Every day, from 7 in the morning to 5 in the evening, 23-year-old Uday Singh from Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch would be toiling in the fields — his job was to load straw on the buggies. But all this while, he would be looking forward to the day’s end, when he would record dance videos for his followers on TikTok.
But since the nationwide lockdown was announced, there has been no work for him. And he has often had to go to sleep with an empty stomach. He lives with his mother in a mud house. When it rains, the water seeps through the roof into the house, wetting the floor, leaving them with little space to sleep. He doesn’t have a phone either. It’s his friend Deepak Singad who makes and uploads the videos – it’s actually Singad’s account that has 1.4 million followers on TikTok.
Singh couldn’t sleep the whole night when he heard that the Indian government had banned TikTok, a Chinese-owned video sharing platform, owing to tensions with China. “I felt so hopeless. What would I do? Whatever I am, it is because of TikTok. My mother also started crying because of me,” says Singh. And then at 3 in the night, he went live on TikTok. “I asked all my viewers to connect with me on YouTube and Instagram, and many of them assured me that they’d always support me.”
It all started a year ago when Singh was doing a little dance outside his house in the evening – he’d often do it and the villagers would call him mad for that – and Singad asked if he could record a video and upload it on TikTok. Singh agreed. The response on the first video was not great, but certainly enough for him to continue making the videos. Two-three months down the line, one video went viral. It was a dance on the song ‘Dil Mera Maange Ye Dua’, and as according to Singh, it was watched at least 37 million times.
“The response brought tears to my eyes. I had never thought so many people would know me, would want to talk to me. People said I had made Neemuch famous in the whole country. Vidhayak ji (the MLA) also came and gave me some money,” says Singh. Besides, the viral video won him praise from many celebrities, and, an offer from renowned dancer Terence Lewis to join the Season 2 of India’s Best Dancer.
During lockdown, Singh has often had to request his followers for assistance. Those who come to provide relief material give him a few packets extra after recognising him. He hopes to resurrect his fame on other platforms. “My followers have promised not to desert me. There is an Indian app that is coming, I am told. Afterall, I am a hindostani. I won’t go against the government.”