Singers of hope

This energetic bunch of artists, draped in red shirts and Dhothies worn in the traditional style, and anklets with bells, under the Praja Natya Mandali has brought in a new flavour to the Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha in Andhra Pradesh.

“Laal Salaam, laal salaam, laal salaam.
Yeh Bharat desh hamara hai,
Yeh laal jhanda hamara hai,
Yeh mazdooron ka aur kisanon ka jhanda hai.
Aur is jhande ko laharana hai.”

Sings this group of five at the public meeting to welcome the Jatha in Nizamabad accompanied by drums swinging the audience to the rhythm of the tune.
Kalyan and Krishna, members of the CPI (M) and part of the group come from backgrounds almost similar. Both wanted to be actors in Telugu movies and reached Hyderabad to struggle for almost four years and acting in small roles that one would never notice.
Then the duo came across activists of the Praja Natya Mandali or PNM as it is called. And for nine years, both are a permanent fixtures in any party activities in the region. “I am a full timer. And I want to work for the party as much as possible. We are very proud to present our songs here,” says 34 year old Kalyan, who can sing, act, dance and play drums.
Cultural movement associated with the party has brought comrades like Kalyan to the mainstream, thus adding a new flavour to the party that is gradually expanding its base in the state. “I want to do this for as long as possible. It helps me to work for the party as well as do what I like,” says Krishna, proudly wearing a T-shirt, which has CPI (M) written on it both in English and Hindi.
According to both of them, people are really suffering with jobs and livelihood hard to find. “We can bring some cheer to the people who are otherwise suffering. That makes us happy,” points out Kalyan.
In Nizamabad, a municipality of 5 lakh people, two lakh are beedi workers and they are facing the prospect of losing their livelihood. Most of these two lakh beedi workers, who get a paltry sum of Rs 150 for 1,000 beedies, were weavers not so long ago. But when the looms stopped working due to the antagonistic stand by the government, they turned to rolling beedies from their home. And most of them are women. Now, they are really staring at extinction.
The duo of Kalyan and Krishna are, optimistic. “These are difficult times. But it will change. We will be able to bring a change,” says Krishna humming a revolutionary song again. “Laal Salaam, laal salaam, laal salaam,” both of them do a quick round of singing and a little bit of dancing.