Snigdhajit plays the guitar at home. Pictures by Shantanu Misra
The short flight to Dubai, where he was crowned champion at a musical competition, had a long journey from Buniadpur behind it.
Snigdhajit Bhowmik, 22, a resident of Buniadpur, a small town about 60km from Balurghat, won the gold medal at the Third Cultural Olympiad of Performing Arts 2013, held in Dubai in December by the Pune-based Global Council of Art and Culture.
Last year, the contest was held in Bangkok.
Snigdhajit was judged the best solo singer at the contest that had 27 competitors from different countries taking part. It was a long and hard struggle to the top.
Learning music was not easy in a place almost 450km away from Calcutta. Singdhajit didn’t have money. And he faced great opposition from family members — his late uncle, a prosperous farmer and a Congressman who was the breadwinner, did not like the idea — when he said he wanted to become a singer.
Snigdhajit’s father, the family says, was mentally unstable and he stays at home.
“I started singing when I was just eight years old. I used to practise on a harmonium, but it was sold off by his uncle who was against the idea of a career as a singer. As he was the bread earner of our joint family, his words were law,” says Snigdhajit, a graduate in Sanskrit from Raiganj University College.
For a few years he had to stop singing at home. He practised at his friend’s house. “Only my mother backed me at that time,” says Snigdhajit.
“My son always dreamt of becoming a singer. But we could not afford the training. It (the win) was the result of his effort,” says Pushpa Bhowmik, his mother.
As a child, he had trained with local singer Reba Bose in classical and semi-classical music. He got his first break when he was judged first in an episode of a singing competition organised by a private television channel.
“During that competition in 2010, a person attached with The Sound of Music Academy of Salt Lake, Calcutta, took me to the institute where I came in contact with the masters of classical singing, such as Pandit Ajay Chakrabarty and Jayanta Sarkar. They taught me the technical aspects of singing,” Snigdhajit says.
“The institute did not charge money. But still, it was not easy for me to stay in Calcutta as I was almost penniless. I used to go to the institute once a week and stay on for a few days. The cost of accommodation and food was borne by people to whom I shall remain grateful for my life,” says Snigdhajit.
Last year, Snigdhajit took part in a national competition organised by Akhil Bharatiya Sanskritik Sangha in Pune in May. He topped the junior category. It was a big break.
He was asked to go to the Dubai contest held by the international wing of the organisation. But he had no money.
His friends Gautam Sen, Arup Singha and Amit Deb, and two other persons from Raiganj and Malda helped him with cash. “When I heard that he had stood first in the Pune competition, I decided to help him reach Dubai. I know that he has potential to do something extraordinary,” says Gautam Sen, member of South Dinajpur zilla parishad and a lawyer.
The boy landed in Dubai on December 28.
His winning number was a Punjabi classical song, for which he was awarded a gold medal and certificates by a board of three jury members at the Kilachand Studio Theatre in the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac).
“To become a singer has always been my passion. To rise in my career I need to settle in Calcutta. But unfortunately I can’t afford to. So I will stay in Buniadpur and take up the challenge of establishing myself as a singer,” he says.
For now, Snigdhajit earns a living by singing for a local band.