In Photos | A Kutch Magician’s Disappearing Act During Lockdown

Lakshendra Aggarwal, or Lucky, is a magician based in Dhrung, Kutch. He earns his bread and butter by performing at yearly village festivals across the Kutch region with his family. Sometimes, he gets a solo contract to perform in annual fairs outside Kutch.

He was performing in Malegaon Mela, an annual fair held in Maharashtra’s Malegaon, when the news of coronavirus broke out. The lockdown, however, had not been announced by then.

Lucky’s audience is from all age groups. But teenagers are the ones who visit him the most. Photo: Nipun Prabhakar.

As the number of attendees began to whittle down owing to the impending fear of a lockdown, he undertook a 24-hour journey straight to Kutch. Within a few days, the lockdown was announced, stranding hundreds of performers, including some of his magician friends.

“It’s been a month and a half, and they are still there at an abandoned festival ground, unable to pack their stuff and come back,” says Lucky.

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The rural entertainment industry, which includes small circuses, magicians, performers etc, has been hit very hard by the lockdown.

According to Lucky, “People gathering in large numbers is the very basis of our existence as performers. We survive on large gatherings and fighting coronavirus needs exactly the opposite of that.”

Lucky, quickly changing his coat during an act. Photo: Nipun Prabhakar.

Lucky and his family haven’t been earning anything for more than a month now. The four village festivals where he was supposed to perform have been cancelled, including the famous Haji-Peer Mela in Kutch. The schools where he used to perform regularly have also been closed for more than two months now and are probably are not going to open any time soon.”I miss children and their enthusiasm,” he says.

All together, these festivals would have earned him Rs 40,000.

Audience gathering before Lucky’s magic show back in 2015. Photo: Nipun Prabhakar.

At the beginning of the lockdown, help came through senior established magicians and performers who could afford to distribute some extra supplies to their younger counterparts. Eventually, fearing for their survival, they have also stopped sending supplies.

Uncertain about what lies ahead, he is now planning to look for an alternative job.

“Performing magic is my only passion, I don’t know what I will do without it,” says Lucky.

Nipun Prabhakar is an independent photographer and architect based in Kutch and Delhi. He works on long term photo-documentary projects. Besides that, he designs, researches and documents the intersections of built environments and communities. He was the Cornell South Asian Fellow 2019 for his project on the doors of Kathmandu.

Featured image credit: Nipun Prabhakar