How do you send one year and welcome another at times like this? Of course, there is no way to do it but with hope. One of those messages came from a city artist, Kumar Varma, whose plays we grew up seeing since the days when we were learning to go to auditoriums in Chandigarh to watch the drama of life as than public.
Posting online a photo of German actress Hélène Weigel, the famous matriarch of Bertolt Brecht’s plays in a scene from Mother Courage, which was the lifeline in ancient times, he quotes the playwright:
“The new year has arrived.
The guards shout.
The thaw sets in. The dead remain.
Everywhere where life is not extinguished
He staggers to his feet again ‘
(Bertolt Brecht in ‘Mother courage and her children‘)
No, Varma does not run an online theater course from Thrisur in his home state Kerala, where he settled after teaching all his life in the Indian Theater Department at the University of Punjab. It is his way of wishing people crushed by calamities, both natural and man-made, a happy and peaceful entry into the New Year. Who better to say it than Mother Courage! This play by Brecht, although set in the 17th century of the 30 Years War, was aimed directly at denouncing fascism. Despite the mother’s courage, she sells her wares to soldiers and loses her three children to death. Even though she is crying, she has no choice but to continue with her cart. This is the approach of an artist playing with contradictions and yet suggesting a path where all is not lost.
“Words are not just words”
It was the city poet Kumar Vikal who said, words are not just words, there are people behind them, people dressed in clothes of various hues. In The Blind Matriarch, Namita Gokhale’s 2021 novel, Ritika and Satish, who live in a joint family, became an indicator of the two-year pandemic, ranging from political to personal. Written in the breezy style, which was also seen in her first novel Paro, she managed to revive the crisis of hard times: “Ritika’s smile sagged as she walked towards the kitchen. Their maid, Irina, who lived in the nearby slum, usually stayed to do the dishes, but there was no attendance today. “Kaf and Fiver,” she reported in the WhatsApp message. Ritika had correctly deciphered her message. “Cough and fever”. Irina was twelfth and mastered Hindi; it was his ambition to be fluent in English as well ”.
The blind matriarch thus becomes the symbol of a system which refused to open its eyes. Commenting on this, poet and critic K Satchidanandan states: “A multi-layered narrative woven around an extended family in an allegory of our existence as a nation with its vulnerabilities, hierarchies … and particular modes of crisis survival” .
However, it is the title of his previous novel, Things To Leave Behind, which demonstrates the struggle and heartbreak of what often appears to be an unfortunate masquerade, in addition to the burden of pure existence with the economy in decline. One cherishes the spirit of the greatest number by rising above the situation.
We take with us the sacrifices of many on the frontlines, the generosity of others who shared what little they had, the health workers who met their end saving others, the activists who courageously exercised the last rights of those who had no one, those who somehow tried to bring food to stranded workers, kids with glasses on their noses taking online courses with the grounds in mind of games and lost friends… as symbols of not lost faith. And let’s not forget, thoughts are on the determined girl who cycled hundreds of miles to bring her sick worker father to safety, as well as those who perished along the way and / or the farmers who died in the process. protesting in cold climates for their rights and those who have lived to see things change.
The return of a love poem
As the second year of the decade is born, we share a few lines of a poem Even Bricks Need Love by Nabina Das, who edited a beautiful and exhaustive volume of Witness: The Red River Dissent Poetry Book through the pandemic but quit writing poetry almost completely, except for a short streak, then longed for recovery since the start of this year:
A whole year of no love
A dream that I had last night is of you
A curtain that flies in the wind, it’s on the sea side
I taste the salt of your roots and you too are dying out
Your thirst with the aroma that I poured from my crevices
We’re talking about food we haven’t eaten and like too hot
From our mouths. Outside the city still waits like a hunter’s trap