How far do you think you can go for your family? There are no bounds, right? When the situation arises, we give up everything and own up to doing about anything! If you agree, then you should meet the man who enters the ‘Wall of Death’ for his family, every day!
If you have been to an Indian ‘Mela’- Fair, then you have unquestionably come across the ‘Maut ka Kuan’, a.k.a. Wall of Death. In this thrilling/maddening act, people ride a bike or a car parallel to the ground against the gravity inside a wall. Onlookers can stand around this wall, and watch them perform stunts on a moving vehicle, which might I remind you is not on the ground but is vertical on the inside of this wall.
We visited one such ‘mela’ in a little town in Maharashtra, India. Away from our urban setting, this was a town that still sold water for 5Rs and Sugarcane Juice for 10Rs. A high-pitch voice on an old-school mic caught my attention. We spotted a man on a stage standing with a local DJ playing the classic Bollywood disco numbers when he screamed- “Carr carr carrr…. Maruti carrrrrrrrr. Come watch this bike and car race in the wall of death.”
It had been years since I had watched people perform this. There was a time when we watched people in the ‘Maut ka Kuan’ (Wall of Death) almost every year; little did I know then, that one day, I would despise myself for enjoying it!
We climbed on the rickety metal stairs that lead to a great height where we patiently waited for people to gather. I looked down, to find a man clothes in muddy white clothes, getting his bike checked. Another man, in a second-copy brown jacket, walked in, and he ran tests on his ‘Maruti Car’ too. The sound of the bike was almost annoying by then; I couldn’t wait to get this over with!
About twenty-five minutes from then, the act began. The man took circles around the wall, slow catching height making his way to the top. I, on the other hand, sat tight in fear of the vibrations that shook the entire set-up(yeah well, height scares me!). With some courage, I finally stood to catch a glimpse, and it was at that moment, that my eyes locked with the pain in the man’s eyes.
Maut ka Kuan (Wall of Death)
I saw passion; passion for what but? The redness at the corner of his eyes screamed for sleep. His body structure demanded a full-days meal. The slight tear on his shirt by his shoulders craved comfort. His body structure begged for support. I noticed his robust hands sealing the bike’s handles; they looked worn out and cracked. If only they had the warmth that I did.
I wondered, why would someone risk their lives every day, and perform acts with such near-death experiences? I watched him race along with the car, which had also picked up speed by the time I left my thoughts behind. A spiteful man in the audience hung out a twenty-rupee note and flagged it when the biker crossed him. It caught his attention, and he rode higher to reach the man’s hand. What the man with the money did after that triggered the tears me and my company was holding behind. As soon as the biker let go off one handle and reached out to the twenty, the spiteful person from the crowd stepped backwards.
The poor guy thought it was a miss. He came back for another try, and the same thing happened again. By his third attempt, he knew the joker was only playing with his emotions and sped back downwards. If only my eyes could fire bullets of anger, I would have wounded the ‘rudester’ that moment!
As I climbed down, I thought, ‘I’m sure he makes some money doing whatever this is; why then would he risk his life thrice for merely twenty rupees? What if he would have fallen? I have to know!’
I along with my family, ran to him before he made his entry for another show. Not knowing how to begin, my father asked, “Is this what you do all day?”
“Yes!” He smiled. He’s smiling… smiling! He just got off a bike that probably could have fallen. I know they get to practice, but mishaps happen every day, right?
“Bhaiya (brother), doesn’t this scare you?” I finally found the courage to calm my questions.
“It did initially, but it doesn’t scare me anymore. It is what I do ten times a day!”
Another man in the background screamed to get back in and prepare his vehicle for the next show. I stopped him and said, “Do you make enough money doing this?”
“What should I say, madam? Who earns enough? It is all about survival; I survive!” Just as he was about to turn around, I said, “Why this bhaiya?”
“Because I love my family.”
His words gave me goosebumps. “If you love your family, then you should want to stay alive for them, right? What if something happens in there?”
“There is not enough space for uneducated, poor and less talented people in this world; when I couldn’t even afford this shirt, no one agreed to keep me even as a labourer in a construction site. Bless the man who found me lying on the road, who promised me money if I was ready to risk my life. I chose the lives of my two children and wife over mine that day. Since then, I haven’t let go.”
My journey back home was an eventful ride. We, the people of this worldly, urban and developed land, find ourselves incapable of love. We scream at the task of bringing coffee to our bosses as interns… we pick petty fights, and we look for reasons to be away from our families. Why? Just why? Not the celebrity on screen, not the actor on-screen, but the man who entered the wall of death inspired me that day.
No, he did not end his life leaving his family to fend for themselves; he did not leave them because he couldn’t bring them food. What did he do? He taught us to rise to every occasion. The man showed us that it is never the ‘end’ until we declare it ourselves. Most of all, he reminded us that we don’t work and make a family; we build a family by working for and on it for life!
He is one amongst the many in the world, but their story deserves an applaud! If it made you smile, if it glistened your eye, give it a share!