Mumbai: Rambo Circus family battles COVID-19, struggling to look after 100-plus crew

Updated: Jun 24, 2020, 07:15 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

While owner recovers from virus, the family continues to provide for its performers even as six test positive

While the city remains closed, performers at the Rambo Circus are killing time by practising indoors in Airoli. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
While the city remains closed, performers at the Rambo Circus are killing time by practising indoors in Airoli. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Founder of the iconic Rambo Circus, T P Dilip who just won his battle against COVID-19, continues to be in the critical care unit of Ruby Hall hospital in Pune to undergo dialysis for his renal failure. The 72-year-old's two children, a granddaughter and two male servants also tested positive for COVID soon.

This was amid an already challenging situation at the circus front owing to the lockdown. Around 100 crew members of the circus (60 men, 30 women and their 10 children) have been stuck without work for months now. A number of NGOs and social workers have been providing them ration.

While the city remains closed, performers at the Rambo Circus are killing time by practising indoors in Airoli. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

"In the past four months, this is the second time I have put myself in self-quarantine. The first time was in February when I returned from Russia (for a dialogue with Moscow State Circus) and now when my sister, myself and my nine-year-old niece were quarantined after testing positive," said Sujit, Dilip's son, adding that this happened despite taking all precautions. "My dad was the first to get infected. All measures were taken to maintain social distancing outside and ensure hygiene at home."

Sujit said that his father undergoes regular medical check-ups for his sugar and creatinine levels but it could not be done in the last four months due to the lockdown. A fortnight ago, "he developed weakness and an upset stomach, after which he was tested," Sujit said.

T P Dilip, founder-owner of Rambo Circus
T P Dilip, founder-owner of Rambo Circus

Lockdown challenge
With no circus income for over three months, Sujit said, the daily expenses (up to Rs 25,000) have been a struggle. "I also have to take care of the crew. They are artistes, not machines. I have to take care of each of my extended family members," he said, adding, "In the past three months, I had to spend around Rs 25.50 lakh only to ensure that everyone is taken care of. A lot of funds came from donations, too."

Sujit's letter to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister seeking their intervention in providing aid to the circus has also not received any response. He had sought a loan of up to Rs 15 lakh for the maintenance of the circus.

Allied businesses take a hit
Mustaq Qureshi alias Munna Bhai, who runs a canteen in Rambo Circus said, "It has been very difficult to survive with no income. The circus business has been facing many challenges over the last few decades. I earlier supplied mutton for the wild animals but after restrictions on using wild animals, I lost my business."

Mahesh Nair, 65, a resident of Ahmedabad and a close friend of the family, said, "It is unfortunate that the family had to go through this ordeal at a time when the circus is already going through a rough patch."

Last hope
The family had also encountered a sponsor who wanted Rambo Circus to come up with shows in collaboration with Moscow State Circus. "The meeting went well too but the pandemic derailed all plans. Our online discussions are still on," Sujit said, adding, "In Russia, slowly life is becoming normal and even circuses are opening up." 

Sujit hopes that by September, shows can resume on a small scale with restrictions and social distancing, high standards of hygiene.

Rs 25.50 lakh
Amount Sujit spent in last three months to provide for circus crew

Rambo circus

Rambo Circus was formed on January 26, 1991, by merging three well-known circuses, Arena Circus, Victoria Circus and Great Oriental Circus. T P Dilip was employed with Arena Circus since he was 18 years old. It once employed 300 staff.

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