Tuesday, July 06, 2021

A play read, at last

 When I first began work on my own, as a freelance writer, I had decided to give myself permission to write in any genre, form or style without thinking of whether it would lead to an income, or even a publishing contract or a performance. 

Not having a daily job, being free of the compulsions of form and word restrictions, I was also finally free to really think about all the things that I'd gathered over eight years of being a journalist and an observer of society. I had done some stories around children who worked as domestic workers, and while many were ill-treated and had to be rescued by social organisations, I had also observed many children growing up as employees in middle class families and not being "abused" (I use the quote marks with some deliberation, to suggest the ambiguity of familiar behaviour). Some of these kids were sent to school, or at least, were given the option of studying, usually at a government school or a cheap, private school. They ate what their employers ate, most of the time, and some of them even had a room with a modicum of privacy. Some were scolded or hit, or prevented from going out without permission, but in many Indian families, parents tended to treat their own children in similar ways. 

Those who grew up within a household of which they are a part faced a quandary. If they were good students, they might seek their employer's help to go to college, or they might want to marry and settle into families of their own making. However, their choices would be restricted by the freedoms their employers thought they ought to have. In large cities, space is at a premium. Where would a young domestic workers go if she wanted to date someone? Could she afford to marry for love, and quit her job? 

On the other hand, where would a middle-class girl go, if her parents disapproved of her lover? Apart from having a better education and the chance to find a well-paying job, is a daughter's situation so different from that of a domestic worker? Who is allowed to make mistakes, and what does nomenclature have to do with self-image?

Questions like these had been revolving around in my head for a few years and they led me to write a play, Name, Place, Animal Thing. The script was shortlisted for The Hindu playwrights' prize, and that gave me the confidence to keep writing plays. This particular script was never staged or professionally read, though. Now, nearly 11 years later, it has been read (and read very well!) at the Almeeda Theatre in the UK

A recording of the reading is up on YouTube, and is free to watch for a few days. Please click on the link below to watch. 


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