If there’s been a silver lining to the Coronavirus, it’s that social distancing has brought us all closer. It’s that empathy levels are soaring, even in the face of a continuing rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases. Proactive relief efforts, non-stop live entertainment via social media, large donations and, most importantly, solidarity—people around the world are banding together to ride out the pandemic.
One such instance? Less than 24 hours ago, comedian Nishant Tanwar tweeted this:
“I wish to offer support to all the hustling comics (open micers) out there. Share your bank account details and I’ll transfer the funds online. I’d like to do this with as many comics, and as many times as I can in my capacity to ensure you have funds for essentials like groceries and your daily needs,” Tanwar posted, making it clear that this amount is not a loan that has to be repaid.
DeadAnt reached out to Tanwar to find out more; here’s what he had to say:
Was there a specific instance/moment that made you decide to do this?
So I always contribute if something happens—floods or anything—I go contribute directly to the respective government fund. But this time, I know that there are a lot of open micers in the scene, a lot of comedians who’ve moved to Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore from other smaller cities, for open mics and opportunities. And because I also know that they survive literally month-to-month organising gigs for other comedians and so on, I figured that it’s a privilege that I’m able to stay at home and get bored because I have funds in my account. These people don’t. So I thought why not give back to the community that has given me so much. Yeh sab meri aukat se bahaar hain jo bhi mujhe mil raha hain.
How does it work?
So people are reaching out to me. I started getting messages last night, and I started transferring funds this morning. I’m transferring Rs 10,000 to everyone because the idea is to give to as many as possible—this is for essentials like groceries—because a lot of them have no source of income right now. Like nothing. So far, hundreds of people have reached out.
The best thing is that other people who are not part of the scene, our audience, have reached out to contribute (to the cause). That was so heartwarming to see, people reaching out to help.
After a point of time, I will run out of funds to share…
That was our next question! How long can you sustain this?
So here’s the thing—I’m not a saver either. But I was planning to buy a house in Bombay and was saving for that, so it’s lucky that I have funds in my account right now.
So this is the money you were putting away to buy a house?
Yeah, it’s okay. This thing will pass and we can make money again. Ghar kahaan ja raha hain yaar?
How can more people contribute?
They can reach out to me directly and I’ll share the account details with them. They can transfer directly to the comedian. There’s no minimum contribution, and every bit helps!
How are you vetting the people who reach out? Just so that you ensure it’s really going to someone who needs it?
So I got a lot of messages also on social media ki “Bhai careful rehna thoda kyunki there might be a lot of people who don’t really need it and who probably aren’ even comics (the scene is so big) so be careful ki koi scam na karde. At the end of the day, it’s your hard-earned money.” Which is true, so what I’m doing is ki agar Facebook hain, I’m checking mutual friends. If we have more than 50-60 mutual friends, you know ki woh comic hi hoga. Uske profile pe pictures hain uss ke perform karne ki, standup ki ya videos hain…Jo profiles mujhe aise lag rahe hain that they are not genuine or legit, I’m checking those with fellow open micers. I’ve reached out to two-three of them and they are helping me out (by verifying these requests).
So I’m doing that instead of just going ahead blindly, because even I wouldn’t want that funds shouldn’t reach the people who really need it.
What are some other ways in which the industry can pull together right now?
I think we, as an industry, make people happy. Everybody’s working from home right now—in whatever capacity they can—and so this is the time people need us the most. It can be depressing to stay at home, it’s already scary. Some of us are already doing this where we’re going live on Facebook or Insta and spending as much time with the audience…Aur hum bhi ghar pe baith kar kya karein?
One thing you want to tell all the open micers right now?
Everybody who’s out there—please don’t hesitate to reach out! I was there, I was there when there were no funds and I was pursuing standup full-time and it was difficult. Din mein ek baar khaana kha kar kaam chalaya hua hain toh main vahaan pe tha. I don’t want people to give up standup, this art form, because of this. Gharwale vaise hi bolte hain ki yaar kyun kar raha hain yeh, naukri kar le. I’m sure they’re already going against their family and they’ve already taken the plunge. Please continue karo and we, as an industry, are in this together.