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Ode to the big tent

Focus on the blue and yellow Circus tent in windy weather!

Focus on the blue and yellow Circus tent in windy weather!

We will continue to use these expressions. A strict disciplinarian will be called a “ringmaster”. A coalition government surviving precariously will be described as a “circus act”. When we are strained to do something, we will call it “jumping through hoops”. These expressions will live on, but circus will be lost to the future generations.

Evidently, the circus industry is on its last leg. It is tough to see it survive in the present hostile landscape with a diminishing spectator base and the exorbitant costs. Back then, the epitome of entertainment was circus. It brought multiple elements together under one roof!

When seen through a child’s lens, it was a fascinating spectacle. There were lions that perched on stools like docile house-cats, elephants that played football, monkeys that rode bicycles and parrots that spoke. With an array of hoops set ablaze and the audience in a hush, tigers jumped through them effortlessly!

Once the animal act was over, a magician regaled the crowd with his tricks. And soon enough, a bunch of clowns provided comic relief! Dressed in multi-coloured clothes, with a cherry-red nose and a ready smile, the clown endeared himself to each child.

And then, there were acts of daredevilry — a motorcyclist who raced inside a spherical glass-ball and a deafening cannon-shot that ejected a gymnast to the far end!

The grand finale was the trapeze act where acrobats swung from one end to the other with aplomb in a show of acrobatics that defied imagination!

Other ideas may cloud our mind now on the ethical questions related to the use of animals for entertainment. That is a fair point, but it is equally unfair to use today’s yardstick to size up events from a different time and age. Decades ago, it was the only entertainment. It worked because it was still a real world; a world yet to be taken over by cinema and yet to be held hostage by gadgets and virtual reality.

As an IT professional, a common interview question is, “What is your idea of a dream job?” Of course, we reply on conventional lines. Some day, I hope to look at the interviewer straight in the eye and with a dead-pan expression confess, “Yes! I had a dream job! It was to join the circus as a clown, with a powdered face and a cherry-red nose!” I wonder how the rest of the interview will go!

shankar.ccpp@gmail.com


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 7:55:17 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/ode-to-the-big-tent/article38273608.ece