The stars don’t shine here. The dingy, narrow streets and cramped houses of Kathputli Colony in Shadipur depot are filled with stars, yet they don’t shine here. For years now, this colony which is more of a slum area, has been home to a number of artists with diverse talents. There are magicians and puppeteers, jugglers and musicians, dancers and acrobats – each and every person here has some gift which goes unnoticed.
The Kathputli Colony, located near Shadipur Depot is quite popular and easy to find. Getting down at this station and asking for directions would gain you knowing smirks…‘Where does the colony start?’ you enquire. ‘When you meet with filth all around you, know that you have reached’ is the reply you will receive!
Constricted, broken paths with narrow, open sewers and muck all around, the state of Kathputli Colony is deplorable. The walls seem to close in on you, the houses seem ready to fall apart and the concept of hygiene doesn’t exist. The streets are full of little children prancing around and as many as 12 of them will point out to the same little room as their home.
It would be an understatement to say that the residents of Kathputli Colony are talented. They go far beyond being mere performers. They are preservers of the wonderful and even rare art-forms of the country, passing on the knowledge and skills of ages to a new generation.
They are patriots, who after wonderful times and appreciations in a foreign land, return to their sad conditions in their own country.
But they never return empty handed. They come back with laurels and awards from all over the globe addressing India.
The people here will communicate easily. From little kids to old grandparents, everyone converses comfortably with outsiders, always eager to share their stories.
It would have been easy to feel depressed here, had it not been for the inhabitants who are true art lovers and have embraced colours as an inseparable part of their lives - the door to every house is painted a different colour and the women take pride in their vibrant costumes and glittering accessories. The young ones are always excited to perform; all you need is to ask.
Kathputli Colony is a strange, dingy and colourful world. It is a dwelling of a million dreams and the museum of as many stories. Everyone here is a star. The older inhabitants are owners of passports with visas of countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria & Canada etc. They hold albums full of newspaper clippings about them.
There, they are addressed as ‘the magnificent’, ‘the great’, ‘the brilliant’ and here nobody cares to even know their name. Even with a scope for better lives abroad, the performers return to their home where imagining a life itself is a scary prospect.
Innumerable people have been here and made documentaries on the story of Kathputli. Even though the inhabitants try, it is impossible to shun off the plight and poverty despite the colours.
Behind every wall of this place is a star, a shooting star, slowly dying of its luminescence due to the despondency of its daily life.