The Hunger of Stones
By Haripriya Soibam
We of stones
On nights of boredom
Kept them locked
in boxful of woes
to open when dusk falls
After a night of incessant rains Amritsar Shadhabti brought Kalashetra, Manipur to Punjab Naatshala for the 14th Theatre Utsav. Sulky surpervisor and skewed scheduled had brought me to Amritsar a few days ago, just in time to miss every single play of National School of Drama’s Bharat Rang Mahotsav in Delhi. However, selected plays from the festival were shown at the Punjab Naatshala from 11th –20th January, 2012. The Naatshala though a 10 minutes walk from the P.G. accomodation in the vicinity of the Guru Nanak Dev University where I was based, was rendered inaccessible as the gate of the Women’s P.G. closes at 6:00 p.m; all the plays at the Naatshala begins at 7:00 p.m. After being granted special permission for a day I sneaked in several hours early to witness the last minute finishing touches to the props.
Based on a short story of the same name by Rabindranath Tagore –The Hungry Stones and Other Stories (This festival being ‘Tribute to Tagore 150 years’); The Hungry Stones (Kalashetra, Manipur; Directed by Heisnam Tomba) opened with three weeping maidens paraded, whipped on their backs till they become charming, alluring, enticing women of stone in the Palace of Pleasure. Bhadra (short for Bhadralok, a tax collector, Mr. So and so’s son, an enlightened man well versed in Sciences and Vedas, yes with sniggering references to the word in Bengali) lands up years after in the erstwhile Pleasure Palace where the voluptously carved women of stone turns nocturnal nymphs or perhaps it is only in chiaroscuro of his dreams. Every night in the nether world the nymphs gratifies Bhadra’s lust. Bhadra survives the day only in fervant hopes of the nocturnal world of fantasy. He even does away with the lantern fearing it to hinder his dreams.
Bhadra waits eagerly for each night, only to be disturbed by the insane Meher Ali’s warnings “Keep Away, All is False”. The illusionary nature of desires, dreams and pining is only elusively referred to through the ranting of the crazed Meher Ali. The women, stones through ages, not carvings of stone but even flesh and blood had curdled to stone by ceaseless torments, mute spectators of even their own body has been rendered excruciatingly well by the three women –nymphs, carvings of stone, or merely women through the ages.
On superficial observation it seemed that the dream sequences are too lengthy to hold attention but then ages of turmoil can only asks for patience to be heard. A dream, a nether world where stones could come alive, talk of their hunger, anguish and tell their tales, carried Bhadra and the audience through the whips on their backs, sold to the highest bidder, reduced to mere objects of gratification and finally their metamorphosis to mute stones, mute but enticing enough for men to hide them behind veils during the day, to unveil them again when night offers her dark cover to obscure morning’s garb of morality. Moments as these aided with superb supertitles elucidated gasps of fear, disgust and the uneasy feeling of recognising oneself as sharing the same garb with Bhadra or (rather painfully) the stones.
Not content with the facade of optimist endings the play ended with grim reality –of women frozen into enticing nymphs, their speech devoured by incessant waves of time like the relentless winter rains outside. How would it be if ‘the hungry stones’ could exhale under a free sky, a breath of pure release? With these musings I stepped out to get slowly drenched while trying to flag down the shared autorickshaws plying the unlighted Grand Trunk Road; a bunch of bikers dashed close raucously singing out to me, I quickly called a friend who had come with the troupe to wait with me for a while, we did managed to stop one, both of us hesitating to see it full of men. ‘Call when you reach’ he said, still unsure. In the vehicle the stares of men drilled into me, as if my thick winter clothing didn’t exist. ‘I’ll claw my heart away, I’ll ask for stone instead’, I thought.
IMPHAL | Oct 15 “The state of Manipur is for all and the ancestral land belongs to no particular community; the misunderstanding between the communities and state government that may affect people’s sentiments will also be solved soon.” Chief secret.....
PLHIVs feel ignored by MACS, govt By Donald Sairem IMPHAL | Oct 15 Even though Manipur is among the states with highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, the state is yet again facing acute shortage of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to be provided to People Liv.....
IMPHAL | Oct 15 The United Naga Council (UNC) appealed to the Kuki ‘brethren’ to restrain from making provocative statement and activities in commemorating the centenary of the ‘Anglo-Kuki War 1917-19’ which is to be organised by Kuki Inpi Manipur. .....
IMPHAL| Oct 15 The 12-hour general strike imposed today by Coordination Committee (CorCom) and Alliance for Socialist Unity - Kangleipak (ASUK) severely affected normal life in Manipur valley with all activities coming to a standstill. The total sh.....
By Lelen Vaiphei IMPHAL | Oct 15 Bandhs and strikes in the state paralyse daily activities of the state. Every individual ceases their daily work in support of the bandh or either to avoid any untoward incidents, but it is a common scene to witness .....