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Kushendra Deb Sarma, Bishohara
Address: Village : Belul
P.O : Hasua Samadhimath
P.S : Itahar
Uttar Dinajpur

An agriculturist by occupation, fifty six year old Kushendra Deb Sarma has been performing with Bishohara troupes since his childhood. Inspired by stories of his late uncle and his grandfather who had been part of this tradition, Kushendra , whose family could barely sustain themselves, was determined to start learning the songs. He was all of ten at that time. 

From his teens, he started gaining experience in a variety of folk forms. He performed with Satya Pir, Krishna Lila and folk puppetry troupes. He later joined a Bishohara group as a dancer (chhokra) and when he was older, he took on the role of the Doari (also referred to as the Joker by the villagers) with the group.  A Doari assists the main performer and is commonly referred to as the Joker in rural Bengal. As part of his role, the Joker is often made up to look like a clown and punctuates the performance with jokes, merry banter or comic actions. Kushendra took on the mantle of Mool Gayen or chief performer of the group at the age of 35, having trained under a guru from a neighbouring village and has remained with this form since.   

All through, he has worked as a landless labourer. Kushendra alternates between attending to fields of  rice, jute and wheat and his performances. Barring the month of Poush  (December-January), a month considered inauspicious for social events, he and his group are invited to perform through the year.  His busiest time is the Bengali month of Agrahayon (mid October to mid-November) while the remaining months offer him and his group a sporadic income. The performances are primarily sponsored by devotees as a fulfillment of religious vows (manot) they have observed. Sometimes, they are called to perform at the groom’s house before the actual wedding takes place. This is a tradition in North Bengal. 

Performances may go on continuously for several nights, usually from three nights to nine and sometimes, two weeks even, depending upon how much the sponsor is willing to spend. The text is edited accordingly, with the Behula-Lakhindar journey down the river being the prime focus. The source material for their Bishohara performance is the Manasa Mangal of Jagatjiban Ghoshal and their performance is in the traditional, open air style. 

Kushendra , who has never attended school, has taught a couple of students. But his two sons who have not schooled beyond class seven, have preferred to follow other occupations.  

Kushendra is aware that government artist cards will enable him and his group members to benefit through greater opportunities to perform at public events (as secular entertainment). But he has not succeeded, in spite of submitting forms thrice over.  Therefore all his performances are linked to village ritual needs only. This is not enough for his sustenance.  Nonetheless, Kushendra is a man content with his lot.