The World’s Largest Community of Street Performers Is About to Be Torn Apart

The violence of law and Urban development that uproots lives and livelihoods in the quest for an elusive progress.

TIME

The roads that lead to it are unpaved, dirty and narrow. The houses are rudimentary and sparse. The meandering alleys, slippery and narrow, are almost a hazard to navigate with an overbearing smell of sewage and wood smoke.

And yet this is where the magic happens.

Located in the western part of India’s capital, New Delhi, this slum is known as the Kathputli (or puppeteers’) Colony — though it isn’t just puppeteers who live here. With its origins in a simple encampment for roving and mostly Rajasthani performers, this 50-year-old community today comprises some 3,500 families. They are magicians, snake charmers, acrobats, singers, dancers, actors, traditional healers and musicians as well as puppeteers, and make up what it probably the largest congregation of street performers in the world. Musical instruments — for sale or repair — line the alleys, and a simple chat can turn into a magic show. Days…

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