This job’s no joke

In the busy markets of Delhi, street artists dressed as clowns make an honest effort to attract clients to their owner’s shop, spreading joy as their smiles conceal their distress

Everyone laughs with the clowns, takes pictures with them, and asks them to entertain with their tricks. But no one ever talks about their stories or circumstances.

Hiring clowns to attract customers into stores has become a popular form of advertising these days. Clowns can commonly be seen in major Delhi markets, with many of them inhabiting Uttam Nagar as part of the community.

Rajendra, who’s been in this profession for the last 16 years, seemed to have a rough patch since the pandemic started. He lives in Uttam Nagar with his wife and two children. A migrant from Rajasthan, he works outside the Urban VIP Lounge in Paharganj. 

Talking about his daily routine, he says, “I work here from 4 in the evening to 11 in the night. I hardly take around 30 minutes to get ready for my job.” 

Earning a modest amount of Rs 13,000 per month, he claims he is barely scraping by, especially since the pandemic has made things difficult. “With two small children, we were left with no savings. It is difficult to remain motivated during a crisis. Although there was some hope that the government or our owners would assist us during this difficult time, nothing happened”, Rajendra adds. He was forced to take out loans to support his family and start selling shoes to earn some income.

“During the hard times, I sold shoes and slippers from my home to help our family survive. I’m still paying off the debt I incurred during the pandemic”, he says.

However, with no signs of the pandemic returning, he believes there will be more opportunities for work and stable income. He also mentions that he has other clown friends in Uttam Nagar with whom he performs in different events and has started getting regular gigs.

Talking about his family, Rajendra says, “I will work extra hard so that I can give my kids a better future and provide them with opportunities that we as clowns don’t get. I want them to grow up and become very successful and happy in the future.”

The clowns’ situation is no better in Delhi’s most popular street market: Lajpat Nagar. Govind, dressed as a clown, is also struggling and sees little chance of better prospects in future.

Photo: Faisal Malik

At 28, he shares a home with his wife, three children, parents and brother. Govind has been working as a clown for the past couple of years and appears to be very dedicated to his work. 

Govind works every day from 3 pm to 9 pm. However, he attends to a comparatively larger crowd on weekends, which occasionally results in extended working hours. “I get ready for work in about 15 minutes and earn about Rs 600 a day”, he says.

He adds, “With the sky-high inflation rates, it is hard to sustain an 8-person family on Rs 18,000. That’s why, for an extra source of income, I play dholak at parties and events.”

Asked if he is happy with his job, Govind replies, “It’s a mixed feeling. This job has taught me a lot about life, notably during the lockdown, when there was little work and we used all our savings. The thought of having a financially secure job crossed my mind, but as the restrictions eased, I found work and things began to improve.”

Speaking about the highs and lows of his job, Govind says, “Sometimes, we have to stand in the scorching heat for hours with makeup on, and at times, it becomes difficult to show a happy face. People do not treat our profession with the same respect as they treat other professions. Yet, they want to click pictures with us for social media.” 

However, with joy in his voice, he continues, “When you return home and see your children so happy and excited to see you in a joker’s costume, all your sorrows disappear.”

Govind doesn’t have an educational degree, so the scope of work has become quite narrow, according to him. “But if life provides me with better opportunities, I’ll take them up”, he says.

On the other hand, there are clowns who are content with their jobs and enjoy their lives knowing that they make people smile. One such man is Tarun Rana, who has been working as a clown since 2009 and takes pride in his work. Originally from Rajasthan, he lives in Uttam Nagar with his wife, two daughters and elderly mother. He works at Lajpat Nagar and Karol Bagh markets. 

Apart from this job, Rana works with a group, which gets orders from all over Delhi for birthdays, weddings and office parties. He has performed in almost every corner of Delhi in the last 13 years. “My monthly income is approximately Rs 15,000, and by God’s grace, I get extra work as well which majorly helps me financially”, he says.

Rana states that he has no regrets and is happy to do what he is doing. “No one has ever made me feel small. People are nice, especially the kids, when they see you and smile. The joy it brings to my heart cannot be described in words”, he says.

On being asked about the difficulties that this job presents, Rana says, “Like with any other job, there are hard days, but that’s part and parcel of life. Sometimes I enjoy my work, sometimes I learn from it, but that doesn’t demotivate me in any way. I represent my art with utmost pride and dignity, and the journey has been quite exciting for me”, he says.

However, there are clowns who perceive things differently and tackle challenges regularly. People who bring smiles to our faces appear to be struggling to be happy themselves. Sadly, there aren’t many helping hands to help them achieve a higher standard of living.

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Rohan Chauhan
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