Last weekend, when the inimitable Usha Uthup took to the Live in Lakes stage at Rabindra Sarobar in Kolkata, the open-air concert and cultural event series saw its highest ever attendance. Well over a thousand people lapped up Uthup’s lilting pop melodies and waved torches—about a hundred of which were handed out to the audience by the singer herself.

Uthup, the Live in Lakes organizers mention, performed without remuneration, even paid from her pocket, and looked every bit the part in her trademark attire of sari and “Kaw" bindi, a hat-tip to the first letter in the Bengali spelling of the name of the city. It all seemed to be a perfect fit with her much professed love for Kolkata.

Live in Lakes event with Usha Uthup.
Live in Lakes event with Usha Uthup.

As part of the Live in Lakes series, theatre, music concerts, photography, zumba and salsa shows have been organized in an effort to repossess an important public space.

While many public parks and outdoor sites are in a state of disuse or ignored by the citizenry, “we’ve tried to revive the romance of being at a public park and even keep children away from their iPads and video games", says Mudar Patherya, a green activist and communications professional who has spearheaded the effort.

So far, it has been a citizen-driven effort. Having tried out similar initiatives earlier, this time Patherya opted for the crowd-funded route and collected 9 lakh from 50-odd individuals; each of them paid anything between 5,000 and 25,000, “expecting no recognition" in return. While the Kolkata Improvement Trust, the custodian of Rabindra Sarobar, has provided the open-air venue for free, the lake area revival project has been propped up essentially by people.

Popular bands and musicians like Lakkhichhara and Uthup have performed without charging a fee. Others have offered vastly discounted rates.

In between popular acts like folk-world music artiste Arko Mukhaerjee, the Bangla band Sohor, Nikhita Gandhi (who has sung for A.R. Rahman), jazz veteran Carlton Kitto and Uthup, the series also hosted the Kolkata Youth Orchestra, which introduced to the green zone strains of Mozart, Anglo-Indian singers, who performed pop music, and flautist Robin Das, who played the Bhairavi raga for morning walkers.

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