“Welcome, my dear!” said the Ringmaster to me. “A warm welcome into adulthood, my dear child! Oops, I’m sorry, you are no longer a child!”
I stood there, dazed. Adulthood looked dazzling when I was a kid. I always wanted to grow up soon and enjoy the freedom to do whatever I wished to do. But my eyes wandered around just then and I saw a bewildered and scared looking man in the lion’s cage with another man teaching him how to tame the lion, who looked very ferocious!
“I can’t do this!” said the bewildered man who looked like he would faint soon.
“But you have no choice! I’m retiring and you have to take over this job! Now see, it senses fear, alright? So you must be brave and confident! Act like you know the game!” said the present lion tamer.
“But I don’t know the game! Can I go back to clowning? Please!”
“No, I’m afraid not. You must do what’s assigned to you.”
“Hello, my dear, are you listening to me?” asked the Ringmaster to me.
“Huh? Uh, yes,” said I, looking away from the reluctant tamer and back at the Ringmaster.
“So you’ll have a lot of work to do. I hope you have been trained in the basics, right? But let me assure you, nothing will be like what you have studied so you will be trained for the skill you are chosen for. Are you clear?”
“Yes, but I can do-”
“I don’t want to listen to what you have to say, my dear. Make a note, you will not be listened to unless you succeed here. You may obey till then. Clear?”
We passed a man posed at a distance from another, who was wielding knives. The Ringmaster told me, “You will be taught to do that.”
“The throwing? I don’t think I am good at aiming! The man might die!” I exclaimed.
“No, no! The standing-still part, my dear. You won’t be told to throw, you’ll take the knives around you. You’ll have to take what’s thrown your way and hope that it never gets to you.”
My ears couldn’t believe what was being told to me. But the Ringmaster kept going on.
“Now this is a particular set of skills that will definitely come in handy, my dear,” he said, pointing towards the jugglers. “You might have two, three or way too many objects to handle, but you mustn’t falter in front of the audience because we work to please them, that’s where the money comes from, alright?” We moved on.
“Oh no! He will fall!” I said, my eyes transfixed at the tightrope walker. The distance from the bare floor was too high and too steep! But the Ringmaster casually consoled me, or so he thought, “Relax, he won’t. If his life is precious to him, he will find the balance or he will hang in the same! Hahaha…”
I did not think that was funny. But he wasn’t done with the introductions yet.
“Trapeze artists work as a team, so must you.”
That was the first sign of trust I saw in the place, where no one was forcing anyone to do anything. It felt good to-
“Why didn’t you catch me!?” yelled one of the trapeze artists.
“You never caught my arm! You fool!” yelled the other.
“My dear children,” said the Ringmaster to them, “I can see who isn’t working well. Betty?” the girl who was accusing the other man of not catching her, and who fell into the safety net, looked fearfully at the Ringmaster. “Please make sure the act isn’t ruined because of you.”
“But it wasn’t my fault!”
“But it was!” said the Ringmaster and smiled. So did the other man. That was a smirk. So he was plotting! Oh no, my faith…
A sudden noise caught my attention. The bikers were practicing their ‘Globe of Death’ routine. The risks they were taking was tremendous. It wasn’t something I would have been willing to do. The Ringmaster saw me looking at them and said, “Risks are a part of the game, my dear. Remember.”
We crossed a midget trying to reach a jar of biscuits kept at a considerable height. I went ahead and helped him by picking it up and giving it to him. He didn’t bother to thank me. The Ringmaster laughed and said, “Don’t be such a sensitive soul. He just picked your pocket. You helped him get food and money! Hahaha!”
I was astounded and didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless. I saw many things that day during the orientation. I saw the woman who lies every night on a bed of nails and saw how they do prick her. I saw how they increased the weight on her to increase the pressure. She endured it. I saw the act of sword swallowing and was given another word of advice by the Ringmaster that I must learn to swallow my pride, no matter how difficult it is. I saw a clown, making others happy while sad himself. He had no choice as his daily wages depended upon how many laughed at him.
At last, I saw the man covered in black and white. He was miming something at me. I couldn’t make out. I tried but I couldn’t. True, my notion of adulthood was very pure and different when I was a child and this came as a jolt. “Are you ready, my dear?” he asked me.
Well, I had come this far, I might as well. “Yes, I’m all yours.”
Years later, I realized that the mime was the future me, miming, “Run!”
P. S. If everything was easy, no one will work for it. I understand that life’s hard and unfair, but that’s what gives you a range of emotions and drives you. For all those who are frustrated and think it’ll never work out, think that “This too shall pass”. And if it all relies on your doings, then think, “You can do it.” Because it works! Happy clowning! 🙂