Thursday, April 13, 2006

Elephants, Contortionists, Acrobats and Clowns

So we went to the circus expecting to have a good time. But strangely enough I came home with mixed feelings. If the truth be told I feel a bit troubled.

When I was a kid, a circus was a magical place. It still is a magical place no doubt, if the massive crowds and parents accompanying screaming kids I saw tonight is anything to go by.

The SIU Arena normally used for basketball games was converted into a circus arena tonight. The first thing that struck me was the fact that the circus somehow seemed so much smaller, than what I remembered in my childhood. I wondered if it was a perspective thing – what looks small to an adult looks big to a child. But then the Editor-in-Chief of my newspaper, who I met after the show later, told me that it was a one-ring circus, and bigger cities had bigger circuses.

Everything went like clockwork, the flying, death defying acrobats, the clowns who made the children laugh, the Frisbee catching dogs, the white horses who trotted in a choreographed fashion, the upside-down people who walked with their feet in the air.

And then something happened that threw me off completely and made me squirm a bit on the bleachers I was sitting on. Two beautiful Asian elephants (one of them was called “Jyotika” – an Indian name!) came into the ring. They defied gravity and astounded us all, by sitting on stools, sitting on the floor, raising their front legs, doing a handstand, resting their front legs on each other and walking with just their hind legs, and more in that vein.

While it was a testament to how well trained, flexible and agile they were, so graceful despite their immense proportions, it made me feel awful for the fate such beautiful animals were reduced to, performing silly antics in the circus.

True, their act made children laugh and astounded us all. But it also felt wrong somehow. I felt a twinge and wished they were free, enjoying the wild.

Later when two men came on stage and started contorting their bodies in unbelievable ways, I began to feel the same way all over again. Everyone was looking at them in fascination. But they were freaks and everyone was staring at the “freaks” doing their act. It somehow made me feel a bit uneasy again.

Not to say that I didn’t have fun. I did enjoy the show. But just came away with mixed feelings.

Anyone experience what I’m talking about?


abbyladybug said...

I haven't been to the circus in years, and I think that what you're describing is part of why. Circuses are perfect for children, but as an adult, it all seems a bit silly. I feel less bad for the people. I mean, with their unusual strengths, I can't imagine they'd mind the positive attention they are receiving, but the elephants... that's another story. I don't know much about the personalities of elephants. I know dogs actually look for a master (an alpha) and enjoy being trained. I'm just not sure elephants are the same. I can't imagine they would be. They aren't the same kind of pack mentality as dogs, are they?

poornima said...

I have no idea. But i just felt so sad watching the elephants....