She was born and raised in the circus. He is a trapeze expert. Mohan and Preethi, a senior couple at the Jumbo Circus, speak about their marriage under the big top and their days in the circus

Circus artistes Vigan Raj and Meenakshi were camping in Andhra Pradesh when their daughter was born. They named her Preethi. After a four-month break, Meenakshi was back into the circus routine. So was her daughter. She travelled with her parents across the country, made friends and played with the circus folks. Little did she know that she will grow up to be a famous circus artiste — one who will master the dangerous shaking ladder act. Preethi performs at the Jumbo Circus that has pitched its tent at S.I. Grounds near the Moore Market in the city.

Preethi was seven when her father started to train her. He was quite strict; he would not give up till she got an act right. “The training sometimes made me cry,” she says. But she picked it up. She has travelled to Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh…It was in the circus that she met her best friend Shakeela Banu. “She performed the cycle act. We were friends for eight years. She is married now and lives with her husband in Bihar,” says the 45-year-old.

Life went on as a whirlwind of camps in the nooks and crannies of the country, till Mohan trapezed into her life. He is seven years older to her. “We practiced together every day,” says Preethi. They gradually fell in love and a year later, Mohan asked if she would marry him. “I said yes,” she smiles.

Their wedding was most unforgettable. “We decided to marry in the circus,” recalls Preethi. After the last guest left the big-top for the day, the inmates came together to celebrate the beginning of a new life. Clowns, jugglers, fire dancers, acrobats, and weight-lifters cheered as Mohan and Preethi joined hands.

“So here we are, married for over 20 years,” says Preethi. Today, their son is a welder in Kuwait and daughter is an engineer in Pune. Life in the circus is unpredictable — the tiniest miscalculation, slightest slip of the feet could cost an artist his/her life. Perhaps this is why Preethi was on the edge every time Mohan performed the trapeze when they were newly married. She would sometimes look the other way when her husband swung in mid-air. “But we are used to it now. We become fearless with years of practice,” says Mohan.

Preethi was famous for her act when she was in her prime, so was Mohan. They’ve laughed, chatted, cooked fish, and made tea inside tin-sheet enclosures as mosquitoes buzzed all around them. They’ve seen artistes come and go; and have been there to support youngsters. Mohan and Preethi have had an exciting life together. They plan to retire in ten months. “We will miss the circus life,” sighs Mohan. But for Preethi, retirement might just make her dream come true — “to live in a big house with my children”.