Joker Uncle6 mins 23.9K 6 mins 23.9K
The joker lay there lifeless as the curtains drew a close. The audience had no idea, they were still laughing hysterically at his theatrics. So, when he actually suffered a heart attack on stage, it was assumed to be yet another of his hilarious acts. Little did anyone know that this act was his final, in the circus and in life in general.
Ramu joined nearly 40 years back. Typical story of a poor kid who ran away from his home fed up of sheer poverty and abuse at the hands of his uncles. Yes he had lost his parents at a tended age and had to be brought up by his uncles and aunts. But it was a life of hardships and abuse. Often he would get beaten up as a kid and then he cried for hours while none even noticed. Some day he got food, some day not. So when one day the Extreme Circus put up their tent in his little village, he was curious, curious to know all about it. In the darkness of the evening, he slipped inside the tent and was awestruck by the glamour and glitter of the showbiz on display. He had not seen anything like that before. Specially he was in splits seeing the acts of the dwarfs and the jokers. He could not recall when he had laughed so much, like how he did that evening. He had literally even forgotten that he had not had any food that day. And the 10 year old kid made up his mind. He had to join this. This seemed magical, pure fun.
Once the acts got over and the viewers started leaving, Ramu still sat there in the corner, until someone from the troop noticed him.
"Hey kid, show is over, go home."
"I have no home."
"What? Go kid, go! No time for shit."
"Please I want to stay with you all."
"No your parents would be angry."
"They have died long back."
The old man who had been asking these questions was a veteran with the circus team. Somewhere he found a connection with this kid, as if he was narrating his own stories.
Did stories always repeat over time? He had no idea.
"See kid, what's your name?"
"Ramu, look. If I take you with us, tomorrow someone may come claiming for you. What would we do then?"
"No one would come. None would know. They beat me up always. I stay hungry often."
"Oh poor child!"
The old man, for the first time, felt pity at the kid's plight.
"Okay, come with me."
The kid had followed. Over the years he guessed that the old man had taken some sort of an approval from the circus owner to get this new recruit. The owner had not objected. It was easy to tame and train kids from an earlier age, so they become experts later on.
And thus, he was part of the team, travelling wherever the team went, staying with the old man, who, by the way, also played the role of a joker.
He looked in awe how the old man transformed himself the moment he took stage, dishing out the best of his hilarious acts. The viewers would roll over laughing. Of course he was the best and the young chap wanted to become just like him one day.
What profession was better than one that made people happy and got them to laugh!
Time passed. Gradually he started assisting the old man on stage. Gradually he started making people laugh too, making his mark, developing his unique style. He didn't care about the pay, his remuneration at the end of the day was the intensity of laughter he generated and number of people who clapped.
It didn't take long before he excelled and was marked as the star performer in the circus troupe. The old man meanwhile had passed away one day, dying peacefully that his protege had bettered him and was able to survive on his own.
Meanwhile Ramu also fell in love with a trapeze artist and married her. While the circus owner was not too amused as he was potentially losing a talented trapeze artist, he did not dare to invite the wrath of his star performer and stayed quiet. His wife stopped doing her acts as she wanted to focus on the family. They had a child too and the Joker was happy like no other. Suddenly it seemed all hint of sadness from his childhood was just a nightmare.
But the happiness was short-lived. His wife suddenly died out of a critical disease, leaving the child at his disposal.
He almost thought the story was repeating again. But he did not want the story to repeat this time. He wanted his child to do better than him and stay away from the circus. He wanted to give him all that he did not get and he did exactly that. He admitted him to a good school where the kid did well, passing with flying colours. He was of course happy but...
But he was shocked one day when his kid said he was embarrassed to introduce him to his friends. He said his friends would definitely laugh.
"Your dad? A joker? hahah!!"
Ramu understood. He promised his son that he would never ever turn up in front of his friends. Even if they saw him, he could just say that he is his "Joker uncle".
And it stayed this way. Ramu's son graduated one day and got a job. He celebrated with his friends and his new girl friend. The joker uncle would watch from a distance, happy at his son's success.
When the girl asked, "Who is this shabby old man?", the son replied, "He is my joker uncle!". The girl had said a sheepish "Hi" from a distance.
Ramu did not exactly know what "Hi" meant. He was familiar with the "haai" in his vernacular language... as in "haai Raam!" (Oh God!)
But then he saw the smile in his son's face and knew it was a greeting and he waved appropriately from a distance.
Distance... was what was getting in between him and his son. A big distance. While Ramu had one point in time thought of retiring, that turned out to be a dream as his son had no intention of supporting him financially.
The old joker, although poor, had one thing for sure. His self respect. He decided to work till the end and that he did. He was happy that he kept his head high throughout his life!
The body was now being taken away by his friends at the circus. Many of them were crying as the old man was known to be a great support figure and a friend to all. By the time the son knew about it, the ashes had been dispersed in the Ganges river.
The circus troupe had honored Joker uncle's last wish.
A life lived as a joker, but far from being a joke.