On Monday, I posted a selfie on my Instagram handle to mark a milestone — I was living a dream being at Edinburgh for the opening weekend of the world’s largest theatre festival. I had gone three days without social media only to open it and find that a nightmare was unfolding in the lives of millions. There I was, considering myself the epitome of efficiency for starving my way through shows, but it turns out there is no way to keep up with the Indian Parliament which had gotten way ahead of me in 48 hours. “I must give up trying to catch up or be in two places at once” I told myself, and I really tried.
At the immersive ‘Find yourself Van Gogh’ Walter Micheal Deforest who loves and lives as the infamous artist asks the audience if anyone has ever known a live dead-famous person. None of them do. But me, I know a person minus the moustache but with just the ability to bring out the monsters in men — a man who makes his ominous presence felt with the decisions he makes; nah, not god, but the man who runs the nation in his name. I say nothing.
“Reading and colouring with kids promises reprieve” I declared to myself and go to a children’s show, Walter the Otter, a wanderer who travels the world winning friends with kindness and picking up words from each country. There are 50 per cent Indians, prompting the creator to realise that he’s left out India, rich in history, from the otter’s travels. “In your next edition perhaps,” I respond but wonder if any of the history will remain if it so rapidly re-written.
From thereon, every show turned out similarly, my fleeting away home and failing to fully focus; a positive spin would be that I was making connections. Watch Glory Die is inspired from a true story and about three women trapped in a broken prison system.
A teenager is incarcerated too young, too early to realise even the brevity of her ‘crime’ in speaking up for the right thing, her mother struggling to retain a connection with Glory but managing only to keep memories, and a prison guard who we are told repeatedly has a conscience, except that the system sucks it away. How many stories of sons, daughters, mothers, widows and armed guards do we have to offer the world? Enough cries and memories to make us lose our minds.
Beach body ready is a relaxed performance of three women trying to form a relationship with their bodies, to ready themselves for the beach of which they only have bitter memories. They narrate their tales, of how everyone seems to have an opinion when their agency is snatched away — same as communication blackout even while being dominant subject of conversation? “Smash the patriarchy,” they shout together at the end and I agree; The Scottish Feminist Judgements Project had me wonder what more feminists in the Parliament would have meant for the world’s most militarised zone.
The struggling life of an artist is about dreams and compliance, the delicate dance between safety and speech in a sensitive industry, and I am too like the protagonists, too proud and stubborn to conform. Which is why when Sam Haygarth in Climate Crisis reeled off “Climate change is Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, border security, big guns, fascism…” I didn’t hold myself back from distraction, and when Tymisha Harris playing Josephine Baker sets the stage on fire I let the tears flow. She confirmed what I was thinking — shake up the structure, throw them some bananas, show them the finger and stay steadfastly civilly disobedient.
And now is our time to step into our power and resist, to stand up, speak up, think and talk before democracy is wholly dead. If you’re still wondering, hell yes, I’m talking about Kashmir.
The writer is a city-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton