CHENNAI: The Great Bombay Circus, which organises shows across the country, is stranded in Mannargudi in Thiruvarur district since March due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
A total of 134 artists, including nine Ethiopian and 19 Nepalese, along with their performing animals are running out of options to sustain themselves in the absence of any income.
The circus manager PV Jayaprakasan told The New Indian Express, "We were holding shows in Chennai till February 17 and then moved to Mannargudi for a month-long performance on February 22. We were conducting shows till March 17 before being shut down by the administration due to the coronavirus spread. Since then, we are stranded here."
Of the 134, 27 are women who are accommodated in rental homes. Most of the men are fending for themselves in tents on the circus site. "We have camels, horses, ostriches, dogs and parrots to take care of. The artists' salaries, food, shelter and maintenance expenses per day comes to Rs 90,000. As of now, local authorities and a few donors are supplying essential items like rice, dal, vegetables etc to cook," Jayaprakasan said.
On the COVID-19 scare, he said all the artists were medically screened in Chennai and there were no symptoms so far, adding that financial concerns were more pressing. Since circus shows are unlikely to start anytime soon under the current pandemic conditions, the artists are asking for monetary help from the Tamil Nadu government.
Munna Bhai, a senior performing circus artist from Solapur in Maharashtra, said, "We are really worried as we don't know how long we have to stay here. Currently, the rations are being supplied by donors, but for other expenses like rent, food for animals, medicines etc, we need money."