Nafrat ke Khilaaf, Aagaaz ki Awaaz! By Sakhi Upadhyaya

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On the 10th of September, Aagaaz headed out to rediscover an old production – performing ‘Duniya Sabki’ at the Nafrat ke Khilaf, Humaari Awaaz event in Lodhi Garden.

After two hours of rehearsal, rehashing dialogues and sharing Biryani, the team left Nizamuddin. We decided we would walk to Lodhi Garden – it was right in the neighbourhood, and we could talk amongst ourselves in our comfortable group of 15. “Log dekhenge kya?”,“Logon ko kaise bulaayein, ya shuru kardein?” were our immediate conversation-starters. It was a different kind of anxious, mixed with the unique wonderment that accompanies every performance. However, this was our own personal (and maybe ‘political’?) intervention in a public space – confronting picnic-goers and Sunday relaxers at the Lodhi Garden with a play that was so dear to us.

So what was this ‘event’ about? Over the past month, thousands of people collected in “citizen protests” across the country, to publicly condemn the violence of ‘hate’ perpetrated against Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, and other disadvantaged and minority groups. Gradually, each subsequent ‘protest’ became a realization of collective harmony, reflected in the music and poetry that filled the streets wherever #NotInMyName registered a presence. Another such exercise was to take place in Delhi, in 100 localities all over the city. We thus found ourselves at Lodhi Gardens with two volunteers from #NotinmyName and banners that announced, “Nafrat ke Khilaaf, Humaari Aawaaz / Say No to Hatred”.

“Who does this land belong to if not all of us?”, seemed an appropriate question to ask on a lazy Sunday evening in the backdrop of a magnificent tomb, surrounded by families out for a respite, teenagers frolicking around, and ‘grown-ups’ on their day off. We were accompanied by our friends from the Kutumb Theatre Group, who filled the makeshift performance area with the humming of their guitars and the rhythm of their voices. The sun was about to set, and just like that, we had taken our final bow as well. We breathed a sigh of relief that a substantial crowd had gathered. Thank God!

We decided to walk back to Nizamuddin. After a quick check of all our possessions, we left the space just as we had found it. Just like that, our impromptu performance had come to an end. No stage, no lights, no predefined ‘audience’, but ‘Duniya Sabki’ had discovered a new form of itself, one that existed in the minds of those who stopped and looked at a group of young adults telling a story in a public park, even if for a little while. Maybe they had the time to read the banner as well?

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