The Tightrope Walker On the Street
I was jolted awake from my peaceful Sunday morning sleep by the sound of old Hindi Movie songs blaring outside my open window.
Generally, waking up to loud music is a phenomenon which occurs on Independence Day and Republic Day . It was quite unusual for a regular Sunday morning.
The music was coming from a battery operated system, clad in bright pink cloth, and placed on the road, next to a sweet shop/bakery at the junction.
A family of street performers were setting the junction ready for tightrope walking. The father was erecting about 1.5 m tall poles, while a slender girl, probably 13-14 years of age, assisted him. A baby was asleep on the pavement, laid on a blanket, oblivious to the music or the people stirring around buying milk and bread from the shop.
The show started, with the nimble- footed girl, walking on the tightrope, without any props. Some passersby stood back to watch and dropped money into the piece of cloth spread out below the rope.
She raised her performance to various levels, as her mother handed over a variety of props to her. Her dance on the rope, was now with pots of different size piled one over the other, balancing on her head . The long baton held between her hands helped her to maintain her graceful poise.
Her mother then handed over a flat steel plate. For a moment she had it under her feet, then was rolling it along the distance of the rope.
She let go of the plate and now had the steel rim of a wheel, balanced between her feet as she walked the rope. There was no cushioning beneath and she never faltered once, during the 15 minutes show.
Her act came to an end, with a crisp salute to the applauding crowd.
People were generous in dropping money into the collection box. The family might have managed to earn enough, for at least, simple three score meals for a couple of days .
The sleeping baby was awake now, while they packed up and moved ahead on foot, looking for the next busy junction.
I am not thinking about the ethics of the whole show, where a child endangered herself, while her adult parents managed the backstage. My thoughts are around the young girl who must have put herself through vigorous practice so as to get the show on the road.
Does she know to read and write? What if she falls?
In the course of life, sometimes we do turn the other way, when we see people bend rules to sustain their lives, doing what they know, rather than beg or accept charity . This naked and raw display of the struggle of a family of four, with nothing but the acrobatic skills of a child, to keep their life moving forward, would suffice to change our sheltered perspective of living.