Originally published in Star of Mysore
Gemini Circus in town, reads the posters around the city with a suffix, “Now with American and African Artistes.” Synonymous with circus in India, Gemini has fought every odd to remain in business since its maiden performance in 1951. Gone are those days when the arrival of a circus company was enough for a locality to burst into celebration. But these days, hardly anyone seems to bother about it. While plodding on to make ends meet, companies like Gemini dream of an image make-over, adding a dash of novelty and bringing artistes from other countries to the routine to stay in the reckoning.
The circus, which has pitched its Big Top at the Horse Park in Nazarbad, opens with musicians banging on the drums and playing a trendy piece of music on keyboards and trumpets marking an exemplary beginning of the show. The performers soon enter the ring and pour their sweat out trying to entertain the gathered crowd. A group of acrobats risk their life swinging at least 20 – 25 meters high above the ground on the trapeze, hanging from their legs, throwing and catching one by one in mid-air! Finally, they land on the ground making a majestic posture by raising their hands and bowing. But sadly, empty seats are seen in the tent more than the occupied ones! There are hardly few people who can appreciate their talents.
Ravindran, the Programme Director at Gemini Circus from past thirty years, said that the dearth of open urban spaces, the policy of banning performances by untamed animals and newer forms of mass entertainment have resulted in a considerable decline of people’s interest towards circus. He also claimed that in spite of this downfall in public interest, Mysore has shown a warm response to them. It seems that the city has not lost its affection and interest in it.
The people at circus work hard every day jumping here and there, wearing glossy dresses and painting their faces with glorifying colours to bring a smile on the audience’s face. But little is known about how they lead their life camping at different cities every time. Explaining about their lives, Ravindran said, “We all are members of a big family made up of different people from different cultures. Some of us speak Spanish while some others speak Hindi. There are people who speak Afrikaans and also some who speak Nepali and Malayalam. We do not understand each other’s languages yet we share our feelings.” He then added, “Life at circus is like life of soldiers at war field. We stay away from our family and so do they. We risk our lives to entertain the people but they risk their lives to save the people,” with a smile.
Tamara, a mother of two from Mexico, who recently joined the Gemini circus family, said that she learnt the acts of High Wire and Flying Trapeze only after marrying Jaime Sr. Finding Indian culture and people very sweet and strange, Tamara said, “I just love the way Indian ladies dress-up, especially the bindis, earrings, salwars and sarees.” She soon added after a brief silence, “You know what! I am going to buy a saree before I go back to my country no matter what! I will somehow learn to wear it!” Along with Tamara, performs her nineteen-year-old son Jaime Jr. and a Colombian Herarbo. While speaking about her children’s education, Tamara said, “My son has completed his education until the higher primary. My daughter Helen Josuani is in her 3rd Grade and I teach her English and Spanish” and further added, “She is into open schooling due to the reason that our family keeps traveling to different countries,” with a smile on her face.
Rakesh and his wife Samina, the semi-finalists of TV Reality Show ‘India’s Got Talent’ are also a part of this huge family traveling to different cities and interacting with different cultures. “It feels good and we get to learn a lot, but we miss our 4-year-old boy,” commented the couple while explaining about their life in circus. They further said that they will make sure the little boy will study well and make it big in life.
“I was fourteen-years-old when I ran away from my home,” said Rakesh and added, “If it had not been by chance, I would not join circus I suppose,” with a smile on his face. Interrupting him, Samina said, “We have grown here and we belong here. We know nothing but circus.” She later added that the couple met each other at Gemini circus around seven years ago. “The ease of performing is greater when your partner is your wife,” said Rakesh breaking out to laugh. The couple has its expertise in juggling and acrobatics.
Hameez and Omari among other gymnasts and fire artistes from Africa said that this is their fourth trip to India and they just love the people here. “It feels warm when we are in India,” commented Hameez and continued, “We are not afraid of fire. We are used to it,” while explaining about their act.
On a concluding note, life at circus is one which is filled with joy and sorrow. As the famous Hindi song goes, “Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan Iske Siva Jaana Kahan”, some love it while some are used to it. But what really matters is the support we give to the artistes who are always at the edge of danger zone risking their lives to entertain us.