The Optimist Citizen

An Orchestra formed by the beggars on railway station : Swaradhar


What is the thought that comes to your mind, when you find beggars on the streets, at traffic signals, at railway stations, in the local trains, etc? Give them money, food, or talk about beggary racket? While all efforts to rehabilitate them with freebies and work has failed, little do the beggars know, that their power of transformation lies hidden in them.

In May 2010, Hemlata Tiwari on her way to a musical show, caught the sight of two beggars sitting and singing on a platform at Panvel station. Like others, she also felt pity on them, gave them some money and went away. But while watching the brilliant performances by well established artists at the show, she suddenly remembered the music produced by the beggars at Panvel. Sensing the analogy, she felt that while both the beggars and the artists produced ‘music’, their auras and audience were different. While one performed on a railway platform, getting appreciation in the form of petty amount of money from the travelers, the other performed in huge furnished auditoriums getting appreciation in the form of applause, respect and fame. This unusual analogy which remains unnoticed to many, bothered her during the entire show.

Hemlata Tiwari, Founder of Swaradhar

On her way back, she interacted with few beggars singing and playing worn out instruments at railway stations, and asked them if they would like to perform at a bigger and better place. The beggars, for whom this had always been seemingly impossible and unexpected, did not believe her at first. But after several attempts at convincing, she could finally get them together and started training in music. But finding a suitable event and stage for them to perform, was another major challenge. Hemlata spoke to the organizers of several Ganpati Pandals, and after overcoming many challenges, got the beggars team an opportunity for an on-stage musical performance.  For the first time in their lives, the beggars performed, not to beg, but to experience the thundering sound of applause.

Thus SWARADHAR, an orchestra of musicians from railway platforms and local trains, was born. Performing regularly at Ganpati Pandals, places of worship, during festivals and other occasions, Hemlata gave their Swar (music) an Aadhar (foundation). Its enthralling performances leave the audience amazed, and in turn the orchestra is lauded and appreciated by people in huge numbers. This initiative has been able to provide respect and social inclusion, to one of the most neglected sections of the society. It has been able to recognize them as ‘Artists’, instead of ‘Beggars’.

Swaradhar Team at the TV Show ‘Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi’

The quantum leap in the journey of Hemlata and the artists of ‘Swaradhar’ was showcased by a TV show “Aaj ki Raat hai Zindagi” on one of the National Channels ‘Star Plus’, where it got immense recognition and praise. Dressed in red and white, the talented artists performed brilliantly at the show. Hemlata said that the people who initially did not support the idea, have shown a great positive response after the show. Those who were once found begging on railway platforms, acquired the fame of celebrities.“The confidence and the enthusiasm on their energetic faces, fills me with satisfaction and contentment”, says Hemlata.

Her innovative thought of channelizing the talent and energy of the beggars in a positive way, and providing them a dignified platform to showcase their talents, showed the world that transformation does not always require huge resources. It only requires a different perspective and innovative approach to bring TRANSFORMATION in the lives of many.

Story by : Piyuli Ghosh  |   Compiled by : Nikhil Sharma

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