In times of lavish birthday parties and weddings, mascot cartoon characters have become a common trend in the city today. Not only do they act as eye candies, they are a big hit among children. However wearing such a heavy costume and entertaining guests is no easy job.
Although the concept of mascot cartoon characters came into the city almost a decade back, it gained popularity just a few years back. Initially they were seen as an attraction only in wedding parties but gradually they became an essential feature in lavish birthday parties to ensure fun time for children.
When MCL tried to find out about the people behind the funny faces, we found out that most of them are into the job for an additional source of income since it cannot be a full time profession. On an average, they are paid only about Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 for a party along with a free meal!
Itu Sahu, who claims to be the first lady to have tried the job in the city, tells us, “When the concept started in the city for the first time, it was good fun because during those days, we did not have much to do though being inside a heavy costume is always a tough job. However, since most of the kids felt scared to come and interact with us, it was a relatively relaxed affair. But today, it’s become a run-of-the-mill thing. Children play with us, make us jump and do much more. Besides, today many event organizers provide this service with all the latest cartoon characters. So while the number of workers has gone up, so has the competition. As a result, we are paid less than before.”
We also met a young man, Milan Samantray, who is a daily wage labourer but takes up the role of mascot cartoon characters in parties to eke out a better living. A resident of Salia Sahi slum in the capital, he says, “Initially, I had tried taking this up as a full time profession. But the money is less and due to limited availability of work, I had to look for other options. I do this only for an additional income and free meal. But compared to the hardships involved in donning the role of mascot cartoon characters, we are paid peanuts. We are strictly instructed not to sit or take rest during working hours and to stay inside that mask for 4-5 hours is very tough.” he confesses.
Like Itu & Milan, we met quite a few people who are hired on a regular basis for birthday parties and other events and all of them had the same story to share. “As it is, the event guys pay us less for this job and to add to it, in case, the costume gets damaged for any reason, they even deduct the repair cost from our payment,” says Abdul Khan, another from the ‘community’.
Meanwhile, the event organizers claim helplessness due to less payment from customers for mascot cartoon characters.