While the fairgrounds are full of life and lights and odd juxtapositions of the well-thought-out (like the many muscle-powered rides that go round with one delirious kid in a random car tied [the car, of course] on to the rotating platform, lit up in a baaraat of zero-watt bulbs [or LEDs masquerading as those] with wonderful pieces of jugaad-ed electrical wiring wizardry) and the fantastically random (the five Freudian dogs sniffing out politically incorrect definitions of people from a paying crowd, aptly named [the dogs] Raja, Rani and two other names I failed to commit to memory), the show is—without question—stolen many times over by the man with the mike (to the right of the image) drawing a sizable crowd to the well-of-death with his (almost) non-stop banter. It is as if he is enjoying himself tremendously. He isn’t. But he makes it all sound so convincing in a non-annoyingly self-deprecating way (India’s largest such well-of-death, featuring three thousand three hundred and thirty three nuts and bolts and two hundred and seventy five light bulbs). On my first visit to the fair, I had assumed the speech to be a well-rehearsed—and by now, standard—affair. I was wrong; today’s version is subtly politically charged (the pathos is almost palpable) with a long-drawn joke about the absurdity of it all and the flash-hartal. Then there is the manic laughter every once in a while, followed by a bout of Tamil with an accent so Sivaji Ganeshanesque it is hard to not cheer from the edge of the crowd that has by then gathered to just watch him pour out this heartfelt piece of hard-selling prose. Some people in groups wolf-whistle in approval. He weaves the absurdity of issuing a no-smoking warning at a show that promises frequent encounters with death and so on, into the narrative at some point. Peppy bollywood music peppers his pauses. The volume knob does its little dance. He takes reviews from the unsuspecting crowd on their way down from the ‘well’ after a show. Even the most inarticulate reviewer sounds like Gordon Ramsay on a particularly good hair day.
People expect in fairgrounds an encounter with the absurd. Or at least something off-kilter like a board shouting ‘BREAK DANCE’ in tall, outlined capitals over a ride where people are tied to their chairs and hold on to their lives and sentient dupattas. The well-of-death salesman mixes a deadly dose of self-awareness into the cocktail of the less than routine and serves it on the rocks. We are part of the joke-making mechanism so we laugh with the jokes and not at them. It is stand up comedy in first-person VR, if you will. His prose is the reason you make peace with the amplified cacophony of it all.
1: Kids have it the worst when it comes to peer pressure.
2: I am in awe of the one where the lights on the periphery of the rides take their juice from the axle. It is like an electric train, but wrapped around a crude cylinder.
3: He takes a short break from the banter once in a while and leaves people awkwardly staring at each other with no one to listen to, and their phones conspicuously not out. During the breaks, he is in serious conversation with a person who appears to be the show’s lead rider and probably the business partner.
4: Or something to the same effect; I was laughing through that part and failed to pay attention. The 3,333 bit is quoted right, though.