The music of charity: Chinmayi sings in exchange for fans' donations to needy
Singer-voice actor Chinmayi Sripada has been singing on request, in return for donation to the needy
During these past few weeks of lockdown, some celebrities have turned to fitness, some have begun binge-watching OTT shows, some have taken to books… Chinmayi’s days, meanwhile, have had her making recordings of songs, in exchange for proof that those who are making the request have donated to the needy. Given that this conversation happened late into the day, I imagined she would be exhausted after many hours of taking song requests. But her liveliness was reminiscent of a Captain America line: "I can do this all day."
The idea, she says, was drawn from all the requests she usually gets. “Through the year, for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, people usually make such requests to singers. Fans have made some unique requests over the years, like asking me to say, “Hi Karthik... Phone-a edu”, so they can use it as their ring tone. Initially, I found this to be interesting and sent it to a couple of people. There were too many Karthiks though, too many requests. It occurred to me recently that I could use this gift to encourage donors to help the needy," she says.
Soon as the lockdown began, the singer started getting requests for financial assistance. “I sent money from my personal savings, but it was clear that I would not be able to help them all. Apart from the requests I get through social media, I am also collating a list of the bank accounts of families in need with the help of friends and well-wishers.” This initiative, of course, is dependent solely on trust. “I think it would be unkind to cross-check whether the people who have requested are really in need, especially during such times. I trust people. The transactions are made by donors directly to the accounts of the beneficiaries. Once a family's need gets met, I begin sharing account details of the next."
The singer, through this initiative, has apparently learned so much more about the struggles of the underprivileged. “The situation is bad, but even still, I didn't realise how worse it is for some sections. The initiative has opened my eyes. Many are not able to pay their house rent, while house owners who solely depend on rental income have no option but to ask for it. Such complications exist everywhere."
The inititiave, she says, has given her purpose. “Singing about a hundred songs every day is demanding, but I do my best.” The exercise has also demanded that she learn a lot of new songs. “Sometimes, people ask me to sing really old songs. So, I learn it, get used to the tune and perform it. I don’t want fans of such music, usually the elderly, to be disappointed by imperfections in my version. It takes me about 45 minutes to complete such requests." Among her most memorable dedications recently is of a person who had her sing to his aunt. “It was an old song, from a black and white film. I found later that my song was the last thing she heard before breathing her last. I didn't know how to react when I heard this. I was quite overwhelmed."
As one can imagine, many of the requests she gets are those between young couples. She bursts into laughter, as she talks about how she’s almost turned matchmaker for some. “I get requests for many love songs, with requests that I finish the song by saying, ‘X loves Y’. I also get requests from some who want me to say, “Ungalukkaaga indha paiyan eppovume kaathutu irupaan”. I draw a line there,” she says, laughing.
Asks if the initiative will stop when the lockdown ends, she says no. “I guess I can do this for the rest of my life. There will always be people in need. So, I guess I can help NGOs. Pannalaame, enna ippo?”