Sunday, June 19, 2022

A staging, at last

It has taken thirteen years but, finally, my play 'Name, Place, Animal, Thing' got staged. The Bay Area Drama Company produced it and Rita Bhatia directed the shows ran at Sunnyvale Theatre recently.

This script was shortlisted for The Hindu Playwrights prize in 2009, but was not staged at the time, partly because I was a freelance journalist who had very little contact with theatre makers. A couple of wonderful readings happened during the pandemic (Atri Bannerjee directed a dramatized reading for the Almeida Theatre in the UK and the Panas Panas Theatre in Kuala Lumpur did a Zoom reading) but this is the first time the play has been staged with costumes, props et al. 

I am glad that the artistic director, Basab Pradhan reached out and made this happen. I couldn't be there to watch the show but many others, especially the South Asian community in the Bay Area, did come to watch. This matters a great deal to me since the play focuses on the intersection of domestic work, class and gender as it plays out in South Asia. 

I was asked to write a blog post too, to help audiences engage deeper with the themes of the play. I wrote at some length so that readers may have a bit of historic perspective viz domestic work and child labour in independent India. Here's something to chew on: 

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, was applicable to 64 professions that were deemed hazardous; domestic work was not included. Activists lobbied the Indian government to change the law so that children under the age of 14 could no longer be employed as domestic workers. Initially, the notification was restricted to government servants, who comprise a negligible percentage of the population. Still, the government did concede that children should not be employed in households. The work can be never-ending (a domestic worker can be woken up in the middle of the night to perform a chore) and the risks of exploitation are high since constant oversight is not possible.

In 2006, the government of India finally expanded this order into a law so that children under 14 are no longer permitted to undertake domestic work. However, there are an estimated 150 million child labourers between the ages of 5 and 14, of which at least 7.4 million are domestic workers. More recent studies suggest that 74 percent of child domestic workers in India are between the ages of 12 and 16. Clearly, implementation of the law is weak. Besides, the law only applies to children under 14. What happens to the 15-year-old who lives and works in someone else’s house?

One of the activists I'd met in 2006 told me that if the law were properly implemented, employers are afraid they will be “orphaned for the lack of a slave”.

The script is included in a set of three published in book form as well and you may buy it  online or, ideally, in any bookstore that stocks it. A Kindle version is also available here: 

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