CUTTACK: In Cuttack's Mahanga block, Pradipta Swain and Krushna Patunur - both blind and orphans - are today known for their melodious voice and music. They are earning their livelihood from music. The story was completely different five years back.
The two artistes did not know the ABC of music and struggled to make ends meet. While Pradipta hails from Jagatsinghpur, Krushna belongs to Rayagada.
They along with 28 other blind orphans from different parts of the State have formed two music troupes - Mahaveer Sangeet Jhankar and Maa Dakhina Kali Bhajan Sandhay at Chapada village under the Mahanga block.
Bringing them all together is a blind couple Bibhuti Bhusan Senapati and Rubina Panda of Malihata village nearby. The couple has ensured that the differently-abled persons get a dignified life. While 38-year old Bibhuti is a teacher, his 32-year old wife Rubina is a trained Hindustani vocalist from Utkal University of Culture.
Bibhuti who was born blind passed matriculation from Louis Braille School for the Blind in Bhubaneswar and did his Plus Two and MA from Ravenshaw College and University respectively. He went on to pursue a law degree from MS Law College and BEd from Radhanath Institute of Advanced Studies at Cuttack.
He met Rubina in an exhibition on World Disability Day in 2013. They fell in love and decided to marry each other despite opposition from their family members in 2015. Two years later on October 2, Bibhuti - who faced several roadblocks in pursuing his education - set up Dibyanga Charitable Trust to help differently-abled persons by facilitating their education and employment.
In the last five years, his trust has been able to identify and motivate 45 blind orphans from across the State to pursue education and make them self-reliant. Four of these 45 have completed their matriculation and 14 have got married.
Rubina trained all of them in music. After undergoing training, 30 blind orphans formed the melody troupes and are now earning their livelihood by performing songs and bhajans in and around Cuttack district and outside.
Although their business was hit due to lockdowns and shutdowns due to the pandemic in the last one year, things were managed by Bibhuti who is a contractual teacher in a government high school nearby. He used to spend a majority of his salary of Rs 16,800 to meet the basic expenses of all the 30 artistes. But with the situation improving, they have now started getting programmes again. Each troupe consists of 15 persons.
While Maa Dakhina Kali Bhajan Sandhay takes Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000, Mahaveer Sangeet Jhankar charges Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 depending upon the time of performance and transportation charges. Mahaveer troupe has good quality musical instruments and comprises skilled artistes who organise shows at distant places whereas, Maa Dakhinakali has semi-skilled artistes and is preferred by locals.
On what prompted him to start the trust, Bibhuti said he had to sell newspapers at Cuttack railway station for pursuing education in Ravenshaw. "Many of my friends, who were also differently-abled, had to drop out from Plus Two because of their poor financial condition. Some of them turned into beggars. Hence, I decided to start the trust to help them and others like them," he said.