Pandemic ends puppeteers’ livelihoods
Leather puppet artists in the East Godavari District are struggling to make ends meet as the coronavirus pandemic has confined them to their homes. Since the outbreak of the virus, performers have not been able to do a single street performance of the centuries-old theatrical art form from which they derive their bread and butter.
The majority of the puppeteers live in the rural pockets of Madhavapatnam, Jamuna Nagar, Cheediga, Peddapuram, Karapa, Amalapuram and Rajamahendravaram Urban in the district of East Godavari, where at least 400 families practice this art as a heritage.
âIn February, we established our performance schedule for the rest of the year. The central government, state government, temple authorities and local holiday directors reserve us. The lockdown imposed in March to verify the spread of COVID-19 has changed the schedule for this year, âsaid Thota Bala Krishna from the village of Madhavapatnam where many families of puppeteers live.
Until the end of March, says Mr. Bala Krishna, his ten-member troop was engaged in various awareness campaigns for various programs introduced by central and state governments.
âWe were playing as part of an awareness campaign in pockets affected by left-wing extremism in the districts of Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram, when the lockdown was imposed. From now on, there is no guarantee that the awareness campaign will resume â, laments Mr. Bala Krishna.
High season lost
In recent months, the puppeteers have missed their business seasons of Vinayaka Chavithi, Dasara and other temple festivals.
âWe have no idea when the public gathering restrictions will be lifted. How are we going to manage our families if we don’t perform, âasks Mr. Bala Krishna.
Anaparthi Edukondalu, president of East Godavari Tholubommala Kalakarula Samakhya, claims that many puppeteers also make money by selling old clothes. âThis livelihood option has also disappeared due to the foreclosure. Hundreds of families are looking for a livelihood, âhe says.