Wizards of Awe

Every year for a week, as December draws to an end, Mahim turns into Macondo – the fictional village fleshed out by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Among the bright Ferris wheels and neon roller-coasters that erupt annually in honour of Pir Makhdum Shah Baba, a community of low-budget entertainers perform magic, defy gravity on motorcycles, devour razor blades, transform young girls into serpents and skeletons, and command divining donkeys, much to the amusement of a 10-lakh strong audience.

Converging from all over the country, these masters of folk entertainment possess knowledge of a carnivalesque art grounded in basic physics, and a bit of the unexplained handed down from generations.

This is the Mumbai edition of an ongoing personal photo-project on the vanishing tradition of local fairs and festivals in contemporary India.

This feature was published in Time Out Mumbai.

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