They Finished My Home ground, says Nalin Yadav who is not getting stage to perform in Indore
Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — For the last five years Nalin Yadav worked his way up to emerge as the top name in Indore’s stand-up scene. He set up an event management company that would become the go to name for comics looking for a break.
But one incident changed things upside down for Yadav. Now he is unable to find space to perform in the city whose people he amused with his jokes for five years.
“I have approached many people who I had worked with previously but they have refused to provide me venues for my shows,” Yadav said in an interview with Clarion India.
On January 1, Yadav was arrested alongside fellow comedian Munawar Faruqui and three others by Madhya Pradesh Police on blasphemy charges; a Hindutva activist Eklavya Guar and his band of supporters disrupted a stand up show at a cafe in Indore when Faruqui took to the stage. They accused the comics of making “indecent” jokes over Hindu deities and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Faruqui came out of jail on February 6 following bail by Supreme Court while Yadav’s custody dragged on for 20 more days and he was eventually released after spending 57 days.
The incident hit global headlines and sparked a huge outcry as activists cited the case to argue that artistic freedom in the country was under threat. It also brought a spotlight on Faruqui, with many saying that he was targeted for his Muslim identity and garnered huge support.
But for Yadav, even making ends meet has become a struggle. He is forced to work as a labourer in factories in Pithampur, an industrial sub-urb in the outskirts of Indore where Yadav lives.
“I work on a daily wage basis, 12 hours a day, three days a week to meet my expenses including court hearings,” says Yadav, “Some labourers are paid Rs 500. I get Rs 200-300 a day. I chose to do the easy part because my body cannot bear hard labour.”
Like Faruqui, Yadav is also an orphan. He lost his father a few years ago and his mother passed away four months ago. He lives with his teenage brother who was also detained in the case.
It’s been now a month since he came out of jail but, except for one or two opening acts, he is yet to perform. Even his friends have not been able to help him much.
He said when he was in jail he kept himself positive with the hope that people outside would be waiting for him to perform. But instead these 30 days he has been unwelcome by everyone he approached.
Though dismayed, Yadav says, he understands their situation to refuse him a platform. “How can someone put his lakhs of investment at stake for my show,” he says, adding, “I don’t want to put them in trouble.”
He has not tried to explore beyond Indore owing to limited resources. “I am not a big artist who can afford to travel to big cities, he says. “It will be tough for me to settle in a metropolitan city like Mumbai or Delhi.”
To reach a bigger stage Yadav has left it to the luck; “I will keep up the work, it will just take one video to click and go viral, then I will travel and perform outside Indore,”
He considers himself a ‘local comic’ who worked hard to make a name and fame on his home turf.The stand-up scene in Indore is small but Yadav before his jail had performed in more than two dozen cafes.
“Because of standup comedy I am popular in every college and evey cafe here. I had earned this fame through hard work for the last five years,” he says. “They finished my homeground.”
But Yadav is not ready to give up yet. He has been regularly approaching event organisers and cafes and some have even agreed to host him–albeit limited to open mic.
“This is the only work I know. I have given five years of my life to it. I can not make a shift to some other field now.”