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Living on Music

How a visually handicapped flutist has been trying to prove that he is not a liability for the last 50 yrs.

Dr Nitin Pandey

05-May-2010

The music from his flute may be drowned by the noise of the passing traffic, the scorching heat may be too much for his frail physique but 73yr old Nand Lal Unniyal rarely misses the 6hr duty, he has being doing for the last 50 yrs.

Blind Flutist in Dehradun
Nand Lal with Ashu

A landmark of sorts at the MKP Crossing, Nand Lal, has been selling flutes to make his living for over five decades now. To entice customers he almost continuously plays his flute when he is on his “duty” and is well recognized as “Baba” by almost three generations of local people. Nand Lal however recognizes people only by their voices, because he is blind.

Nand Lal came to Dehra Dun in 1960 to earn his living. Born blind in a village near Jolly Grant Airport, he was labeled as a “liability” & admitted in Blind School, Saharanpur, by his siblings upon the death of his father at the age of 17yrs. He picked up flute playing there and then set out to prove that he could earn his living.

Initially he used to sell flutes in Paltan Bazaar. “In the sixtees, there was hardly any traffic and the music of my flutes used to be heard clearly.” he remembers. Shoppers in the market would stop and applaud his melodies. “People then were very interested in playing the flute and I used to do a brisk business” he adds. Selling at times over two dozen flutes a day in those days, Nand Lal earned enough money to rent a room and sustain himself.

Sashi Bhushan & Bharat Bhushan, two businessmen brothers in Paltan Bazaar, who had been noticing him for years, turned good Samaritans, gave him a room in their house on New Road and he has been living with the family since the 80’s. “Both the brothers have been exceptionally good to me and looked after me in ill health. They even arranged food for me” says Nand Lal with gratitude. Ashu, Sashi Bhushan’s son, says that Nand Lal has been a part of the family and he had grown up listening to his music.

As years passed, interest of people in flutes decreased and Nand Lal now sells barely 5 to 8 flutes a day @ Rs 20/- each. “Most of the people who now buy flutes buy it as a curio” says Nand Lal. “They are not interested in learning the flute. Some want to take a crash course in playing the latest Hindi film songs” he continues. “I tell them to first learn the sargam and then go on to film songs, but in the modern day, who has time”.

With plummeting earnings and increasing age, Nand Lal has been having a tough time making ends meet. From 1990, he has been receiving a Government pension for visually handicapped. “It started at Rs 100/- per month and over the last few years has been 200/- per month. An official comes every six months to give him his pension.” When asked if he would want the government to do more for him, he replied “No, I am sure they are doing the maximum they can. Even the government does not have money these days”. This income is supplemented by donations from local people, who give him a few rupees now and then.

“The message I want to give is that people should not treat blind people as a liability” he concludes. “This is what I have been trying to prove all my life and I think I have succeeded.” he says with a smile.



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Date14-Oct-15
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