Lying on the beach with the Aussies on their last night, who were soaking up the last of the Indian sunrays and more importantly inhaling their last servings of cheesy garlic naan and garlic prawns, we were all buzzing with excitement. The circus had come to town. All week as we had driven on the way to the slums we had watched with giggly anticipation as the stripy colourful tents popped up adorned with malfunctioning fairy lights and swarming with grubby, peculiar looking people. Of all the ways to spend their last night in India what better than a spectacular extravaganza of allure, mystery and wonder in those magical parachute tents glowing with talented performers. We were certainly in for a surprise.
After ordering far too much yummy indian food on the beach (plus bucketloads of mango juice) we were running late for the show and so when we finally arrived, just in time, we were skipping and running through the doors, the fairy lights glowing in our eyes.
Immediately we were highly amused at our prior worries that “what if there’s no seats left?!”… there was about 40 spectators, with about 15 of that number being us from the camp…
Spread out sparsely on the numerous, unnecessary plastic chairs in a large circle around the circus ring, we were perfectly positioned to stare at the audience members’ underwhelmed faces as the show commenced. With no glitz, pomp or even an announcement, a line of undernourished teenagers in tight, discoloured leotards reluctantly dragged themselves into the ring and proceeded to swing around unenthusiastically, performing some pretty impressive tricks but accompanying them with grimaces and shrugged shoulders like a moody teenager being told to do their homework. Then presumably for comedic value a dwarf dressed in a hideous Lycra ensemble joined in, but OH he can’t reach the swing because his limbs are too small HAHAHA now he’s going to fall! Such comedy. To accompany this hilarious skit, which they repeated about 10 times, out comes a woman, but OH she’s so FAT! HAHAHAH she’s fat and she’s wearing a tight leotard, I see where this ones going! YUP there she goes, falling 50 feet onto the ‘safety’ net (fixed in place by skinny men pulling the ropes taut, with difficulty).
Believe it or not, the show went downhill from this point.
Between each ‘act’, a long line of young girls marched out with the most tragic faces I’ve ever seen, wearing far too tight silver hot pants and crop tops, carrying flags or ribbons yet barely carrying themselves. Whilst stood in the circus ring they would suddenly start whispering to each other or just drop what they were holding, clearly dying to get out of the burning spotlights.
Every now and then a ‘performer’ would come out, hula hooping or lassoing or trying to balance on a barrel, and quite often they would give it a few attempts before giving up defeated and doing a halfhearted bow at the nonexistent audience.
There was also, to add to the terrific lineup, a group of little men in clown outfits whose job it was to hurt each other in various ways, though they spent a majority of their time stood at the side of the circus ring taking pictures of Hanna, the gorgeous blonde Swedish girl, on their Nokias.
The most spectacular sight in a stomach churning, disturbing way, was their group of elephants which came marching out and on command walked on their hind feet and sat down on chairs like people and various other disconcerting acts that remind me of those nightmares you have where things are so disjointed and unnatural that your stomach sinks and you need to escape.
Confused, bemused and ashamed to have given these people my money, we sat eager for this freak show to end. Expecting some sort of grand finale or at least some confirmation that we were allowed to leave we were suddenly very taken aback when suddenly all the Indian families just got up and left, apparently the show had ended, on an incredible anticlimax, which was probably a very fitting end in its’ ambiguity, disjointedness and general crap-ness.
My first ever trip to the circus was certainly an experience, an experience never ever to be repeated.
A few days ago Petter, who is still in India, contacted us all to casually inform us that the owner of the circus was now being charged with human trafficking, so we can probably let the performers off for being so miserable and unenthusiastic…
In this circumstance, the show most definitely must not go on.