Some thoughts under big top


Reading between lines gives us a lot of insights, hidden meanings and a totally different perspective of the printed word. What if one starts reading between events or activities? That’s precisely what I did the other day when I sat through a circus. While the grandson in tow was busy watching the proceedings under the big top, I was preoccupied with the ‘reading between’ process. What else one can do at the age of 63? More fascinating for me were not the events on the ring but the meticulous way they were unfolding. Not a minute was wasted and even as one act was on, the next one was being lined up.

While the appreciative crowd clapped and whistled as the stunt (wo)men showed their skills I was watching how the staff was getting ready for the show to unfold next. The flow was like an assembly line production although those involved were humans and not machines. But the artistes were going through the motions like machines.

No artiste had to wait even for a second extra and all his needs were being lined up and even as he finished the event the peripherals used were going back with punctilious efficiency. Even if the tusker emptied its huge bowels on the ring while in action, the staff would appear from nowhere with bucket and broom and clear off the warm dung. Everything was anticipated and taken care of.

While the spectators from far and near cheered the acrobats, jugglers, unicyclists and other performers I was trying to fathom the ordeals they must have gone through to achieve perfection in what they were doing. One small slip could cripple them for life but they exhibited no such tension on the stage and wore a smile throughout.

The big tent echoed to an elephantine roar when the tuskers ambled their way into the ring and performed their assigned tasks flawlessly but I was busy trying to gauge the efforts the mahout must have put in to make them behave as ordained. Who deserves more compliments — the tusker or the trainer?

Spare a thought for the owner, too. Just imagine how big his kitchen would be to feed all his men and women who comprise his troupe. Come what may, collection or no, the kitchen fire has to be lit to keep the circus army trim and in good spirits. Hungry stomachs have to be fed and the boss cannot offer any excuse to the performing staff. The food bill may be lighter now as the beasts are not part of the circus ensemble anymore and the owner can thank Menaka Gandhi for this gesture. And he should thank the almighty for keeping the tusker a vegetarian!

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