POST: 'A Room In India' - a french woman and her theater group in India

What it's about.

A unique story following a french woman and her theater group stationed in India to study a particular style of theater. When her director mysteriously goes “busurk”, it is up to her to figure out the best way to portray his research on stage. A series of her visions and dreams unfold the answer to her.

My experience.

I have so much to say. I always have too much to say, but for this show: I am particularly humbled by the opportunity to speak about my experience. This performance was a blend of culture spun into a powerful storyline. I truly respect people who are able to accurately appreciate culture and value each for unique qualities, instead of stealing & selling them as their own - which seems to be a constant theme nowadays.

Tbh, I don't think I would've been able to notice this as much as I do now without my best friend/roommate, Disha. She is Indian, and has graciously opened my eyes to perspectives that America has warped.

She even let me stay at her home on Long Island this Thanksgiving since plane tix to CA were over $700. That’s when she officially introduced me to her world; the break consisting of watching Indian dance competition shows, Indian horror movies and Indian soap operas (dramatic music + excessive zoom + family drama), eating incredible home cooked meals her grandmas made in front of us, and even her mom taking me into a temple to pray.

I had never felt more part of something, even if it was the stuff Disha is used to. I never really connected with my ancestry - but I loved to learn about others' and to be able to actually step into that (even for a few days), I was honored. I loved every minute of it: I didn’t even think about the turkey I could be having.

So when I first heard about A Room In India, I just had to see it. To experience another bit of this world would be a treasure, even if it meant sitting in one (uncomfortable) seat for four hours (yes, this show is 4 hours).

The play was really wacky, honestly - maybe because of the literal toilet onstage that the main character used throughout, or the remote controlled set causing doors or windows to open at random, or the lighting that could control what time of the day it was through the blinds - I was constantly in shock of what happened, not knowing what the next turn would be.

A Room In India also tackled many difficult or taboo subjects, such as September 11th - a controversial day in all aspects, but I’ve noticed that people rarely focus on how it affected those in the brown community. In the play, how America has warped the reputation of the Middle East and India by using this tragedy to target the entire brown community was shown through one specific scene. The father of the Indian host family cries out "What have they done to my country! My country! My home!" It was so powerful, I could hear the genuine pain behind the statement.

Last year on the same date, I was talking to Disha about what the day meant to her, and she explained something I’ll never forget.

She told me that she is and always will be proud of her identity. People treated her people differently after 9/11, and even at a young age she was able to identify it. Most of American society just lumped all people who looked ‘Muslim’ together and viewed them as terrorists - which is absolutely disgraceful. But just like with any movement or belief, there are extremists (for example: the KKK, a supposed Christian group) - instead of realizing that there are bad people hiding in the nooks and crannies of all things, everyone who was brown automatically became a threat. But Disha rejects this perception placed upon her, and no matter what seeks to protect those who are harmed by this, which is why she is one powerful, bad-ass lady.

One other scene I'd like to talk about. This is when the protagonist finally reaches the deep state of her dreams she'd been searching for, and the "Terukkuttu" (South Indian form of theater) style plays out in front of her. The story told in this style was titled 'The Rape of Draupadi' where Draupadi (a wife of five men) was dragged by her hair, by her ‘brother-in-law’, to see one of her husbands. Once they arrived, the brother-in-law tried to unwrap her Sari for him, which is a is a symbolic representation of stripping her of her humility and purity. Yet when he began to unwrap it, she prayed to her God to protect her. This God, Krishna, fed her more sari, wrapping her from the opposite side to keep her covered and respected. 

This thanksgiving break, I had my own one-on-one with many saris, and got to look at them all up close and personal. Disha's mom opened multiple closets filled to the brim with all of the saris she owns. I couldn’t believe the attention to detail. Each piece of material had a different pattern or color or embroidery. I made sure to hold each with extreme care, moving slowly, holding them and observing each stitch. While Disha’s mom was so used to handling them, just simply throwing them on the bed creating piles upon piles, and folding them with quick forceful grace.

She even let me try one on, tying me tight and wrapping me up - I was so grateful, yet she got cross with me every time I thanked her for anything, but I couldn't stop saying it! I was overloaded with happiness to learn about her and her culture (Disha's mom is one of the kindest, most genuine souls I've met on this lonely Earth btw). 

I wish I could continuously say thank you to this show... because if I could - I would.


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