Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Me, Kash and Cruise

It isn’t often that you come across a play that tells you your own story, or at least gets as close to it as ‘Me, Kash & Cruise’ did. It really isn’t just my story or the story of the three characters on stage, but of everyone who has ever lived in this city.
Rahul DaCunha’s play is about the journey of a city through the lives of these three people who inhabit it- Puja Thomas, Rajesh Kashyap and Pervez Bin Khan. Spanning a period of over twenty years, the play takes the audience on a trip down the average Mumbaikar’s memory lane- through the riots, the blasts, the Ganpati visarjans and the traffic jams.
The four actors on stage- Yamini Namjoshi (Puja), Amit Mistry(Cruise), Neil Bhoopalan (Kash) and Rajit Kapoor (umm…well, the spirit of the city) tell their tale in a sort of unorthodox format. The stage is 3-tiered, joined by stairs and the scenes shift from one level to another. A sort of a representative technique- Brechtian maybe? Whatever it maybe, ‘Me, Kash & Cruise’ is intimidating, endearing and definitely moving.
Amit Mistry- the most dynamic of them all, both in role and performance- steals the show. Yamini Namjoshi and Neil Bhoopalan do a fairly decent job; Rajit Kapoor is admirable by the range of roles he plays from a pimp to a psychiatrist. The script itself is strong- sewn together well with in-your-face hinglish dialogues. The humour is what can be called ‘just right’- not too slapstick, not too intelligent. A fair bit of sarcasm and a couple of jabs at politics. One of the remarkable aspects of ‘Me, Kash & Cruise’ is it’s take on religion. The three main characters belong to different religions. The difference isn’t too pronounced, yet not completely masked. Somewhat like the city itself- with the exception of riots of course. The stage dynamics, however, are the most interesting part of the play. Not only do the levels represent a physical shift in the scene, but also represent the mood of the story at that juncture.
Rahul Dacunha brings Mumbai on to the stage- living, breathing, laughing and crying through the lives it touches. Almost every Mumbaikar on the stage, in the audience, in the world, can identify with the characters and the Mumbai within them, within us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tyger Tyger, Burning Away!

It’s almost been a very long time now since the last tiger roamed in the wild. The jungles don’t exist anymore. The balance was upset. The apex predator, a natural indicator gone, herbivore population explosion, deforestation, climate change, global warming,….., the list goes on. There are very few of us left today. We thought we’d make it, but the technology we created wasn’t enough to insulate us. In fact, that is exactly what did us in. While sustainable development is still just a bookish idea, we’re endangered, and edging dangerously close to extinction. Yes, we the humans. The web is upset, and nature is getting back at us. Natural disasters, epidemics and an environment on earth that is hostile to life forms. There are fewer of us than was ever imagined before, and we too are dying out. This is it. They say your entire life flashes before your eyes just before you die…

2008: A few weeks ago, it was discovered that the tiger population was just over a thousand individuals. And that too, is an official estimate. Don’t we all know what a notorious reputation “official estimates” have! So while state governments are in denial mode and most of us anyway don’t care, the stripes are gone for good. Even if they do accept the figures and make genuine attempts to “Save the tiger”, how possible is it? The gene pool has already been reduced. Even if we can make the species go on for a few more decades, it won’t be long before genetic mutation gets the better of the tiger. In breeding will lead to cubs being born with defects that will make survival in the wild even more difficult. They too will be gone some day. All the tigers. Just pictures left behind, to teach the kids. In those pictures, somewhere among the stripes, she’ll look at us again. A blank stare.

The 21st century: I remember standing in the Shahu Palace of Kolhapur. It’s a museum today. There were glass cases full of stuffed animals. One particular case had several tigers. There were cubs, males, females, almost every size. I remember being told that killing a tiger was considered a sign of valour for the royalty.
Picture this:
A hunting party vs. a solitary animal
Men armed with guns vs. a tiger armed with nothing but its own ill-adapted body
Men on elephants vs. a tiger on foot, soft velvet paws
A planned murder vs. a struggle for survival
… and valour they called it. I remember those eyes looking through the glass. Those dead eyes. A blank stare.

The 20th Century: independence, many were to discover, didn’t come cheap. I live in a village in India. I don’t know what freedom means to me. It hasn’t brought me anything. The forests were my land. It was taken away from me. I know I need to feed myself, my family. When people are willing to pay money for poaching, for buying fur, bones and almost every part of the tiger’s body, I don’t hesitate before I shoot that animal stuck in my snare trap. But I remember that face, which haunts me sometimes. As if it were saying something to me. A secret message. A blank stare.

Late 19th century: “Buffalo calves were tied in the jungle as bait. About fifty elephants were sent out to circle the place where the tiger was likely to conceal itself. Then, when the ring was ready, orders were given for a couple of elephants to go inside and find out where the tiger was hidden. The tiger which remained encircled for such a long time usually got enraged, charging at the elephant that went near it. In the beginning it’s exciting, but after a while, the tiger becomes exhausted and lies down… With two or three rings being made a day, I have seen hundreds of tigers being shot.”
-Maharaja Bahadur Banali’s Acount in a Manual on Tiger Hunting.
I came across this account while I was watching a documentary on the British Empire. This documentary also went on to say that in just ten weeks, Viceroy Lord Linlithgow’s hunt killed 38 rhino, 27 leopards, 15 bears and 120 tigers. The visuals were shocking. Men standing over the corpses of scores of tigers. Congratulating each other for having brought home another rug. A rug with a blank stare.

There are centuries of memories. I have seen the tiger. I killed it. I will pay for it. I am the last Homo sapien left on earth. Possibly the last in the universe. I look up at the blank, cloudless skies. Just as blank, as the blank stare.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shaurya Kya Hai?

शौर्य क्या है
थरथराती इस धरती को रौन्गति फौजियों की एक पलटन का शोर
या सहमे से आसमान को चीरता हुआ, बंदूको की सलामी का शोर
शौर्य क्या है, हरी वर्दी पर चमकते हुए चंद पीतल के सितारे
या सरहद का नाम देकर अनदेखी कुछ लकीरों की नुमाइश

शौर्य क्या है
दूर उड़ते खामोश परिंदे को गोलियों से भुन देने का एहसास
या शोलों की बरसात से पल भर में
एक शहर को शमशान बना देने का एशास
शौर्य, बहती बीआस में किसी के गर्म खून का हौले से सुर्ख हो जाना
या अंजनी किसी जन्नत की फिराक में, पल पल का दोजक बनते जाना
बरुदोसे धुन्धलाये इस आस्मान में, शौर्य क्या है

वादियों की गूंजते किसी गाँव से मातम में, शौर्य क्या है
शौर्य, शायद एक होसला, शायद एक हिम्मत, हमारे बहुत अंदर
मज़हब के बनाये दायरे तोड़ कर, किसीका हाथ थाम लेने की हिम्मत
गोलियों की बेतहाशा शोर को अपनी खामोशी से चुनोती डे पाने की हिम्मत
मरती मारती इस दुनिया में निहात्ते डेट रहने की हिम्मत

शौर्य, आने वाले कल की खातिर
अपने हिस्से की कायनात को, आज बचा लेने की हिम्मत
शौर्य क्या है

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


गर्मियों की एक रात में, बुझी हुई candle,
उसकी जलती महक, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
भीगे बालों से टपकता पानी,
उसकी भीगी हुई सी धार, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
जब अचानक से बिजली चली जाती है,
अजब से अंधेरे की आहट, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
खामोश कई वह लम्हे, जब यूही बैठे रहते है,
उन लम्हों की खामोशी, तेरी याद दिलाती है.
पुरानी कोई किताब खोलकर, पीले मुरझाये पन्नों में,
कोई अपनी सी कहानी, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
बारिशों के पहले पहले दिनों में,
हर बूँद की छलकने की आवाज़, तेरी याद दिलाती है।
जब कभी तेरी याद आती है, येही सोचा करते है,
कि सिर्फ़ याद ही क्यों आती है?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hold on...

Hold on...
He stared at me with those huge grey eyes, and swallowed my world into them. He made no sound, but said so much. I found myself talking to him, pleading him and crying out, not wanting to let go. Yet, there was silence between us. The silence there is between a human and an animal…between me and a kitten.
It’s difficult to let go,
I still hold on.
The very last strand of hope-
He will live on,
He must…
My beliefs are shattered,
As I convince a hollow self,
Of ideas I consider ‘right’
Lost is love in a proper world,
And emotions in the appropriate.
But I still hold that little paw.
I still hold on.
What would he want? Would he want to live a dependent life or die an induced death? Put to sleep- a gory euphemism. If only he could talk and tell me. If only I understood what he said? If only…
Euthanasia- the right to live with dignity, and the right to die with it too. There he was, no bigger than my cupped hands, a hypodermic needle between life and beyond. I hope there is a beyond…even then I still hold on.