Typewriters On The Street: Busking In Bangalore
August 24, 2018
Stepping out on the streets of Bangalore, one never knows what they could come across. From Ferraris zipping past autos and public buses in already traffic-choked lanes to actors and actresses taking up public spaces for their day in the limelight, surrounded by the throng of bystanders who hope to catch a glimpse of them. Bangalore has got it all- a city rife with opportunity for those who seek and choose to make use of it. Amidst that spectrum of possibilities lies a recent home-grown phenomenon with a love and passion for creating and spreading art in any form possible. It all started in the December of 2017.
The old Blossoms bookstore on Church street is as iconic as some of the city’s most beloved landmarks. Having catered to the needs of the city’s bibliophiles for more than a decade this second-hand bookstore has stood the testament of time to bring generations of readers and writers to its steps. It is also on these steps that I met a young man with a typewriter, and his friend, typing out poems and drawing for whoever had the courage to talk to them.
That fateful Saturday, I had gone to Blossoms with my mother to do what any bibliophile who visits the old second-hand bookstore would do- search for hidden written treasures that are easy on a broke student’s wallet. I was well into the first year of medical school and was looking to restock an arsenal of novels to counterattack the occasional dreariness that comes with a medical education. It was just before dusk when I reached Blossoms. The streets were getting lively for the night with the usual “Saturday night out” cheer. Couples were out on dates and men and women were hunting for a haunt to drown their work-life woes. Amongst it all was Rahul Kondi.
Now before I get into Rahul Kondi’s version of busking, and the local movement that has come about because of it, I must first state what busking actually is. Busking, as it stands, is the act of public performance for strangers. This is a rather popular career choice in western countries and those who busk are required to have a specialised busking permit/licence. Busking usually involves playing music in public spaces. However, Kondi wanted to expand that notion into writing for strangers. He has been able to do so as several like-minded poets, writers as well as artists, including myself, have joined in, within six months of him beginning busking. Soon, what started as a simple ‘why not’ not only became a part of his life but also took on a life of its own under #blrbusking which has started to gain a certain following on Instagram.
I met Kondi during his second week of busking, after receiving a personalised poem from him. I began to follow his busking routine via his Instagram channel, which he updates weekly with stories and posts. I began busking with a notebook and pad probably a month or two after he began, whenever I was able to spend the weekend at home. Ever since then, busking has become quite a significant part of my life as well. It took three weekends of busking and the completion of my first year of med school before I could get a typewriter and busk properly.
The idea and routine are very simple. Every Saturday from 5 pm to 7 pm, we, the buskers, come to the old Blossoms Book House on Church Street and we write poems, draw and paint, as well as sing. When it comes to poetry, basically anybody can just come up to any one of us sitting with a typewriter and have a conversation with us about anything from how their day is going to their favourite movie, song, etc or request a poem for their loved ones. Based on this conversation, the buskers will write a poem for you.
This simple idea of public writing and creating art for strangers has garnered itself a space, and anyone who wishes to do so can come and join us. Every Saturday we create art as well as meet people who also share a great passion for art. Ever since I’ve started busking, albeit erratically, this space only seems to grow. Each passing Saturday brings different types of people, with their own unique form of art which they would like to show to the world. Our busking is not just restricted to the steps of Blossoms and, on Sundays, we often look for other locations to busk at.
On several occasions, Kondi, along with several other buskers, has taken to the city airport and busked there. Once, in collaboration with Art in Transit, a city art collective in association with Srishti Institute Of Art, Design and Technology, we were able to busk at the Cubbon Park Metro Station which invoked a crowd and vibe much different to what we were used to whilst busking in Church Street. Sundays also tend to see us seek out art cafes and other places to busk where we have received better receptions than the metro station. One of our most significant busking scenes was at the Bohemian House during their yearly open house which brought together a larger number of artists from a variety of fields. Another was at a pre-TEDx event where a meeting about social media outreach and marketing was organised to discuss the role Instagram had played in spreading the movement not just within Bangalore but also to other cities. Within a few months of the #blrbusking movement taking off, local variants in other cities started popping up, such as Bhubaneshwar where individuals have started busking under #bbsrbusking.
I don’t know whether it was calculated or a random coincidence that I met Kondi that Saturday evening, but it doesn’t matter for, ever since I did, busking has become a ritual for me. It is not just about the busking itself but also the people I busk with- friends who’ve easily become more like family to me.
So, if you’re ever in Bangalore on a Saturday evening, walking down Church Street, do drop by Blossoms for I’m sure you’ll find some typewriters and poets on the street who would definitely create a piece of poetry for you to treasure.
All photographs provided by the author.
Did you know of busking? What do you think of Rahul Kondi’s version of busking? Are you interested in joining the movement? Share with us in the comments below.
Arjun is a medical student by attendance and a writer by excessive daydreaming and world building. He writes short stories and pieces exploring a variety of themes under the pseudonym of Alex Cheshire on his blog.