Parents do it too!!!

➧ vatsala shrivastava

Are “we the people of India”, wired to judge morally whenever sexuality unbuttons itself in unconventional settings? Has the era of FIDA (Facebook inbox display of affection) and the virtual paradises nonplussed us? Or, we are just reacting to the time and space of PDQ (pretty damn quick) social change? These questions swaddled me while watching Go to your Room Mother, a comedy play showcasing life after kids – well, after parents have kids for a couple of decades. I turned around to find fellow members of the audience punch drunk, some with laughter and other with thoughts. Vinita Sud Belani’s production captures the mood of “modern” India’s oldies and their desire to explore life in diverse horizons. The play, which opened in the San Francisco Bay Area, comments on the changing equation between parents and their middle-aged children.

An empty-nester couple’s plan to rekindle warmth in their marriage extinguishes when their mothers arrive to live in with them. Rita, a graphic designer, and Rajiv, an advertising executive are ordinary modern-day Delhites. Both the moms, however, are extraordinary; over 60 in age, and under 16 at heart. They fight over petty things like bed and bath but bond over men and partying. The tech savvy mom Sheila is a star of dating sites and the “slut” of gymkhana club. The prim and proper mom Purnima begins her day with a bottle of wine and Begum Akhtar’s ghazals. The story spices up when the moms embark upon a joint date leaving behind an anxious and embarrassed son. Like many young Facebook users who accidently discover their parent’s colorful virtual life, Rajiv is torn between his newfangled perspective and traditional ethos. The moms refuse to move away from their terrific territory like any other free soul of the world. The storyline explores the subterranean emotional struggle of India residing in the post-internet era. This India is far ahead of the India which migrated to the West in the early 70s or 80s with a heavy baggage of conservative values.

“There is a sense of sanctorum attached to us. We aren’t allowed or expected to have fun after we reach certain stage of life. Go to your Room Mother was developed under our ‘theater for a cause’ program. We were fundraising for Maitri, an organization which helps South Asian victims of domestic violence, elder neglect and elder abuse. We wanted to talk about these issues without sounding offensive, so we took refuge in humor. Age is no barrier, it is just a mindset,” says Vinita, the founder and artistic director of EnActe Arts. She feels that this play, written by Sanjiv Desia, will always remain contemporary because we switch roles – from being a child to being a parent – over our lifetimes, and there will always be a disconnect that will need careful sensitive tending.

Vinita started EnActe to bring quality South Asian stories to universal audiences and create a platform where theater professionals could work with aspiring amateurs to foster the growth of local performing talent. She wants to create a space for Indian theater the way Jhumpa Lahiri and Vikram Seth did for Indian literature, and Mira [v1] Nair for Indian films. “I want to bring the richness of our theatrical tradition to this place.” EnActe had quite a high profile opening with Jean-Claude Carriere revisiting Mahabharat for it.

Vinita has lived gypsy-style; moving across 20 countries in 27 years. In the process of life and its paraphernalia, theater was getting short shrift in Vinita’s world. “I was feeling a big void in my life. One day after a job interview, I realized I shouldn’t do anything else but theater. There wasn’t a kind of Indian theater I wanted to do, so I created a business plan to start my own theater company in the US,” she add.

Go to Your Room Mother will be showcased in Delhi soon. It will be interesting to see the audience of Delhi react to their own story. After all, the script was kept away from city audience for over four years, as no one would take it up to bring it alive on stage. May “we the people” sit down to ponder over, and may “we the people” stand up to face the reality.

Vatsala Shrivastava
वत्‍सला श्रीवास्तव। स्‍वतंत्र पत्रकार। लंबे समय तक एशियन एज, दिल्‍ली में सहायक समाचार संपादक रहीं। पिछले कुछ सालों से कैलिफोर्निया के बर्कले शहर में रिहाइश। उनसे venusvatsala@gmail.com पर संपर्क करें।

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