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A buck, a busker

Busking: Busking is the practice of performing music, dance, juggling, magic, and similar activities in public places to entertain passersby and solicit tips. People engaging in this practice are called buskers. Busking is a British term used in many areas of the English-speaking world and in former British territories. In the United States, buskers are more often called street performers or street musicians. Some buskers only work part time, while others make a full time living performing on the streets…. Read more on Wikipedia

I had a Sitar gig last night and by the time it ended, it was past midnight and it was also raining. I stood outside the Queen subway station, waiting for the streetcar (tram) for almost 20 minutes, not quite enjoying the drizzle. My Sitar was tucked away safely under some large window frame.

3 moderately drunk white boys arrived at the streetcar stop and looked curiously at my Sitar bag. It was well past midnight on Friday, so I wasn’t surprised at all.

“Hey, what is that?”
“Its a Sitar”, I said non-enthusiastically. I get this question often.
“Woooowh! I never thought I would see a Sitar for real!”

And then they spent next 5 minutes asking me questions about the instrument. I was surprised that they knew so much already. I promised to show them how it looked like once we were in the streetcar.

“You must play it too”, he said
“HUH ??”, sounded like a crazy idea to me.
“Yea man, and I will pass my hat around. You can get your bus money back!” (he took off his hat to show me how)

So we got into the streetcar, full of sweet party people (drunk people are usually fun). The guys couldn’t wait to see how a sitar looked and they oohed and aahed when i took it out of the bag. Most of what I played wasn’t legible since it was quite noisy around but I think they liked it anyway. After I was done, there was some clapping and the guy took his hat off and passed it around.

Nobody put any money in it, haha.

The guy was disappointed more than me. I guess he didn’t want me to be a musician who doesn’t get tips after he plays. Then the sweetest thing happened. His buddy put in a dollar. And they passed the hat to me.

“Here!, Great show!”

And folks, that’s how I earned my first dollar on the street playing music.

Published inSocial CommentaryWhat am I upto?


  1. 🙂 🙂 I am feeling so nice to read this FT, cant stop smiling!!!

  2. Thanks Gauri! For two things – the smile and for calling me FT. It brought back sweet memories 🙂

  3. 🙂 performing live is always something else , no amt of money can change that

  4. voww cool, I didnt know you played sitar. That must be really cool. Im taking beginners guitar lessons and last weekend I was joking with my roommates how I shd go and play in the downtown white the guitar case is lying on the sidewalk. But Im sure people would have beaten the crap outta me instead of tipping. Im a terrible player for now 🙂

  5. Prax: Yes I totally agree. Nothing better than a smile on your audiences’ faces.

  6. Maverick: Thats great 🙂 Happy learning. We’ll jam whenever we meet.

  7. Priyank this is the third time I tried to access your site and this time I was successful! I have a slow internet connection I think and now, early sunday morning, it’s usually faster. But your site does take time to laod.
    Priyank, this is a great post. I read it twice, I liked it so much! I will come back to read your travel posts again, you have already posted 3-4!!

  8. Congrats! 🙂

    I want to learn playing Veena and when I inquired a few, they said they teach only on weekdays and I am free only on weekends 🙁

  9. Thanks for your comments Nita. I will look into why the site is loading slowly, and I think I know why. You read it twice? wow 🙂 I hope you enjoy the Peru posts too.

  10. Thanks Manasa, you’ll figure out a way to learn. Veena is difficult!

  11. Nice story! Never came across the term Busking before…

  12. Raji Raji

    Keep up the spirit !

  13. Shantanu: Thank you, I learnt this term only an year back or so!

  14. Thanks Raji, Too bad the server ate your original comment.

  15. Cool Yaar! I had expected that people would have given money. It must be the recession that’s making them stingy.

  16. trisha trisha

    nice and sweet reading you \\Priyank after a long time…u can see my keyboard playing up,no? have difficulty loging in bec of what it types in bef I have a chance to\ type in my pwd!! so long then busker, c ya. it rained here a few days exploring yet another school hre

  17. It made me smile, Puku. 🙂
    I am so happy for you, it’s such a nice feeling as if I have performed live.

    May you be blessed with many more showers of love.. other things will come automatically.

  18. Does that rock or what! Dude, you are just piling up the interesting experiences, way to go.

  19. Debu: Also the fact that most of them were returning from a party and in their late teens/early 20’s !

  20. Hi Trisha, Looks like your “/” key is stuck. shake the keyboard and it will be alright again! I appreciate you commenting here inspite of having an uncooperative keyboard.

  21. Cuckoo: awww thats so sweet of you to say! Thankyou so much yaar. Amen to that 🙂

  22. Vaarun: It was 13th man, 13 is a lovely number for me! cheers.

  23. Oh, a nice post on the maestro earning from his first busking experience. You squeeze other interesting posts in between your equally interesting travel posts. I like it.:)

  24. Thanks Cellu. And I am NOT a maestro even by dirt liberal standards, not even one in making, so chill 🙂

  25. Bob Bob

    Cool you play the sitar, I also have never seen one live,lol, interesting adventure how you made your first buck, mine was ho hum, delivering flyers, that sucked.

  26. Hi Priyank!

    I was searching the information superhighway for a sitar bag, and came across your blog post. Great story! As a fellow sitar player, I can completely envision the frequent “IS THAT A SITAR?” query, along with the long stream of questions that often follow. Your dialogue captured it spot-on! I suffer from what I like to call chronic tardiness…and venturing out with a sitar certainly tends to exaggerate such a condition. I have had some pretty amazing conversations with strangers along my path (although I think your encounter tops all!) and I tend to get sidetracked with their interest, curiosity, and knowledge of the music. I have since learned to allow myself a “curious stranger interaction” time cushion whenever I travel with my instrument.

    I dig the spontaneity of your story, and it reminds me of how much I get influenced by others’ unexpected excitement about Indian music. It sounds like you do, too.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts. I opened up to blogging just recently- as a way to keep in touch with worrysome family while I travel, and to also keep a nice record of my experiences. It’s also made me want to read other blogs. If you get that too and you’re at all curious about travels in New Zealand, feel free to check it out at:
    I believe that was my first shameless act of self promotion for my travel blog.

    Cheers to firsts!

    Oh, and what kind of travel sitar bag do you own? I would so appreciate any recommendations!

    In light,

  27. Thanks for sharing Priyank 🙂 Lovely post.

  28. Jo Jo

    Wow! That must have been an awesome experience! 🙂 I thought musicians are widely respected in the western world.

    Why don’t you post some of your recordings here too?

  29. Oh awesome! Who says adventures are lost in the world? I’m glad you did this.

  30. Jada: Welcome to my website and thanks a lot for your comment. It is indeed true that I have started to dismiss the curious looks because they are too common. I am also fascinated by the manner in which you found my blog – wow. Your site is quite fascinating, and no, its not a shameless promotion act at all 😉

  31. Mridula: I am happy that you liked this post. Thanks for linking it up too 🙂

  32. Jo: Welcome to my website and thanks for commenting. Posting here… ermm… I don’t want everyone to know how horribly I play!

  33. Sudipta: Welcome to my website and thanks for the lovely comment! There are better adventures out there, this was a pin in a haystack!

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