The Story of a Bhopa
PUSHKAR. INDIA. 2014
The story of Rampal, a Bhopa living in Pushkar, Rajasthan is a sad one. Bhopas are folk singers who used to perform using a bowed stringed instrument called the Ravanhatta for the villagers of Rajasthan in front of a scroll depicting folk tales. This performance was considered a healing ritual and involved the whole village. Now the Bhopas have no home, and live in poverty in tarp tents on the outskirts of the village making money by playing for music for travelers passing through.
I first saw Rampal in Pushkar Market, a busy street around the ghat of Pushkar Lake where cows, stray dogs, vendors, people- both local and foreigners, musicians, dancers and various artists live together in total harmony. He was playing his ravanhatta for a young Australian couple, mainly bollywood songs but they didn’t know that and it didn’t matter and he made ₹10 at the end of a 20 minute long performance. But he invited us over to his little tarp home docked in the capricious desert sand anyway, to eat under the starry night sky, in the warmth and light from the glowing red embers from a perished fire. Two chapatis shared between four of us with a little potato, served more on our plates than theirs, of course.