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It's Tough Being A Musician In Mumbai, Thanks To Housing Society Rules

It's Tough Being A Musician In Mumbai, Thanks To Housing Society Rules

They held a building meeting to throw me out.

It was a bright sunny afternoon in my hometown in Calcutta. My mother and grandmother were sitting hunched on the porch of my old Zamindar house, located in the north of the city, picking out mangoes. Some to be pickled, some to be boiled in a thick sugar syrup with black sesame seeds. The Gulmohar tree that stood gallantly at the entrance over the large white iron gates to our house had consumed the atmosphere with its pleasant fragrance. I sat playing with my train set when my father walked in with the house help Komol Da, teetering behind him with a large brown carton as my father swayed a hi-hat stand. Such was the prelude to me acquiring my first drum kit almost 17 years ago.

Years have passed since I sat in the unnecessarily large house I grew up in, banging the Tom recklessly as my family members clapped like mad-men to the cacophony I used to make. Cut to the restless knocks on the doors of my dilapidated Mumbai flat where I am successfully playing the new single released by Mutemath.

I am 24. I moved to the city of dreams a year ago, with hopes pinned on my heart and the ambitions of every downtrodden, under-achieving, under-paid Indian musician. I knew that it would be hard to settle in a house that was no larger than our second living room and to live without the many comforts of a privileged millennial. But I came here with a dream, and that very dream has become the reason for my eviction from this pigeonhole dungeon I live in. It’s an irony I cannot tweet enough about.

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After a three month long period of shacking up with friends who were kind enough to give me a corner of their equally small houses, I finally managed to find a flat in an antiquated building in Yari Road. And a landlord with a dead Tabla player father who allowed me to rent his forgotten abyss of a flat out of nostalgia and bias in equal measure. True that the plaster crumbles and falls off my bedroom wall every time my girlfriend bangs the door too hard and storms out of the house angrily, and the many holes in the kitchen have turned it into a playground for ants and lizards that I can’t seem to keep away from the food. But these are not my worries.

Within a month of moving in, I received more letters from the society than Hilary Swank did from Gerard Butler in P.S I Love You, intimating me about the ‘nuisance I was creating’.

Before the lease or the keys were handed over to me, I stood with my head bowed down like a charged felon, answering the multitude of questions that were hurled at me during the society meeting and I was only ruled “not guilty” after I agreed to the contingents to my tenancy. This was the promise to not play the drums at any time except 4-6pm. I have stuck to my commitment, so much so that I shoulder the additional cost of a three hour session at a jam pad thrice a week along with that the gruelling task of travelling to Malad East where the pad is.

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Six months have passed since I was accused of being a nuisance for a nuisance I wasn’t creating, until the situation boiled up to the massive (anti) climax of the society calling a meeting to evict me from the building.

Music haters. Image source: hindustantimes.comMusic haters. Image source: hindustantimes.com

As I stood amidst a group of chattering men and gossiping aunties, gleefully wasting my time with the seasoned patience of a nagging Vodafone Customer Care caller, I struggled to physically restrain myself from banging their heads against each other. My landlord, now my only accomplice and advocate, begged for silence and sensibility from our immediate jury. He began his speech making a strong case in my favor, picking out the goods from my now tarnished image.

“He pays rent on time, keeps house clean, he has helped Mrs. Dhobale carry her groceries. We should let him stay”

Mrs. Dhobale was beginning to form some words of acquiescence with her wrinkled and parched mouth when Mr. Gulati (the third floor ex-army man with a husky that should audition for Game of Thrones) unleashed a fresh bout of criticism with the words, “Mr. Murawala, your tenant maybe a good tenant but he is not a good neighbour for the rest of us. We should not have to deal with his tamasha simply because he pays rent.” As Mr.Gulati twirled his moustache heaving with pride for having made such a valid argument, the rest of the jury nodded their heads in agreement.

Mrs. Rehman, whom I share my living room wall with chimed in with her annoying squeaky voice, “Our kids cannot study with the noise.”

As the dissenters gained fresh momentum, my advocate’s case crumbled under the weight of their complaints. Mr.Murawala looked at me with an apologetic face indicating I was going to have to fight my own case.

“When we had the society meeting you all agreed to me playing the drums between 4 and 6 p.m. I have been doing that. If it helps, I am willing to play at any other time that is suitable to all of you. I have in no way breached the lease or the law. I have been patient and kind to all of you and now I have reached my limit. If you want me to leave, take legal action,” I said with so much force and assertion I think I scared myself a little. (Why could I not talk to my girlfriend this way?)

Having used all arguments without sense against me and having no further sensible insinuations, my jury sat shifting uncomfortably in their seats. That’s when Mrs. Roy came forward and said the words that explained the real reasons behind this six month long trouble I had been facing. “Dekho Dhrubo, tum ko draamz bojana hoye, tum bojao. But now our kids want to play the drums just like you – this isn't our culture, this isn't our music. This is noise.”

As the Yari Road Housewives’ Association agreed with a unified nod I realized that the entire issue lay somewhere else altogether.

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It has been six months since this incident and I continue to live in Mr. Murawala’s dungeon with the crumbling plaster that has been crumbling more speedily since. I’m waiting to see what happens when the monsoon starts.

Today in the small space of my living room I conduct drum lessons for the kids from my society between 4-6 pm. As it turns out, little Debo Roy has proven to be quite the talented drummer. He found his own solution with his mother in agreeing to Sunday morning Rabindra Sangeet classes.

 

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.

By Dhruv Chakraborty
Cover photo credit: haiderhussain.weblog