The circus comes to town, literally

Touring circus performers look back on decades of smiles, tricks and sacrifice.


Our Correspondent July 10, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


Circus organiser PT Barnum once said, the bigger the humbug, the better people will like it. After 50 largely successful years, Lucky Irani Circus and its performers can genuinely vouch for that. The circus is currently ongoing at F-9 Park and will continue till July 20.


Despite security threats, financial constraints and the death of its founder, the family-run business, once called Jubilee Circus, remains as lucky as its name, and has garnered significant recognition, and not just for providing entertainment on a budget.

Not only has the circus business survived for generations, in fact all 10 performing troupes have been associated with the circus for at least 30 years, with a few having been with the circus at its inception.

One such family is the Mian Naseer Troupe, which has been teaching and performing gymnastics for five decades.

While talking to The Express Tribune, Shabbir Ahmed, who is a third-generation performer, said, “My father began honing my skills when I was only three and now I’m passing on my knowledge to my three children as well as other kids in the family.”

He said the ideal age to start training is around three but one of his family members, 16-year-old Humaira, defied the norm by starting training at the age of one.

Sharing her experiences, Humaira, also known as Bubbly, said though the routines seem to be effortless to the audience, there is a constant risk attached.

Raising her arms up, she said, “Look at them, they have been crooked ever since I fell from a high wire two years ago.” However, she said the management always provides timely and effective medical care. The management also provides education for younger members of the troupes, which follows a home schooling pattern with visiting teachers. However, being on the road all year-round except for Muharram and Ramazan is a major barrier for the young performers.

Humaira herself is two grades below her level of an average 16-year-old, but seems to be quite satisfied with the way things are. “The life-long education I have received from being a part of a part of this circus is much bigger,” she said.

Sisters Natasha and Fiza practice their hula-hoop routine, displaying remarkable dexterity, control and grace for children aged 10 and 11 respectively. They are the daughters of Naveed and Rukhsar and form the third generation of the Naveed Troupe.

Gymnast Rukhsar, a stunning green-eyed beauty from Ukraine, joined Lucky Irani Circus 14 years ago, and later married Naveed. Faizan, their youngest son, is 17 months old, and despite breastfeeding him, Rukhsar is back on stage with her awe-inspiring performance. She said she went back to performing just six months after all her births.

“Usually mothers wait for a year-and-a-half before going back on stage, but since I had C-sections each time, I was able to restart earlier,” she said.

As every troupe gets is paid per performance, the willingness to keep the show going only makes economic sense for Rukhsar and others like her. Javed Chaudhry, one of the troupe managers, said a troupe usually makes around Rs1,500 for one performance.

He lamented that while all amenities are paid by the management and performers are kept quite comfortable, security concerns have led to decreasing revenues over the past few years.

“No one knows the pain and sacrifice behind the smiling faces on stage, but that’s just how show business works.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.

View more pictures here.

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