As the horns bellowed in his ear, he was pushed ahead by the Ringmaster. It was time for his act.
Gathering all the energy around him in one long inhale, Kapil started sprinting towards the tall ladder which was situated in the middle of the arena of a shouting audience. As he glanced up after reaching the foot of the ladder, he saw two men pulling and adjusting the cables around some bars. The lights dancing above increasing his palpitations.
“I’m dreaming of Cirque de Soliel while I’m stuck at this local Circus company who give me the fear of death at every jump.”
With no net underneath to protect him, his fear grows every day as he performs. Climbing the ladder step by step, he sees the other two boys from his tent on the opposite end of the arena, prepping for the same act.
He holds the bar steady and has enough rosin to give him a sticky grip on the bars. In all the years he was part of the Circus, he went on from a side artist to becoming the board monkey, the one who runs the platform, planning the whole act out and giving formations to the other artists.
As he shook his hands vigorously to let go of all the fear, he dragged his feet backwards along the footboard and pulled the bar behind with him. He gave a short run and with a loud cry of “Hep”, he signalled the artist on the other end to go and left the foot board behind to swing in around 42 ft high dome.
And once he let go, all his fears disappeared. The art of Trapeze is what kept him sane in this Circus.
With dynamic movements on the bar, the act was full of surprises for the audiences as they went “Oooh” and “Waaah” at every miss and catch of the artists. The artists casting themselves from one bar and getting caught by another artist hanging on the other bar by their knees was always a hit. But the swivel dance from all the artists at the end was what made them give a standing applause.
After the show for the day, Kapil is seen wiping his paint off by a dirty cloth he found at the back of a cupboard. His tent-mate, Rajiv, suddenly comes panting towards Kapil. His face is half covered in the decorative face paint and he has already changed to his half-chaddi.
“Kapil…” Rajiv took a moment to gather his breath before he could utter words.
“I’ll wait.” A weirded out Kapil continued scraping the dry paint with the wet cloth, as he found the other artists around him were eagerly waiting for Rajiv to finish his sentence.
“Rahim…” He only had to say that one word to get Kapil’s undivided attention. He pointed towards the exit of the greenroom and felt Kapil bolt out through the curtains.
As for Rahim, he was not exactly in the brightest of moods for he was tied to a dusty old chair, which was probably never used, and in the vicinity of Saabji’s paan spit.
After missing Rahim by an inch with his vermilion spit, splatters of which did reach Rahim’s elbow, the Circus owner started to speak with his lower lip full of tobacco and paan.
“Boy, you tell me right now if you have any of my money left with you, or I’m going to retrieve each and every rupee by selling your parts. I’m telling you.”
Instead of getting threatened by the Saabji’s incessant warnings, the little boy had seen the world and knew for sure the Circus owner didn’t have the hips to do anything to him. The situation had become an open court where both Rahim, a mere 13 year old boy, and the Circus owner, a furious 55 year old man, were trying hard to show their dominance by just their stares.
“Do what you want, old man! You and I both know that by dusk tomorrow you will not see me in your little hell.” Rahim spewed his words and the Circus owner took them as a heavy blow to his reputation in front of the people who work for him.
Saabji stood there dumb founded, looking at Rahim who was the first person who spoke with such audacity. Even his kids were a little timid around the hefty old man. He slowly let out a smile all of a sudden and ordered one of the stage workers to get him a rod.
The worker hesitated a little and found a small thin metal rod used to keep the elephants in line. Saabji sensed that everyone there had a soft corner for the boy, given the size of the rod. But he didn’t need for his workers to like him, he needed them to fear him.
He took the rod, swinging it in his hands, and walked towards the small bonfire which was made for the sole purpose to burn the waste paper collected in the audience stands. He bent his knees and started heating up the rod. The workers gasped and started mumbling at the sheer brutality of Saabji.
Somehow, Rahim still thought that he just used the rod to scare his workers to avoid anyone defying his name. But slowly, his heart slipped a little lower with every step Saabji took towards him with the red hot rod, now wrapped in his hands with the clown’s cap.
“So, you like a rebel, eh?” He asked the Circus. The workers, the artists, the tamers and everyone else had become a part of a huge family. And Saabji knew very well that their hearts ached after looking at the ragged boy in the chair, struggling to get out of the ropes. Their eyes hoped for the ropes to fall a little lose for Rahim, a stranger who had no ties with them.
“I’ll give you your rebel.” He smiled at the crowd, and turned towards the boy.
“Served hot…” Saabji proceeded to plough the rod in Rahim’s eyeballs.