Heart

Work

 

band-party-BX69_lIt is 11 a.m. Woke up to a pale sunny morning which was to soon lose its innocence to the maturity and the haughtiness of the noon. What sounded like a marriage procession in the street (at this time of the year??) was the prominent trigger to the whisking away of  lethargy that kept me cuddled to myself all through the dawn and the wee hours. The band procession goes away. The images of the bright red dress and the flashy turbans of men in the band linger for a bit longer. I have wondered about these professions and professionals. I once again think of the ways in which these men explain to their near and dear ones about what they do for a living. The question seems quaint. However, it keeps coming back to me. It also comes uninvited to me when watching a mythological series on the television where actors put on the demonic make ups-unreal eyes, crumbled hairdo, protruding teeth and made to act out those horrifying and yet endearing laughter sequences. The ‘hoohaahaha’ and the costumes make me think of the lives of these actors as it would unfold beyond the stage and the set. Do these professionals carry their ‘jobs’ back home to their kids and spouses? In what ways are the intricacies of such engagement articulated in speech? I know of my friends employed by multinational giants, some businessmen and others who call themselves ‘artists’ for whom ‘work’ is all about being respectably tired. How is fatigue talked about by the others who in a way remain oblivious to the social eye because of the ephemeral effect and the obsolete occasional needs that they are called on for fulfilling. Play a tune for an hour, beat the drums, blow into the trumpet and then vanish with the ‘payment’ only to adorn another gathering in another locality with the music that is surely more strenuous than the one that is played in a studio orchestra with a ‘in demand’ playback singer lending her voice to it!

In the street is the work for a new building in progress. Marble tiles are being cut to squares. The grilling noise reaches my ears and I visualise the stream of beautiful sparks landing on the fabric of my shirt. The men who work with the tiles sit too close to the machine as it cuts into the substance. The sparks leave holes on their shirts. I haven’t seen any of them ever using a bib. I look at my shirt, find it safe. The floor in my room looks dirty as ever, the commode needs a dose of disinfectant and the bed sheet has already begun reeking of dust and endocrinal exudates. The broom is nowhere in sight. The clothes are in disarray and badly need some hot iron pressing over their crushes. With respect to the kinds of work people do for a living, all that I have to do today, if I am able to, I heave a sigh of relief. I will be doing all this for myself and not because I will be paid for it, not because if I don’t pay attention to these chores the chances of my evening bread shall suffer. Not because these chores involve my limbs and my senses in positions they would surely not want to be in. Alienation from what one has to do sends me pondering.

Believe me, a cup of hot coffee and some pretentious reflection over a blog post are best ways to make oneself forget the strangeness of lives we have all come to lead. It obviously does not matter if we have time to think of things going on around us. Thinking about it and reflecting on it is just a choice that one has to make. There are no penalties for not doing so. Honestly speaking, there are other more important things to do. Watch a film on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and go to sleep while it is half over. Relax…that’s life!

Heart

Cinema

Smita_mmI think of cinema and of images that move and of those which don’t. Thinking of a torn sari clad woman at the hearth under the sky. Blowing her life into the fire that refuses to quickly send the chapatis in the daughter’s plate lying in front of the little imp in a blackened frock with mickey mouse prints hidden beneath layers of dried mud, dried pulse stains and in places with remnants of coal lozenges that she played among since the yellow morning as the unyielding, sick sun rose today. The mother looks perturbed as the girl’s father is likely to come back from the town empty-handed. The brown of her dress reveals the dark of her blemish free dark face where a little black dot finds a neat spot to the right of the lower lip. She swears at the waiting girl who has a running nose while balancing the other infant lying carefree in the lap and positions her breasts for the tongue of the hidden tiny creature. She streamlines the fuel and makes it cross the bottleneck of the mud house of the hearth into flames as the flour ball kept in the wooden bowl to her side diminishes in size. Her hands twist over the round chapati on the hot plate till it steams off hot puff through the orifices left open in the body of the flat circle. A sudden stream of this puff aims at her fingers with the worn out silver ring and in disgust she utters ‘damn it’ while the wrinkle on the forehead too artificial for her vibrant visage appears to soon make way for the droplets of sweat that emerge from the crevices. An earthen pot falls behind her wooden seat and the water flowing out of it drenches the clay floor. Clogs stick to the protruding tiny feet of the infant in the lap. As the toddler tries getting rid of the glue with its other toe, the splutter muddies the floor further and spreads to the other toe making for a pair of muddy toes. Passes from the scene a village elder who pauses and asks the girl with the plate about her father while trying hard to get a glimpse of the woman’s face. The girl is too dumb to answer that. One end of the brown cloth gets clipped between the woman’s canines and she looks away. Whispering from that hidden angle to the child “Tell Uncle he is in the town and will be back soon”, she directs her to him. The child leaves the plate and walks briskly towards the man. Tries to pull down the red and white balloon that he has bought for his grand-daughter who is sitting with a plate in a similar kitchen elsewhere in the village. The old man raises his hand so that the balloon goes higher up in the air, beyond the girl’s leaps and bounds. The woman after a while yells out her name “Lalli” only to realize that Lalli isn’t around and two of those expressive eyes etched above whiskers and below the turban are still busy hunting for a glimpse. Lalli’s mother blushes and keeps the chapatis going as they were.

Heart

My Rain

Rain of LoveIn the cloud of my rain

was nectar attenuated

it was laden with tar

that had stiffened in the heat

Stirring vigorously was the spoon

and a cluttering sound it made

and the rain fell drop by drop

quenching the river

When it was sunny

the honey was granule

the nectar stale

and the river polluted like hell.

Mind, Uncategorized

Gasha (Hindi/Urdu/Kashmiri.140 Minutes)

24sm_gaash_JPG_1372191fFor me Gasha turned out to be a curious sound. Pronounced as Gaa-Sh-Aa it is the name of the latest play produced by the Bangalore based theater group Indian Ensemble. As a nominated entry under several categories (including Best Play and Best Director) at the ongoing theater festival organised by the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, it was performed last evening at the Kamani Auditorium. The production tries to explore the convoluted frames of the conflictual socio-political zone i.e. Kashmir and makes an earnest attempt at laying bare the subjectivity and the everyday lives of people severely affected by the ongoing conflict in the region. The only two actors we see on stage are Adhir Bhatt (as Gasha) and Sandeep Shikhar (as Nazir). Gasha is the attempt by the scriptwriter Irawati Karnik to bring to light the various facets that come to constitute the fate of two childhood friends. Gasha and Nazir are neighbors from a locality in Srinagar who are separated because of Gasha’s family leaving Srinagar for Mumbai in the wake of ‘militancy’. The narrative goes back and forth in time. Gasha’s family revisits their hometown after a gap of twenty years for the ritual worship of the much revered deity Kheer Bhavani. At the Srinagar airport, Gasha chances upon a loader whom he identifies as Nazir. The encounter makes him think of events past and of the days gone by. For the audience it is a pleasant and yet a very serious detour across the landscape of such remembrance.

Needless to say that the script beautifully peels quite a few layers deep into a number of issues. The director Abhishek Majumdar succeeds in making Bhatt and Shekhar impeccably don the role of several characters- of children in a classroom, of Bukhari sir- their teacher, of Gula- the Muslim attendant at the Kheer Bhavani shrine, of the angry-old controlling Arjun Mama and the most endearing  of them all- Dadi Jaan. An innovative stage design, intelligent handling of the lights, an apt sound arrangement and a minimalist use of stage props are other noticeable aspects of this production.

Apart from making for insightful angles from which to look at the Kashmir issue, the play leaves the audience with interesting material for further reflection. The characters for instance ask some very evocative questions in jest, as exclamations or dumb anguishes, satires or even as morose ramblings. Notice Gasha’s mother asking- “Bhala Koi Churaai Hui Kaaleen Pe Namaaz Kaise Padh Sakta Hai?” (How can anyone offer prayers on a stolen carpet?) or Arjun Mama asking Gasha “Daikin badi company kaise ho sakti hai jab maine uska naam hi nahin suna?” (How can Daikin be a big company when I have not even heard its name?” and further on “Tu Kashmir ka Mausam bechta hai?” (You are selling the weather of Kashmir) referring to Gasha’s job in a company that manufactures  air conditioners. All the more funny is Arjun Mama scolding a seemingly uninterested Gasha to concentrate in prayers before the Goddess and to “feel the tiger”!

I see the play to be about the problems with our reliance on memory as a tool to reconstruct and make sense of all that happened years ago.  It presents in vivid details the ways in which children make sense of their world. There is this just right dose of genuine comedy sprinkled all across the duration of the play. The ways in which violence gets appropriated by the imagination of a child is well documented through very subtle injunctions in the script and in facial expressions that aptly correspond to it. Where should a child play and where should he study, what has happened to schools in Kashmir post militancy and what are the possible future careers that the ‘unschooled’ children in Kashmir will have in the years to come, Gasha is a nuanced comment on all these social issues.

Yes, the briefcases as props seem too many in some scenes, they are dragged too often on the wooden floor, the repeated falls and the thuds of the actors at times insert a break in the flow. Despite these glitches, Gasha is a play  that has a message, ranks high on entertainment quotient and oozes a meaning that might require repeated attempts in order to be gleaned. I sincerely hope that the team comes up with more such creative productions and do the little possible so as to bring sanity back to where it belongs. In troubled times, sanity often happens to be the resource that becomes scarce. Even when available, it gets under or over-represented in discourse. The impact of counter currents that an artistic work like Gasha is capable of creating remains to be estimated. I wish this team all the very best for its future productions.