Ummid Assistant

'Pay Zakat ul Fitr to mend mistakes while fasting'

IGNOU trains teachers to develop online courses

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home Life & Style

Flowers in filth: Delhi's forgotten street performers

Monday September 12, 2011 08:22:08 AM, Mohita Nagpal, IANS

Folk singers and puppeteers at Kathputli colony in New Delhi

New Delhi: "We are like flowers growing in filth." Somehow when translated in English, the significance of Sajjan Bhatt's bitter words seems to get lost. But try braving a walk through Kathputli colony, a Delhi slum, where the puppeteer lives with other street artists and the significance would stay forever, if not the nauseating stench.

Located in west Delhi's Shadipur area, the 5.22 hectare Kathputli colony housing over 4,000 families is one of the biggest hubs of street artists in India. Magicians, acrobats, puppeteers, folk singers, dancers, jugglers, tightrope walkers -- at each odd turn, in each dilapidated house, resides a talent, a performer, or as they best like to describe themselves -- an artist.

Mostly migrated from Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, these people have made the colony their habitat for half a decade.

Everyone's born with a talent here. Children learn to beat drums as soon as they start speaking. The claustrophobic lanes are their first stage, the goats, the cows and the sheepish dogs the permanent audience. The show never ends.

But Sajjan Bhatt is not happy. "There was a time when there used to be long queues of customers outside this slum. They wanted to buy puppets, book us for shows. But not any more," the 65-year-old says.

"Now you have cable TV, internet...so many other means of entertainment. For the greater part of the year, we are literally jobless. It's only in winter that we see some good business," Bhatt, who is originally from Rajasthan, told IANS.

Of his four sons, Murli, 32, is the odd one out. He plays drums, instead of exploiting his hereditary talent of puppeteering.

"We play at marriages, parties...but ever since DJs have come into the picture, our business has been going downhill."

Living with his wife and four children in a 10X10 feet room-cum-house, Murli makes a modest Rs.500 from each performance. "But there are days during the marriage season when the demand is more than the supply and we can ask for more money."

Murli has been a drum player ever since he was five. But his children, all well over that age, will never pick up the sticks.

"I don't want them to become street artists. We have been performing since generations. But that was then... now there's no future in this," he says, while shooing away inquisitive kids and eavesdropping rats at the same time.

Agrees Jagdish Bhatt, a self-confessed multi-talent. "There will come a day when people will have to call jugglers and puppeteers from abroad. We will perish," the 60-year-old announces, increasing the decibel level that adds a dramatic effect.

Originally a puppeteer, Jagdish picked up magic tricks and other art forms from his neighbours and rightfully passed them on to the next generation.

"I have performed in over 20 countries," Jagdish told IANS, ordering his grandson to fetch the album and certificates, sensing one's unexpressed scepticism.

Next door, a cursing woman is making a futile effort of making her husband take a bath. Half-naked and dripping with water, the man, drunk on cheap liquor and existential thoughts, shouts "everyone will die one day" to no one in particular.

In the meantime, Jagdish's grandson, Vicky, 22, appears with the files and a plastic egg wrapped in a green cloth. He performs the classic act of the egg disappearing from the cloth with the air and oratory of a distinguished artist.

"Last month, 25 boys from this slum started working in malls as cleaners. It's a real hand-to-mouth situation," the young magician says, before his grandfather interrupts.

"Governments in foreign countries take care of their artists and try to promote talent. People there are shocked to know that we live in such conditions," he says, while pointing towards an army of flies happily buzzing on a cocktail of slush and animal excreta.

Some houses away, if they could be called so, Jharsanut, 60, is having a practice session of acrobatics with his four granddaughters.

Sitting on the steps, Jharsanut's wife shoots comments to the girls on how to get the balance right. She's wrinkled and retired, but clearly her memory's intact.

Ask her why she doesn't possess her neighbours' cynicism about the future of street artists and sends her granddaughters to schools, and all she manages is a 'what is the option' shrug.

Words like 'education' and 'school' don't register with her. She ignores the sticky subject and fetches the photo album. It soon turns out that every household in the slum has one -- the portfolio. That they have, even if they have little else.



(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at mohita.n@ians.in)
 



 


 

 

Bookmark and Share

Home | Top of the Page

 

Comments

Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of www.ummid.com

Comments powered by DISQUS

 

 

 

Top Stories

PM shows concern over radicalization, communal violence

Three days after a bomb blast at Delhi High Court killed 13 people, Prime Minister Manmohan SIngh Saturday admitted that a section of the country's youth had been radicalised,  

Trinamool, NDA oppose communal violence bill

Violence as instrument of protest poses a big challenge: Chidambaram

 

  Most Read

New York marks 10th anniversary of 9/11 attack

A memorial service began Sunday morning at the National September 11 Memorial  

Taliban deny role in 9/11; accuse US of using incident to invade Afghanistan

Azharuddin's relative dies, son critical

Ajmal-ur-Rahman, a relative of former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin, died after an accident here in which the cricketer's son Mohammed Ayazuddin was critically injured, police said. Rahman, 16, and Ayazuddin, 19, met with the accident on the  

Azharuddin's son critically injured in accident

 

  News Pick

'Why was Team Anna silent on RTI activist's murder?'

The family of RTI activist and India Against Corruption's Madhya Pradesh chapter head Shehla Masood, who was killed here last month, feels the 

Gandhi Centre to be launched in Holland

A Gandhi Centre will be inaugurated at The Hague on Mahatma Gandhi's Oct 2 birth anniversary, the Indian embassy in the Netherlands said in a statement. The Gandhi Centre will be inaugurated by Karan Singh, president of the Indian  

SC verdict on Zakia Jafri's plea Monday

The Supreme Court will give its verdict September 12 Monday on a plea by Zakia Nazim Jafri for a direction to conduct further probe into the alleged role of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre  

 

Picture of the Day

The 27th of Ramadan (August 26, 2011 this year), "Laylet al-Qadr" (Night of Power), is one of the holiest nights of the Islamic calendar, the night when the Quran began to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Millions from around the world visit the Grand Mosque in Makkah from all over the world and pray over the night.

 

 
 
 
 
 

RSS  |  Contact us

 

| Quick links

News

 

Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant

 

National

Religion

RSS

Scholarships

About us

International

Culture

Twitter

Government Schemes

Feedback

Regional

History

Facebook

Education

Register

Politics

Opinion

Newsletter

Contact us

Business

Career

     

Education

       

 

 

Ummid.com: Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange

Ummid.com is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

2010 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.