Birthday parties often come to life as soon as children’s favourite cartoon character makes a life-size appearance. In malls, amusement parks and private parties across the city and the suburbs, Nikhil Gaikwad (21) has been entertaining children of all ages playing a life-size mascot hiding inside costumes like Spiderman, Mickey Mouse, an elephant and Minions for the last two years.
A third year BSc student at SIES College in Sion, Gaikwad took up the job to support his education and supplement his family’s income. “It’s a relatively fast way to make extra buck, without compromising on my education,” says Gaikwad, who works for the event planning company “Party Lovers” and gets Rs 500 for being a mascot at a party for two to three hours. “By the end of the month, I make a little over Rs 10,000, a part of which I contribute to my family’s monthly expenses,” said Gaikwad whose father drives an auto-rickshaw and mother is a homemaker.
While children may never get tired of the popular cartoon characters, Gaikwad often sweats it out behind his costumes. “There are several thick layers in the costume. Sometimes, it gets uncomfortable and even suffocating after a few hours. But children get really excited to see their favourite cartoon characters or superheroes come to life. They constantly poke or pull at the costume,” he said.
A resident of Vikhroli, Gaikwad travels to play mascot all over the city, sometimes as far as Dahanu Road. Last month, he entertained guests at an event in Ahmedabad and will soon head to Goa for another event. For outstation jobs, he says, the payment is double and lodging and travel expenses are taken care of by the organisers.
During his examinations in college, however, Gaikwad makes no commitment to his employers and focuses on his studies. Saving up while working part-time, Gaikwad aspires to be a disc jockey (DJ) after completing his degree course. Sometimes, he practises by doubling up as a DJ at the parties that he is hired for as a mascot.
Gaikwad enjoys entertaining children. Several of his friends followed his lead and now work as mascots too, he said. “The only thing that can be slightly embarrassing is to be dressed as female cartoon character such as Minnie Mouse. If children catch me taking a part of the costume off, they are always baffled to find a man inside,” he chuckles.