I saw Zohra Segal, on stage, the other day, and am feeling maha-khush.... simply because I've been able to see this wonderful old lady (she's at least 92 years old!!) on stage. What was even better was that she was performing with her real-life sister Uzra Butt, who'd gone over to Pakistan, during the Partition.
Aik Thee Nani is one of those rare plays that is written for a specific actor. In this instance, two old actress-sisters. It's about two old sisters, one from India and the other from Pakistan, meeting after several years and the consequences thereof.
Written by Shahid Nadeem, and directed by Maheeda Gauhar, the play is about a certain family, but it is also about the distortion of history and the cultural repression, especially for and of women, on that side of the border. Of course, it all sounded so familiar, that it migth as well not have been set on that side of the border. All the issues - regressive forces preventing women from building fulfilling careers, objecting to girls entering the world of performing arts, using religion to oppress the artist and the self-appointed custodians of culture harassing ordinary people, trying to live ordinary lives - are as pertinent to India as they are elsewhere.
The performances were all great. I was laughing but also feeling the familiar fear of knowing that this is my own reality, half a step removed. And of course, I wished and wished that we had some fresh-as-mints grandmothers around, who could sort out the culture police in our own country.
My only grouse was that the resolution of the climax was too pat. It was too smooth to ring true.
Happiness and liberty, however momentary, extract a very high price from individuals. This play was like a pretty snapshot from an album - one moment of perfection, drawn out from the inevitable caravan of troublesome events.
The play was organised by SANGAT (South-Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainers), JAGORI and the Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia. And many thanks for the invite, Ms Jalil.