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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 2, June 2019
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Nandita Jain Mahajan
New Delhi, India


The Mimosa

The ‘madari’ or the ‘monkey-man’ would draw a crowd as soon as he started playing the ‘damru’. To the beat of his ‘damru’, the monkeys would walk on two feet, enact a wedding scene, dance to a Hindi film song, besides doing somersaults and jumping through the smallest of hoops. We would sing along and watch each trick with unblinking eyes. At the end of the show the monkeys would come with their hats and take money from elders and bananas from children. The monkeys would then take their assigned positions on the bicycle and the ‘madari’ would pedal away with his sack of props.

A lot has changed in the last two decades. With the enactment of new rules, animals are prohibited from being used for street entertainment. The ‘madaris’ have almost disappeared from the cities in India.

Much to my surprise, this time I spot the ‘monkey-man’ when I visit my parents. He is with his monkeys—one is perched on his shoulder and the other on the rear carrier of his cycle. I have not forgotten the man’s grey eyes, pock-marked face, his hypnotic ‘damru’, or his monkeys. His sweater is torn and cap frayed, his pants are ankle-high, and a towel, instead of a silk scarf, is wrapped around his neck. The monkeys are dressed in cotton shirts…so unlike their red brocade coats and green caps that I remember from thirty years ago.

He stops when he sees me with my visibly excited five-year-old and asks, ‘Madam, should I show baba a monkey dance? My monkeys can even dance to English songs.’

lingering heat—
the imprint of rains
on the shy mimosa


Notes:

Damru—A small hourglass drum that is played by one hand. It is symbolic for both creation and annihilation

Baba—A form of endearment for a young boy

Shy Mimosa—A plant commonly known as the ‘touch me not’

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