Source : Google photo of itinerant entertainers in Rajasthan ,India
Synopsis : The itinerant entertainers are slowly fading away because the whole world is changing through development and globalization of trade and commerce that is impacting everyone including the itinerant entertainers. The changes coming are inevitable but it is hoped that the poor people are given time to adjust to the new world by learning new trades and skills that will free them from the harsh life they live.
Once I was in a village in the Eastern part of India where there was going to be a road show by the itinerant entertainers so the advance party was very busy advertising their show , its great talents and its unique features in order to sell the tickets in advance.
There was great excitement and expectation among the villagers who were mostly farmers who waited for the entertainers to arrive soon so the tickets were bought in advance. The word had spread to neighboring villages as well thanks to the advance party and their loudspeakers daily so they too waited with great excitement and bought their tickets.
A day before the event, the workers cleaned up a football field, put a fence around it and set up the stage with lights everywhere. They set up a gate where a gate keeper was to keep people without tickets out but also sold tickets to those who wanted. They brought in generator to light up the place and the cooks got busy preparing huge meals for the entertainers and workers under a tree while constant music blared from their numerous loudspeakers to announce that the show was about to start.
Then a busload of entertainers arrived in the evening and inspected all the preparations made so far and got down to the business of makeup and dressing up for the show that was soon to begin. The farmers and others had arrived in droves from distant villages in their tractor trailers or by foot or even donkey carts or other means .
So the place was full of spectators who now waited for the show to begin while munching on peanuts and other snacks they bought from the vendors who did a brisk business. There was an air of great festivity what with all the lights, noise and people who kept on coming. I too bought a ticket and sat down with them.
Then the show started. The actors and actresses wore very colorful clothes and sparkling fake jewelries that showed them in their very best on the stage where several microphones were hung from a makeshift bamboo ceiling. They knew where the mikes were so they stood under it to speak their lines .They did not need any prompting because they had done it many times before.
The audiences was fascinated by the show, the lights, sound and the colorful entertainers who not only impressed them with their show but also with their crude jokes and epithets that the farmers understood well and liked. The whole show was meant for the rural folks who were crude, mostly illiterate and poor who had very little to be happy about in their hum drum hard life so they soaked it up eagerly.
I was not impressed but amused just the same because the show was so crude that it hurt my sensibilities but then it was not meant for me. When the show was over, people started to leave after leaving behind trash, peanut peels etc. everywhere to go back to their mundane life but would talk about the show for days and weeks to come.
The entertainers left, the fence and everything was dismantled and packed up but the picking up the trash was not their job. The trouble started after everybody left and the fight over the spoils started among the village boys who had spent a month and a lot of effort to advertise because they felt that they did not receive a fair share of the loot and cursed the entertainers who had long disappeared with their pockets full of money.
These itinerant entertainers were a shrewd lot. They knew exactly when to put up a show in a village because they knew when the farmers had money after their harvest. They had a list of all the villages where they showed up one after the other during the post-harvest season to make a lot of money. The petty quarrel over money after they left was not their concern. Read my blog here called What is entertainment )
I have noticed that these traveling troubadours come in different categories. The first group is the basic one that has just a few entertainers and just one village girl who pretends to know singing and dancing but does a poor job. They just put up a show under a tree with just a Petromax light that someone had to pump up frequently while the farmers gathered around squatting in the dirt and keeping up a running commentary on the poor girl who knew neither dancing nor could sing but it was better than nothing. The whole thing was simple, crude and often vulgar but they went from village to village to earn a small living. They are really no different from the traveling Punch and Judy shows in England or elsewhere.
Then there are those I mentioned earlier. They earn more money, are well organized and travel from village to village in their bus while their advance party sets up the venue and food. Most of the remote rural parts of the country still have no road, electricity or other facilities but slowly it is changing in India. Now many villages are being connected with good all weather roads, electricity and with water supply so they now enjoy watching TV and can talk to anyone using their cell phones. It is changing the rural India in a way that has never happened before so the days of the itinerant entertainers are numbered. People can watch movies on TV for free or watch serials avidly that are professionally made and broadcast nationwide.
Now let us see what other types of street entertainers are there who are itinerant and wander from village to village and city to city all over India in order to earn a meagre living.
Source : Google photo of nomad with his dancing monkeys in India
Source : Google photo of nomad and his dancing bear in India
They have dancing monkey show, dancing bears and snake charmers. They are solitary but some may have a small girl or a woman who can walk on a rope and do other types acrobatics. But they too have come under pressure to give up their nomadic life so they can settle down in one place and learn a new trade to make a living. Some NGOs have set up sanctuaries for the bears and other animals that are cared for with food and veterinary care so these nomads are giving up their animals to the NGOs and get some compensation because life is hard for them.
Source : Google photo of children watching snake shows in India
Those who get some training to make baskets or weaving can earn a better living so the government is helping them change their way of life. It is now dangerous for them to wander on highways and roads with their animals because of traffic of motor vehicles that increases constantly.
I was told that the mafia that provides these bears to the nomads earns a part of what these poor people earn so it is hard for the government to control the mafia that controls the itinerant people. The modernization of India and massive infrastructure development now has started to change India in a fundamental way so the land mafia, drug mafia and other types of criminals are under pressure to surrender and stop their illegal activities.
Their illegal houses are being bulldozed, bank accounts frozen and they are forced to surrender to the police that has an impact on these poor nomads who are giving up their trade and are settling down somewhere.
In many countries, the itinerant entertainers are strictly regulated by their governments. I saw how the street entertainers in Paris were being harassed by the police so they either tried to run away or paid a fine for performing on the streets without permit. I saw the same thing in Mexico but in India the policemen are sympathetic to the poor people who are trying to earn a living this way.
There are millions of poor people who are self-employed because they earn a living by selling something that feeds their families. There are no strict laws and the need for permits so people are free to be self-employed.
It also decreases the pressure on the government to create jobs for everyone especially if they are uneducated, unskilled in anything and cannot be trained for factory jobs so the government left them alone. Now the government has started to help the poor people so they are given subsidized food or free food, free gas and water and even free housing , interest free loans to set up their own businesses and training men and women in new trades like sewing , basket making or carpentry.
The itinerant entertainers exist in some parts of India and in other countries because they have to survive in this harsh world but as the country makes progress, it tries to help uplift the very poor people who are at the bottom of the rung. China is a classic example where the government has drastically reduced poverty by training people for factory jobs and building nationwide housing complexes for them.
India too is well on its way to reduce the poverty level by taking measures I mentioned earlier. The whole country is changing so the people will also have to change along with it and adjust to a new and modern way of living.
Just imagine how many bears and other animals are being saved from cruel life who are now being sheltered in sanctuaries. There is now a pressure on the poachers to stop capturing the bear cubs in the forest to sell them to the mafia.
As for the traveling entertainers ,they too will fade away someday as new India rises and provides better and free entertainment through TV and radio broadcast nationwide via satellite. People in cities are already cutting their cables for watching TV and subscribing to Netflix so the rural folks will not be far behind.
I will certainly miss the itinerant troubadours because they provided entertainment to rural and city people and earned a living but the whole world is changing. This change is now picking up speed due to the globalization of trade and entertainment industry. Now anyone can watch a Hollywood movie on TV dubbed in their native language. The Indian Bollywood movies are also being produced in many languages to reach a wider audience that are being telecast in Netflix.
I just hope that the poor people of this world who are many can continue to earn a living using whatever skills they have and are not harassed by the police for permit, bribe or outright threat of jail because everybody has a right to earn a living. People will change along with time and will adopt to new ways but in the interim they should be allowed to continue entertaining you and me. They should be allowed to adjust to the new world in their own pace and time and not pressured to change.
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Originally published at http://aumolc.wordpress.com on April 15, 2022.