- Title: INDIA: Indian riders in the "well of death" court danger
- Date: 10th December 2007
- Summary: A PERFORMER PRESSING THE ACCELERATOR ON HIS MOTORBIKE, FUMES COMING OUT OF THE EXHAUST PIPE
- Reuters ID: LVA7E1C271OUXKEQUE2HWDCZVHJH
- Location: India
- Country: India
- Duration: 00:00:06
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: Audio restrictions: This clip's Audio includes copyrighted material. User is responsible for obtaining additional clearances before publishing the audio contained in this clip.
- Story Text: In the dusty streets of India's Pushkar town, antiquated loudspeakers blare popular songs from the Bollywood films of yore.
Interspersed with the milieu of songs and loud music is the constant chanting of performers, enticing thousands of visitors in this rural fair to come and watch their death-defying stunts in a wooden cylinder, popularly known as the "well of death".
"Well of death", along with Giant wheels and Merry-go-rounds, is a regular feature at most Indian fairs where in a 'well' of around 40 feet depth made of wooden blocks with walls perpendicular to the earth below, performers ride motorbikes and cars simultaneously in a synchronized motion with one another.
The performance demands absolute precision and timing between the riders and if any of them rides too fast or slow, the results can be fatal.
Nadim, a 33-year-old performer who started his career as a motorbike rider around 15 years ago, has now graduated to driving cars in the well of death.
He says that it takes anywhere between six months to one year of practice before getting ready to perform in front of hundreds of awe-struck spectators.
"It is my passion and I do it to feed my children. We want to improve the lives of our children, we want to give them a better life, give them good education, so that they can go on to achieve something in life. We take these risks today so that our children can have a better tomorrow,"
Nadim told Reuters Television after riveting spectators with his dare devilry at a fair in Pushkar in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.
The drivers say they make anywhere between 5,000 rupees ($120 U.S.
dollars) to 10,000 rupees a month -- depending on the size of the crowds and the generosity of their master.
But there are periods when there are no festivals, no fairs and no income.
It's a tough life when they have to keep travelling from one city to another, from one fair to another -- leaving family and children behind.
Nadim's six year old son goes to a school in their sleepy native village on the outskirts of the Indian capital, the buzzing upward middle class metro. Nadim hopes that his son would get a proper education and take advantage of India's economic boom to find a place in one of the glistening offices of New Delhi one day.
19-year-old Khalid, who is relatively new to the trade, said it takes quite some time to get the mind and body used to countless circling before one can drive up the walls of the "well of death".
"It is a very dangerous game. Initially one is really scared but with time one learns. (Reporter --What were your initial fears?) Will I be able to do it? Will I be able to ride it? -- What if I fall down? Will I be seriously hurt? -- all these fears were there," said Khalid.
Initially the riders and drivers circle the bottom ground inside the wall and slowly start on the lower rugs of the well, gradually moving up the wall.
The riders have to maintain a consistent direction and uniform speed.
Since they have to drive in a cylindrical well, fighting dizziness is one of the main challenges.
What makes the stunts even more dangerous is the fact that none of them wear helmets or tie seat belts as they whiz past on their vehicles.
However, the lack of knowledge about gravitational, centrifugal or centripetal forces makes the job relatively less scary.
Natalie Chamberlain, a tourist from England after reading about the stunts and seeing their photographs on the internet, said she made up her mind to get a first hand experience and came to India.
"I went inside the car yesterday and initially I was scared but afterwards I was not scared because they just asked me as I was particularly interested in taking the photographs. So then they said I can go inside the car. First I was a little bit scared but when I went inside actually it was okay. I didn't hold on, I was taking the pictures inside -- it was amazing," said Chamberlain.
Some of the riders see a glimmer of hope for a better life by impressing foreign tourists who could pave the way for them to go abroad and perform --- and make a decent earning.
But so far that has remained a pipe dream for the performers in this well of death.
Siyaram, one of the spellbound spectators after the performance, said the riders had honed their skills to perfection.
"This well of death is superb. We are really enjoying it. It is a hit. The performers who are driving the cars inside are fabulous, they are fantastic, it's a fine skill that they have perfected to an art form. It is simply stunning," said Siyaram, a school teacher from a nearby village.
Many of the drivers also harbor dreams of catching the eye of a Bollywood film-maker who could give them a break in the tinsel town, making them a part of the same glamour world whose songs they use to entice their current spectators.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Embargoed:25th December 2007 12:00