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About the Author

Jana Cavojska
photojournalist and writing reporter (Bratislava, Slovakia)

Lawyer by education, photojournalist and writing reporter now. Working for the best sold Slovak weekly magazine Plus7dni and occasionaly also for another weekly and monthly magazines in Slovakia (including streetpaper Nota bene distributed by homeless people). Member of board of trustees of Slovak non - profit organisation Človek v ohrození - People in Peril Association providing developing and humanitarian aid in 25 countries all over the world. Usually I report about people and their stories in different parts of the world. In my blog I would like to speak about the virtue of the "common" people in difficult life situations and about developing help which is really help and not just giving. You can see my photos on my website or in my facebook profile.


Magic of Kathputli

Published 07th April 2010 - 7 comments - 4881 views -

Magic of Kathputli

Ishamudin Khan (40) shows a DVD record of a Japan television show in which magicians from all around the world perform their best tricks. He let the small boy disappear and then appear again. We are sitting in his simple house in New Delhi, India, in poor, dirty slum Kathputli. This place is home of puppeters, magicians, acrobats, musicians, jugglers, story tellers, many of them are famous in the whole India or abroad, in Europe, USA, Japan, Dubai, Australia. During their tours they meet politicians and celebrities and sleep in five star hotels but at home they live in the poor slum without running water, electricity or sanitation. They come back from festivals and tours where hundreds of people applauded them – to small dark houses even without windows and with open sewage canal in front of it.  Ishamudin Khan is one of the best magicians of the world. He was the first who performed a famous trick from old Indian stories with an erected rope. He is a TV star in several countries but at home, in India, nobody recognises him as a performer of traditional art. He is just slum dweller.

Now, new investors came to Delhi to build modern buildings in a place of Kathputli Colony. Artists don´t know what will happen with them in the future.

„When I made the robe trick for the first time, I was happy,“ Ishamudin explains. „I, poor man from a dirty slum, achieved something big. I thought that good times are coming and if I will work hard lot of things will come. Now, fifteen years after, nothing changed. I am just a poor man from dirty slum, belonging to the caste of untouchables. The most important thing for me is to give good education to my children.“ Ishamudin´s daughter Jasmin is a first person from Kathputli attending eleventh class. What´s the reason why another children don´t continue in their education? Their parents, remembering their own childhood when they travelled with their parents as strollers don´t consider education very important. Why? In Indian society their place as members of untouchable caste is very strictly defined. Even if somebody has money he wouldn´t want to leave the slum and move to better area. He knows that his new neighbours would never accept him.

Magicians and street performers live in poor conditions and they don´t know what will happen when developers will come. But their fight is not about new sanitation in their slum; they are able to earn their money by performing. First of all they want recognition as performers of the traditional Indian art and as part of cultural heritage of India.


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Category: Equality | Tags:


  • Lara Smallman on 07th April 2010:

    A tricky one. Development isn’t always in everyone’s best interests. It’s a case of balancing the needs and wants of everyone - no mean feat.

  • Aija Vanaga on 08th April 2010:

    This is sensitive inner issue of particular culture. So someone no matter of what has this mind/society borders for rising up. Is it a power of developers to change it? Or is it going to change?

  • Pierre-Anthony Canovas on 09th April 2010:

    Hey Jana, very good article and interesting story. I looked at your pictures on your website. They are awesome. I like especially the one with the two Indians looking at the figurine. About the content of your post and the fact that people from certain castes can’t change, it is interesting because a few days ago, I read in the International Herald Tribune an article about poor farmers who, for some reasons, became rich. And because of their culture, and the fact that it was not usual for them, they were showing with an incredible arrogance their wealth to the others. It was really interesting

  • Luan Galani on 12th April 2010:

    A poignant account. Truly human. As Ishamudin said, education is all. Congrats. Great!

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th July 2010:

    Very interesting story, but I agree with Aija - is it going to change?

  • Jana Cavojska on 25th July 2010:

    Hard question. according to my opinion many changes can come with education. educated people can improve their live condition, can find a job much easier than if they don´t know read or write… I don´t think this people need “charity” - getting food or clothes. to see their performances and to pay their salaries is enough. truly help is cooperation on performances from sarthi and speaking about education between people. especially education of girls, of course.

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