Right there in front of my eyes does the light of my world keeps evolving into shades that I have always been left to register. I have found it tough to open up. As I hold on, shades vanish and hues devolve so as to match changed backgrounds. Honestly, on occasions I have felt abandoned and left to wonder if living in the world is akin to fighting a battle where one never belongs to an army or to a group where everybody else is ready to lay their lives for the slightest of cause that is dear to you. The army however, as it turns out, is always there for the opponent to support and the team, ever willing to ditch you on its promises. It is unacceptable to my humble spirit that a universe that promised sustenance to my existence could choose to be this partisan against my stakes. What is beautiful however in this injustice is the fact that unruliness does exhibit a pattern. I am not the only one. Millions others before me have and after me shall have to brazen it out, though not as successfully or terribly as I have. Things around me – squalid objects, toothless images and mobile technologies speak of a desire that makes them succeed in acquiring indispensability. I refuse to lend a ear and to learn. That’s what I have come out to be. I am no different!
Sharing a personal favorite today. It is a song from a huge musical hit of the 1960s. Asha Bhosle’s gorgeous playback, excellent picturisation and mind-blowing lyrics. A classic picnic song from that era. Considered by some to be a not so talented music composer, this one by Ravi is truly remarkable. For me the song stands for a sense of energy that accompanies longing and loneliness and infuses ephemeral pathos which depending on one’s mood may well turn out to be lasting. Non Hindi speakers too might love this one. Try n let me know!
Doesn’t matter. The blistering sun outside or the thunderous rain. Surpassing the season of the day is the weather of the heart. When gloom and dark surround one’s soul, no luminosity of lightning can be bright enough. At the end of it we must accept, we face it all by ourselves. The human capacity and it’s predisposition to anxiety and worry are not merely states of the mind that can be dealt with in counseling sessions or through anti-depressant capsules. The fear of the bad and the unpleasant is many a times a fear of the real. It is not an imagination rooted somewhere in the crevices of the brain and is not always a result of a series of chemical reactions that take place within that curious organ. The proneness to rejoice and to be arrogant in times of success and riches is precisely the human way of balancing out on the tragic moments that life offers to all of us- I would not say in varying measures, rather I would say equally. A life that is lived is always a life replete with a complete set of emotions, memorable, not so memorable and despicable experiences. Look at the fate of the happiest seeming and of the most destitute and downtrodden. Both groups of people always have a lot to envy each other for. The man on the street and the king are both privy at the same time to their own sets of possessions as well as deprivations. What the haves refer to as stress and as ignominious is nothing but a fragment of the lived reality of the have-nots. Our worries and fears and our leaps of exuberance can not be traded for worthier things. Hence the formula that the wise have devised. Do good and expect good to happen to you. If it does not turn out to be like that, just accept it and be brave in the face of hardships. I think we need to own up and live free. Nothing really helps!
For 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.
Inner Ring Road aka Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Delhi.
The stretch of this road from Rajghat to the Maharana Pratap Interstate Bus Terminus.
The broad, impressive expanse of this road is interrupted by the narrow divider where Alistonia has just begun to welcome the autumn with its fragrant flowers.
Lie untroubled and asleep on this divider scores of men. Feet of this one touching the head of the one below. As seen from the window screen of a moving car, this chain appears never-ending. Ah Woe Betide! The bronze spoon I was born with in my mouth! The riches, the ‘society’ and the obligations I have to take care of. Thanks to these aspects of the worthless life I have come to lead, I can’t get to spend this night here like any of these souls have to. A poignant morose sounding blog post about this sight should be great!
Millions of vehicles from both sides of the road traverse the scripts of hundreds of those dreams. Fairies come close, kiss and get crushed under the screeching wheels of the speeding cars before their palms get to fondle any further. Damsels in the other dreams get picked up by the cyclists and the autos before they uncork that wine and offer to the parched lips. At home, a wife in a yellow saari with a story and a child with an embrace wait. The words of that tale are not audible in the first go and the arms are at such a distance- the noise and the bright lamp posts. The city never sleeps!
Some emaciated, some hungry, some newcomers, some old timers. A few sit huddled together and smoke. Once in a while this philosopher breaks this chain as he stares at the stars and wonders if it would rain tonight. Nine out of a hundred awake and calculating the hours of the night that remain. As night falls, the vehicles would be less frequent. At around two, they would almost disappear and allow for some sleep that will be a mix of relief interspersed with annoying aphids, lice and arachnids of all kinds. Thinking of food, this one weeps. His top down neighbor might get a good job in the morning. He is thinking of tomorrow’s evening already.
Some lie adjacent in pairs and share the sheet. Must be from the same place ‘back there’. Talking about the quarrel with their common childhood friend over the two thousand rupees that he did not return, their eyelids have just gone too heavy. They just mutter to themselves- Bahinchod!
Of an alley where the grand old man lies cremated on the bank of the Yamuna. The big brave King’s name shining on the main building of the Bus Station. In the midst of this greatness rests a banality- one that I have not ever lived. I should be wisely wishing for anything here- what if a segment of that wish were to come true! ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is another axiom I have to sleep thinking about tonight!
In the dead of the night, one would tell me tomorrow, came to him the spirit of the Mahatma pillion riding on Maharana‘s horse and wept inconsolably at the comfort and at the bliss that this divider teems up with as and when the stars appear brighter and shinier! On the parallel, outer ring road aka K B Hedgewar Marg must be dozing off another set of nationalists and nation builders!