For hundreds of years, long before there was a television or a movie theatre there was live performance. Kings and ordinary people were entertained by communities who specialized in art forms such as walking on tightropes, swallowing swords, juggling heavy brass balls, sawing a woman in half and masquerading as characters from the epics.
Who were these artists and performers?
we lose a bit of our humanity. They were the snake charmers, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, story-tellers, impersonators, animal trainers, singers and dancers. These communities have continued to pass on their skills,
knowledge and wisdom to the younger generations and they still can be seen in towns and villages in India even today. These communities continue to delight children and adults across
The sound of the madari’s damaru inviting you to watch magic; or the robust songs of the Kankali singers or the awe-inspiring performance of a juggler used to bring children and adults running out of their homes to watch a live performance right outside their houses.
Children and adults would stand wonderstruck and watch the show along with their neighbours and the whole crowd would share the delight of watching a live performance. But gone are those days filled with wonder and delight.
Who has the time to stop and watch a show?
Our work lives are becoming more and more stressful. We read about cases of road rage in which utter strange e and more stressful. We read about cases of
road rage in which utter strangers vent their frustration on each other in the open,
exhibiting extreme aggression.
Women face increasing levels of violence in almost every public space. Children feel increasing stressed by the
competition; some have been driven to suicide while others take to drugs and alcohol to deal with their disappointments. And after a long exhasperating drive in a bus or even in an air conditioned car the parents and children find themselves in front of a television, the main source of their daily entertainment.
It is true that television has a positive role to
play in education and entertainment; but more and more studies show those hours of passive watching have harmful effects on both children and adults. Television and electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing and interacting within the family or with friends. The violence that children witness on their TV screens feeds their anxieties and at the same time makes them aggressive. Excessive TV watching can make children obese and even lead them to alcoholism. Would it not be wonderful if your stressful and anxiety-filled days were once again
interrupted by a live performance by traditional street artists right at your doorstep?
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR TRADITIONAL STREET PERFORMERS ?
They are disappearing. Many of us live within gated colonies and the Residents Welfare Associations
ensure our safety by often banning the entry of vendors and performers. Schools have not learnt to incorporate
the traditional performing arts into their curriculum as schools in other countries. There are fewer public places where street performers are allowed to perform; and if they start a show police come and harass them. Under the law, street performers are equated with beggars! The recent bans on use of animals has deprived snake charmers of their jobs, and the other animal trainers too have lost their professions. Many accomplished artists who have trained for years have taken to other professions such as rag picking, contract work or have been reduced to becoming wage labourers.
The respect for the traditional performing arts is diminishing and opportunities for
performing are limited, so the younger generations no longer want to invest their time in the