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The other side of circus performers

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PERFECT BALANCE: Women of Great Indian Circus during a bicycle acrobatics practice session in Madurai on Wednesday.
PERFECT BALANCE: Women of Great Indian Circus during a bicycle acrobatics practice session in Madurai on Wednesday.

Staff Reporter

They want their children to move to other jobs

MADURAI: Spectacle is “not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images”- Guy Debord in ‘Society of the Spectacle.’

Circus has more to it than the brightly painted faces and flamboyant clothes of the performers. Stripped of their glittering facade there is indeed a gloomy and more mysterious inner life. What lies behind this dwindling tradition of live entertainment at The Great Indian Circus under way here at CSI Grounds here.

When asked about the prevailing situation Sanil George, Manager, was quick to point out that the reason for the poor turn out was government’s directive to remove wild animals and endangered species (lion, bear tiger, leopard and monkey) from circuses.

“Finding adequate place to conduct circus is a great problem and food, electricity combined with salaries to the performers, it’s no more enticing to run a circus,” he said.

Daredevil stunts like riding motorcycles inside a globe, fire dance, ring dance, skating ring, tight rope walking, acrobatics, cycling, laying under an elephant, gymnastics, is all breathtaking. But what drives the performers to be in this profession. Many of the performers at the Great Indian Circus are far from home. They are from Bengal, Nepal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to eke out a living. A common answer from them was that they want this tradition of performing to stop with them and not want their children to be part of circus.

Radha Sharma from Punjab is already a 15-year circus veteran with as many years of experience in acrobatics to her name. As a young girl, she traded her family for the circus community and it has been a long journey, she recalls. However, she wants her children who are studying in Punjab to be literates and move to other jobs. The condition of women performers is of silent suffering as the mobility factor of circuses does not make it possible for any of them to contact their families and also makes it impossible for the parents to track and find how she is. Male performers are also exposed to high level of drunkenness leaving them dry.

Ravi Shankar of Pollachi who does the dare devil act of riding motorcycles in the globe is part of the job because he is short of choice. “Fractured limbs are part of my life,” he says riding his 20-year-old Yamaha RX 100 painted in full green.

“I have two daughters and my wife who was part of circus then and a homemaker now wishes to see them as highly educated professionals.”

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