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Published on 30 Oct 2006 | over 10 years ago

They would come out with their Monkeys, Snakes, Bears on the street. If a crowd gathered around them they would put up a show. The typical snake charmers played the twin piped woodwind instrument called 'Bin' or 'Pungi' and hypnotize the King Cobra or other deadly venomous snake with this music. The snake would be shaking its head in rhythm with the snake charmer's hand movements. Many times they would have a junior apprentice walk a tight rope, get stabbed, cough up blood from his mouth etc. At the end of the show they would circulate a collection bowl and people would throw in some spare change. Often times they had a special client who they performed for an agreed price. The uninvited kids like me and other people looking for a freebie show took advantage of this. We literally saw these shows for free, many times, as it was not obligatory to put money in the bowl circulating for collection. These are my early childhood memories of growing up in kolkata.

The child artist here performing for me with his monkeys is a class act. His act - a time tested classic involving two monkeys named after the two most popular film stars of the time. There is the celebrity wedding in this act. There is romance, tragedy and ultimately everything ends up on a happier note. He has a little two sided drum called 'Dugdugi 'he plays to keep rhythm with his singing. He sings some popular Hindi Film songs in the act and his stars, these monkeys dance, do acrobatics and act to his tune. Perhaps a major breadwinner for his family, this child artist performing on the street, is part of a fast vanishing breed of artists with their classic art form from the 'Street Theater Scene' of Kolkata. Well, Cable TV and Internet cannibalized his patrons.

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