For him, the rewards have never been proportionate to the risk

Sadiq, from Uppala in Kerala, rides a motorcycle like any other man except that he does it in a performer's ring and often, without holding the handle bars for as long as a minute. He has broken his few bones while mastering the skill. And in the midst of riding a motorcycle, he fell in love with an artiste and married her.

Sadiq has been camping outside the Mangaladevi Temple here for the Dasara festival, entertaining many a visitor. He will soon pack up his ring and move on to another “jatra” when this one is over.

Coming to his life story, he ran away from home when he was 14 as he and his stepfather did not get along well, he said. For a year and a half, he worked with a magician, and came in the company of his guru, who taught him how to ride a motorcycle at mind-boggling speeds and in a different direction in the ring.

“You first have to learn this on a bicycle. It requires some strength to get the bicycle onto the ring from the ground. People can't do it these days because they smoke and drink, ruining the fitness of their bodies,” Sadiq said.

Preparing to begin his performance, this time descending into the ring from the viewers stand, he bends down and touches the point at which he will descend into the ring to seek blessings. “Descending into the ring is far more difficult than ascending from the ground level. You need at least four or five years of practice before you can attempt it,” he said. He has now worked as performer for over 10 years, travelling from one “jatre” to another, all over the state. When he was in Bhadravati he met Azeema, an artiste who does unusual acts with her feet. She can make chapatis with her feet and thread a needle.

“For several years, we used to perform together but after we got married, I gave up riding the motorcycle, and tried my hand at things, but circumstances forced me to take it up again two years ago,” Sadiq said. Now, however, Azeema too has given up her favourite feats.

Sadiq bought the performer's ring from someone in Kerala for Rs. 2 lakh by taking loans. Now he has managed to repay it and proudly says that all his earnings are now for himself.

However, apart from the risks to his life and limb (he has injured his left shoulder and right hand), his earnings depend on the weather, transport cost and labour cost (to set up the ring). “If the jatre is two or three months long, then profits are substantial, but otherwise, it is difficult. In two years time I will give up this profession and invest in another ride for children,” he said, pointing to the one he already owns.

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