Sunday, September 9, 2012


There is a circus playing in Chattarpur. They have a huge collection of instrumental Bollywood, Western, and Oldies that don't repeat for the duration of the two hour show. Billboards bordering the periphery of the makeshift tent are plastered with pictures of leggy women, white-skinned, in tight, leather-like clothes. It's called the Russian New Lights Circus.

We saw this circus today, the 3 pm show. There was a line for the Gallery, tickets priced at Rs 20, and a separate line for the Chair seats, priced at a higher Rs 50. We opted for the Gallery which I saw as soon as I raised the frilled and frayed tent canvas in front of me. Circular rows of planks were nailed to each other, higher up the farther they got from the center stage area. The Chair section was literally set up with chairs, the plastic red and cream coloured ones.

I looked around, gauging the social make-up of the audience. Mostly middle-aged men and young, hormonal boys, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse of some of that legginess the outside billboards displayed. A few women, dressed in glittering saris, as if they were still young, sat in the back. They sat demure, polite. The older women, the bolder ones, sat with their hands spanning out to the chairs on either side. Their legs were spread slightly apart, and a substantial roll of fat pushed itself out of one women's protruding belly. She looked comfortable. We, obviously, were as foreign as you could get - wearing the starched white gamchas we had purchased yesterday, we certainly stuck out like sore thumbs.

The first act consisted of a young, very thin girl doing various acrobatics that highlighted her uncanny flexibility. Her interaction with the audience was an undramatic raise-hand-flick-wrist. She never smiled. Not then, not in the other five acts she was a part of. There were only two men who were part of the performing team. One danced in a vest and jeans. Another shot balloons with a gun positioned at numerous angles under, above, and below him. The rest of the show consisted of young girls. So young. The youngest looked as if she was 9, and the oldest seemed to be 15 or 16. They were all thin. Their outfits varied from swimsuit type tops, frilly at the hips to two-pieces with low-cut blouses. Their legs were covered in black or gray cotton tights and calf long white socks in which they walked on the circus ground of gray mud. Some acts required them to wear shoes. Flick-wrist was the common entrance and exit gesture. It was casual, but awkward, forced. They had been, trained. Did I mention they never smiled? The blank-ness of their eyes told muted stories of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. The gap between their thighs told muted stories of a controlled diet and lack of proper nutrition.

To the score of Vengaboyz, she did a split, then chewed on some cloth strip attached to a rope which pulled her up, up towards her death, away from a safe, secure life, the basic need of every child. It tightened my gut and disgusted my senses to see such objectification. At one point, it began to pour outside. Furiously. The holes and patched holes on the tent's canvas roof did little to lessen the torrential downpour, but the show must go on, right? One of the girls whom I had already seen made another appearance, this time with hoola hoops. Hoots arose from the "Chair" crowd. She was soaked. And that blank expression. I knew what it said. The show must go on.


  1. They should completely ban the Circus in India. First and foremost no body is happy to see such a show be it with animals or humans. Even the audience - they come to find some entertainment by buying tickets but it is just a poor titilation - not the entertainment.
    Kya aaj sab sad postings hi aa rahi hain;((