We take an in-depth look at Artists for Artists, an initiative in Mumbai, India started to facilitate artists with basic necessities like grocery and medication during the Covid-19 lockdown. With Mumbai running into its sixth month of lockdown, the initiative has been providing artists with grocery kits with supplies that last for almost a month, and more.
Being an independent artist or musician in India comes with a fair amount of struggles. For musicians, when an industry as big as Bollywood eats into most of the commercial music reaching the masses, they find solace in releasing their music to audiences who are listening to them. They also turn towards live music, which is their primary, and possibly, only, source of income. Other artists like actors are completely out of work, with live theater performances coming to a stand still.
Considering the ban on public gatherings during the Covid-19 lockdowns worldwide, some musicians turned to live performances on the internet through social media and live streaming platforms. Certain sites like Skillbox, MyScoot and more even created the ability to host ticketed online events.
The problem is, online shows haven’t been working out the same as club gigs would, given the many limitations to work with. Much of the audience is in the hope of the lockdown being lifted soon. With all of this weighing down on artists who were already struggling to make a living, Artists for Artists stepped in.
The initiative in Mumbai helps artists with groceries, medication and essentials during the pandemic. In May 2020, an artist in Mumbai attempted to commit suicide. Seeing this, A4A founder Prince Mulla was able to take the person to the hospital on time, and the person recovered to health. The reason for this attempted suicide was economic and hunger-driven. This led to an understanding that there are many others in need, pushing him to start Artists for Artists with the help of some more like-minded people.
At present, A4A procures groceries at wholesale prices from retailers, packs them, and dispatches them across Mumbai, Mumbai Suburbans, Navi Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar. Following this, the on-field artist volunteers pick up kits from delivery trucks and distribute them to those in need. Prince added, “We also have a truck and delivery personal hired for areas where we don’t have volunteer support.”
A4A makes an average of 250 grocery kits every week, which is around INR 1,75,000 worth groceries. Across Mumbai, they travel an approximate of 1200 km every week. So far, they have managed to help over 3000 artists with grocery kits worth Rs. 700 each. These are said to provide a person with 85 nutritional meals. The grocery kit includes rice, dal (lentil), poha (flattened/beaten rice), atta (wheat flour), sugar, tea, oil and salt, which will last for a whole month. Besides groceries, more than 14 people have got healthcare support as well – Covid patients, surgeries, accident care and medical expenses have been taken care of.
A4A has a core committee of 4 people, working daily with 172 volunteers to keep this chain functioning smoothly. Many artists themselves deliver these kits to fellow artists. A truck is sent to specific locations where artists come, and fill their cars with kits. They are then given a list to deliver to. One of the volunteers, Ritu Rathod, happened to be friends with A4A founder Prince, who needed help in the Vasai-Virar area to deliver some kits. An NGO Ritu was already associated with, allowed them to use their car on some weekdays to deliver these groceries. Ritu mentioned, “This initiative went beyond singers and musicians, reaching out to actors, dancers, makeup artists and more.”
If you are an artist looking for help, A4A maintains confidentiality and you are more than welcome to ask for help, because they are here for you. If you are willing to extend your support too, you can always get in touch with the team on their helpline number 9022238000, or you could make a donation to their website – www.artistsforartists.in to contribute towards providing people with basic necessities monthly. You can opt to buy kits or even donate any amount you see fit.
We wish Artists for Artists good luck in their endeavor and commend the work they have been doing. Find them on Instagram at @a4amumbai.
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The information in this article was gathered from the Artists for Artists website and interviews with A4A founder Prince Mulla, and volunteer Ritu Rathod.