THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When the flood hit his village in Kuttanad, magician Manu Mankombu took his country boat out to rescue those who were stranded. He managed to save 67 people but in the process, couldn’t save his own valuable possessions, including tools that cost around Rs 26 lakh. His house and office were inundated, damaging everything inside. He was determined to start anew and hopeful of paying off the loan he availed to buy the tools. All this would have been possible had the government decided to go on with the conduct of festivals.
But, he received another blow when the decision to call off all the festivals was taken in connection with the flood. “I never begged in front of anyone. Many have offered me money, but I refused to take any. I request the government not to cancel these festivals as many artists are dependent on these festivals for an income,” says Manu, his eyes brimming with tears.
On Wednesday, Manu Mankombu chained himself up in a symbolic protest in front of the Secretariat to state his dissent against the decision.
A group of magicians, led by Magician Samraj, stage artists and musicians joined him in the protest.
Magician Joseph, state secretary of Malayali Magician Association, performed a small act. He ate a tomato and threw up a set of blades. “I mean to tell the government that such decisions are like these blades, cutting through our livelihood.” He lost Rs 1 lakh due to the floods.
“We usually get 10 to 12 shows during Onam. This is our main source of income which help us save money for our entire year. We lost this when the festivities were called off,” he said. “By agreeing to conduct youth festival, the government understood the pain of children and their anxiety about grace mark. But what about the livelihood of the small-time artists who are denied a stage?” asked magician Samraj.
“This is not a protest but an effort to make the government see our woes. We want the authorities to realise that many are affected by the decision,” he added. He also expressed his disappointment at artists from film industries who remain silent about the situation.
In dire straits
Many artists were unable to help flood-affected fellow artists as they couldn’t find stages. “Artists depend on art for their livelihood. When you deny him a stage, you are denying his daily bread. A lot of people like sound operators, set designers, makeup artists, musicians and singers, are dependent on people like us. Thousands and their families lose their livelihood,” said Raghu, a singer and member of Music Commune.