Kathputli Colony, Shadipur New Delhi
The great Jon Augustine and I spent the weekend getting to know the people in the Kathputli Colony slum in Shadipur, New Delhi. They are a group of about 9,000 people in street performer families. For generations, the street performers were gypsies and would travel the country, performing their magic, puppetry, music and dances for passersby. But since India’s independence from the British, street performance permits have become almost impossible to obtain. The lack of steady performances has forced the colony into a slum, unable to afford to travel anymore.
Ishamuddin Khan is a Kathputli magician and has traveled the globe, performing his tricks for people in Japan, Holland and Scotland, to name a few. Every family passes down the traditions of their art to the younger generations.
Khan is now passing along the tradition to his sons, even if they cannot perform on the street anymore. Khan and his family now rely on school performances and birthday parties for wealthy families to perform their magic and puppet shows.
The land the Kathputli Colony lives on is owned by the Indian government. It has threatened to eviction the colony and bulldoze the homes and huts. Khan argues that they need the permanent land because they can no longer afford to travel because of the restrictions on street performance permits. There has not been a set date for the evictions, but worry still lingers.