It has been almost three years since I last saw a play. I had been a regular at the Naatak plays and I have blogged about a few of them before. Anyways Today I had the opportunity to see a Naatak Production.. the 99th Naatak production. The Sixth Pillar written and directed by Vikram Ramanarayanan.
I would have missed this one also, but thanks to our son Rahi who had in the last year taken into theater at his school and one of his friend plays a part in the play. He insisted that we go and we decided yes. This was the best thing I did in a while.
I had bought the ticket without even checking what the play was about. Because that part did not matter to me. I had only one reason and that was my son wanted to go. I did not even know it was a Naatak production until he sent me the link. That gave an extra push for me to buy the ticket immediately. Because I know the tickets for Naatak plays go pretty fast.
I took the tickets, but still don’t know about the play. A few days back I checked and read the introduction. The plot is about the children of an Indian diplomat in SF getting into Islamic radicalism and the parents frantic search for them. I went ahead and read the directors name… Vikram Ramanarayanan… Honestly I was in two minds. And that had to do with a few things.
One was that it was a deep subject. The other was that it was written and directed by someone with a Hindu Name. I am one who have got a lot of flack from the new age Hindutva patriots in India and abroad when I say that muslims are being marginalized unlike before. Would this be a play where they would try to make wide brush conclusions or narrow judgement takes on such a sensitive issue. I don’t know.
But the name of Naatak helped me put all those concerns at bay. I knew what Naatak had to say was always relevant.
There was another thing that came to my mind. I have had a similar conversation with a Muslim colleague of mine years ago when the actual incident that inspired the play had unravelled. My colleague a devout muslim came over to me and asked once “How can I make sure that my kids don’t fall into this trap?”
Before I could answer she said “And don’t give me your typical atheist’s reply”. What I told her is not what matters, but where that conversation took me as a person is more relevant.
A big time critic of religions of all sorts, that day I mellowed and could see through a mother’s dilemma. While Faith was fundamental to her existence she was aware of what was happening and was concerned. An eventuality she feared might happen to her kids. She knew there are blindspots in her life, control and relationships that could be enough passage for something as terrible as radicalization to get in. She knew and yet she did not know a way out.
This and many other conversations are what has helped me understand the world better in a more inclusive manner.. As an atheist to accept the feeling of faith that people have and the dilemma people of faith have that I might not be able to understand without being considerate.
When the parents in the play ask to God, what went wrong in our faith.. where did we fail as parents.. the mellowed down atheist in me knew that some answers cannot be made in binaries. I have seen the world as Grey for quite a long time now and in the process kept myself away from my old rationalist militant atheist lots who just think in binaries.
I remember reading Musthafa Ayakol’s book Islam Without Extremes around that same time and writing a blog post on that and getting a reply from Mustafa saying that I had got the heart of his book.
This is how the blog post started
“Mustafa Akyol’s ISLAM without Extremes is a must read for every muslim and non-muslim. A relevant and important book for our times that takes you through the historical and political terrain on which many interpretations have been made. I hope this book will be followed by more strong voices from the liberal camp that will emerge and bring forth the needed harmony in thought and beliefs.
The book comes out as a powerful cry from a devout muslim who sees his religion being interpreted wrongly from inside and accused blindly from the outside. Taking the reader through the history of Islam and the political settings from the pre Quranic era to the present he opens up the issues one by one explaining how misinterpretations has travelled through time.”
You can read more of it on my blog… And I should say even after that I have personally faltered and given in to generalizations when my close muslim friends have come to my help and have spoken to me with patience to help me understand where I am going wrong. As I said I have not just greyed in the years but become a truly grey person… Living by the principle “In ignorance we think we are something; As knowledge creeps in we realize we are nothing…”
I know I started writing the blog and continued on with my rants and not the play. If a play an invoke in you all those feelings to write so much, then one should understand how good the play was.
Rather than the large auditorium we had a more intimate setting which gave more power to the play. Kudos to the team because your performances helped me rerun a lot in my mind. I have never seen a play and turn emotional.
The Sixth Pillar did make me emotional. That was one reason I did not personally stay for long after the play and individually congratulate you all. You all did an amazing work. To each and everyone of the cast and crew of the production. Thank You!!!
A big shout out to all the Naatak folks I know… Will see you at your 100th production.
To those who have not seen the play. There are two more shows of ‘The Sixth Pillar’ Check for tickets and see if you are lucky…. https://www.naatak.org/