Abhishek Thapar has a story to tell. It is a story that spans three generations, from the time of Partition, migration from Lahore. his father during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots all the way to him. His play, ‘My Home at the Intersection’, questions the notion of a home from a broader narrative while digging deep into personal history.
“This took a lot of personal investment. It was like an anthropological research of Punjab as well. How do I make sense of home? What is the concept of home?”, says the 32-year-old theatre artist, who now lives in Amsterdam, incidentally the thirteenth city in which he has lived.
In the book, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition, author Urvashi Butalia collects narratives of different people who migrated from Pakistan to India during the Partition. In one of her chapters, the interviewee says that the Sikhs have been betrayed twice – once with the Partition and again with the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.
Thapar delves into this aspect and says that the play is also about forgetting and trying to find closure.
“The Khalistan movement has many narratives and counter-narratives. The lines are very blurred. There are reasons and justifications for what happened. The performance also acknowledges the narrative that has been fed over time which makes it the face of the situation. The riots resulted in many human rights violations due to which many Sikhs fled India, fearing the repetition of Partition,” explains Thapar, who has studied physical theatre from the London International School of Performing Arts.
Punjab, one of the cereal bowl states, records high production of wheat and other grains, year after year. Thapar has used wheat grains as an element to invite the audience into a different space.
“I made the play first in Amsterdam and the audience there is quite detached from this part of history. Wheat became a strong element, as it invited the audience into a different landscape and atmosphere. It became a hands-on tactile material. I also start the play by opening a jar of lemon pickle which is 27 years old and share it with the audience members. The opening of the jar signifies going back in time.”
The play is open only to 35 people at a time, to allow this artist to create a more intimate space. “I want to share rather than perform. The proximity to the audience makes it more intimate and warm. The play keeps changing according to the place. I have performed in London, Amsterdam and more recently at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi. I haven’t performed in Punjab yet but if I do, the play will be quite different.”
‘My Home at the Intersection’ will be staged at TIFA Working Studios, Camp, on December 22 and 23.
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