The singer, who has given us soulful numbers like 'Tum Se Hi', 'Tujhe Bhula Diya', 'Kun Faya Kun', and others, talks about the healing power of music, and the need for people to show love and compassion in these difficult times
The last few weeks have been agonising for India, which is battling a deadly second wave of Covid infection. Having been brought to its knees by the severity of the situation and with the country’s vulnerabilities exposed, celebrities have been doing their bit and using their influence to help with resources, funds, etc.
Among them is singer Mohit Chauhan who, in a recent exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, stated that for those who “have the power to influence discourse, or reach out to a whole lot of people, this is a real service that one can get involved in, at the moment”.
The singer — who has given us soulful numbers like Tum Se Hi, Tujhe Bhula Diya, Kun Faya Kun, and others — talked about his association with the crowdfunding platform Donatekart, the healing power of music, his pandemic experience, and just how much he misses a live concert, among other things.
Excerpts from the interaction:
The past few months have been extremely tough for everyone; how have you been coping?
We’re taking it one day at a time, trying to be prepared — as much as one can under the current circumstances — for the worst, but hoping for the best. We’re trying to stay positive, helping anyone and everyone we can, staying indoors, sanitising and masking up.
Tell us about your association with Donatekart and Nivesh — what kind of relief measures are being undertaken?
We’ve launched ‘Project Bajrangi’ to help the country; it is being crowd-funded from the DonateKart platform. Nivesh is the NGO which is running the on-ground work with me. I’ve been associated with both DonateKart and Nivesh since the last lockdown, when we fed 150 stray dogs in our vicinity, who were locked inside the city forest without food. With Nivesh, I have a longer association as we host cultural programs together.
This is such a sensitive time and we want to do everything we can to help, with people who are trustworthy and transparent.
Project Bajrangi comes from a space of personal loss. We had a civil work contractor by the name of Bajrangi Maurya. A wonderful man, full of integrity, honesty, discipline and polite to the core. He had been working with us, overseeing the renovation of our house for two years. And we lost him to lack of oxygen; that shocked us. We then started a small SOS group which includes our common friends for helping Covid patients, too.
In the past few days, we have been able to help people get oxygen cylinders, concentrators, N95 masks, oximeters and sanitisers, purely as donation through DonateKart. We are also helping frontline workers in Delhi Police and hospitals, and other needy people.
You are quite active on Twitter where there is a flurry of urgent messages every minute. How would you describe the power of social media in such difficult times?
Through my Twitter handle, I have been amplifying every little SOS that has come my way irrespective of being tagged in it or not. Who knows who might read my retweet and get the help they need. In most cases it’s worked — that’s a big consolation.
Covid, unlike a flood or a drought, does not make it possible for you to step out of your home to help people. But you can amplify a call for help if you have that kind of reach, or even otherwise.
Everyone doesn’t have to raise money or feed others. Help people by making the right noises on social media. Someone somewhere will benefit from that. So social media is a great SOS and relief tool, which should be used to amplify compassion and love, and not hate. The other way people can help is by verifying the information before forwarding, as valuable time is lost in a crisis if wrong numbers or exhausted resources are circulated.
What would you say about the power of music in bringing peace to people, and helping them heal mentally and emotionally?
Music certainly has the power to heal and connect people, give them a sense of peace and calm in times of distress. It touches the heart like no other art form. But right now is too despondent a time to even be able to play music.
I have, however, released a new video/song on my social media that I sang a while ago at home. It’s an old Kishore Kumar sahab, Lata Mangeshkar ji, RD Burman ji, and Rishi Kapoor sahab‘s classic ‘Kahin Na Jaa‘.
The song conveys a message in a subtle manner — that we must stay put to stop the virus from spreading. It also urges people to spend time with their loved ones. The video of the song, although shot at home, has messages popping up that urge people to vaccinate, mask up, share and donate.
It’s an emotional, unplugged rendition attempted to provide this broken world some solace and balm for its wounds.
Since its release, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people my rendition brought them calm and peace. That’s the power of music and I believe this song’s reach and effect on mental health proves music can repair a lot of what is shattered.
In the pandemic, what has been your regular routine?
It’s a little different from the usual. Earlier, a lot of my time would go in recording for films and otherwise in professional studios, meetings, jamming with my band, travelling, and other things that I did in my personal life.
Now, professional life engagements have come to naught. There are no recordings in professional studios, except recordings that I can do and have done for professional work from my own studio. No meetings or jam sessions are happening with the band. No concerts at all.
I spend my time playing my own music, which I used to do even earlier. I do that more now. I also cook sometimes, look after my pets, do some gardening.
A large part of my time — since March 2020 — has gone into feeding stray dogs and other animals in the Jahanpanah city forest. That takes about three to four hours of my time every day. We have now set up a trust for the welfare of animals, called ‘Animals Are People Too’. Animal welfare work is more streamlined, but also more hectic.
With the start of the second wave [of Covid infection], the home sounds like a helpline centre, where we’re [working] from 6 in the morning to 3 at night.
How have you been keeping healthy?
I walk, do yoga and also cycle. But these days, cycling is out. I have one Labrador for a pet and two young Indie rescues. They keep me up and running. That’s more exercise than I can actually afford.
People must do what they can for themselves at home. Since you must not go out, do yoga at home and keep yourself positive and hopeful. The pandemic will leave everyone’s mental health in tatters. Don’t let your heads and hearts fill up with sad thoughts. One has to work to stay positive. Do that. Keep yourselves involved in things that will keep you busy and make you feel better mentally.
Do you miss the stage?
Oh yes, I do miss the stage, the energy of live concerts, the love from the audience in those live gigs. I did many digital concerts last year and early this year and those were amazing, too. But there’s nothing like a live concert with people singing along. That is sheer magic! I miss it like I miss travelling to the mountains.
What are your hopes for 2021?
I hope for a more generous world, a more compassionate world, a world where we care for each other and love each other.
This pandemic has made one thing clear: life and the business of living is uncertain. If so, then why don’t we spend our living moments, loving each other spreading joy and peace? After all, it can all be over in a minute.
What’s the point of chasing materialistic achievements? The virus doesn’t spare anyone. Why not look for more meaningful stuff to do? I like looking after animals, trees, rivers, and fellow humans. I hope this pandemic passes over with very little loss and damage.
I hope life comes back to normal soon once we can vaccinate everyone and then there can be reunions and shared happiness.
Your parting thoughts…
Help each other. Help everyone you know and don’t know. The post-pandemic world will need a lot of hand-holding. Let’s give that strength to each other. The only way to find courage to go on is to be together, feel the pain of others and assist them in overcoming it.
It’s easy to get disheartened when we’re alone, but if we stand with each other, this too shall pass.
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