It was on a Monday evening that I first walked into the creative practice space in Khuli Khidki. Life was so messy at that point; what with moving from one end of the country to the other, being so far from home for the first time ever, my dhoda-dhoda Hindi vocabulary proving too insufficient to survive, and of course being friendless in a such a big city that practically scared me… It was love for theatre that got me there but I was apprehensive, knowing that everyone there had been together for years and had years of experience in theatre, while all I had was a handful of amateur plays from school and college days. Yes, I was afraid of feeling left out, something I had been really good at even with a common shared language.
That day, as Ankit started the warm up, and everyone joined in, I was amazed at the ease with which I blended in. But the real joy was yet to arrive! As the evening gave way to night, and I watched the Repertory members first experiment, then play, and finally perform, I recalled what Sanyukta had told me on the phone the other day: “…but theatre doesn’t have a single language”. Watching them conjure up images out of their own bodies, enjoying the careful execution of each tiny movement, I quite ironically felt that I had finally met a group of people who speak my language, and that feeling has been reinforced every week since.
The warm ups (which I most often miss), the lights and shadows, the rhythm and music, the actions and the response, that big page of Hindi text that I painstakingly tried to comprehend, the famous “लिहाफ” that has become much more a part of my psyche than I can comprehend… Aagaaz has given me so much in the space of three months. My reflection journals are already full of ideas for my next play, but more importantly my reflections on myself have taken a deeper route. I have seen myself loosen up, lose the usual stiffness and not be bothered by the ‘impression I make’; and that is not limited to the theatre space we occupy.
I still don’t understand Hindi well enough, and my attempts at speaking the language are also quite lame, but every time a discussion takes place, someone makes sure that I don’t lose the gist of it, no matter the effort it takes or the time it costs. I don’t feel like an outsider who stepped into the middle of a tribe- the feeling is that of a void being filled, as if I had been anticipating the arrival of these people for a long while. Here are a bunch of people who are as crazy as me; with ideas that are at times so in sync with mine and other times the exact opposite, both making me equally excited.
They amaze me. I am in awe of the way Jasmine experiments so differently from everyone else, Saddam’s readiness to adapt to the need at hand, the precision with which Nagina makes each single movement on stage, Zainab’s free spirit that is so beautifully captured in the flow of her movement, Aslam’s smile and energy everyday that makes me feel so much a part of the group, Nagma’s compassionate eyes that see what everyone else fails to, Muzammil’s characteristic slouching posture that is interestingly a total mismatch with his attention to detail on stage, Ismail’s observant eyes that take in everything and intervene only when absolutely necessary… I feel a spirit of mutual respect and camaraderie that has surely been handed over from the wonderful group of facilitators who have accompanied them (now it is ‘us’, I guess) for years; I am yet to meet the whole tribe and am so excited about it.
Aagaaz has been a lifeline in the loudness and hugeness of this city life which is so new to me, and Khuli Khirki, a place where I wind down and find a rest and recharge (wait, that doesn’t match, does it? I warned you- this is a crazy place), a space where I feel like I belong and am welcomed. I enjoy the way Jasmine calls me ‘Maaaria’, the mad dances we have with Urvi, our crazy games we might patent someday, the momos-stand on the street corner that reminds me that momos taste so much better when there is a minimum of four hands on a single plate, and so many other little snippets that make up a beautiful “लिहाफ” that I hope will grow more beautiful on the way forward…
Maria is a social worker, craft-crochet-theatre lover, and a (self attested) graphic designer and content editor who’s trying to figure out how to bring all of these together to help people heal and figure themselves out. She has previously worked with the differently abled population and is currently busy ruling out all the careers she doesn’t want to pursue.
Illustrations by Jasmine