards the life of the busker in the following words:
“Busking gives me the pure unadulterated joy of connecting with people through music. It is freedom in the purest form to me. Busking also helps me become a better performer, because its not just the music itself but how you present it to people and how you keep them hooked.”
And he’s reaching hearts, because he has been all over the country. While he asserts that every location he has crossed has been “fantastic”, he singles out Bangalore, Delhi, Shillong, Darjeeling and McLeodgunj as the top 5. Future buskers, heads up?
Debo admits that the life of the busker isn’t for the majority, especially since the majority are led to believe in the sacrosanct nature of the stagnant, unchanging, predictable existence that is unfairly idolized. But if one did try it…
“If there are people who would love to adopt the busking life, I can assure them that it will change their life in many ways. But personally I would love to see more buskers in India and not just playing music but doing all sorts of performing arts like painting, dancing, street plays, comedy, tricks etc. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see an outburst of art on the streets? I remember that I would tell people to make the streets their stage. People could go about doing their jobs and taking care of all their family or personal business but hit the streets for a couple of hours on weekends or whenever they have free time. It would certainly bring back the glory of human interaction and socializing and not just limiting all these basic human traits to just a screen.”
And it has certainly changed his life. To the extent that now, he cannot imagine it without taking the guitar out on the road. He might be on a hiatus after a 7-month sojourn around the country, but as he puts it :
“I don’t think I will ever stop busking. I will keep busking for as long as I possibly can and whenever I feel like it. That’s the best part that whenever I want I can just take my guitar out and hit the streets and start playing anywhere.”
Don’t get him wrong. It wasn’t all flowers and unicorns as he traipsed across unknown lands inhabited by unfamiliar souls. Fear was real. But so was faith in people.
“There are always safety issues everywhere but I also try to remain cautious and careful as much as I can. I have to be honest that I was a little scared when I was travelling all through the North East and also in Kashmir. But once I was in those places the people were very kind to me and I never faced a problem anywhere. The thing is if you approach people with genuine kindness and love you will always get that in return. People everywhere have been exceptionally kind, loving, supportive and caring to me.”
The romance of Debo’s busker’s life seems far too poetic to belong to the laidback guy who, in his words:
“I keep telling my friends or anyone I meet to take a break and enjoy what life has to offer and pursue what you love doing the most. I love listening to music almost all the time. I love watching a lot of documentaries and I love reading too. I have a keen interest for reading about or watching biopics of successful people and understanding what drives and motivates them. Apart from all this I would love to be an avid listener basically meaning listening to people talk about their lives, issues and problems. “
This apparently contradictory individual has had his share of revelations :
“One thing I realized during this busking tour is that there are loads of people who just need someone to listen to them. If people could open up more about their worries and troubles and talk about themselves, it would cure many people of depression. People need that release. So during this entire tour I became the perfect stranger for most people to open up to and pour their heart out to me. I would love to do this professionally someday, so fewer people have to depend on anti-depression medications or visit psychiatrists. I strongly agree with the quote from the movie Into The Wild which says “Happiness only real when shared.” I just want to see people happy.”
Framing himself into an informal therapist inviting people into the confessional chamber of his music might be the attribute that most succinctly provides a glimpse into the change enacted within him by his movement towards freedom.
And freedom it is, to pursue interests more conducive to a world less terrifyingly abhorrent. He leaves one, and only one message for anyone that has listened to him singing ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Cant Help Falling In Love’ by Elvis, ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, ‘Redemption Song’ by Bob Marley, ‘Shaam’ from the movie Aisha, ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ and some of his original compositions like ‘Love Is For All’, ‘Nafaratey Bhulao Yaar’ or ‘Let There Be Peace, Let There Be Love’. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a reasonable cliché, one we could really profit from paying greater heed to :
“always follow your heart and reach for your dreams because there can be no greater happiness than that. And you should always follow your heart because it will never steer you to the wrong direction. I wish everyone loads of love, peace and happiness.”
The Busking Man in his element:
Support him by visiting:
Facebook page: Facebook.com/thebuskingman
YouTube Channel: YouTube.com/deetornadokidd
SoundCloud Page: Soundcloud.com/debojyotinath
And watch out for the book that he is planning to write!