Monkey business

Monkey business

DH file photo for representation.

Down memory lane, I remember the monkey man who often visited our area playing the ‘dugdugi’ to attract children to his ‘bandar ka tamasha’. With one hand, he played the ‘dugdugi’, while the other held ropes tied around the necks of two monkeys who trailed behind him. As soon as a few children gathered around him, he was all ready to begin his show. Passersby also stopped to watch the fun.

As he narrated a romantic interlude to the beat of the ‘dugdugi’, the monkey couple performed their antics perfectly. Calling them Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore, the monkey man tried to encash on the popularity of the glamorous Bollywood stars. The bigger and heftier of the two, the hero, wore a jacket and a colourful scarf around his neck, while Sharmila, the heroine, adorned with imitation jewellery, wore a shiny, jazzy mini skirt and top.

Sans a theatre, stage and curtains, the drama unfolded on the pavement. Cuddling and whispering sweet nothings, the couple paraded up and down, embracing each other, much to the amusement of the enthusiastic audience. Their antics and gestures had been fine tuned, and left no doubt in the minds of the viewers of their intense love for each other. Eager to solemnise their relationship, the couple tied the knot by exchanging thick, gaudy plastic flower garlands, accompanied by a great deal of clapping and jubilation among the spectators.

Everything seemed hunky dory in the young couple’s household till ominous signs of marital discord began to appear. There was trouble in paradise when one fine day, the husband came home, inebriated and hungry. Not satisfied with the meal prepared by his wife, he threw the plate, picked up a stick and beat her black and blue. The young viewers, unable to bear this atrocity, were fully supportive of the heroine’s decision to pack her bags and leave in a huff to her parental home.

After the hangover, Rajesh realised his folly. He rushed to Sharmila’s home, fell at her feet, apologised profusely for his bad behaviour, and wooed her back with a necklace. She, too, decided to forgive and forget by planting a peck on her husband’s cheek. The emotionally charged audience responded with loud cheers. As the show ended, the hero went around with a bowl collecting alms from the audience. After all, the monkey man had to eke out a living for his family.

In the good old days before TV, smartphones and Facebook, this tear-jerking performance seemed enough to touch the heart of a common man. Would today’s youth, fully immersed and preoccupied with their modern gizmos and social media, find this kind of entertainment fascinating, or have the time to watch this simple street show?