A nomadic refuge in the heart of the City
Tucking his bhapang (a stringed percussion instrument) in his arms, he releases the chord attached to the ghunghroos on one end and a small drum on the other. The music that emits induces you into a state of trance. Adorning a dotted red Rajasthani pagdi, Jagpal mans a stall at Palika Bazaar’s parking rooftop. Waxing eloquent about the naturally grown beads found in the forests of Aravali mountains, this jogi informs his buyers about the auspicious/beneficial qualities of chirmi beads, almost with the charm of a veteran tradesman. Even as Delhiites saunter into this little nomadic corner, one wonders what brings these nomads down to the Capital. Read on..
“Our core idea is to bring nomadic culture into the local space, and not just keep it into the confines of museums. This fair exemplifies that we want to reposition their local culture in a contemporary context, promoting it as a livelihood concept,” says Meenakshi Vinay Rai, who runs CHINH international cooperative. Acquainting Delhiites with the nomadic lifestyles in an ethnic setting, CHINH collaborated with NDMC for its centenary celebrations and brought together a vibrant Nomadic Fair and Festival.
At the drop of a hat, the tradesman in Jagpal gives way to the jogi as he impressively plays his bhapang, drawing an audience in his direction. “Palwal, Haryana se hun mai,” tells Jagpal, adding, “There are instruments like bhapang, iktaara, available for sale in his stall.” Coming from the States of Haryana, Rajasthan and border towns of Uttar Pradesh, these nomads have created their own special niche in Delhi’s Connaught Place.
Travelling over the years for filming documentaries on nomads, Meenakshi understands the nitty-gritty of their culture. Elaborating on the musical instruments at the fair, she explains, “Bhapang is made out of a fruit called tumri; you wouldn’t be able to find it in the cities. And there’s a one-year long process that goes into making the rounded base of an iktaara from what they call a kadwa kaddu (pumpkin).” Sharing stories of these musical instruments, a student stands beside a musical installation everyday and engages with the visitors to create awareness about the nomadic culture. Other instruments that intrigued us were Daf (a drum) that the banjara community takes out only during the Holi festival, and an unnamed musical instrument lying in a secluded corner that is said to be used for witchcraft.
Amidst the stalls decorated with vibrant hand fans and nomadic attires sits 17-year-old Binod from Bawariya community, making baajra rotis on an earthen stove. He jovially challenges, “Your Delhi homemakers cannot make these delicious baajra rotis the way we do.”
Taking a bivouac in this fair, surrounded by stories of folklore, mellifluous sounds of music and rustic food, a visitor finds a peaceful refuge from the maddening pace of Delhi. The fair is on till January 4.