In a possible first, thirty inmates of an open segment of Pune’s Yerawada Central Jail on Monday played traditional percussion instruments as a band during a Ganesh procession in Maharashtra’s second-largest city. Backed by rigorous training in playing dhol (drum) and tasha (a type of kettle drum), the inmates arrived at Guruji Talim Ganesh Mandal, among the most prestigious in the city, on Laxmi Road here, a large banner proudly proclaiming their identity as ‘Yerawada Open Jail Dhol Pathak’.
It was Additional Director-General of Police (Prisons) Sunil Ramanand who approached a local troupe ‘Nadbrahma’ to train the inmates, in the process laying the foundation of the novel experiment. “I think for the first time we are doing something like this where 30 prisoners are coming on to the streets with their dhol-tasha and performing before thousands of people.
This is going to be a permanent troupe and we intend to have them play next year as well,” Ramanand said. They have trained for two hours every day for the past three months, with Nadbrahma members visiting the jail for the purpose, the ADG added.
The experiment has made office-bearers at Guruji Talim Mandal happy as the group is known in Pune for fusing its religious fervour with a host of social issues to ensure society is better off for it.
“We are known for undertaking social work from various areas. This activity will help the prisoners get back into the mainstream of society after release from jail,” said Pratap Pardeshi, head of Guruji Talim Mandal.
Atul Behre, chief of Nadbrahma, said the effort to train the inmates was exhausting but the results made it worthwhile.
“It came as a challenge for us because it needs good and regular training to play dhol and tasha. It is exhausting and requires full attention as various compositions are played on the instruments,” Behre said.
“We were teaching them basics of dhol and tasha, its similarities and differences as well as the creation of various compositions to be played for the people. They played very well,” he added with satisfaction.
Ganesh festivities began on Monday across the state as thousands of households installed idols of the elephant-headed god along with hundreds of public mandals.