A few days ago I watched the Veer Das Netflix special “Losing It”. While he is probably the best when it comes to stand-up comedy (the reason Netflix is going for the second special with him, of all the artists), there was a part where he couldn’t stop whining about the beef ban that’s in place in the majority of the states in India. Now, he’s not the first person to do that. In fact, many left-wing so-called intellectuals have been doing that and ironically the same people also diligently share photos or post tweets about how they are enjoying beef in India (which essentially contradicts what they are saying).

Now, I do agree with the whole freedom of eating part and to a very large extent, I support it. I’m saying “very large extent” and not “completely” because we should be cognizant of the fact that with every freedom, comes the responsibility as well. While we can surely enjoy the freedom we want, freedom is never (or shouldn’t be) absolute. A driving license gives you the freedom to drive but it also holds you responsible to drive safely. A voting right gives you the freedom to vote but also holds you responsible to choose the best of all candidates fighting the election since the country’s/state’s future depends on your decision. A job gives you financial freedom but also holds you responsible to manage your expenses. And all the debates I’ve seen so far about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of eating – talk only about freedom and conveniently forgets the responsibility.

Theoretically, I should be able to eat pork right outside a mosque or in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood. I should also able to eat out in open during Ramadan in the same area – I have the freedom to do it.

Can I do it? – Yes.

Should I do it? – No.

And not because of the backlash I might receive or worse, I can get killed. Even without those fears, I should not be doing it. If my freedom is making someone uncomfortable, I would try to think of ways to get some solution that will not hurt that person and also doesn’t make me compromise a whole lot.

Essentially, at some point, we should also think about what kind of a person we want to become.

And, to take it to the next level, what kind of a nation we want to build. India is one nation that has always been accommodative to a multitude of cultures. When Parsis were getting converted or executed by Islamists in Iran, they made India their home. India is the only country where Jews found safe heaven and never got discriminated. This is the country where countless faiths have been able to live peacefully. And a part of the reason why this has worked is because of mutual respect extended by most of the other religions as well who haven’t been infected with the disease of evangelism, forceful conversion, and disrespect for other faiths.

Secondly, we also need to take time to understand the history behind why cows are considered holy in India. It’s not surprising that the animal that has been the second most important source of livelihood for millions after agriculture, is worshipped. And it’s not just the milk. Cow dung was used for flooring as well as on walls in the houses as a mode of insulation from the scorching heat outside. It was also used as a source of heat for cooking besides the wood. Cow urine was used for therapeutic purposes in ancient Indian medicine. And of course, the cow has reproductive capabilities. With one animal playing a very important part in the daily life of Indians, cow essentially reached a motherly status and one doesn’t kill a mother to eat her flesh.

To a large extent, the emotions people in the western countries have with dogs, Indians have with a cow. But while protesting against Yulin festival, that doesn’t even happen in the US but all the way to the other side of the world, is cool, protesting against beef is not because it doesn’t have a western endorsement.



Day – Sunday

Time – 8PM

Place – Prithvi Theatre, Juhu


Prithvi Theatre (Source: CitySeeker)

The place is buzzing with people with the usual crowded Prithvi Café. While there are, of course, the visitors, the place is also home for struggling actors, music artists, writers and almost anybody associated with the theatre, TV or movie industry. It’s like a Mecca of artists. For the audience, they can’t have a better theatre experience by the sheer design of the theatre hall. The entire aura of the place brings you close to the fast depleting theatre industry.

My tryst with the theatre watching started last year when I moved to the city. Live performances have their own charm. Movies can only dream to catch up with them. I started off with some standup comedy performances at Comedy Store, Phoenix Mills and then a show of Veer Das at Sophia Auditorium. “Broken Images” by Alyque Padamsee with Shabana Azmi as the lead (and the only actor) was the first play I watched. Since then, the addiction has scaled new heights every time.

It introduced me to the artists, art of play making and different theatres in Mumbai. Prithvi comes out to be the best while NCPA (at Nariman Point) is another “must-go” place to watch plays. The only other theatres I have been include St Andrews Auditorium at Bandra and Sophia Auditorium at Breach Candy. The design of St Andrews reminds me of those stage show songs of Bollywood movies of 90s (Tu Shaayar Hain from Saajan for example). Never thought but ended up watching two plays over there – Class of 84 and Death of a Salesman.

I have watched many plays over the last one year – the major ones being Broken Images, Joke, Class of 84, Kashmakash, Dance Like A Man and the latest being Ismat Aapa Ke Naam. I watched Broken Images and Joke, twice. Watching plays twice is also an experience to get. You get to know many “on-the-spot” adjustments and cover ups artists do in dialogs and situations. No two acts will be exactly the same for the same play. But what is important that it is a team effort. Especially in plays like Class of 84, where there are about 7-8 people conversing at the same time – the accuracy, timing, pitch and transition of the dialogs becomes all the more important to keep the pace of the play going. And when there is a mistake, the rest of the artists cover it up and bring the play back on track. And let’s not forget, there are no retakes in plays. You make a mistake, you cover it up with some idea on the spot – there is no plan B. There are some plays which have been very memorable and worth mentioning here.

ImageBroken Images: This was the first play I watched and definitely one of the most challenging plays, technically. It was a dialog between a person and her alter ego. The greatest challenge was that the dialogs of alter ego were recorded and the protagonist had to adjust the pace of her dialogs based on the recording, her position on stage based on the eye sight of the alter ego in the recording and occasional gestures based on the actions in the recording. So, essentially, the margin of error was zero. But when you have somebody like Shabana Azmi as protagonist, you can be rest assured of scintillating performance.

Joke: This was the first play that I watched twice on back to back days at Prithvi. While the concept of the play drew me to the second time, it also made me understand how no two acts of plays, even on back to back days, are not the same. Also, since this was a dram-com play, I also tried to understand how the artists remain in their characters even on some of the most hilarious punches. It is very difficult thing to do when you have 200 people sitting in front of you and laughing their asses off. Especially, in Prithvi, where the audience is extremely close to the main stage. It amazes me even today.

Ismat Aapa Ke Naam: IAKN introduced me to the art of storytelling. It was first of its kind of play that I watched. IAKN is about three different stories narrated by Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah and Heeba Shah. What amazed me, besides the stories themselves, was the manner of narration, the expressions and the intensity. One of the “MUST WATCH” plays of my life. Also, the best two hours twenty minutes of my life – to watch one of the greatest actors (Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak) with extreme proximity.

ImageClass of 84: I like Class of 84 for very similar reasons why I like Broken Images. Although I think the play was really meant to be in Hindi because of its plot, it did convey the message at the end. With seven different characters on the stage at the same time, maintaining sequence of dialogs, the connection, the accuracy and the timing becomes all the more challenging. This wouldn’t be the best plays of all but it did end up reminding me my engineering days – which is what this play was meant to do.

Talking about plays, how can I forget Dhara who introduced and addicted me to the world of theatre? She has been a play freak since her Bangalore days – another major destination for India’s theatre industry. All of the plays I watched initially have been with her and her friends. Later on, she has been the source of suggestions on some of the most amazing plays I MUST NOT MISS. As long as people like her are alive on Earth, theatre is there to stay and keep rocking!!!

It takes some play freaks to enjoy these many plays in a short span of time. While I am also a movie freak, it becomes difficult to manage movies and plays – logistically as well as, of course, financially!! 😉 That’s when the weekends become more hectic than weekdays. 🙂