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The citizenry of this country shows we can stand united: Anil Srinivasan

Concert In The Dark in aid of the visually challenged, 100 Days 100 Songs to help build a school for children affected by the flood… Using his craft to serve the needy isn’t new for Anil Srinivasan. Starting with the #playitforward series he launched last year with his musician friends to help migrant workers, Anil has been busy raising funds for different organisations since the start of the pandemic.

As we catch up with him, he begins the conversation with the most recent initiatives he has been involved in. “One fundraiser happened on Saturday, for which I collaborated with actor Kunal Kapoor, author Amish Tripathi and Chef Vikas Khanna. We did masterclasses to raise money specifically for the supply of oxygen. The proceeds are going to the Hemkunt Foundation. The second initiative is to raise funds for people who are providing free food across Chennai during the pandemic. Many of them are running food banks, but they also need to be funded. I’ll be starting it next week and it will be called #FoodOfLove and done in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Madras,” he says.

The pianist has just concluded another series, #OneHopeOneSong, highlighting the work of nine different organisations each day. “I played a song, and then spoke about the efforts of one specific NGO each day. The organisations were essentially the ones I personally knew and have been involved in, like Samarpana. I chose them because I know for sure they have been making genuine efforts in relief and rehabilitation of a large population,” he adds.

Reflecting on how these crisis situations — be it the 2015 floods, cyclone Vardah or the pandemic — bring people together, Anil says, “Last year, when we started #playitforward for Chennai-based NGO Bhoomika, I had no idea we could raise `11 lakh in 11 days. I remember, there was an anonymous donor who gave us a lakh or two, and said, ‘I want to bless Anil’. I still don’t know who that person is. People had that kind of faith in us — that we were doing something good and it would ultimately reach the needy. The citizenry of this country is always showing that we can stand united and it’s very heartwarming.”

USA for Africa, Band Aid… globally, there are charity supergroups by musicians to raise funds for different causes. Ask Anil if our artistes can emulate something similar and he replies, “Musicians themselves are in a state where they need help right now. Gigs and recording sessions haven’t been happening and nobody even knows when all this is going to resume. So, things are very tight for musicians. So, I wouldn’t expect too much at this point. But having said that, I know several top playback singers have been doing a lot to raise money. For instance, Chinmayi is doing it and all the proceeds are going towards COVID- 19 relief measures. During the first wave, Srinivas brought together a lot of singers and musicians under one banner and raised a lot of money. Many are still doing it. But honestly, the need for the musician community itself is quite a lot now.”

Meanwhile, despite his experience raising funds in crises, Anil feels things are much different this time, during the second wave. “There seems to be no finite ending for this pandemic. During the floods, we knew that we would be back to normal in about a month, or, even during the cyclone, for that matter. Those crises were all time-bound. This one is not like that. And there’s only a finite amount of help any human being or an organisation can do. Also, you have to watch your own health. So, it is different,” he says with a sigh.

And this is when festival event organisers should use their platforms to raise funds, he opines. “They could start using their platforms to host musicians like us who are willing to perform for free, but to raise money for causes. It will amplify the message a lot more than us doing it individually. The second thing is, the government itself can do it. Many of us have been recipients of national awards and things like that. It’s very easy for the government to reach out to those artistes and arrange a collective initiative to raise funds. So, we should use bigger and better platforms to reach out to as many people as possible,” he signs off on a hopeful note.