Chinmayi has been connecting those who've approached her for song requests with people in need of money so that payments can be made directly.

Singer Chinmayi on a swing wearing a saree
Flix Inspiration Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 19:07

For about six months now, singer Chinmayi has been witness to love that comes in all forms. As we're living through unprecedented times, with the coronavirus pandemic leading to mass disruption of livelihoods across industries, her voice has carried all the ‘happy anniversary’, ‘happy birthday’, ‘I miss you’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘Sorry your arangetram didn’t happen’ messages, along with a recording of a requested song. And there was a day, Chinmayi tells us, when she had sent out 85 such song-message requests! While you catch your breath, here’s another thing that might stun you again. Chinmayi, since April, has been able to pass on money and essentials worth Rs 1 crore for the needy through this initiative, by recording and sharing over 3,000 songs.

“It kept me preoccupied,” Chinmayi tells TNM. “On the same day, 20 people would have birthdays and anniversaries. It gave me a sense of purpose during the lockdown. There was this feeling of doing something worthwhile and it was worth it because of how the situation was until about a month and a half ago. People could not even order cakes to celebrate birthdays. It was also probably why the videos made sense,” she adds.

She does not have a fixed rate for the songs, and while the requests have somewhat trickled down now, Chinmayi plans on continuing with the service.

“This is not new. I’ve been getting 'Can you send Hello message in Jessy’s (the heroine of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa) voice?' kind of requests for about 10 years now. I didn’t think that it could be utilised in such a way earlier. Overall, it was a lot of fun. I did not think it would end up becoming this big,” she says.

From folk artists to fishermen, from children with cognitive disabilities to persons out of work due to the lockdown, Chinmayi’s a-song-for-a-contribution has touched many lives. And the singer/voice artist has been meticulous in making sure that the help reaches those who need it. Up until the time when the list stood at 1,500 requests, Chinmayi had a sheet bearing details of the requested song, amount donated, donor and beneficiary details. “It became too much to handle after a point,” she chuckles.

The process, Chinmayi explains, works like this — those who wish to request a song along with a personalised message can approach her to obtain the details. Chinmayi will pass on the details of the person in need of money and the client can pay the latter directly. Once done, they can share the screenshot of payment confirmation following which they’ll receive the song from Chinmayi.

“The requests for help kept coming in and we would never tell people how much to donate, although I would make sure a family got at least Rs 7,500 before moving on to the next,” she explains.

“Sometimes, there would be multiple donors for the same family. Sometimes, someone would offer to take care of a family for the next three months. They’d share screenshots every month even without me following up on that,” Chinmayi says.

Voice artist Dasarathy, who was instrumental in helping Chinmayi maintain the records and in connecting donors to beneficiaries, shares more details.

“We started collecting information sector-wise. We were able to help sanitation workers, folk artists, drama artists, drivers who had lost their jobs, workers with disabilities who were unable to secure a job due to the lockdown, people with children who have cognitive disabilities, fishermen, trans persons, artists from the film industry, tailors, temple priests who were not covered by the state government, and even those from rural areas,” he says.

“We were also able to carry out food distribution for over 1 lakh people through The Satsang Foundation, Donatekart and actor Samantha’s Pratyusha Foundation. We also supported some with their medical expenses,” he adds.

From an NRI donating Rs 1.5 lakh to about 20 families in one go to a student sending in Rs 27, Chinmayi says that different kinds of people have come forward to help.

While she declined 'love' proposals, there was no dearth of bizarre requests.

“Once, there was someone who had asked me to dedicate a song to her sister-in-law, which I did. But apparently some family drama happened (laughs), and she got back again asking if I can mention the names of her brother-in-law, mother-in-law, husband, children and everyone and send the video again. I’ve also been amused by requests from parents asking me to dedicate a song for their one-year-old,” she laughs. And no points for guessing crowd favourites -  'Oru Dheivam Thandha Poove' (Kannathil Muthamittal), 'Kadhale Kadhale' (96) and 'Priyathama' (Majili), of course.

Then there was another request that turned out to be an overwhelming experience for the singer. “It was a request from a man who wanted me to dedicate a very old song to his aunt. It was a song that I had not heard before and I had to learn it first. But I didn’t know anything else about the request,” she says.

A few days later, she learnt that her rendition of the song was the last thing that the woman had listened to before passing. “I did not know how to react to that. All I could say was 'Oh my god',” she adds.

While Chinmayi calls the entire experience humbling, she says, “I realised that there is a lot of kindness in this world. People somehow come together and do the right thing. It gave me a lot more hope in humanity.”

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