After 52 hours of trains, tuk tuk’s, platform juggling/unicycle practice and samosa eating we arrived in Varanasi.
Most of us were elated, many were exhausted and all were excited about arriving in this gloriously hectic, ancient city.
We trouped up the steps, over the platforms and into the station, dripping with kit bags, finding paths between the multicolored sleeping bodies that carpeted the floor. A gigantic black and dusty bull entered from the street outside parting the crowds like one of Tom’s firework farts!
Winding through the bustle, in auto-rickshaw’s brimming with tricks, we arrived at the Ganga Guest House: our home for the coming month. A late night snack of delicious egg roll street food, then slumped into bed.
After the morning to explore and do a few chores we readied ourselves for meeting and performing to the children of Asha Deep Vidayashram.
On route to the school, children ran past us waving colored flyers shouting “Circus, circus, circus!” They knew we were coming and their excitement was infectious. We were greeted with frantic hands and clambering bodies, climbing to our shoulders and delighting at being spun and twirled like rag dolls.
The show at dusk was a great success (despite a few tired slip ups) with a quieter, but more focused audience than that at Kudle. After gorging on thali and debriefing from the show, we crashed out, knackered from the physical and sensory overload.
We couldn’t crash for long, as we had another show to prepare for; a show performed on the Ghats (steps leading down to the Holy waters of the Ganga) in front of hundreds (or maybe thousands!) of people. The Indian audience (from children to Bubba’s- Indian holy men), although typically unresponsive during the show, loved it and treated us like celebrities afterwards.
For the first time our audience was in 360 degrees, as the concept of front and back stage was lost in translation. We were also competing with the noise of booming sound systems, processing sacred statues down to the waters accompanied by a drumming band. The challenges were over come by our flexible cast and added to the enjoyment of performing to a different culture.
Many of our students returned for a second viewing and took the lead in audience participation. We were also gifted another unicycle for the
school by an audience member who had toured with an Italian circus for many years. The experience was uplifting and appreciated; certainly enough to give us a buzz and make us excited and impatient to begin the teaching!
A collection of photos from the team are also uploaded on our flickr account; take a peek.