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Under the Indian Big Top

A stupendous entertainment of regal splendour

I’m a sucker for the circus, so when one sets up shop for a few weeks about five minutes down the road, I knew it was not a matter of “if” but “when”. Saturday was the day - we took a group of the younger kids from the hostel for the 4:00 pm show and spent a few hours under the Indian big top.
Indian elephants. not an uncommon sight even on the roadways.
This circus had a "broken in" feel to it.

I had read John Irving’s novel “Son of the Circus” back when we were on our honeymoon some years ago, a novel that takes place in part in a Bombay circus and many images from that novel have stayed with me, so I was excited to experience this unique form of theater. I was even more excited when I learned that the group tickets were half price - instead of 100 rupees, the half price group tickets cost 50 rupees each, or about a buck (Jenn felt that we just about got our money's worth, I thought we got more than our money's worth...).

We walked into the tent and selected our red plastic deck chairs in the front row at ringside. We were close - REAL close.


One of the great things about living in India is that there is a far lower level of paranoia about getting sued for things, and consequently, places like the circus are far more exciting. From my seat in the front row, I watched the feet of the elephant pass inches from my own during the opening parade

We needed to move our feet so the elephant could walk by during the opening parade.
The stage work was as fascinating as the performance
I had lean to the right while the circus hands pulled on massive hooks and ropes to raise the nets for the trapeze show

The circus crew constructed the trapeze net in short time.
I looked nearly directly overhead to see the performers perched above me.

I feel like I get a lot closer to things that I’m sheltered from back home due to anxious insurance companies. Am I at a greater risk as a result of this additional exposure? Probably, but it is so worth it.

As for the performances themselves, it was typical circus fair. Some of the feats represented true feats of acrobatic skill or strength while others left me thinking that with a little bit of practice, I could do that.
These three went about trick shooting their pellet guns with same level of enthusiasm as one has for doing the laundry. We saw each of them in at least three other acts.

I've seen this act before on a few of the highways in India...
This one was a new one - elephant cricket.


Of course, the circus is always enjoyed by the kids...

What's a circus without clowns? In India, the role of the circus clown is traditionally filled by dwarfs and there were three performing in this show. I found myself drawn to them not so much because of their unique appearance as much as a curiosity of what it must be like to be born into the Indian culture with such a unique human condition. I couldn’t find much online about this history and sociology of dwarfs in India. Unlike the other performers, they were a constant presence in the ring – there was no formal ringmaster – and while they performed a gag or two during the show, they mostly filled in as assistants to some acts like tossing the ball to the cricket bat swinging elephant or tossing balls or hats to the juggler. I wouldn't describe them as "happy" clowns - in fact, kind of bored and a little peeved seems more accurate. It was the 2nd of three shows in an 8 hour period after about three weeks in the same muddy, grubby hovel - I guess I'd be a little bitter too.

The clown was trying hard to get Mari to come out of the audience and participate in a bit but she was having no part of it...
The clowns seemed a little bitter.

The show was an enjoyable distraction and provided an insight into a unique lifestyle in a unique culture. These last two images capture the vibe of the show for me - an attempt to be "a stupendous entertainment of regal splendour" when it actually felt tired, bored, and a bit worn out.

Posted by SteveJenn 03:44

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That was pretty cool Steve. I love the circus also. I remember going to Madison Square Garden with my dad and mom when I was a kid. The side show scared me but amazed me. The giant, the bearded lady and the fat lady. I was afraid of the elephants because a man in our town told me elephants never forget. He said he gave on a peanut one year and the next year he didn't have one for the elephant so the elephant tried to grab him. I wan't risking that since I had fed the elephants the year before. I was also glad to see in your blog that Jenn was included with the kids pictures. Great job. Thanks, Bob

by devantery

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