Dancing Bears: Background information when reading A State of Freedom

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A State of Freedom

by Neel Mukherjee

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee X
A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 5, 2019, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat

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About this Book

Dancing Bears

This article relates to A State of Freedom

The third section of Neel Mukherjee's A State of Freedom follows Lakshman, a young father taking care of two families in the slums of India. When one day Lakshman stumbles upon a stray bear cub wandering about the streets, he sees the animal as his golden ticket to earning a fortune by starting a dancing bear routine.

Dancing bears were a popular animal attraction throughout Europe and Asia during the Middle Ages up until the nineteenth century. The act was also commonplace in various countries of the Indian subcontinent for centuries, and until fairly recently plenty of bear handlers made a living solely from this act.

The process of training a dancing bear usually began while the animal was still a cub. These cubs were typically stolen from nearby forests with poachers killing the mother bear to be able to safely get the cubs. In order to train a bear to perform, bear handlers—known in India as qalandars—took precautions to safeguard themselves from being mauled to...

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