“We are dedicating this show to the people – some known to us, others anonymous – who kept us alive through the lockdown,” said the chief clown of Rambo Circus welcoming us at the entrance of the circus’s main tent at Airoli in Navi Mumbai. His voice choked as he tried to say a few words more and he turned his head away towards the tent’s multi-hued peak. Tears rolled down his face painted in three greasy colors, white flowed into red and then into black and white again, ruining his painstakingly put together grin.
Laughing and crying and making people laugh and cry is a clown’s job. But this was not an act. It was January 1 of the new year and Biju Nair, 52, in a few hours’ time was scheduled to go up on the stage after a gap of 293 days or nine-a-half months. We all know the past 290-plus days far too well and what they did to our lives and livelihoods. Biju, who is also the circus’ manager, lost three of his colleagues during the lockdown, saw nearly half of the crew quit and take up odd jobs to survive, petitioned everyone he could for funds, and learnt what it feels like to survive on doles. The first show of 2021, he said, feels surreal, like waking up from a nightmare.
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