|Thumbs down to novel fun Foreigners stroll around the Sonepur fair premises. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Children in shorts and unevenly buttoned shabby shirts clasp their mothers’ hands as they walk through the crowd. They spot something and tug at their mothers, pleading them to pause.
From one of the lavishly decorated tents, the children hear an announcement that an icchadhari naagin (snake which can change form) will transform from a human into a snake and would be back in a flash. The tent has got pictures of actress Sridevi in her Nagin pose as the songs Tu cheez badi hai mast mast and Main naagin tu sapera play in the background. Discussions over, the entire group walks off into the tent to watch the show.
The urban element seems to be creeping into the fair. But the urbanisation of the event, largely a rural affair since centuries, is hard to come. One can see the swanky gates with the Bihar tourism tag on those.
Two boys are seen crouching in a corner selling Gillette razors. “Do blade waala hai, sir (These are twin-blade razors, sir). Just for Rs 10,” the boys call out to the crowd, hoping to attract buyers.
Deeper into the fair ground, one can see a stall showcasing some gleaming four-wheelers. “This is the first time that new-age stalls have come to the fair. Actually, several changes are not so good for the fair,” a department official said.
The age-old nautanki (theatre) dominates the scene. One called Chitrahaar opens show in the early evening, with men trying to peep through the curtains to catch a glimpse of the glamour element inside.
The stall showcasing cars is easily forgotten.
“Car dekh ke kya karenge? Gaon mein car thodi na chalat hai. (What will we do seeing cars? Cars don’t ply in villages),” says a man sporting the flashiest of shirts, a tightest pair of jeans and a huge sunglass.
“Sir, mostly rural people come in. And they don’t like anything other than jalebis,” says Ram Kishan Singh, a shopkeeper. “We don’t like the fair this time. It is not that much fun. Nothing modern will work here,” adds Singh.