We arrived in Varanasi after approximately 40 hours of multi-modal transport where we were warmly met by Avi, a young member of the Kashi Fire Warriors (KFW), who had been waiting to help us unload. Unloading consisted of climbing out of the train with 20 heavy bags, carrying them across a repugnant green cesspool that ran in-between the train tracks, then climbing onto a train platform. All our circus on our backs.

The Kashi Fire Warriors are a local troupe of 12 young fire spinners, some of whom have been PWB students for 13 years now. All of the members of this troupe have different circus interests, but all aspire to one thing: Make a serious future out of it.

Apart from practicing and performing, they have been helping us teach at our PO’s NGO schools, even in the midst of an important exam season. Whilst here we have initiated the Varanasi Flow Jam. The KFW will keep this running weekly to practice and meet travelling artists and inspire more of the local community. Every Saturday night the KFW are fire busking to pay for their higher education. 

During our time here we made and donated a number of dragon staffs made from local resources; bike tyres for grip, PVC piping and connectors from a plumbing store. We also hand crafted 60 russian juggling balls in a joyous workshop with youngsters who just couldn’t wait to show off their new equipment and skills to each other. We spent hours fixing equipment that had been donated in the past and brought some new toys to play with the more experienced youngsters. The fire contact ball was a unique and thrilling memory.

Teaching at one of the NGO’s was interesting, they usually board their students but due to a bureaucratic issue the students had to sleep elsewhere. Our objective was to bring as much distraction and smiles to the children in this deeply upsetting time. We absolutely succeeded. Even the teachers, most of whom were working around the clock to ensure safety for the children however they could, joined in our sessions of play. During our sessions we had people of all ages forgetting their realities for an hour a day to be lost in play! To see the children practicing our games and singing our songs as we arrived and left each session is a memory we will all hold close to our hearts forever.

One of our partner organisations, Asha Deep Vidyashram, annually perform a massive childrens show at Assi Ghat at the end of our PWB Varanasi projects. Assi Ghat is where the famous Aarti ceremonies are held and is a major tourist attraction for Indians and foreigners alike. We choreographed hula hoops, fire hoops, fire staffs, and clowning routines. Fun! The KFW had choreographed a spectacular poi routine with 8 boys aged 8-12 and an incredible fire fans dance. The crowd erupted with cheers, it was so cute!!! Not to mention the finale closing act that was delivered by the KFW themselves, a juggling, poi, 10 piece, fire staff, acro routine spectacular! It was absolutely breath-taking and honestly it’s far better than a number of professional troops I’ve seen.

Then we celebrated Holi, crazy energy, super bright colours, water pistols, loud music, children positioned strategically in high windows ready to shoot, men in drag, an evening of dancing and joy in the air.  

This year a fantastic opportunity arrived for the KFW, a paid fire performing gig at YUVA Festival in Patna. A huge stage, lots of networking opportunities and first class media! A chance for the whole team to travel and begin to solidify their portfolios for more professional paid work. Whilst waiting for a train (fortunately 3 hours late) the festival was cancelled due to coronavirus. What an upset! But the KFW just kept on smiling, I see more resilience here in these kids when their dreams are cancelled than I see at self service checkouts in English supermarkets.

The team experienced a lot of sickness in Varanasi of different nature’s.  It was a challenging environment and had numerous hospital visits. However we’re all alive and kicking and largely back to full health.

Onwards now to Darjeeling where the Coronavirus is shaping the end of our tour. Watch out for updates but rest assured we are placing the safeguarding of the locals, children and our volunteer’s as paramount.

As always, thanks for reading, thanks for your continued support, this work is so important and without you, we wouldn’t be here spreading smiles for thousands.

Team India 💜

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