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  • Writer's pictureKevin O'Keefe

The best gig I had in India

Updated: Jan 25, 2019

That isn’t a metaphor, it’s a fact. I wear the red nose - the world’s smallest and best known mask. It’s an archetype found in every culture on this planet.

I recently went to India. One spontaneous gig was in a dirt cricket field at the Liker Monastery about 55 kilometers east of Ladakh. I went to the monastery as a tourist to take a few photos. 

The Liker Monastery was built in 1045 A.D. and, as far as I know, has been in operation since. It was a Sunday afternoon in November - bright sunshine and chilly. The sprawling monastery stood at 11,000 feet and the jagged peaks that surround it climb four or five thousand feet higher. A dozen or so monks-in- training (ages 6 to10 years old) were practicing cricket. They were dressed in well-worn dark-crimson robes. 

I stood to the side of the field and watched the action. Three separate ballers threw to three different batsmen. A hard-hit ball came my way. I caught it on the first bounce and returned it to the baller. The kids noticed and appreciated that, at least this time, the ball didn’t go over a small cliff, which would warrant one of them to sprint out the gate of the field to prevent the ball from running down the four-kilometer driveway to the monastery. 

I donned a red clown nose and stepped further onto the playing field. When one or two boys noticed I smiled broadly and they started laughing at me. I turned around a few times to see who they were laughing at and then pointed to myself and said, “Me?” They laughed harder.

I walked toward a plastic chair on a patio. I picked it up and balanced it on my chin. The other boys took notice as it stayed there for about ten-seconds. I quickly sat in the chair and crossed my legs. Getting up I stumbled down the rock stairs back onto the playing field. They laughed harder. Another cricket ball came my way. I tossed it up, catching it on the back of my neck. A boy tossed another ball my way and I picked up a small rock about the size of the balls and began juggling.

All the boys stopped their cricket. At the end of the short show one or two applauded. I made my way back to the gate of the playing field. Just before parting I took an extravagant bow only to discover that I stood squarely in a fresh cow pie —a perfect ending to the best gig of my life.

This fall’s epic tour to India was four weeks of performing and teaching for some beautiful children living in orphanages in Mumbai, India. We were sponsored by Our Children India - a non-profit that has tirelessly assisted thousands of kids for close to fifty years.

Erin Maile and I are returning to India in February 2018 to launch the first ever social circus in India. We will train the local teachers and mentor them from afar. We feel honored to be bringing this unique form of social intervention to India.


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