Amidst spills and thrills

Gypsy Lives

Amidst spills and thrills

“We were born into this world of relentless wandering, of pitching the big top on bare grounds, living with a few, small luxuries and then trailing off on the long dusty roads again. It is a courageous but cruel world and at times, a hard and hungry world but it’s the only one we know,” say the artists of the Gemini Circus describing their gypsy existence, a mix of excitement, spills and thrills, joys and heartbreak.

Soft brown-eyed petite cyclist Suman is one of their star performers. Her wiry build belies her age and at 52, she has travelled to several countries performing in venues across borders and cultures. Her neat and well-appointed tent houses creature comforts like an big screen television, a mini kitchen, a little pooja enclave and camp cots piled with folded clothes while her well-trained dog Rocky peers out of his box in a corner.

Suman is married to Vijay, a circus administrator. “I was born into the circus and never had a formal education. Eating habits were curtailed from a young age. I learned several tricks on the cycle by the time I was four-years-old and my talent has since taken me to many places and won me great recognition,” she says.

Suman feels that since her body has been wired to performing stunts from an early age, her growth and some internal organs have been stunted as well. “That’s one of the sacrifices we make for our art,” she explains.

Rajesh Sharma has a wife and two small children back in his hometown Kolkata. He visits them once a year during ‘Durga Pooja’. As a flying trapeze artist, he practices for a minimum of one hour daily. “I was practically born on the trapeze. Back then, it was not illegal for very young children to perform stunts. We lost out on education but I won’t let that happen to my children,” he says.

Nirmal from Nepal and Dipen from Darjeeling also perform a variety of death-defying stunts which require energy, stamina, as well as perfect co-ordination and timing. “I don't see our kids joining the circus. Our employers are good but in the light of dwindling revenues, there is only so much they can do. We get good food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, but we have to be careful not to gain weight. I have been performing for 16 years now and do a variety of acts from fire dances, trapeze and spring boards and survived a couple of bad accidents,” he says showing his deeply scarred shins.

Christmas celebrations were pretty rocking at the Gemini Circus Grounds complete with decorated tress, cribs, food and festivities. “We celebrate all festivals together regardless of our individual beliefs and customs. We learn to speak several languages, respect each other’s practices and in spite of a few jealousies and politics, live together in harmony,” say the artists in conclusion.

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