Sextet : Six Performance Texts by Mukherjee. P : The Theatre of Dissent
By Mukherjee. P
Opening lines: Someone must have slandered Joseph K, for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested." From The Trial by Franz Kafka.
There we are: there we were..frozen and transfixed like a chinar against the greyscale sky. Looking up towards that nether zone. What then is Kashmir: tear-drop, ether, tinder box and also a story of decay. Decay coming from a complex web of machinery as a machination and also a cultivated narrative of diaspora locals playing up their victimhood making the narrative jaded to the point of being pointless. The narrative is more nuanced and needs more locally rooted voices.
I am oscillating between the beauty of Gurez, the stone pelting narratives of the misinformed in Baramulla and the students who are looking for a way out after yet another session at Altaf Chemistry Classes.
And on the other end of the spectrum lies the dried up tears of APDP.
From 1994, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) have regularly pressed for detailed information on these unmarked graves that dot the J&K landscape and has even published some of its findings. The number of nameless graves have been alarmingly on the rise. Everywhere. You name the place: Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Pattan, Sumbal, Kunzer, Pulwama, Ganderbal, almost everywhere unmarked and largely unknown graves have popped up.
At the Atta Mohammed run graveyard, almost all of them who are buried are blessed with words like unidentified militants, encountered militants, Pakistani terrorists, words trail off..
An investigation by J&K police on the case of Abdul Rehman Pedroo, a missing carpenter revealed the deepening rot in the system. The network of fake encounters that included senior army and police officials including a Colonel and Senior Superintendent of police. Investigations revealed that how innocent citizens were picked up and killed and declared as foreign militant to gain promotions, medals and rewards.
Very recently, Atta Mohammed had to open up a grave of an unidentified militant after court orders. It was found to be the graveyard of Bashir Ahmed Dar from Jalshiri village, 10 kms away from Tchahal. Dar had left home to bring back his wife from the in-laws place but never came back.
Many never comes back. Some dead bodies are lucky to be identified and later has a plaque announcing their death. Others lie in unnamed mounds consigned to history. Everything is becoming extinct in Kashmir. From the vision of peace to the Bakarwali dogs.
Next time when you are in Bimyar, 20 kms away from the Baramulla town dont forget to meet Atta Mohammed.
Navigate the undulating terrain. Walk through its landscape and many Atta Mohammeds pop up. On June 26, 1995, when Mohammed Akbar Sheikh was handed over four dead bodies of alleged militants for burial the Regipora village graveyard of the Kupwara district turned into a Martyrs Graveyard.
The story of Kashmir is also a story of nameless graves, story of parents meeting 10th of each month in various public parks carrying a photograph of the disappeared, story of excesses perpetrated by all quarters, the dilemma of people like Abdul Rehman Gujjari the caretaker of the Regipora graveyard as he has to raise resources to buy shroud for the deceased and the long unending wait of the near and the dear ones for the disappeared.
Hoping against hope that the dear disappeared will turn up some day.
Next time in Kashmir, walk into one of these graveyards.
But then you will ask why on earth should I/we go there?
You are right. So, what do we do? Do we ignore?
Or engage in a non-partisan manner The questions posed by the land of claimed and the unclaimed will always remain valid. Here are some chinars that stand tall.
Chinar Shunya: Lost lullaby in found transcreation
hukus bukus telli wann che kus
onum batta lodum deag
shaal kich kich waangano
Brahmi charas puane chhokum
Brahmish batanye tekhis tyakha.
Itkayne ne Itkayne
Tse Kus Be Kus Teli Wan su Kus
Moh Batuk Logum Deg
Shwas Khich Khich Wang-mayam
Bhruman daras Poyun chokum
Tekis Takya bane Tyuk.
Who is that you in I and I in you?
Who is the creator that intermingles within us?
Between the eyebrows, another eye pops up.
As one puts water on the face, the centre of consciousness gets aroused and I waft to another space.
The divine is deep within me from breath to cleansing, drenched in spiritual love and I have no confusion about it.
Then I become the sandalwood paste on the body. And indeed I have understood the cosmic.
This time around..the day before I landed..May 6, 2011..SaturdaySyed Ali Shah Geelani-the chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) participated in Gaibana Nimaz-e-Jinaza (funeral prayers in absentia) at Batamaloo. For whom. Osama Bin Laden.
He followed it up with his now-going-nowhere-fiery speech.
Meanwhile, the government officials apart from tackling Geelani and his now predictable rabble rousing was busy shifting the Darbar to Srinagar. What does this mean? This is a 139-year-now-should-be-defunct-but-isnt-defunct-tradition of keeping the civil secretariat in Jammu for six months during the winter and then shift it lock-stock-and-barrel of course to Srinagar. This is a huge exercise of moving about 40 offices of more than 3400 employees and a load of paper work at the cost of about Rs 5.5 crores annually.
There you are Kafka. Seize the moment.
Darbar was to open on Monday. May 9, 2011. Meanwhile in Europe(read Brussels), chairman of Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was meeting all and sundry discussing everything from stone pelting to water treaties in Kashmir.
Kashmir University had a quieter day, today, May 8. There was a painting competition, symposium and a musical concert dedicated to the 150th birth celebration of Rabindranath Tagore.
Monday-May 9, 2011. Rasm-e-chahrum of Naseem Akhtar is happening at her ancestral graveyard in Magarmal Bagh from 10am. Born: 1931 at Mirpur (now a part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir), Naseem was a magical voice that mesmerized countless listeners with her Kashmiri songs especially in the hey days of All India Radio.
Cut to May 7, 2011.
Kafka as the boatman. A Maggi in my hand. Airtel works in Dal lake and Vodafone toothe boat meandered across the waterscapes, across the tears of many who disappeared, got maimed and some of them suffering from insomnia, depression, sleep disorder, anger outbursts, retreating into a shell with blank looks across an all-encompassing vaccum (and trying to find solution in codine phosphate, spasmo-proxyvon, cannabis, alcohol)
Evening: I am in Café Robusta in Lal Chowk
What next ?
Roganjosh, roti, salt tea (nooncha), sleep.
Chinar Do: Pin Code 193213 - lost letters of Uri
like a rock
He has this huge bag
the Khaki bag
for 40 odds years braving landslide, thunderstorm and disappearances that are normal and surreal
His colleagues Nand Lal Sudan and Abdul Majeed - the postmaster
still perform their chores
Aslam Mir is like a rock
He has this huge bag
the Khaki bag
from 1971and the bag still remains intact
tattered but intact…torn but intact..faded but real
Between September to October, 2005
Uri has received 6,791 letters including 57 money orders
Many don't have recipients any more
The earthquake consumed them
From Kamalkote to Dullanja
From Dachi to Sultan Deki
150 homes, 40 homes, 60 homes
numbers don't add up
Ask those tin-shed inhabitants of Baday Sarai
Aslam Mir is like a rock
His son Afzal was trapped by the debris
Afzal was killed by the quake
He was studying in Class VIII
His elder son who is physically challenged was not in the house
He wipes his glasses
He still carries this huge bag
the Khaki Bag
for decades of bloodshed and lost years and months that disappeared from the calender
Some send cassettes with voices inside the letter
Some re-live the irony
for others it is a wait for letters that get re-routed through Delhi
Whose Line and whose Control
villages razed to dust
a new moon across a new mountain
across the mountains
further piled up
A staircase of letters
Aslam Mir is like a rock
He has his huge Khaki Bag
that traverses the landscapes created by four decades of trust and
an appetite for ceaseless walking
and the desire to carrying the load of the living and that of the dead
Aslam Mir is like a rock
get merged with Jhelum
and at some corner of the world
a Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel croons
that sound of silence
Reading out letters
blue LoC envelopes with faded photographs
from Gujjarbandi in Hatiyan at the PoK
to the arid trenches of Baramulla
families divided by 1947
families divided by a problematic AK-47
divided all along the watchtower
Aslam Mir is like a rock
He has this huge Khaki bag
he has been carrying
for 40 years
40 long years
Aslam Mir is like a rock
The rock that stays put in real towns, in real cities
Chinar Teen: Curfew Amongst Blocks Of Ice
February 19, 2005: the Waltango Nar, a sleeply Gujjar village erupted into a tragedy. 128 houses were destroyed. The Gujjar and Bakerwal Advisory Board has complained about the pace of development.
and slabs of snow
stones, bricks and more stones and more bricks at
Uri and Tangdhar
90 families staring at a homeless expanse
as white flashes gnaw into your flesh
The canvas tents are flooded with snow
Pace of development finds no locomotion
From the azure blue sky
as more and more flakes fall
Bashir Ahmed Deedah
looks helplessly all around
The blizzard consumed six of his family members
the long wait for further blizzard
transfixed gazes at nothingness
In life we move on from hurt to another
from one hurt to another hurt..some hurt are national and others are trans-national.or shall we say some hurt are borderedsome are cross-bordered..some are across-bordered and some more luckily are borderless
Chinar Char-2008: More than a half million of security forces in a valley almost 9.5 million of residents.
From meetings in Pratap Park and Sher-e-Kashmir Park to an office in Hyderpora in Jammu and Kashmir. Yes, 15 years is not a long timenot a landmark like 50. But the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in its 15th year of existence is more significant than many other initiatives in the country, especially in the light of the nationwide celebrations of the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As they register their protests across tricky domains of a battle scarred landscape, unanswered questions like unidentified bodies keep popping up. Yet, they fight a battle which needs to be fought.
Ask 67-year old Atta Mohammed. Since 2003, he has buried more than 235 dead bodies in a graveyard besides his house in Tchhal village of Jammu and Kashmir's Uri district which is about 100 kms away from Srinagar. Who are these people?
According to human rights groups more than 10,000 people have disappeared in the state. The cases have increased since Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) was invoked in 1990. At the Atta Mohammed run graveyard, almost all of them who are buried are blessed with words like "unidentified", "encountered", "perpetrators"words trail off.
An investigation by the J&K police on the case of Abdul Rehman Pedroo, a missing carpenter reveals a deepening rot in the systemof fake encounters, random picking up and no trace left behind, declaring them with different sobriquets to gain promotions, medals and rewards.
Very recently in 2008, Atta Mohammed had to open up a grave of an unidentified militant after court orders. It was found to be the graveyard of Bashir Ahmed Dar from Jalshiri village, 10 kms away from Tchahal. Dar had left home to bring back his wife from his in-laws place but never came back. Many never come back. Some dead bodies are lucky to be identified and later have a plaque announcing their death. Others lie in unnamed mounds consigned to history. Everything is becoming extinct in Kashmir. From the vision of peace to the Bakarwali dogs.
Next time you are in Bimyar, 20 kms away from the Baramulla town don't forget to meet Atta Mohammed. Navigate Kashmir. Walk through its landscape and many graveyards and unnamed graves emergeBaramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Pattan, Sumbal, Kunzer, Pulwama, Ganderbal.
Ask APDP. Since 1994, they are consistently demanding information on many of these unmarked graves and publishing some of their findings. The APDP is largely a campaign driven group and is fiercely independent about its role to bring justice in this region. As a founder member of the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) which was launched in May 1998 in Manila, it now tries to link the larger cause of the disappeared. AFAD is playing a larger role in trying to enforce international instruments like the United Nations Declarations on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNDPAPFEID) and the Draft Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
The story of the valley can be told as a story of nameless graves; a story of parents' meeting on the 10th of each month in various public parks, carrying a photograph of the "disappeared"; a story of excesses perpetrated by the Anti-Militancy Special Operations Group; the dilemma of people like Abdul Rehman Gujjari (caretaker of the Regipora graveyard) as he has to raise resources to buy shrouds for the deceased; and, the long unending wait of the near and the dear ones for the ’near disappeared’ and the ’dear disappeared’ to turn up some day. Next time in Kashmir, walk into one of these graveyards.
Chinar Paanch: I am back at the same boat. Myself and Kafka as a boatman. Kahwa. Heated discussion. I am loudly reciting my favourite Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali's poem on Satyajit Rays Pather Panchali:
Durga dies in the rains,
her tongue bitter with stolen
fruit. Beyond the field, trains
escape a boys dreams, run
into the air. A necklace chains
him to the waters bones, turns
his reflection sour. Wherever
Apu goes, to the temple or the river,
he carries Durgas smile to the depths of the air.
The floating vegetable market glides by. Mist and the lake make love to each other.
Paanch Chinar-2011: A few days laterlater to some date...earlier to some other date. The shikara by now is mid-lake.this was an aimless ride across corridors of noiseless ripplesthe air seems to carry the message of the loss of 118 lives in the summer unrest of 2010..for example the case of Wamiq Farooq of Ramawari; killed in January 2010; by this teargas shell fired by the police near the Ghani Memorial Stadium Rajouri Kadal in old Srinagar. The police report dubbed him as miscreant but fails to explain how a teargas shell fired in air hits the head of a person.
Now there you are Kafka. Dont worry your moments of déjà vu they are also moments of a sinking feeling. Living paradox.
A few days later, I would be passing by the newly created transit camp for the Kashmiri Pandits at Vessu Qazigund, in south Kashmir nearly 100 kms away from Srinagar. No, there arent any celebrations. Not that the numbers who came back are huge. You are in the midst of a sense of hope. Hopefully.
How many times will you emigrate and immigrate in a land where you are the half-of-the-secular-sky. You arent the colour of rainbow any more. Pandits are an elegy, dirge and a metaphor.
And what do you do with rows of charred houses that you left behind. They have been further charred or have become outposts or are awaiting buyers who want it cheap.
You are in this Kafka land. The valley that is staring at the crossroad of the crossroads. Jammu grappling with its brand new conscience keepers and Ladakh recovering from an earthquake, is a little tired of yuppie Enfield-headbangers, nature-lovers with a tripod and this unending list of volunteers who need a sexy summer placement for their curriculum vitals(vitae)
When your flight..takes off the airport.you are grappled with bizarre dreamsa dream in which you want to set up a hospitalonly for retired guns..where the guns will turn into flowers in the hand of trained nurses or that Camus-esque dream of some fatigue clad wannabe pointing to a motionless body and grinning on a handy cam and saying: If this is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.
Even death dies. If you kill death too many times.
Dont believe me.
2014: Chinar Six
Puking Paani: the Khatambundh, the kangri and some deaths
The crows shouted
they knew not how to spend the leisure;
the nightingales adorned their nests,
the hay became stacks.
The nightingales hatched,
their breaths were visible.
One flight --
and the world knew the newborn.
Suddenly all shouting stopped.
From The Crows Shouted by Dina Nath Nadim [Translated by Arvind Gigoo]
Silence. Let's roll it on.
Preliminary Data: 12.5 lakh affected families
There you are raising funds
Preliminary official Data: Damaged 3.50 lakh structures
There you are playing occupation, occupier, occupy, occupied and then falling silent
Initial Data: Damaged 83,000 pucca houses
There you are watching the pheran with checks on it in Haidar as Hamlet grimaces
Initial Official Data: Damaged 21, 162 kachha houses
There you are the cyber-revolutionaries burning the urls with your informed criticism and lack of ground involvement
Official Data: Partially Damaged 1.5 lakh houses
There you are with numerous photo-ops of slow death
Data: 10,000 milch animals perished
There you are busy pointing fingers at the nation state and the state of the nation..when you needed to move your bums and jump in
Also the official data states that: 33,000 sheep perished
There you are seminar junkies..you theorize numbers. as makeshift tents increase
The data screams: Losses over Rs 1 lakh crore
There you are playing the victimhood or the savior depending which side and sight you are on
Data: Almost a month after rains, residential areas are still inundated with stagnant water
There you are brewing your kahwa
the shit scared ruffled hair, dug in cheeks and the sunken eyes try to figure out what is aid and what is self-respect
who occupies the Facebook space and who faces the book
who spouts Frantz Fanon and who really knows the agony in the lines of Dina Nath Nadim
the disappeared fragrance of bakerkhani, sheermal, girda, krip, choat, teliwor, katlam, lavaas and kulcha
the bread isn't baking
the bread isn't breaking
Let's shut down the bakeries.
the bread isn't baking
the bread isn't breaking
Let's shut down
Lets wait for the slow burn…
(Saat chinar or the Necessary postscript: This is a tribute to the memory of the deceased photo journalist Pradip Bhatia.
A tip of the hat to the resilient pens Yusuf Jameel and that of Muzamil Jaleel and his tale of Aslam Mir.
The name Saat Chinar is a riff from the Chaar Chinar island which stands in the middle of the Dal Lake and makes for a lovely view especially that time of the evening when the sunset is over and the pitch- black darkness illuminates the lake. The lights of the houseboats and the bright lights of the shore make the Chinars glisten…The Chinars frames the the expanse of the all-enveloping darkness-that shimmers)
Ms. Jinnah, Ms. Gandhi: a play
Ms. Jinnah, Ms. Gandhi: a play by Parnab Mukherjee Prologue
Prison is essentially a shortage of space made up for by a surplus of time; to an inmate, both are palpable. Naturally enough, this ratio – echoing man's situation in the universe – is what has made incarceration an integral metaphor of Christian metaphysics as well as practically the midwife of literature...It’s not that prison makes you shed your abstract notions. On the contrary, it pares them down to their most succinct articulations. Prison, is indeed, a translation of your metaphysics, ethics, sense of history and what not into the compact terms of your daily deportment.
Joseph Brodsky, The Writer in Prison
Ruttie was and will be a phenomenon. A confluence of combative memory and gritty metaphors. A waste of talent. As Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s wife, a fascinating person to study and write about. Confessions of Ruttie Jinnah was a long performance text which I wrote when Sampark published my first book of performance texts and later a selection of my plays. However, I felt that the piece needs to be worked upon further and this play was born. At a time when Jinnah House in Mumbai is at the centre of controversy. The Ministry of External Affairs, India says that Jinnah’s sister Fatima was the inheritor of this property according to his will. Daughter of Jinnah, Dina has staked her claim.
In all this media covered din, what is being forgotten is Ruttie. This building could have been her prison. Her liberation. A little of both. History has been unkind to her. Though, this play is not and does not intend to be a faithful re-construction of her varied life, it intends to map the alert mind of one of the most original Mumbaikars – Ruttie Jinnah. The first ever play on her.
Writing about Ruttie was not easy. The cultural and political Bombay of 1900 to 1929 was probably one of the most challenging periods in the life of the city. On one hand Dadasaheb Phalke of the almost 100 films repertoire was making Raja Harishchandra, Mohini Bhashmashur, Lanka Dahan and Birth of Shri Krishna, while on the other hand Baburao Painter was busy making the subversive Sairandhri which was banned for an attack on Lord Curzon. Still on the other side the audience was busy gobbling up released footage of the bonfire of foreign cloth led by Gandhiji, the last procession with the body of Lokmanya Tilak, extracts of Parsee plays like Pijam's Tehemuras and Tehemuljee and Pherozeshah.J. Marzban's Aflatoon.
It was the time when the electric tramcar ran from Crawford Market to Muncipal Office, when Calcutta's singing sensation Gauhar Jan gave live concerts and acted in Suchet Singh's Shakuntala along with Dorothy Kingdom and when the Bombay Triangular cricket tournament drew packed houses at Gymkhana ground, Fort.
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Contrast this with political upheavals of that time from Gandhiji's imprisonment in Yerwada jail in Pune in 1922, to the all party conference of 1924 and the turbulent three years culminating in the Simon Commission agitation of 1928. Bombay was charged in all spheres.
Politically, creatively and ideologically.
Writing about Ruttie is writing about all of these and yet none of these apparently. It is a difficult and delicate balance to achieve and I am probably not the best person for the job. Yet, reading about it all these years. Being fascinated by the Bombay that nurtured The New Parsee Victoria Company doing King Lear (in Murad Ali's version called Har Jit) and the same Bombay where Congress began an employment bureau on January 1923 to help those who resigned from the government to get jobs in firms that had expressed solidarity to the nationalist cause.
It was Bombay that excited me, still excites me.
Ruttie was a bridge to writing about that Bombay, and hence the play. Like all my plays, this one has its share of dedications and acknowledgments. This play is dedicated to the memory of Avantikabai Gokhale who along with six others on April 6, 1930 marched with vessels filled with water from the sea to Haji Ali Park and boiled the same to break the salt law.
And to the memory of
Rachel Coorie – a young martyr from the USA who stood between Israeli bulldozers and the Palestinian settlement and was crushed to death on March 16, 2003.
Hopefully the play embodies their spirit.
Here's the play:
Narrator, who could be a narrator or Ruttie or both.
Ladies and Gentlemen. This evening must start like any evening starts. With an introduction. Yes, this is an evening when I will talk about a Bombay I know. The Bombay of 1904 when the Congress of Pherozeshah Mehta decided that two persons will go to London and campaign with the liberal party on the issue of greater autonomy for India. One of them was Gopal Krishna Gokhale and the other was Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Of July 22, 1908 when Tilak was sentenced for sedition. For six days, workers in 76 of the 85 mills of Bombay and employees of the Mulji Jetha Market,Kalbadevi began Asia's first anti-colonial strike in solidarity with Tilak.
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Of 1917 when the Home Rule League meetings were addressed by Joseph Baptista lovingly called Kaka, Umar Sobani and that brilliant Irish journalist Benjamin Guy Horniman.
Yes, the same Horniman of the Horniman Gardens. Remember in April, 1919 he was deported over his editorials against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and in 1926, he defied the regulations against him to come back to Bombay and head The Bombay Sentinel.
Of October 31, 1920, when 801 delegates formed the All India Trade Union Congress with Kaka Baptista and N.M Joshi as the vice-presidents.
Of the Backbay Scandal of 1926 when Khurshed Frang Nariman in a legislative council session accused the government of fraud in it's blueprint to reclaim 1, 145 acres of land between Backbay and Colaba. The engineer Thomas Harvey sued Nariman and lost the case.
Of the 1928 protests against Simon Commission.
Of the December 12, 1930 memories of a British policeman driving over a 22-year old millworker from Mahangule near Pune called Syed Babu Genu. Genu was crushed under the wheels. Yes, the Genu portrayed so well in Shafaq Khan’s play Shobhyatra. The same Genu who was standing on the road trying to stop the truck with foreign clothes reaching a warehouse in Kalbadevi.
And of 1929
When Ruttie Jinnah died
We start the evening with Ruttie, me, my tape-recorder
You are asking my age.
Don'’t ask Bombay of her age
She is ageless. I am that ageless Bombay media of Ruttie's time I am that ageless journalist of the Bombay of now
It's raining today in Mumbai and Kalina has turned into a tunnel of dirt in this torrential downpour. Let me record my testimony about a lady who was a part of the city of memories...
(Switches the tape recorder on.)
What else will a retired journalist do?
Go over lost bylines and locate forgotten history Smoke
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and then drown in memories tattered torn emaciated
There's a city of my memories drowned in the multiplex madness as our lives become a progression
from one parabola to another
Born: February 20, 1900. This is a story of a remarkable lady who died under not so remarkable circumstances.
We'll begin with a story of two Lords and a lady. Mr. Jinnah along with Mrs. Jinnah had gone to Shimla. They were there because he was to participate in the summer session of the Central Legislative Council. As a part of the proceedings, the Viceroy Lord Chelmsford had organised a dinner party in honour of the couple.
On this occasion, when Ruttie was formally introduced to the Viceroy instead of bowing to greet him, she joined her two hands and did a ceremonial namaste. This offended the Viceroy. After the dinner, he signalled his ADC to call Ruttie. Fairly miffed he told Mrs. Jinnah, "The political future of your husband is very bright. You shouldn't spoil it with your behaviour. You should behave according to your position. In Rome, you must do as the Romans do." "Just what I did, your Highness! It is India so I greeted you as Indians do," she replied. Lord Chelmsford had no answer.
After this incident, Ruttie never attended any function organised by Lord Chelmsford.
Former Chief justice of England, Lord Reading arrived as Viceroy of India on April 2, 1921. Lord Reading's distinguished legal past and his passion for law brought him close to Mr. Jinnah. His tenure as the Viceroy of India came to an end in 1928.
In 1921, at a formal lunch organised by Lord Reading, Ruttie was seated next to him. During the conversation, Lord Reading expressed his desire to visit Germany but he said diplomatic compulsion tied him down.
Ruttie asked, "But why, Your Highness? Why can't you go there?"
"The Germans don't like us, that is why I can't go," replied Lord Reading.
With a deadpan face, she told Lord Reading, "Then, Your Highness, how
come you came here?" Lord Reading immediately got the drift of the cutting edge sarcasm and changed the topic.
So there I am, an ageing journalist talking about
a lonely lady who passed away
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in a room of the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai in 1929.
And a man who died in 1948 suffering from tuberculosis
or as some say lung cancer.
Ruttie Jinnah, wife of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, passed away at The Taj Mahal Hotel. Lonely. Unwept. Unsung.
Sometimes your hair touches my consciousness at other times it does not.
Just a strand of your hair as my bookmark.
Crumpled bed sheet testifies modern bed time stories.
She was 16 when they fell in love. And she knew what home rule was. She firmly believed that India belonged to the species called Indians.
The summer of 1916. A hill station which is the queen of hill stations called Darjeeling.
The whole Petit family along with Jinnah went there to escape the Mumbai heat.
It was a different Darjeeling then.
No cluttered malls.
No sky threatening buildings.
Lots of chalets, chateaus and quaint Nepali huts.
One day over tea Jinnah asked Sir Dinshaw Petit his views on marriages cutting across small religious boundaries. He then asked for his daughter's hand in marriage. Taken aback Sir Dinshaw Manockjee Petit responded angrily and immediately forbade his daughter to have anything to do with such a man.
But love. But
In February 1918, Ruttie turned 18. She was free to marry. She left her house, her father and on April 18, 1918 Ruttie converted to Islam at the Jamia Mosque in Kolkata.
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On April 19, 1918, The Statesman wrote: "Miss Ruttenbai, only daughter of Sir Dinshaw Petit, yesterday underwent conversion to Islam, and is today to be married to the Hon. M. A. Jinnah."
Ruttenbai was only eighteen and the Quaid was then forty-one but she had resolved to marry the man of her choice, who had kindled in her heart the spark of true love. The next day Jinnah and Ruttie got married in Mumbai. The Raja Sahib of Muhamdabad and a few handpicked friends attended the wedding. The wedding ring was a gift from the Raja. Needless to say, for the Petit family, the wedding never took place, even in their minds.
Another hill station. This time the honeymoon at the Muhamdabad lodge in Nainital followed by a stay at a plush hotel near Red Fort in Delhi.
They were the page 3 couple of that time.
A woman draped in jewels
and a handsome 40-plus man finally finding contentment.
They had a child – Dina.
I like touching your eyebrows.
It's actually a lame excuse to look into the blueness of your eyes.
Let's cancel the dinner there's too much inflation in the economy.
There was loneliness. Beyond the parties and whirling in the social set, Jinnah harboured to be the bridge in the Hindu-Muslim rift and spread the secular agenda. Not that Ruttie did not want that, but her demands were different.
They fell apart. Piece-by-piece.
In 1922, she packed her bags and took her daughter to London. She wrote a letter to her friend Kanji:
"It will always give me pleasure to hear from you, so if you have a superfluous moment on your hands...you know where you will find me – if I don't lose myself. And just one thing more – go and see Jinnah and tell me how he is – he has a habit of overworking himself and now that I am not there to tease and bother him he will be worse than ever."
She returned from London. But by then he was consumed by electoral politics. And she by spirits, shamans, mysticism and de-coding dreams. She wrote to Kanji:
"There is nothing I would welcome with greater rejoicing then an experience of a sort to which you refer in your letter...there is no redeeming feature...a restive mind and correspondingly restless physical state...I don't dream...My soul is too clogged. And
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though I aspire and crave, God knows how earnestly, my researches to remain uncrowned – even by thorns."
When you sit sideways
I cannot see you whole
Those times I think a part of me is missing
Too overlapping Let's just fall apart
For a 25-year old with a husband whose legal and political career was at the zenith, this was a brilliantly bad phase of life. In 1925, Jinnah was appointed to a subcommittee set up to study the feasibility of establishing a military college like Sandhurst in India. He had a five-month trip to Europe and North America scheduled. Ruttie went with him.
But the gulf increased. Around this time she wrote:
"No shoes are large enough to accommodate my elegant and lily-like feet." By 1927 it was almost quits.
The Muslim League office shifted to Delhi. Jinnah was more often in 011 than 022.
By February 18, 1929 she confided to Kanji
that all that she could look after were her cats. 2 days later
she turned 29.
On February 22, 1929 she was buried according to Islamic rites. Justice Chagla writes that when the body was lowered to the confines of earth:
"That was the only time when I found Jinnah betraying some shadow of human weakness."
He wept for the only woman in the world he had smiled for.
Gone were the days of the romanticism of Muhammad Alibhai Jinnahbhai Khojani.
Gone were the lost lines of his favourite play Romeo and Juliet.
Gone were those ambitions that wanted to make him play the part of Romeo at the Globe.
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So who was Ruttie?
The most head-turning occupant of the Jinnah House in the Malabar Hills. Built in 1936 at an exorbitant price of Rs. 2 lakhs on Pleasant Road. The building is an amalgamation of Italian marble and walnut woodwork conceived and designed by Claude Batley.
Of course, the building never smiled when Ruttie left it. Who was Ruttie?
The subject of Sarojini Naidu's ire who once had a huge crush on Jinnah. Subsequently, she wrote to Syed Mahmud, son of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan that, "...Jinnah has at last plucked the Blue Flower of his desire. The child has made far bigger sacrifices than she yet realises."
But history was to repeat itself. After Ruttie's death her sister Fatima had a vice-like grip over Jinnah's life. Dina, his daughter, was slowly getting alienated. Barrister Akbar Ali was seen by her father as a fit candidate to marry Deen Bai Jinnah. Instead she married a Parsi who was born Christian – Neville Wadia. Jinnah tried to dissuade her. He said that there were millions of Muslim boys in India and she replied: "Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?"
The relationship became just a formality and he called her Mrs. Wadia. Dina and Neville lived in Bombay and had two children, a boy and a girl. Shortly after that they separated. The boy is Nusli Wadia.
What a turn of history! Jinnah was a Muslim who married a Zoroastrian, and Dina married a Parsi who was of part-Irish descent and hence a Christian convert. To convolute matters further, Nusli Wadia, born a Christian, decided to convert back to Zoroastrianism, settling back into the industrially wealthy Parsi community of Bombay.
I keep blanking out the tomorrows Yesterdays disappear
Verbal jugglery bores me
What do I do in these troubled times?
of words drying up
Who was Ruttie?
Manto in his short story Mera Saheb (based on the oral history of one of Jinnah's chauffeurs, Muhammad Hanif Azad) writes:
Page 9 of 41
"Sometimes more than twelve years after Begum Jinnah's death, the Quaid would order in the dead of night, a huge ancient chest to be opened, in which were placed the clothes of his dead wife and his married daughter. He would look raptly into those clothes, as they were taken out of the chest and were spread on the carpets. He would gaze at them for long in articulate silence. One could clearly see him overwhelmed with emotions as his eyes would moisten spontaneously with tears."
Whose rainfall do you collect? Whose tears do you collect? Whose water do you drink? Whose blood is it anyway?
Why did Jinnah desperately want to keep the house after partition? The famous South Court.
A conversation between Dr Sohrab Dinshawji Ankleseria, the leading ophthalmologist of Karachi between the 1950s and 1970s and Haji Bhai Esmail Dossa. Mr. Dossa's son recalls that once in September 1969, over a cup of tea, two of them discussed Ruttie Jinnah. The two got involved in a discussion on a property called South Court on Malabar Hills, Mumbai. Here's what Mr. Dossa's son wrote:
"There was agreement that the titles were in the name of Ruttie Jinnah and that the mansion had been acquired in 1912 from Sir Victor Sassoon. Contention between my father and Dr. Ankleseria arose when the latter asserted that South Court was never Mr. Jinnah's. Sir Dinshaw Petit had purchased this house for Ruttie in 1912, in conformity with the traditions of wealthy Parsis where a bungalow was bought for the daughter, because in the Parsi community the parents of the girl formally solicit the hand of the prospective groom. Mr. Jinnah was staying in a Taj Mahal Hotel suite up to 1914 to
be near his chambers at the Flora Fountain and the Bombay High Court where he used to appear before the British judges.
Mr. Jinnah was engaged by Sir Dinshaw to teach English to his Francophile, French- speaking younger daughter Ruttie. To facilitate Mr. Jinnah, he gave him petrol rationing in Mumbai, and to avoid motoring to and fro from the Gateway of India to Warden Road to provide tuition to his daughter Ruttie. Sir Dinshaw accommodated his friend in the vacant, downstairs portion of South Court so that he could be within walking distance of Petit Hall. My father took exception to the fact that the movement for a separate homeland for the Muslims should have begun from South Court, a bungalow owned by a Parsi. To which Dr. Anklerseria replied, "You are a rich businessman, an industrialist. Have you not purchased the house adjacent to Mian Mohammed Bashir next to your own Falak Numa for your daughter Munira? Human nature is the same all over the world, whether we are Muslims or Parsis. Sir Dinshaw was only providing for his daughter Ruttie when he bought South Court in 1912. How was he to know that almost four decades thereafter the Pakistan Movement would be initiated from South Court?" He put this question to my father while leaving."
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So was Jinnah looking to keep Ruttie's memory alive, albeit privately?
Satiate is word I keep confusing with satisfaction.
Destiny says it is all pre-determined. Logic asks who determines all this...
Who was Ruttie?
That young girl on the P&O Steamer Razmak. Bombay-Marseilles. April 1928.
Who was Ruttie?
A sentence in a clutter of disjoint words.
I could be the answer to the question
I could be the comma in your half-formed sentence
I could be the lost lipstick
Lost girl rushing in to the room in a leopard skin leotard
Facts don't cease.
Blacked out from official Pakistani history Ruttie fascinates me. What more can a journalist do?
My fading eyesight
Mr. old rickety Remington typewriter
and a bagful of memories
Since I began with Lords, let me end with one such. In 1928, for his extra-ordinary efforts for the Central Legislative Assembly, Jinnah was offered knighthood. He refused. When Ruttie was asked whether she rued the lost opportunity to become Lady Jinnah, she curtly replied: "If my husband accepts the title of Sir, I will break all ties with him."
Nursing the bruises Moving on
Implosion is piecing together loss of a further loss.
Page 11 of 41
Ruttie and Jinnah's daughter, Dina, was born on August 15. She never went to Pakistan except for her father's last rites. On August 14 and 15, 1947
she put out both the Pakistani and Indian flags
on her balcony.
Give me some water.
Has the tape run out of time?? Is it working??
(Fiddles with the tape-recorder.)
(Then walks to a zone within the audience and wistfully says: Fragments and more fragments. The numbers denote different slides that can play on the slide projector. They can be historical or even shots of contemporary Mumbai with memories of Ruttie.)
More datelines More anniversaries More deaths
More commemoration As age becomes me As the interest groups become
life oscillates from the epical to the epochal
The trombone player has gone home.
The make-up man removes the shine from the caked face The shehnai player has stopped playing
Lost strains of melody
The air is thick, heavy, nostalgic and distant Here galaxies talk to galaxies
Stars talk to stars
It stopped raining in Mumbai today.
And I feel like talking more. Interior monologues.
Page 12 of 41
of years gone by.
More about Ruttie. The Ruttie I could never crack. The enigma. The mysterious life force. The long winded conversation that was abruptly stopped even before she reached 30. Not that 30 is the cut off age. But at least three decades is a fair enough time.
Am I being a seller of dark secrets? At my age sense and sensibility
are one and the same thing.
Quirky. Questioning. Quest.
(Wipes the reading glasses.)
Born: December 25, 1876 Died: September 11, 1948
Muhammad Ali Jinnah's birth and death co-ordinates have been intriguing And Ruttie's death adds to the enigma.
Gone were the days when she was chaperoned by her aunt Mamabai Petit
Marriage was a whole new ball game. Silence and more silence. Between her and Jinnah the game of silence played itself out.
Words were hardly exchanged. Words became rare.
Became strange sounds. Words became amorphous. Silence was a sanctuary which both of them inhabited.
It was the only noise that they could tolerate. It wasn't so always.
(Drinks water clumsily.)
I remember the image of Ruttie during marriage. Ruttie during marriage was this beauty dipped in silk smoking long firang cigarettes’
Ruttie could sense voices screaming
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inside her head.
Her eardrums were bursting with the sounds of Mumbai’
(Moves from one chair to another. Paces up and down.)
No half found images.
No extended lullaby.
Words became a mirage.
A distant cracked mirror showing multiple images in a soundless landscape.
In the background
deafening sound and silence alternately played out in her head
like a strange loud concert
which became occasionally serene.
It was a mixed up time. It was a mixed up trip.
She imagined him talking.
But she never heard him doing it really.
It was a strange relationship of stoic silence.
(Finally, sits in a rocking armchair.)
Ruttie had a strange determination. A strange resolve.
May be strange is the wrong word. She was always through and through a determined woman.
Somebody who never shirked to face the odds. Somebody who would look into your eyes and etch the most obvious emotion
out of you.
That of attraction and protectiveness both at the same time.
She was your window to the world. But what if your world changes?
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She always thought of that day.
Memories of the Willingdon Memorial Committee. 5.00pm. December 11. Ruttie coming in with a basket of sandwiches. Then the protest. And finally after a lot of shouting especially at the time Sir Jemsetjee Jeejeebhoy moved the resolution to appreciate Lord Willingdon's contribution. J rose up to shout.
J and Ruttie were whisked out of the premises by the police. Outside in front of the swarming mob, they received heroes’ welcome.
Where were those heady days? Those heady nights at Shantaram Chawl where within hours Rs. 65,000 was raised and P.J Hall was born. People's Jinnah Hall.
That was 1918.
(Pours a drink slowly. Keeps staring at the glass.)
Ruttie and shamanism
Ruttie and would-be memories Ruttie and yellowed past
Ruttie and the floodgates of the past Ruttie and triumph against all odds
Ruttie and locking horns with eternity Ruttie and looking face to face with death Ruttie and her relationship with the cat Ruttie and her fight with Mariam
Ruttie and her intense loneliness
Ruttie and her final tryst with life
Ruttie and her art of dying
It was 1921. And the loneliness only deepened. For a while he was out of the ambit of public demonstrations, rallies and politics. Justice Chagla recalled an instance (which appeared in Wolpert's Jinnah): "I remember her walking to Jinnah's chamber while we were in the midst of a conference, dressed in a manner which could be called fast by modern standards, perched herself upon Jinnah's table dangling her feet and waiting for Jinnah to finish the conference so that they could leave together. Jinnah never uttered a word of protest, and carried on with his work as if she were not there at all."
(Stands up. Uses a walking stick. Follow-spot as he walks to the audience.)
Ruttie where do you go from here? Sometimes
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tears dry up
history takes its own detour
across lanes, by lanes, small sharp turns and forgotten alley ways
Sometimes history becomes lost folklore Sometimes anecdotes become lost urban legends Sometimes incidents become lost faint whispers
I remember the attractive Ruttie
I remember a tremendous vitality
I remember a paragon of beauty
I remember somebody who I cannot flush out of my memoryscape
I remember because I cannot forget
One of Ruttie's closest confidantes was Kanji. He was the brother of Jinnah's former Home Rule secretary, Parsi Jamnadas Dwarkadas. In a number of dreams in May 1922, he saw Ruttie asking and beseeching him for help. She was lying in a typically old fashioned sofa. Kanji rushed to meet her.
In September that year, Ruttie had left for London. Kanji's roses from Pune's Empress Gardens were a refreshing gift for her. In the P&O Cabin, she looked at the horizon. Fast fading. Fast receeding.
From Aden, she acknowledged Kanji's gift and thought if only the roses came from J...
(Comes back mid-stage.)
Can you tell me
how long are distances that cannot be bridged?
how large pauses breed immediate and future silences Tell me
Page 16 of 41
how to exist when everything tears you apart churns you from inside
how to retain a smile at
one corner of the lips in times of cynicism and distrust Tell me
how to conquer this cynicism
how to conquer
these living dead that inhabit the planet
(Lies on the floor)
For Ruttie the old J
was a distant dream Ms. J by 1924
had other interests.
Probably, morphine, opium, hashish, cocaine and with a little bit
of depression and insomnia thrown in
the abyss wasn't far
around her eyes
replaced the kohl
That old image of
well-defined cheek bones low cut gown
dapper suited husband
was replaced by
talking to ghosts
voices in her head
failing to come to terms with the way
freeze frames of her life changed from blue to sepia
Page 17 of 41
Life indeed played itself out and
Her love for theosophy
His love for cigars
Her love for Annie Besant His love for legal council took over
A doomed zone of silence that became the central catalyst to an abject surrender
(Gets up and leans towards the chair. The stage washed in blue.)
More datelines More anniversaries More deaths
Here galaxies talk to galaxies stars talk to stars
Landscape, shaping framed visuals Pixels, digital frames
Wet documents Scrap heap of history
Battling amnesia Ruttie stands tall and challenging
and the business of the memory of forgetting
Yes, let me repeat some lines I have quoted before
Page 18 of 41
"My Dear Kanji...Yes, I know of the dream travels which you speak...But I do all my dreaming in the waking hours...There is nothing I would welcome with greater rejoicing than the experience of the sort which you refer in the letter, but in my heavy drug-like sleep there is no redeeming feature...five or at most six hours of rest... a restive mind and a correspondingly restless physical state...I don't dream excepting very rarely...My soul is too clogged! And though I aspire and crave, God knows how earnestly my researches remain uncrowned, even by thorns! I am feeling peculiarly restless and wish one with psychic powers could come to my assistance."
(Limps and paces up and down. He is dog tired and drained out.)
She began with occult. Seances.
Spirit Communications. Psychic Powers. Seances.
She talked about
H.P.B's Secret Doctrine
Her coaxing and bullying J to read The Spirit of Irene. All these words started appearing in her letters to Kanji.
In one remarkable postscript Ruttie writes:
I have written to Chatterjee, the artist for whose address infinite thanks. I have asked him to do three reproductions for me in varying sizes. I am waiting the answer with impatience and hope he accepts my commission. By the by, I am very excited and equally happy as at last I have two manifestations, one was a most extraordinary luminance – a sort of a perpetual flash suspended midway at the corner of Hughes Road and Sandhurst Bridge.
(Tries to light a cigarette. Fails. Gulps the earlier peg he had poured for himself and then screams.)
Repository of shlokas memory and experience Silence is merely a panacea
Page 19 of 41
Woman is a boulevard
Woman is her own point
Woman is her own shifting past shifting present
Ruttie, the dragon slayer of tradition Ruttie, the standardised romantic Ruttie, the survivor
Ruttie, the vanquished
(Use of red in the cyclorama. Only the shadow talks.)
What do I see
Where would I go
The deepening loneliness
What do I see Where do I go
The gaping crowd The fawning bitches and the loneliness
What do I see
Where would I reach out
It’s what you saw
It’s what you have
in this phonetic universe Hyperphony of
auditory imagination bursting forth Reforming
The doors open
The doors close
There's no Michelangelo Only a blank space
and some loneliness
Page 20 of 41
By 1925 a little bit of reading.
Especially Noel Coward plays.
She met Annie Besant at Adyar at the end of the year. She looked after one of her loyal cats when the cat fell ill. But the free fall in the abyss continued.
The Taj Mahal Hotel phase had started liquid lines
slithering down her lonely street Strange sounds
She was sinking
and sinking big time
into a physical quagmire
February 21, 1929
at Taj Mahal Hotel
on her 29th birthday Ruttie passed away.
Jinnah was at Western Court, Delhi.
He came by Frontier Mail.
He received the news from his father-in-law.
He told Chaman Lal. This was the first time they had talked since marriage.
In Mumbai's Muslim cemetry on February 22
Ruttie was submerged in earth.
Kanji drove Jinnah down from the Grant Road station. In that five hour long ritual
Jinnah sat stoic
then as the body was lowered
Mohammed Ali Jinnah cried.
(Use of two footlights. Streaming the stage with pathways. The figure still in darkness.)
More datelines More anniversaries
Page 21 of 41
Here galaxies talk to galaxies Stars talk to stars
And Mohammed Ali Jinnah cried
after a 1926 tour of London, Canada, Paris and the United States where they failed to recreate the old magic
Ruttie fell almost fatally sick .
And her admission to Kanji:
"Tonight I am going to cinema in bedroom slippers as no shoes are large enough to accommodate my elegant, lily-like feet..."
Ruttie and her cats and dogs
as Dina was in school the whole day and had her own circle of friends
Why am I so loopy? Same things Same things
I say over and over again Number of times
Same bloody anecdotes
Same infatuation for the lost flower girl
It is drizzling outside
Bombay looks alternatively pretty
bizarre and demonic in the monsoons
It's time for a cat-nap
It's time for Ruttie to become Mariam Mariam, (Ruttie's Muslim name) sleep well Sleep well, Mariam
(Sleep well. Mariam. Sleep well: this can be used as a refrain throughout the play. However, that is just an advice. It is purely at the director's discretion.)
Page 22 of 41
(Switches off the tape-recorder. Switches on a torch. A small ray of light on his face as he motions to exit.)
Ladies and Gentlemen it is time for an interval. On the other end of the interval lies another story. Another story of another Bombay. The Bombay of Arthur Road Jail on August 9, 1942. The Bombay of Lamington Road, Wadala Salt depot, Fanaswadi, Alexandra docks, Muzaffarabad Hall in Wadilal Patel Road, Sandhurst Road, Gowalia Tank, Azad Maidan Rajabai Clock Tower, Empire Cinema Hall and the Bombay of a family that SS Arabia brought back to India on January 9, 1915. The Bombay of Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi.
Before I break for interval, I am sorry before we break for the interval. I keep thinking of a place in Gujarat where Gandhiji and Jinnah had once jointly appealed for peace. The place was called Godhra.
Yes things have changed. The secular fabric is constantly under attack. Yet I yearn for that Bombay.
That Bombay of physician's like Bhau Daji Lad, nationalist doctors like R.H. Bhadkamkar, D.D. Sathe and A.P Khotatre, it was a Bomaby of the Khadi Bhandar at the Morarji Gokuldas Market, it was Bombay where N.M Lokhande agitated for the fixed working hours of the mill labourers. It was mill workers' Bombay. A Bombay where Wilson, Elphinstone, Ruia, Khalsa, Podar and Grant Medical College responded to every twists and turns of the freedom movement
It is 150 years of 1857. In all these so-called official celebrations let us not forget those two sepoys gunned down by British canons.
In today's times that Godhra appeal keeps coming back to me. I am the ageless narrator called Bombay and on the other half of this production lies a man who wrote on July 6, 1921: "Bombay is beautiful, not for it's big buildings...not for it's wealth...but for it's world renowned generosity." He was talking about Bombay rising up to the challenge and donating Rs. 60 lakhs to Tilak Swaraj Fund. He was also talking about a spirit that refuses to die.
And who embodies that spirit better in Bapu's personal life than Kasturba. The driving force behind Bapu's march from a father and husband to the father of the nation. On the otherside of the break is Kasturba. She is waiting for you.
The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within. – Gandhiji
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There are two characters. Here is a suggestion to the director. If the wounded man in the play doubles up being the live musician-cum-live light designer/operator of the play then the spirit of the writing will be upheld. This is just a suggestion. A director should end up editing and blocking the play exactly the way he/she sees it.
The scene begins with lines from the Bhagvad Gita:
For a man who is fasting his sense Outwardly, the sense-objects disappear,
Leaving the yearning behind; but when He has seen the Highest
Even the yearning disappears
Mixed with the lines is a chant
Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya Asatoma Jyotirgamaya Mrityuma Amritamaya
I am a performer. I am here to ideate about Kasturba. Yes, Kasturba the laboratory. The servant of truth. I would like to paint this magical space with her words. Or shall I say mine.
Just those words from the deepest recesses of memory about an actor performing Kasturba. I am sitting inside a mosquito net. Outside, mosquitoes circumnavigate the small cubicle. In this dimly lit room, through one hole, mosquitoes come inside and I keep thinking should I kill them or shouldn't I?
One small hole
Some being killed
Most I am allowing to survive One on one
Who versus who
I am sitting inside the chair
Not on it but inside it
Because the chair is an extension of my flesh
Page 24 of 41
Because the chair like the mosquito net is my co-actor My presence
My theatrical presence
My personal presence
It is always the eternal question can I make the chair, the mosquito net talk I am or have to be the object of inversion
I am back
inside this crumpled mosquito net I am stranded inside the island
On my hand is this floating, detached head of mine Million memories flutter
That night he told me let's abstain
In the middle of a river he said throw the ornaments
It was never about the letting go
but the abruptness with which I had to adjust with history
For me and Bapu, our fight was more than just a fight against slavery, freedom, race and colour
Our fight against shapes, sizes and dimensions kept happening Yes, we are still alive, still fighting
Because organised forces of globalisation
will turn the world into a mass of shapes, sizes and dimensions Your hypodermic needle looking for the right vein
Your alluring nose ring Your backlash
Your inevitable pent up anguishes
will become broadly and specifically classified into more and more pigeonholes
and inside there will be this desolate space like a Beckett cardboard
There is a positive stillness An invisible mobility
Page 25 of 41
This lonely figure with a bandaged body
Layers of bandage
Textures of bondage
Body filled with bandage having conversations with leaking wounds
(Points to a bandaged body slowly coming out of the tub.)
Voice: She was slightly older than Gandhiji. Older by a few months. When they
married both of them were thirteen. Amongst the memories of Ba:
In September 1913, she led a party of across the border in Transvaal. In Sarojini Naidu's words: "brave, frail, hard-worn hands which must have held aloft the lamp of her country's honour undimmed in one alien land..."
On her way back home in 1914, she toiled at weaving rough garments for wounded soldiers
What happens if the shackle breaks free Air
A soothing reservoir as a balm for the wounded or
a raging cauldron causing boils all over the body or both
And of course there are crops not organic but real Very real
shadows chanting death
"Crucifixion of flesh"
(From a cauldron a wounded figure moves and says I am a victim of Krakow, of Jallianwala Bagh, of Bhopal, of a truncated Bhagalpur, Mahesh and Sarua deaths' near Gaya, of a wounded Beirut.)
Voice: Snapshots of Kasturba's life reveal an extraordinary zeal. A true fighter she grappled with moral re-armament with all her fortitude.
Cut to September of 1924, Gandhiji undertook a 21-day fast for communal harmony, the Non-Co-operation and the Civil Disobedience campaigns. In April 1930 and a series of strikes.
She led a batch of ashram women to gherao liquor shops as a part of the 1932 movement; she suffered a series of imprisonments and was re-arrested at Bardoli. In 1933, she tasted imprisonment again.
Page 26 of 41
As a comrade, she went to prison with Bapu and her example spurred many to tread the zone between silence and mass action. Once again, in 1938, she leapt into the save Rajkot movement. She was sentenced to solitary confinement. When Gandhiji joined the satyagraha and began a fast without consulting her she mildly rebuked him. However, her inner strength told her he would be protected by the Almighty. The Supreme power who had always guided them through the paths of fire.
In this large diagram which we have drawn more and more sub-routes tend to branch out from the corridors of neutral escapist memory
to the memory of a loss
I am trying to move on
from the regime of escapism and forgetting
to the regime of
engagement and action
am still seeking
the perfect sunset
the sun that goes down is not smeared with blood and all along the sounds
death without preservatives
will keep haunting me
I was and always will be the laboratory The laboratory
Will be tested
Set on fire
that truth will come out
Page 27 of 41
(The bandaged person now bandages a gun and says Mokokchung, Nellie, Malom, Soweto, fractured Palestine, burning Sudan and bleeding Basra.)
Between the search
for orbs and more orbs
between many halos of many divinities
between obvious stereotypes, not-so-obvious generalisations, clichéd one-liners, marketed spiritualism and the greatness-seeking brigade
looking for a life beyond our ever expanding universe of formulae
Let's look for real air
real water real fire
and a very very real death
(The bruised, wounded person puts a gun inside the mouth and says swimming shadows, fecund universe, altered contexts, crawling tapeworms, disappeared forehead, polymorphous days, sculpted jaws, androgynous nights and re-configured maps.)
VOICE: 1942 was a litmus test. It was the morning of August 9 when Gandhiji along with a number of Congressmen were arrested. They were supposed to have addressed a rally at Shivaji Park that evening. The rally was one of the key programmes that would have explored the future mass action connected with the Quit India movement. Kasturba decided to address the rally in Gandhiji's absence, but the British promptly arrested her. Her health slipped and she was shifted to the Aga Khan Palace in Pune where Gandhiji was detained. Exactly a week later on August 15th, Mahadev Desai passed away. Mahadevbhai was a brother to Kasturba and his death was a severe blow. During the period of March and December 1943, she suffered a
series of heart attacks and on February 20, 1944, she was on the brink.
On the evening of Holy Shivaratri which was February 22, Kasturba passed away.
It maybe more than a co-incidence that exactly a year before her prayers had delivered Gandhiji from the brink of death on the 12th day of his hunger strike in prison.
I see Birnam wood
with all it's neon signs
and graffiti on a wall that has words and phrases like:
ferret, self-flagellation, groping, pessimism, mechanical suavity, Antigone-opening-her- fingers-and-sand-falling-from-the-spaces-in-between-those-very-fingers, gravediggers-
Page 28 of 41
pulling-dead-dolls-from dug-earth, portions-of-our-soul-lying-uneaten-in-the-dish, artificially-flavoured-yawn, anointed-crucifix, trifurcated-tongues, a-Toba Tek Singh- like-lonely-figure-reading-aloud-gibberish-benches-smeared-with-blood, austere-black- figures-moving-about-with-a-shotgun
innermost, thin air, skeletons-kissing-the sky-segregated, desolate, companionless, intense, non-violence
that walls are closing in
fighting the body
I let go of a stream of words, a flood of words, a litany of words, a spiralling process of
scrambling and unscrambling words that are sculpted-chopped stripped-pounded
nomadic yet sacred
clinging, clanging, clashing insider-outsider, faith-fate
words are shards of memory inverted now I am
I am the starting surface and the endpoint of all graveyards
I am now the hunter, the hunted down, a man in stilts trying to recover his body parts from the pile of metal scrapyard junk
I am the lab
The truth lab
(The bandaged, wounded body now arranges some photographs taken from the zones of conflict.)
I am the wood
I am the wall
You can blot out the image of mine
You can blur the image
You can use words as masks and reduce the intensity of the experience
You can use blue-cross-lights criss-crossing from two stands and intensify Hamlet's pain in the proscenium
You can keep a suicide note in the left breast pocket of your ink smeared kurta and deny my existence
I will remain the wall The floodgate
that allows in
Page 29 of 41
real paper boats
and of course real, very real death
(The wounded, bleeding, bandaged man in the bathtub says keep your hand on your left bleeding breast;
and then keep the other hand on our right bleeding ear
and then stand erect
become a pillar
and there you are almost the wall the talking wall that says –
I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills)
(The wounded man has now crawled out of the cauldron and says Boer War, Zulu rebellion. You were once detained at Tramba. Now they call it Kasturba Dham. At a busy cross-section near Connaught Place they have named a road after you. But then you never wanted to be a name, a nameplate or a visiting card. You wanted to be a shadow. A perfect shadow.)
We were talking about non-violence
while you were standing rock solid with your hand on the breast and the other hand on your ear
the wounds gave way
and blood fell on the floor
the blood fell on this huge transparent white plastic sheet which is the new earth of the wired globalised universe
replete with brands
a regular sound
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lick, lick, licking blood
Are we Raktabeej licking blood from the streets of Nandigram Are we allowing the brick kiln workers of Moga to die
Will death continue in Barnala and Sangrur
Fragments of a loss
Shards of memory
Contaminated conflicts Sponsored dissent
The wall has holes
Small, miniscule, huge, large, gaping, yawning, tiny yet significant holes
Yet, it is a sturdy wall
For I am the wall
and nobody is co-dependent
Everybody is a co-worker
Equal partners in unequal times
(The wounded man climbs inside another circular enclosure.)
The tree has huge gashes Porous tree
Streaming thick spurts of blood Inside the bath tub I lie prostrate Outside the bathtub
stands a figure
In between there is a screen
The undressed shadows trying to figure out Identities
through the screen
In the dark bathroom
a lonely lantern flickers disarmingly
Nude to nude
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Waist to waist
Hip to hip
Breath to breath Blackness to blackness Smell to smell Distortion to distortion Face to face
Yet not eye to eye
We met yet we did not mate
We were shadows that danced with stillness
"She had no objection. But I had great difficulty in making the final resolve. I had not the necessary strength. How was I to control my passions? The elimination of carnal relationship with one's wife seemed then a strange thing....Even when I am past fifty six years, I realise how hard a thing it is. Every day I realise more and more it is walking on the sword's edge, and I see every moment the necessity of eternal vigilance."
The vow was taken in 1906. The execution was life-long It was a serum
The truth serum
(The wounded man mumbles softly Upanishad, Hind Swaraj, The Chronicle, Young India, Navjeevan, Indian Opinion, Kheda Satyagraha, Chauri Chaura, Champaran, and the Dandi. Each step. Back and Forth. Forth and Back. Each leap.)
I am the wall
the shadow of the wall too I am the body
the shadow of the body too
then who's the wall
who's the body
who's the shadow
Sixty-two years of being a resolute shadow
Voices clamoured inside my head
incessant rainfall beating inside my body
the drenched inside fights back with a question Who's the wall?
Who, who, who, who, who and who
Who lets in the
the real sweat
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the real mud
the real fuse
the real wind
and the surreal death who
(THE WOUNDED MAN COMES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SPACE AND SAYS: what do you do with bi-polar realities, multiple perspectives and interpretations. When re-claimed memories rebel. When you rub your body with soap...recurring images of desire and dread keep playing out.)
The performer says: Five quick image floats in mind.
(The wounded man will now respond to these images with non-verbal tools.)
Image 1: 400 farmer families of Koovagam standing on the mud-baked road in front of the 200-year old Aravan temple on the last full
moon night of April with pamphlets saying take precautions against AIDS.
Image 2: Lady Macbeth packed in a cardboard and she is trying to take out her head from any one of the two circular openings that were already there and says: Come to bed. Come to bed.
Image 3: Othello praying in a Muslim skull cap
Image 4: A large bathtub in which needles float on water and a person sitting at the side slowly putting bandaged guns on water.
Image 5: And the face of Haseena who spurned the advances of her ex-boss Joseph Rodriguez and was drenched in sulphuric acid in Bangalore. After twenty-seven plastic surgeries and losing her sight, she has to face an uphill battle every day. Her disfigurement complete, best friends have maintained their own distance; relatives have maintained an i-told-you-so look and even the kids in the neighbourhood are scared.
(The wounded man holds a placard saying: In a mentally divided nation-state, let's join the dots. The second placard says: Bring them back. The third and the last placard says: Flip back those gullible pages.)
The images will also dry up
A freshly baked sun will rear its head
somewhere in the middle of some sky
The sun is giving out light like beaten eggs spewing yellow yolk on the frying pan and then the evenings will come
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the intensity of the pairs inside the theatre-of-life canvas will diminish fresnel days, fresnel nights and an afternoon sandwiched in between
I am the wall
and the shadow that merges
I can soak all my bleeding inside my fragile body
You pound nails in my hand
I walk with those bloodied palms and try to liberate landscapes I fail and I don't give up
because I'm a sucker for everything real
Real spots on the sun Real crop
Real floodlights Real halogens
Real nightmares Real slogans
A believably real Chillingly real Purifyingly real Justifiably
visage of death
(The wounded man in a crucified posture says: I am trying to remember recipes handed over by my grandmother, lullabies and sound of childhood hailstorms.)
I kept peeping in and out of history
Between Tagore, Andrews, Indian National Congress, Bhagat Singh, Ghadar Party, Irwin talks
I was just a figure behind the figure head
A kind of anchor rooted in history, civilization, paradigm
Ah yes Harilal
I think some people used him to garner their publicity
He was my waylaid son
But a son all the way. He lost a battle deep within himself. What he was seeking was just a father. But you have to look at Bapu differently. Much more than a father, friend, comrade, he was pre-occupied with a notion of liberation. You have to respect the notion. Before you leap in the air. You have to be knotted. You have to be all bottled up. All the
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earthy senses have to be tied to a rope. The rope is holding you steadfast. You have to keep a mental count. Break free.
And then take a leap of faith across history...Harilal did not take that step...I wrote to him
Reads a letter to Harilal.
[The eldest son of Gandhiji and Kasturba, publicly announced his conversion to Islam. Kasturba wrote a letter to Harilal on 27 th September, 1936. Some fragments of the letter.]
"Every morning, I rise with a shudder to think what fresh news of disgrace the newspapers will bring. I sometimes wonder where you are, where you sleep and what you eat. Perhaps, you take forbidden food. That and other similar thoughts give me sleepless nights. I often feel like meeting you. But I do not know where to find you.
I do not know why you changed your ancient religion. That is your affair. But I hear that you go about asking innocent and ignorant people to follow your example. Why will you not realise your limitations? What do you know about religion? What judgment can you exercise in your mental condition? People are liable to be led away by the fact you are your father's son. You are not fit to preach religion. In time to come if you go on like this you will be shunned by all alike. I beseech you to pause and consider and turn back from your folly.
I did not like your conversion, but when I saw your statement that you had decided to improve yourself, I felt secretly glad even about conversion, hoping that you would start leading a sober life. But that hope too is dashed to pieces."
I also wrote a letter to his friend.
Reads out a letter written to Harilal's friend, dated September 27, 1936
[Kasturba wrote to a friend of Harilal, who helped him to convert to Islam.]
"I am only referring to those of you who are taking an active part in my son's recent activities. I have not been able to understand your action. I know and I am glad to think that a large number of thinking Mussalmans and all our life-long Muslim friends condemn the whole episode.
Instead of redeeming my son I find his so-called change of faith has actually made matters worse. Some people have even gone to the length of supplying the title of 'Maulvi' to him. Is this fair? Does your religion permit such persons as my son being called Maulvi?
I do not understand what pleasures you find in sometimes lionising him. What you are doing is not at all in his interest. If your desire is mainly to hold us up to ridicule, I have nothing to say to you. You may do your worst.
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But the feeble voice of a stricken mother will perhaps quicken the consciences of those who may be in a position to influence you. I feel it my duty to repeat to you what I am telling my son, namely, that you are not doing the right thing in the eyes of God."
Actually, innumerable times
I wanted him to just hug me
Just a hug
Just a normal long extended hug
Maybe I could have put the demons in his head to rest
I had to tell him that Bapu was more than his father and my husband He was the father of the nation
I don't think it was his nature to hate anybody
Let me clear the air
Especially to all these scholars of sub-altern odour, post-modern odour Talking about passive resistance
There was nothing passive about him in terms of giving it back to a person who's caused wrong;
Who has meted out a sense of injustice...I think more than passive the word is mental resistance;
Yes, mental resistance if you have to scratch him
Bapu will allow you to scratch and bleed;
He will show you the blood falling on the ground
Drop by drop, drop by drop, drop by drop by drop by drop
As the blood falls, in his halting feeble yet strong Kathiawadi accent Bapu will show you the wound
You will see your reflection in that blood
In that droplet of red
You will see how you bared your fangs
He will entreat you to not to do something that is not so downrightly unjust anymore If you still don't then he will repeat it all over and all over again
He'll enter your insomnia
He will get into your nightmare
Just by doing nothing
In all this passivity, there is something very active that is in his efforts to make you wrestle with your conscience
He will just show you the manifestations of violence
Till you throw up your hand and say enough
(The wounded man who has been silent but restless for long is climbing the ceiling and different elevations of the room chant lines of Rumi: If you would see a sign, my friend in this pathway/obliterate all signs of yourself that you may see the sign!)
It took me a long time to understand as a Gujarati child bride what is the whole notion about liberation of the body, mind and soul, the eternal triveni
I took my time
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I piled up the pillars of reservation...my pent up angst got filed night after night into thick folders and was stacked away in wooden cupboards of memory
But later when I opened the cupboard
The incidents tumbled out
Fell in a heap
Day after day, night after night, dusk after dusk
I found some of my earlier misgivings juvenile and some of them valid I was in love with the man
For all that he was
For all that he wasn't
Much later I started liking the mind more than the man
Because the man
His round glasses
Were all about
the mobility of a mind
and not the triumph of an appearance
And mind you that the mind was not only of my husband but that of the father of a enslaved nation
The doomsday clock has stopped
The hour hand and the minute hand have stopped their tango
No more servitude across real time
Birds chirp, rain lashes in
Mohan Rakesh is still lost in his locked, bolted room with a bottle and a typewriter
In the hospital bed with the tubular socket inside his nose Mahendra Borthakur smiles Badal Sircar sits at one end of the universe looking at the sky
There is no make-up
There is no third-bell
There is no canned-background music
There is no forced silence
There is no sticky arguments, lurid gestures, drones of a praying wheel, smell of the language crematorium, cemetery filled with dead youth, military march past on the bridge, sepia-tinted-moth-consumed photograph, there is no dress rehearsal, no unflinching assertions, there's no sterilized mud, no mental arithmetic of grants
I am the first wall, second wall, third wall, fourth wall, fifth wall, sixth wall, only wall, solitary wall
Letting in real emotions
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(The wounded man climbs down saying: real shadows, real foodgrain, real water, real sand, real storm, real seas, real chants, real slogan, real warmth and yes the real warm coldness of death.)
The real death
The death that leaps The death that lives The death that breathes The death that dies
(The wounded man slowly unwraps himself saying: rest-in-peace, rest-in-unrest, rest- inside-rat trap, rest-in-harmony, rest-in-revolution, rest-in-peace, rest-in-silence, rest- the-rest.)
(The wounded man has now almost unwrapped. He's shedding his last vestiges. He says: Close the coffin
Fill the mud
There are bodies that will be charred
Dust in the wind
Air blows everything
The visage of wordless silence
Only strains of memory remain
And the very immediate reality of death The absolute finality of death
Saying hello to death)
(The wounded man is now standing on the centre of the stage...he has a choice between the spinning wheel and a gun.)
The performer playing Kasturba says:
behind those thick round glasses
there are torn clouds of desire, vulnerability, life
I am the pillar, the alcove, the sanctuary, the shelter, the last resting place Death opens up its black cover
Voices are heard
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Trap, trap, trapeze
Both the characters:
(The wounded man chooses the charkha..the charkha starts spinning. He talks. The performer playing Kasturba joins him.)
You have to walk You have to trek Walk the talk Talk the walk Keep walking Walk the death Death walk
Walk nevertheless Shunya Shunyabad Shunya
From Bardoli to 9/11
A long walk
You have to bypass the mouth of the snake in this huge ludo-board of the world
The performer playing Kasturba says:
Dear audience, my notes are over
All that remains is bed-roll and box
And a spinning charkha
As a native American saying goes:
the last tree has died
and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money
I am the memory
The last stop
Where the train has halted And will be re-watered again
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I am the lab
I am a small experiment
In this large project of truth
Dear audience, Performances never end
After 62 years of marriage, my body gave way and died in his lap. And on February 23, 1944, the day after my death, he said: At this moment, how can I separate myself from my old and faithful companion? .....I cannot even imagine life without Ba. She was a part and parcel of myself. Her death will leave a permanent void in my life.”
Yes, Bapu did overrule, Devdas’ suggestion of giving me penicillin injection. But then Bapu always had the power to do anything with my life. That was not my weakness. It was my strength,
(The wounded man walks away as Kasturba/the performer performing Kasturba remains frozen...while walking out the wounded man says: Abhimanyu you have successfully penetrated the chakravyuh...you have torn apart their web...their machinations...now return to Uttara...return to your mother...to your motherland.)
Kasturba is busy clearing the stage
And guiding the audience towards the gate. She mingles with them.
She becomes them
Outside on the road. The wounded man shouts out a Gandhiji quote:
My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at His feet.
1. Jinnah by Stanley Wolpert and Time Out Mumbai’s 60 Steps to Freedom for linking the past with the present
2. Kanji Dwarkadas' India's Fight for Freedom and Ruttie Jinnah: The Story of a Great Friendship
3. Sudhir Mishra for a great conversation during Durgapur to Kolkata train journey. Sudhir's anecdotes on Ruttie were a great triggering off point for the play. I was sure about the plot but that conversation acted as the necessary catalyst to write Ruttie's story as I see it urgently
Prescribed/Proscribed : A duologue
A white cloth. Two characters inside. Both emerges. With a strip of cloth covering their eyes. A red and a green strip.
Voice over: Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood.Lady Macbeth..Act 1, Scene 5
The duo-logue begins:
Don't tell me not to be dark
I come from the land of burning skin
where the earth is parched
and vandalised day segue into errant night
Between ghettos, gates, clock tower and maidans
Don't tell me not to be dark
because the water I wash my face with every morning
is laced by your arsenic solutions
Don't tell me not to be dark
Because my tongue is on fire
The last time it tasted food
was the waste lying on the road
after a local higher caste marriage ceremony
Dont tell me not to be dark because
I told Chuni Kotal not to be educated
but work towards being a dark mistress
for a local politician
She did not listen
She had to commit suicide
Don't tell me not to be dark
because your civilised civil society is filled
with lords of lip service
self-serving bastards of the worst hue
Don't tell me not to be dark
because I never could look into the eyes of my own child
they reflected hunger
that endemic, intrinsic, innate twinge in the stomach
Dont tell me not to be dark because
I have only known edges, fringes
Where puke and collective farts abound as a mark of choreographed solidarity
These are places where I have lived all my life
These are places where I shall die
And then rot like a non-entity
like some arsehole who was born
to fill up the annual census
Don't tell me not to be dark
because I have never seen success
not even failure
Because my kind has always been told
You are special
Special enough to be studied by anthropologists for their subaltern projects
Special enough for support groups to get grants
Special enough for us becoming global desktop calendar marker material
Special enough for us to become subjects for endless documentaries
Special enough for us to be a sexy screensaver
Don't tell me not to be dark because I have lived
In the dark dim cells of the local police station
Dying endless custody deaths
Don't tell me not to be dark because
I know how the police beats me up
Don't tell me not to be dark because
I am Rabari
I am Shabar
I am Karbi
I am Dimasa
I speak Nagamese
I speak Dakhni
I speak Kokborok
I speak Santhali
I am Pardhi, Chhara, Banjara
I am Pangal
I am North Cachar Hills
I am Jaffna
I am Nandigram
I am grappling with seeds of distrust been put in my loins
I am the other in the large global majority phenomena of
Manufacturing otherhood faster
Than brotherhood, sisterhood or even a socialist version of a Robin Hood
Don't tell me not to be dark
and show me prime time television advertising spots that reiterates
All these words
I want to be dark
Dark as hell
Dark as darkness
I want to puke
into substances that make me milky white (or any kind of puritan)
because dark to me is the only continent
where I belong
For heaven's sake
with the scars
of my pock-marked
Don't tell me not to be dark
Don't tell me that fornication needs two white bodies or for that matter two white minds or for that matter two white fingers
Just don't tell me that
Don't tell me not to be dark
give a damn
to what you say
Don't tell me not to be dark
your collective speech bubbles
pollutes my nostril
don't tell me not to be dark
whiteness to me
is a colour of negotiated distrust
Don't tell me to be dark
because you know
fuck all about what darkness
Let me get the pleasure in this biting cold
to shiver, shudder, suffer
the globalisation of solidarity; as if empathy can be outsourced
Or maybe even that is a put-on
know the texture of curated silences
You are all
Dont tell me not to litter
Dont tell not to bark
After all what would you know about a stray dogs life
By now you would have understood the Hamlets in Tower Hamlet
But you dont; you wont
C2: Therefore cling on to your eyes. You must be tired of seeing so much that you have stopped seeing.
The living dead.
Withered away paper
Installed art objects.
Vanishing forest covers.
Clever Curators Note.
Our times. King Lear in a mirror. King Real times. Time is out of joint. So here we are in the no mans land between freedom, fear, security, uneasiness, boredom, flux, flow, adrenaline, undead juxtaposed with our the lives inside and outside the superimposed grid.
Deadlocked. Unlock. Deadlocked. Unlock. Deadlocked. Unlock.
C1: What is nation? A community-a huddle, a cluster, a giant unpeeled orange, a combination of stray lego pieces that makes an artificial wooden whole, or just a majority versus minority or a minority versus majority
C2: Or a collection of the aspirations trying to fit into a large cardboard box called life
C1: I would not be defined by my faith or redeemed by it. I would explore within my faith my idea of a private salvation or a quiet moment of liberation
C1: But no quite moments of my so-called legality
C2: Fortify the fortallow the inhabitants to know that once already in means an opportunity to exist
C1: Ensure those who disrupt should face due procedures but dont manufacture seeds of unbelonging
C1: Remember Gandhari could sense the wind from her covered eyes
C2: sense the wind
C1: I am neither a digit nor a lack of it
C2: I am neither a floating wave of current nor an undercurrent
C1: I am neither chronology or anthology
Chorus of 2: We are lifes aspiration of wanting to exist ; we not the world but a self-contained universe of being singular and plural at the same time. Walking on the pathway refusing to becoming the path
BOTH THE PERFORMERS WALK OUT OF THE SPACE AS THEY SLOWLY OPENS THE SHROUD FROM THEIR EYES AND TAKES THE PATHWAY INSIDE THE AUDIENCE.
ONE OF THEM CHANTS/SINGS THE ENTIRE SHOLKA: Asato ma sadgamaya
Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
Mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
-Taken from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I.III.28.
Shakuntala Spellcheck: In Three Movements and one afterthought
By Mukherjee. P
Wife of King Dushyant
Daughter of sage Vishwamitra and apsara Menaka
Left in the forest. Pushed by Durbasha. Fickle fate. Dancing with death. The diseased amnesia. The insistent insomnia.
Mother of Bharata.
The smell: you can locate a slice of it in Kanvashram-about 10 kms away from Kotdwar now in Uttarakhand.
Miss Shakutala. Unvanquished. Unending.
Then you hear that sound from a distance. Inching forward. And then you hear the sea.
You hear the sea, the one that is next to your walls. From you window panes, you can see a still colourless light. Slowly expanding itself into the sky. The black sea is still. The body consumed by sleep. Inside a room there’s a stranger
And then you do exactly that. I don’t know why you did that. I keep seeing you doing all that, probably unknowingly. You could probably have left this room, this body. This figure of sleep. Yet you did that. Well, it was different. And that being different is what makes you different. You did that and came back to your body.
Body embody. Body towards a body. Body propelled towards the body in such a way, that one does not kill the other body. One does not eat it up. You go back to the night, you go back to being consumed.
You keep staying back in the room. You keep crying. You think what you don’t know, is what you know. You think you are the only repository of everything that is tragic in the world, of one particular kind of ill-luck. You think all that is happening now, you are the master of that. You think all incidents have their own life.
The stranger sleeps, there’s a slight smile on the lips, waiting to be assassinated.
Your body inside the room of that other body
Sleep on sleep is a full circle. Deep inside, imagination turns to semi-whispers, those whispers climb inside the body and become clearer by the day. Can one man complete the circle of contentment, the idea of being whole, or maybe another man. Maybe many other men.
What did you remember of this whole relationship? All that you can remember is a collage of a few sounds which were whispered inside your eyes. Those whispers kept hammering, asking what was wrong with you.
Death. Disease. A lost ring. A found ring. A fishersman. Reclaim. Renege. Renew. Residue.
Very soon you give up and you don’t really search for the other person. Not in the city. Not in the night. Not even during the day. Even after all this, the fact that you’re alive with a lot of love in your heart, is because you can only do this. But each time a relationship knocks at the door, love disappears.
You don’t really need to know her. You’ve seen her at many places. Maybe at the same time. Hotel. Roads. Train. Bar. Books. Cinema. Inside yourself. Inside that you inside you. Inside the heat of your lust when you need to satiate yourself. Inside the vortex of your desire. Or even when you just need a place to cry.
Movement 1 has been inspired by and is partly transcreated from Margurite Duras’ La Maladie de la mort’ (The Malady of Death).
Movement 2: Shakuntala: memory of my memories
What is Shakuntala?
An interplay of memory. A critique of a historical forgetfulness...
What then would be memory?
Fragments of a still life
A semi-historical narrative of some delicate moments
A transcript of the sepia yesterday
Blurred at the edges, a little burnt and chipped off
Some shards lying at the edge of a hazy narrative
Or the silent moan of a chair without one leg..still trying to get it up…still trying to be relevant
For a moment Shakuntala looked at her empty fingers
Almost like a chiselled radish
These fingers can walk
Pluck grass from the toxic soil
What then would be memory?
Juggling old collections of passport size photos
(largely black and white)
Taken in that locality studio by a friendly/ hawkish photographer
Brandishing his Agfas
Or sometimes an imported Minolta, Olympus, Nikkor, Cannon or even a spycam
Or found footage from CCTV, bugs and camera deeply embedded inside harmless objects
For a moment Shakuntala flipped at these albums of black and white with a black border-non-photoshopped stills-some posed, mostly candid
These were much before the manicure/pedicure days
These were hers -- many Hers –
Yes she did contain multiple multitudes..Shakuntala In Shakuntala Out
What then would be memory?
That old bed-sheet
Returned by the cleaners
Crumpled paper napkin from yesterday’s dinner
Dushyanta -- his distinct body odour
The trail of his smell cannot just disappear from the sheet
Even if the cleaner used Super Rin bar
Shakuntala held the bedsheet close to her nose
And tried to smell the memory of that mad night
That nocturne turn of the screw
That private decision of his to allow her on the top
That moment of patriarchy coming to terms with lust
across beneath amidst
Someone did reach the pole position
What then would be memory?
A discreet my-fingertip-touches-your-fingertip type old romanticism of the seventies
Or the prehistoric cave-painting depictions of a hug where your inside out gets sucked by his outside in
Or a curved line wanting to be straight
Or a blurred picture refusing to be photoshopped
What then would be memory?
All personal is always political
New sunlight is neon
And yes your bottom hurts when somebody pushes you across some digital landscape right in the middle of an active Facebook page
Pings to your left. Pings to your right. Ride the husband. He’s lazy. He wants you on the top. This is postponed, slowomo version of pleasure. Inch by Inch. Your posture is determined by his comfort zone.
Shakuntala has many friend requests pending -- she’s undecided -- about one tangible mind or multiple mind-partners
One night that reflects a snapchat story or a persistent fling that merits a photo-essay
What then would be memory?
That tongue trail across the body
Till your tongue hits the metallic ring on the navel
Memory isn’t just a joystick
or an up to 64 GB expandable memory card slot
Or a 4TB external hard disk memory
Where each folder neatly re-organises the path of the private dilemma
Some password protected
Shakuntala used iPad pro-- she likes to go oral -- through Skype
What then would be memory?
That all things must pan the fetish of listening but not listening attentively
The real/reel time reading of what went in Rodney King’s mind when he was being pounded
Or which page from How to Win Friends and Influence People popped up in Dale Carnegie’s mind when he committed suicide
Or the last thoughts that went in 45-year old Dongria Kondh activist Drika Kadraka’s mind as he took his life in Niyamgiri
Outside her child played
Love child; old child; wild child; blind child; initiated child, child, child; child who never sleeps and yet refuses to wake up
That afternoon when He-the supreme Royal could not recognise her
She didn’t feel bad
After all your looks do change
And when you have hung around that long in forests as a Gandhian, civilian activist trying to make sense (and failing) to understand the cult of sustained violence from all corners
Not surprising that you failed to comprehend, Not Surprising at all
As for the ring that she lost
Jungles are jungles
Rings are rings
Sometimes they do slip off
As if to remind you that obscurity and anonymity are strange bed fellows
They do want to share your bed
They do want to be the only fellow that shares the bed and bod, the pea and the pod
What then would be memory?
Idea of a long-term loss
Of an imaginary scorecard of childhood book-cricket games
Playing truth or bare
Or recalling name, place, animal, things
Even vain love poems
Scribbled along the luscious curves of the folded paper napkin
Or a magical sequence of favourite songs in dialogue with one another
Or your 128GB ishuffle
Or the smell of new paper much before the pdf days –
those days when you could not download attachments…just felt hopelessly attached
What then would be memory?
Remains of the residue
The residue of the closure
The closure of the future
The future of the apocalypse
Or that fatal continuity
Which is doomed
Just a room –
where the windows and doors vanished after you entered
What then would be memory?
Champagne glass curve in sociology classes
Neon-bathed streets of Shanghai
Or that late night stillness of Buriganga in old Dhaka
Where the evening and darkness crisscrosses the canvas
the bobbing boats become a black eerie of curves floating mid-water –
strangers out of a Sultan painting
Awkardness of an abandoned bastard left in a forest guarded
by birds and raised by a sage
Memories don’t morph into metaphors
They make themselves available as a temporary tease
a world, which Shakuntala knows -- is a large capital market, a supermarket of spiritual solace, a repository of errant memories representing the credit card childhood
the world of bubble and the babble
Memory is not what we would like to remember or what we would like to forget. It is not even about what stays in our mind space or what doesn’t stay. Memory is like a lost smell, about which we are not sure, whether to keep it or to wish it away. Refuge or the Last Refuge. Sanctuary or Wilderness.
Sometimes it is palpable. I’ll give you an example. You are in Amritsar, going to Jallianwala Bagh, and in that park where the British Police had gunned down Indians, you find bullet marks, still embedded on the walls. All of a sudden, the memory leaps out of your history books and enters your blood stream. Or when I’m in Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s house in Dhaka, which is now a museum, I find old stains of blood still on the wall, remembering the moments of genocide when the whole family was killed, including the young son.
So what is memory? Shards? Shreds? Is it the remains of walls and mud after a bulldozer has bulldozed a slum? The next time I stand in front of the multiplex where the slum was located, do I remember those lost faces? Maybe I forget. Because I have learnt to forget. Even that forgetfulness is memory.
Shakuntala is about an idea about a woman on crossroads. We cannot criticize her love for Dushyant, her subsequent falling for him, and her conceiving a son. Because love, in whatever and whichever form, is still an inexplicable emotion. We are concerned about the fallout. And the lessons we learn from the fallout. So the missing ring of Shakuntala, could be that missing piece of paper by which an exile will always have to prove their citizenship, their land right, the reason why they should not be thrown out of the country, the reason why they shouldn’t rot in jails, the reason why their sons and daughters should demand a better life than just having a manadatory plastic sheets over their heads. The reason why, however dirty it may look, it is important to have them on footpaths, stations, municipal markets, in dharnas, chakka jams and selling cheap items in front of our expensively obscene malls. They are the evolutionary and we are the ones who are stigmatised.
Hey! Don’t pout
Come on don’t pout
Your insta lips look overarched
Biting them tastes of real cigarette..licking them tastes of stale lip balm sensation
Time for real lips…real lisp
Let me tell you a story. There’s a young girl who lives next to the Dashwamedha Ghat in Banaras. Her family sells wood for a living. Before you ask which wood, let me tell you, this is the burnt wood from the wooden pyres from the Ghats. The more people who come to get cremated and come to get burnt , the more money she makes. Because, then, she can sell more wood. Her income is dependent on how many are burnt everyday. So let me ask you a simple question. Is she eating death, or is death eating her? Is death delicious?
Footnote: The man sitting next to me looked too large one day. So tall. That he almost touched the sky. So lanky , that he’s most definitely unreachable. The same man sitting next to me today, looks very small today. Smaller than a safety pin. I don’t even need a palm to cusp him, fingers will do. So he’s too tall one day, and too short the other. Is it because while noticing him I forgot my height, or is it because he’s changing shape depending on my perception of him? Shapeshifter huh !
Postscript of the Footnote: The rock is stagnant. The pool is stagnant. Memory runs free in unmemoried times. Can you see the stretch marks…in your Mascara box, midriff, metaphors inside your mind and the mindful act of being consistently mindless.
Stitch in time. Saves nine-and-a-half. I am Miss Shakuntala: Mother-Menaka flew back to heaven in half rage, Father -Vishwamitra went back to his meditation, Status-Abandoned, No ID proof, Half Wife, Half Widow, Full Mother. Full-time Humanist. Touchwood.
Almost King Lear – 11 Overtly Operatic Overtures
by Mukherjee. P
Inspired by the original poetry published and written by members of Blind Opera, this play owes a debt of gratitude to a slim book, Opera Kavya, published in May 2001 by Subhash Dey, Subrata Mondal, Rajdeep Mukherjee, Samir Ghoshal, Shibshankar Prasad Verma, Sukumar Santra . This book and some stray images from the plays performed by Blind Opera juxtaposed with original lines of the Bard inspired me to write the text
I have nothing much to offer but these two quotes:
Words have become a barrier, an alibi. It is so easy to justify a war on the words, but if you are there on the battlefield, confronted by spirally bloodshed and horror. How can you? We are not rejecting the use of words in the theatre, so much as the use of words to create an alibi....It is important to reflect in our lives what we are trying to say on the stage. We are trying to solve our individual lives as community!
If we could once again become feelingful people and not shut ourselves from one another then we would not tolerate injustices in this world. It is a part of our process to try to unite mind with body to heed to the intimations within ourselves of the immortality. That’s all ladies and gentlemen please read on. There in lies our crux. The touchstone.
Peter Brook, The Empty Stage
The play begins now...you can, of course, recite the preface. 11 Person Chorus
Welcome to my ragged non-tuneful, distant, distorted landscape. We are like those broken pieces of mirror lying all over the place Blind bodies climbing atop each other
The ceiling beckons
And those diagonal boats
rowed by blind poets
Always oversized props
That mirror where you cannot see your reflection But still chisel out words
And from those words
poetry peeps out
and the chronicle of silence is about to be recorded through the fairy tales of darkness
One Person Chorus
See better, Lear, and let me still remain The true blank of thine eye.
10 Person Chorus
We are a theatre group
We dress up every day
Powdered faces, arched eyebrows
Almost like you but not exactly
We play mother, wife, sister,
Shadow, song, breath, megalomaniac,
Hungry Mona Lisa or even a startled actor stuck between a half-dream and
We could even play the blue river
the wave, the flower, the metaphor
Maya or even our thirst to lust at the sun Welcome to my ragged, non-tuneful
distant, distorted landscape
I die here
I cry here
I oscillate between the-dead-while-living
Two Person Chorus
I have no way and therefore want no eyes;
I stumbled when I saw. Full oft 'tis seen, Our means secure us, and our mere defects Prove our commodities. Oh! dear son Edgar, The food of thy abused father's wrath; Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
I'd say I had eyes again.
9 Person Chorus
Did you say somebody stole my light? Somebody is drawing a straight line with words Making boundaries on all four sides
Eyes covered with dark shades of metaphors And nothing permeates inside
But rows and rows of human fences
and that Black Hand enters my bag
and starts talking about
words that reflect-like-diamonds
Word after word, syllable after syllable
and then words morph into letters and suddenly it all turns to sheer poetry
Like that purnima light
Aha! That one...
Did you say somebody stole my light?
And that’s why that ragged, distorted, non-tuneful landscape becomes bleak
The horrified stench of dark school politics Stinking topography
Three Person Chorus
Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,
That slaves your ordinance, that will not see Because he does not feel, fell your power quickly; So distribution should undo excess,
And each man have enough.
8 Person Chorus
We’ve all inherited stories
There’s this king and a queen of course They come to this terrace
The weather looms large
Wait a second!
No, No they don’t end up embracing, Instead they crave for wings...
But instead of wings
The world becomes a fairy which swoops down
nobody cared to find out whether the fairy took them away or not
Four Person Chorus
What, art mad? A man may see how the world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? –Thou hast seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?
No eyes in your
head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you
see how this world goes.
I see it feelingly.
7 Person Chorus
A sky creates a route
The evening envelopes their consciousness
Red star turns into a pattern
Clothes hanging on to the wire
Turns the terrace into a proscenium
Were they practicing for a play?
Were we preparing for a drama?
Meteorites don’t light up my path anymore
I could be that king or queen
Stuck in a chaitra catastrophe
Night’s almost over
Excited sun knows
Whether there’s blinding light or a manicured rainbow
I won’t be able to see
Audience is leaving
And my distant, distorted, not-so-tuneful large landscape laughs at me with a deafening non-roar
Welcome to my blackness
there’s a rope in front of you
Five Person Chorus
A proclaim’d prize! Most happy!
That eyeless head of thine was first fram’d flesh To raise my fortunes.—Thou old unhappy traitor, Briefly thyself remember:—the sword is out That must destroy thee.
6 Person Chorus
Every girl has a mother trapped in her dream Locked in that vault
And the coastline of life
can’t withstand the violent winds
More secret desire to light within,
Six Person Chorus
We'll no more meet, no more see one another: But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter; Or rather a disease that's in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle,
In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it:
I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove:
Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure
Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour'd, When others are more wicked: not being the worst Stands in some rank of praise.
I'll go with thee:
Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty, And thou art twice her love.
No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both,
That all the world shall -- I will do such things, -- What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be The terrors of the earth. You think I'll weep
No, I'll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I'll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!
5 Person Chorus
Now let me explain
All this is getting too bloody poetic!
Even our plays
Mansamangal, Sanskranti, Halla, Raja
Death of Chaitanya or even the latest...about this marginal girl
Played by a bag of bones with indomitable spirit reflects our stance
And our simplistic poetry has no other outlet but self-published 4-page-Rs.3 pamphlets Our festival, our green rooms, our local train
There is this edgy realism
Like that dried up wood
waiting for the bonfire
I can try to float into unknown, unseen and unheard of obscurity
But I can’t
Tired of all these clouds
whose looming shadows
distort my landscape
catch phrases, tandoori chicken...
Can the sky ever be a ground for us to walk on...well, upside down.
darkness does not irk me
But what irks me is that
I have a lot of light out there
in my routinely normal retina
But you can’t see it Look close
Up close and personal
Seven Person Chorus
Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way. Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind;
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne'er turns the key to the poor.
But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
4 Person Chorus
Welcome to my landscape
Here Behula to Badal Sircar ,
Manasha to Mohit Chattopadhyay,
Blindness to Buddhadev Bose,
Raw realism to Rabindranath,
Satire to Sudhir Chakraborty,
they all get installed like
chiselled words hidden in that unfinished sculpture.
Eight Person Chorus
...All that follow
their noses are led by their eyes but blind men; and there's not a nose among twenty but can smell him that's stinking.
'Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the blind. Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure;
Above the rest, be gone.
3 Person Chorus
Just one last request
Please don’t call me visually challenged
I’m that category of blind
who have too much light
Too much to see...I mean lust at
borrow your blindness
to put my blinkers on
I am a method-acting freak
I’m preparing for King Lear
Of course, you are those scrupulous daughters dotting the landscape...
Like ants crawling out of a chassis
Or maggots on a dried-up Spielbergish dinosaur
Nine Person Chorus
And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a
dog's obeyed in office.
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back; Thou hotly lust'st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener. Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw does pierce it.
None does offend, none, I say, none; I'll able 'em: Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal the accuser's lips. Get thee glass eyes;
And like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now: Pull off my boots: harder, harder: so.
2 Person Chorus
Do come to my show
Do go overboard with fake sympathies
I’ll laugh with my eyes
Eye-popping eyes, piercing
non-existent gaze which is laced with non-deafening laughter I love to laugh
Ten Person Chorus
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take More composition and fierce quality Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed, Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops Got 'tween asleep and wake?
1 Person Chorus
Are you game?
Let’s look at each other Let the blindness spread We have too many eyes And too few eye-banks
Eleven Person Chorus
And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you sir. Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, Look there, look there!
The Bonus Track
So are you game?
The Re-Mixed Track
Game enough to rape the retina?
A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yon simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?
Fire(s): A Triptych
BY MUKHERJEE. P
Freedom is not a downloadable pdf
or a torrent link
or a few emojis to lighten up the burden
Freedom questions the unending safe spoof of our pathetically repetitive silent supposedly apolitical selves
the failure to un-create and recreate
freedom lies in folds, creases and wrinkles
lies in not so supple wrists
and jawlines that got disfigured after chanting revolution for an incredibly long time
and meaning every syllable of what was being uttered
freedom lies in the unfreedom that lies in heart of this triptych
and world that shall be fairer
Voice 1: FOOTPATH of Stephen Court fire-Park Street Kolkata-March 23, 2010
Here are the flakes
all one and the same
where do you float in choked smoke
of institutional apathy or the fate of the in-betweenness of the construct and the constructed
The fire rages on in the mind as a metaphor, in the hands as a charred coal and in the mind as betrayal
The real, corporeal and the physical heat
left them gutted
lives us gutted
gutted for an eternity
as we carry on with our physical lives
our fragile lives
our lives in that in between in-betweenness
Into that fire
i move from corridor to corridor
image of running across staircases
the heat inches forward
Unfolding reality between the TRPs and soap opera
the impermanence of a ticker tape news displaying body count
panels, screaming anchors, finger pointing ..words fly thick and fast, thin and slow, jumble and mumble, name and blame, shame and game
charred id proof
charred LIC certificates
I climb down down the staircase that finishes nowhere
between graveyards of smoke
lengthening black soots
A footnote is born
birthed in a midwife called fire
2: Voice 2: PARKING LOT of Uphaar Fire Tragedy during the show of the film Border-June 13, 1997
You are running out
you are running amok
from spaces in between spaces
as the screen blares out the film "Border"
vice-like grip on your throat
grips you into asphyxiation
in that stampede another 103 injured
bodies look fresh
bodies look now
faces with grin, shock, laughter, awe and an eerie calm nestled in the corner of uncharred lips
June 13 1997
the cable of the transformer was repaired in the morning
the same day
this leaks oil
the parking area on the ground floor was set ablaze
smoke meandered, bellowed, gushed through the first floor and air conducting ducts
carbon monoxide and burning oil
no staff intervention
the film raged on
seats like maze
fire gobbles up the breath
the breath gobbles up the body
the body gobbles up the space
the space of absence
23 long years of seeking justice
For Neelam and Sekhar Krishnamurthy, they go to sleep every night hoping that they don't wake up in the morning
hoping that a room in their Noida flat overflowing with case papers did not happen at all
hoping that their children's room recreated with same mattress, clothes, books, toys did not happen at the first place
between memory, splinters, long nights, longer mornings, unending dusk, incomplete rainbows
there is a de-tuned flute playing on
in that shrillness
someone howls: the youngest to die in tragedy was one month old
someone whispers: Sandese Aate Hai
3: Voice 3: CHORUS OF DUST during Rana Plaza Collapse: April 24, 2013 -Dhaka
You will be choked in the dustbin of time, memory, necessary mourning and unnecessary nostalgia and the still unfolding merry-go-round of indifference
you will be that part of the present
present of the future
future of the future
that shall not be
You will be
served fresh and raw -
wounds in all it's dripping form acts an appetiser
Get set go
here we go
there we come
Tomorrow shall become a mirror of fractured today
can't you get the obvious exploitation of the industry called warp and weft
can't you see the shape of the beast
curvature of the ridiculous low wage arc
of the u-turn
of the round bend
of the torque
of all the angularties of deprivation
of the small of your collective amnesia
potent doses of a planned bloodshed
executed with such disdain
that the distinction between the smell and the stink
can't be delineated
silence is rewarded
The garments that loves your body
is made by the fringes, errata of our so-called terminology
the real workforce
april 24, 2013
1, 134 deaths
half of the victims were women
7 days later fire broke out
dead falling with their hands clutched
cracks widen in the building
bodies. bodies, bodies
bodies falling on bodies
the cracks widen
debris become gaping, yawning holes of an industrial apocalypse
the television screens have gone silent
we have moved on
our business is about moving on
never moving with
mourning is a TRP
stitching clothes is not
POSTSCRIPT: REST IS A DAMNING SILENCE