Friends of the Kathputli Colony, Delhi

This letter came to me and I thought it was worth  publishing :

Dear Sir

We are writing to you on behalf of the traditional artists at Kathputli Colony, Delhi.

This colony is a beautiful hub of different communities of artists from different states of India who have been living here for more than 50 years. You must be already acquainted with the colony artists as they have performed in your movie “Bandit Queen” and Guddi Didi who even sang for the movie.

This colony is a special heritage site for it is home to puppeteers, street magicians, animal trainers, jugglers, acrobats, dancers, singers, toy makers, sculptors, poets and also non-artists residents who serve the city through their various professions and live in harmony with the art and culture the residents have so meticulously nurtured and continued with over the years.

This colony is now facing the danger of eviction and might be shifted to a transit camp and later into tiny flats where they fear that they shall not be able to continue with their traditional professions and way of life. How would the puppeteers create and store life size puppets in that space? Where would people sculpt? Where would the Ayurveda doctors prepare medicines? How would the acrobat carry huge bamboo poles in high rise apartment lifts? How would they perform and practice in open as they do in their interactive community life now? The colony residents request that they must not be forced to shift into a way of life that would destroy this heritage forever. They ask, can this colony not be redesigned instead as a heritage colony which provides them space to nurture their art forms and perform, to continue with tradition and also serve Tourism?

Secondly, these maestros who enthrall public all around the world in the name of Indian Tradition, do they not deserve respect and support from their own country? Currently their court proceedings are on and they have permission from Lt. Governor to continue staying here for at least a month, but they are still being harassed and threatened to vacate. This is severe blow to their morale and their self-respect. It is setting such a terrible example for their future generations, why should then they even continue with these art forms?

On internet, we have support from around the world, people liking the page, putting up photographs, hardly does this support get converted on ground. We request every person who respects this heritage to demand just and dignified treatment for this colony and humbly request for your support as well.

friendsofkathputlicolony@gmail.com

 

5 Responses to “Friends of the Kathputli Colony, Delhi”

  1. RajuK says:

    Wow! I was not aware about the existence of this Kathputli colony. Indian Kathputli artists (puppeteers) are world class!

    The letter you published mentions about their page on the internet. Is is referring to their facebook page? I found a facebook page which is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Kathputli-Colony-Delhi/604606192938523.

    I came across an article in TIME magazine which refers to this colony as a slum. The DDA (Delhi Development Authority) claims to own their land and wants to give them better living conditions. However, it seems to me the colony is not only the place where these artists sleep, but also their workshop. The article mentions,
    ““Our art dictates our lifestyle and our lifestyle is our identity; the lifestyle of a multistory building is not for us,” says Aziz Khan, a magician who made Guinness World Records for his great Indian rope trick in 1995.” Here is a link to the article in TIME magazine (http://time.com/12073/india-kathputli-colony-of-street-artists-to-be-demolished/).

    I believe a workable solution between the artists and the DDA should be sought. Some way where the artists get better living conditions, as well as their wokshop/large-family-living-together facility. Maybe, a government+private investors partnership to promote it as a world heritage site.

    In the USA, cities like Las Vegas and Silver-Dollar City, Missouri have emerged as places where artists perform year-round.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibsonton,_Florida is a small city where retired circus performers live. The wiki page for this city mentions, “Gibsonton offered unique circus zoning laws that allowed residents to keep elephants and circus trailers on their front lawns.” So, cities do accommodate small-timer performers.

    Have you been to Kathputli colony? It seems I have more questions than answers.

  2. Really Great Article. I read this full article. I must say this is brilliant selection!
    Thanks!

  3. Surabhi says:

    Dear Shekhar ji

    First of all thank you so much for sharing this letter on your blog. Yes, I know about this issue…these artists are from different corners of our country. They are traditional folk artists and have kept our culture alive by their creativity, through their own power. They are the heritage of the Indian culture.But one question I am asking myself and I would like to you also-this is simply we are discussing or we want to do something concrete?…
    Imagine, it’s a beautiful morning, you leave the house to earn money through the skill,your family has nurtured for years. You start the performance, and then someone comes in, abuses you, hits you and ask you to run for your life. On the contrary the scene of outside the country – the person who receives you at the airport salutes in welcome, people lift your bags, take your autographs, your performance gets you a standing ovation, they all say Oh.. you are from India.You come back to India, you reach home, the same sequence of happenings …you leave the next morning, you begin the show,a crowd gathers, and someone comes in, abuses you, hits…
    Its also funny to see this apathy in the city where people flock to theme based restaurants – Chokhi Dhani ,Swadri Dhani,Padharo Mahray Gaon… and CULTURE BAZAARS and HANDICRAFT MELAS but the colony seems too far, at the end of the day, these people are asking for support. It’s a shame that this is what we do with our heritage, our traditional skills-great talent and innovation – hidden behind “DEVELOPMENT”.
    Destroy the Kathputli colony without consulting the residents. ..It is not at all respectful.They represent Indian culture all over the world. India will be proud of them. They are the heritage of the Indian culture. All these artists and this place must be protect rather I suggest Kathputli Colony should be inscribed as international cultural heritage.

    Regards
    Surabhi

  4. Anupam says:

    Shekharji,

    I will try to put up a post on this issue.

    Any change (even when its simply in initiation stage) always tend to breed fear – most of it stems from insecurities.

    We are not looking at disruptive innovations – I will try to put across that message in detail.

    Love & Regards,
    ~Anupam

  5. BlueSky says:

    Hello: I do not live in India, but want to know if anyone is interested in creating something, a page, an organisation …something that brings awareness about this so that the colony can be saved, preserved and the land be allotted to these people, without them having to pay for it. I know I am terribly busy but a recent visit to India told me that India is on the wrong path (much that it does not realise it,and I have never seen such vulgar television as it is in India) we have a rich art and folk culture, we need to preserve it. Saving the colony is like saving Shantiniketan or more. Bollywood (sorry Mr. Kapur) will destroy the heart of Indiaä’s creativity. So, wile I know time is an issue for all of us, I think big tasks are accomplished only when we determine to do something–and every grand task starts with one little step. Open to suggestions from people all over the world….thanks

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