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When you send for the neighbourhood carpenter for odd jobs, you don’t exactly expect to see a singing carpenter.

Dinesh Sharma, generally addressed as Sharmaji, earns his living as a carpenter in Delhi. His beat is the Paharganj area that sits plum between Sadar Bazar in the old city and New Delhi. About a year ago, when I needed a carpenter to fix bookshelves and tanpura stands in my small flat in Paharganj, Sharmaji was highly recommended for the job by a friendly property dealer in the neighbourhood. On the phone, he readily agreed to take up the pending tasks, but failed to show up on the scheduled time and day.

Exasperated, I was about to look out for someone more prompt and reliable, when a dark, diminutive gent showed up one morning at our doorstep, flanked by two lanky young men. It was Sharmaji and his aides asking for a brief on the jobs they were expected to complete. Briefing over, Sharmaji duly submitted an estimate, and was soon ready to get to work.

In the days that he worked at my flat, I did not hear Sharmaji sing. The group worked swiftly, hammering and knocking away as they chatted with each other, sometimes playing popular Bhojpuri tracks on their mobile phones. Job done, bookshelves and tanpura stands in place, Sharmaji received his dues and soon left with the very cheerful and helpful young lads assisting him.

If I was blissfully unaware of Sharmaji’s singing and songwriting talent, he too seemed oblivious of my association with music. But perhaps the tanpura stands made him curious, and led him to make some enquiries about me. A few days later, when I was not in Delhi, he was back with a request.

On my return, I was duly informed that “Sharmajiaapse kuchh baat karna chaahte hain" (Sharmajiwants to talk to you about something). The “something" happened to be an album of Bhojpuri tracks Sharmaji had recorded, and for which he hoped to find a publisher and distributor.

Intrigued, I asked if I could hear any of the tracks, and was immediately handed over a pen drive with six tracks from the album. For me the tracks are not only an illustration of Sharmaji’s singing-songwriting ability, but also reveal the spell that music casts over people from all walks of life.

What else but an obsession with music would prompt Dinesh Sharma, a carpenter from Sohma village in Bihar’s Samastipur district who migrated to Delhi around 1986, to record his debut album, Paas Aa Jaa Re Saanwariya, at Alankar studio in Laxmi Nagar? Like many other independent artistes in the country, Sharmaji financed the album himself, spending approximately 1 lakh from his hard-earned savings. He now awaits a label that will promote and distribute it.

I find myself unable to share the grim reality of the music industry with him—the steadily diminishing sales figures, the manically one-sided contracts that turn artistes into bonded labour, and the complex universe of intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, Sharmaji resolutely looks for opportunities to launch his album in the hope that he will be able to recover the funds he has invested, because guess what? He would like to reinvest the money into recording his second album!

This is the second in a series on ordinary people with a passion for the arts. For the two articles in the series, visit www.livemint.com/highnotes

Read the first in the series

Also read | Shubha’s previous Lounge columns-

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