Before the crack of dawn every day, Yash Vir Rao takes his guitar case, flutes and notebooks, and walks towards Andhra Bhavan in Delhi.
His students will be waiting for him, their instruments and their daily fee of Re 1 in their hands. In his unassuming clothes which anyone will mistake for hand-me-downs, Rao will walk the distance even when he can simply wait for a bus to drop him.
To a stranger, Rao is just a common man on his way to make his day’s earnings. To thousands of students though, he is “Guitar Rao”, the man who teaches them to play the guitar, flute or keyboard, for just one rupee.
A long white beard, simple clothing and glasses that hang by a string, Rao wasn’t always this carefree, happy figure. He is a civil engineer who worked in an MNC till 2009.
When he quit, he was already in debt. The loss of the demanding job and the following financial crisis led him to detach from his family and sink into depression.
A year later, when he was visiting the Tirupati temple, he started taking music lessons. A professor in college had once told him that even a terrorist in jail could transform with the power of music. This belief stuck with Rao, and thus, his music lessons started helping him with his depression.
In 2018, Guitar Rao came to Delhi with the hope of meeting PM Modi and urging him to start a campaign to promote music lessons in school. Instead, he met hundreds of students who were more than happy to sit on footpaths or in parks to learn musical instruments from him, in exchange of Re 1, every day.
Speaking to The Times of India, eight-year-old Ishanvi, Guitar Rao’s student, said, “Guruji taught me to play a few songs in just seven days. One of my favourites is Jai Jagdish Hare.”
Several police officers and civil servants too have been alumni of this “academy”.
Rao simply hopes that his students follow the path of sharing the gift of music. Apart from the minimal fee that he charges for the lessons, Guitar Rao has one condition for the students: If they are happy with what they learn, they must donate a flute to a blind person, an orphaned child or someone in need.
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“Despite their love for music, many people cannot afford to learn music,” he tells TOI, adding, “My endeavour is to teach them music at the minimal cost.”
He is at Andhra Bhavan in Delhi from 6am-9am, at Vijay Chowk from 2pm-6pm and the India Gate lawns from 6pm-9pm. So if you are in Delhi and hoping for a musical break from your routine, why not pay Guitar Rao a visit?
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)