Welcome to the World of Theatre

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Language, music and a sense of community are some of the most universal things known to mankind, common across every culture and age, since the beginning of time. Bring them all together and you get the world of theatre. Can we think back on how many times we’ve started a speech with “Friends, Romans, countrymen”, or wanted to the change the ending of Romeo and Juliet or wished we could meet a chocolate cream soldier? The love of theatre, the drama, the characters is, I think at least a little bit there, in each of us. Even if all we know about theatre is how to spell William Shakespeare.

And that’s why, when I received an intriguing company email about a theatre workshop on May 2nd, I jumped at the chance to go learn more about theatre. A few of us inquisitive folks got together that day at one of our offices and we were introduced to Silky from the Ashima Theatre Group, and also Mayank, a colleague and a passionate theatre enthusiast, who also co-owned Ashima .And here started the journey of a bunch of strangers to bring to life a Theatre Club for the world to behold.

Playing the memory games

Playing the memory games

Unlike me, some of the folks there had worked seriously in dramas at least in their colleges, and some were still very actively involved in the life of theatre. But, as we all were to slowly learn, being an actor on stage takes a lot more than a strong voice or the lack of stage fright. One of the most important and obvious tool we need, is that of memory.The workshop had an interesting approach for us to learn and remember these various tools. To teach us the necessity of memory we played a couple of games, where we had to remember the name of everyone who had come to the workshop. It wasn’t easy; as I remember that we had 3 Amits that day and had quite a crazy time remembering who was who. But, it surely drove home the point that memorizing lines is no easy task. And that theatre requires, along with undying passion, a whole lot of hard work as well.

Talking about the nava rasas

Talking about the nava rasas

Then we learned that all of theatre, all of acting has in essence 9 basic emotions or ‘rasas’ and every other mood or emotion can be built on these or a combination of these. We were then promptly organised into groups and asked to come up with a plot and perform based on the rasa that we’d been assigned.It was an exhilarating experience, with most of us ad libbing our way through a skeleton plot. We sat in awe, as we saw group after group come and perform, sometimes wondering if we could have done a scene better, but mostly excited about taking our baby steps in Drishya. Of course, we were all lacking polish to some degree or another, but most of us knew that this was just the beginning and we’d be coming back for more.

The groups hatching their plots

The groups hatching their plots

PS:Please note that all pictures were taken by members of our club and can be used only in matters related to the club.

Design experiments with a Word Cloud of John 15 – Part 1

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I still haven’t gotten round to reading up on typography. In order to make things easier and have some preset typography, I created a Word cloud using the amazing site Wordle. It allows to you to choose your colour set, create the cloud with the words going vertically or horizontally or as a mix. And then, for editing I made use of another amazing site – PicMonkey.

I still haven’t finished going through their entire collection. Hope you enjoy Part 1.

On Activism…

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What determines the impact of what we do? There are varying schools of thoughts on how involved we should be in creating an impact on the world. Yes, the world and future generations is the largest umbrella that we can think of currently on which the sphere of our influence can extend.

There were people like Napoleon, who influenced the political and social climate of an entire continent, primarily for his self – seeking end to be proclaimed an Emperor. History was lucky, that along with ambition and supreme military skill, he was blessed with good sense. His legal reform in France, the Napoleonic Code, has influenced many civil law jurisdictions worldwide. But his cause was himself.

And then there were people like Mahatma Gandhi. Known as the Father of the nation, he was instrumental in winning Swaraj through his non-violent methods. He led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity and ending untouchability. A nation was delivered, 350 million people now had the freedom to choose their own destiny. Because one man was relentless unto death in his belief that the miscarriage of justice must be stopped.

We also have people like Jonas Salk, who discovered the Polio vaccine. Wikipedia says his desire was to help humankind in general rather than single patients. When he undertook a project to determine the different types of Polio virus, he saw an opportunity to make his dream come true – to help human kind, by developing a vaccine against Polio. He devoted seven years to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

On a smaller scale, we have people like Terry Fox. In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres , and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research. A legacy that will benefit thousands of others started because Terry understood what it meant to have cancer.

A vast majority of us go through life with minor inconveniences. Rarely are we ever faced with a gross miscarriage of justice like apartheid or communalism or racism or even poverty. We go through life with a decent home, a fairly decent education and usually a decent married life. The quest to provide a secure future for ourselves and our dependents being the only cause that drives our life. Some of us do have our pet causes, promoting sports in schools, promoting reading in the community, volunteering with NGOs at blind schools, something that brings fulfillment to our lives as we go to bed every night. Something that makes us feel good that we have given something back to society for all the good that we have enjoyed.

I guess we can term it as a hobby. We can attend to it when we have the time and convenience. The matters of everyday life always claiming precedence. How can we do otherwise? How many weekends can I sacrifice? How many night vigils can I keep? For how long? How many government offices will I visit? How many department officials shall I see? I have a life to live and cannot give that up for what maybe a lost cause. And the streets remain unsafe, the women remain targeted, the disabled remain ignored and the exploited remain less-than-human. Till someone in my own family becomes a victim. And the pain becomes real. And the air of apathy unbelievable. How can one live with such injustice?

What can I do? Am I being an irresponsible citizen by not jumping on the bandwagon of the first worthy cause that comes to town? Am I guilty of handing down an oppressive and unsafe world to my children? I don’t think so. The deep rooted feeling of pain and hurt at the injustices we see around us is testament to the fact that we were all created in an image that was modeled on someone that was intrinsically and morally just. The hardness of the world has done its bit in dehumanizing us, yet like in Jean Valjean, there exists a chink in every hardened heart through which the light of virtue can filter through and perhaps transform us into real human beings.

This light we must allow to infiltrate our lives. This light of hope, of goodness, of mercy. We are teachers, doctors, mothers, gardeners, managers, scientists, and the lot, usually not very high in the pecking order. We are limited in our talents and abilities and even resources. But we are all members of this body called humanity. And like the human body, we are all unique in our positioning and capability. I believe that we are called to use this uniqueness in our lives to give back what we can. To invest in the lives of others, so that they come out in the mould of virtue, strong against the winds of oppression.

Can we sacrificially give of ourselves and our particular talent – that of cooking, organizing, visiting, advising, listening, sewing, administration, networking, anything that we naturally excel at, to the good of our community? Do we dare to make that a lifestyle, one of the goals of life? I believe therein lies the power of transformation. To live a life of service, committed to the ideals we believe in, free from prejudice towards one and all. A life that dares to invest in the life of others, remaining committed in the face of indifference. Victory lies in the perseverance of everyday tasks.

NB: Inputs from Wikipedia regarding the biographies of the 4 notable persons mentioned.

 

Introducing the love of God

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barbequeThey say that a family that prays together stays together. Is that true? Why not one that lives together or talks together or goes out for movies together or have book discussions together or barbeques together? And why not a family who drives to church together or hosts prayer meetings together?

Because when I pray, I am talking to my Heavenly Father. When I pray, my Father sees through all the words that I speak to look into my heart. So I can dispense with the formality of nice words and speak with Him face to face. I choose to acknowledge His goodness over my life. The unadulterated constancy with which He has upheld the thread of my life moment by moment. A God worthy of worship. Just imagine the naked picture of God my child would see.

My heart is then overcome with the filth that resides in my heart. The vast gulf that’s there between me and God’s standards of holiness. I cry out, I shout out to God to have mercy on me, in His infinite grace to forgive my rebellious willful nature and remind Him that He has promised “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” In His infinite grace to open my eyes to see the sin in my life, to see it through His eyes, to hate it, abhor it with all my heart. Will He not do this? Now, my child is confident of repentance and restoration.

Love-of-ChristAnd then I ask my Lord, my Saviour, the one who has claim to all my life, the one has claim to all the Universe to change me, in His grace to to teach me to love Him, to teach me to how to fear Him, to teach me the meaning of obedience, to kindle a flame of love for Him and that it may never go out because He first loved me. And this love would defeat every sin, every temptation, every justification for rebellion in my life. Then the greatest treasure my child covets would be the love of Christ.

Which if he hankers after would make him a blessing to innumerable others. Where else would children learn of such a God, of His goodness, of the power that He gives us and His enduring love? If you are a parent, or are involved in a youth ministry, or have an opportunity to work with young people, pray with them. Pray that they see God in all His splendour and majesty and glory and power and love. That they learn to call this God, Abba Father.

So long, Will Estes

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It was a beautiful autumn day in October, a Saturday. I was having lunch with my cousin at the corner Italian restaurant. He had flown in from Houston to help me house hunt. To find a place to live, to call home for the next year or so, in Stamford.

There was a big stone church, yellow leaves chasing each other in their annual fall ballet, grand parents taking their grand children out for a stroll. I maintained I would never stay anywhere else. Not after the sidewalk cafes, the promise of farmers markets in the summer,  the public library in walking distance and two theaters that existed to screen movies that were Oscar winners in some obscure category and almost never ran commercially. I was already overwhelmed by the stark beauty of New England, and I felt that Stamford was where Robert Frost met Lorelai Gilmore. Where I would meet poets and dancers, and investment bankers and plumbers and just plain “neighbours”.

I moved in a month later, on a wintry day in November. It’s proximity to New York and my proclivity to travel was my justification to moving into so horrendously expensive a city. It was New York without steroids. We had no subways, but the Metro North Railways of the MTA was what we in Stamford depended on. NYC, New Jersey, Chicago, Houston, Providence, all these journeys started at the Stamford Railroad station, the only reason I never needed a car.

The days and months that passed by was magical. Postcards to India, fairy lights that lit up the streets at night, parades where the whole city turned up with children on their shoulders and wonder in their eyes. The rappelling down of Santa and his reindeer, Santa and his elves on the elf mobile to light the tree at Latham park, the Police Day parade, the St. Patricks Day parade, the Arts and Crafts where the local artisans turned up with their wares. Yes, gypsies and artists, traveling to each city in New England. The Bridal shop and the chocolatier.  McDonalds and the Ferguson Library. How ever, ever can I forget you?

The Mexican super market that slaked my craving for coke late at night, my quiet ache when it closed down when they couldn’t afford it any longer. The over-conscientious guy who was a staff at the local CVS. I never told him how much I admired his attention to detail. The cab drivers, almost without exception, happy to be in a land much fairer than their own. I liked the cabbies. They were available almost any time of the day. I was returning home after watching the Macy’s fireworks on July 4th when heavy rains brought down a tree on the train track. I reach Stamford 3 hours later, but lo and behold, at 1am in the morning, the taxi drivers are out there waiting to ferry us home.

I wouldn’t say that the star dust fell out of my eyes as the months progressed, but I had settled into a routine. I would take the train to South Norwalk to catch a connecting train to Merritt 7. From there, a shuttle to my office building with Leo and me chatting away to glory about the weather. I have to admit, I was far mare accurate than he ever was :). In the winter months, I started taking the train back as well, mainly because any waiting could be done in enclosed environs. And that’s how I met my Will Estes.

I have a voracious appetite for books and TV shows. Even without a TV, being in the US allowed me to surf for good shows, and one that I really ended up liking was Blue Bloods. It had a host of actors already well known, it was a police procedural drama set in New York, with the show revolving around a Catholic Irish family and their lives enmeshed in maintaining law and justice. Mostly, I liked it because it had my favourite ingredient – a moral to every story. Will Estes plays Jamie Reagan, the youngest son of Frank Reagan, who is the Police Commissioner of NYC. Jamie is a junior Police Officer with the NYPD, who has chucked a career as a lawyer after graduating from Harvard, since he feels he could give back more as a Police Officer. He is a moral compass, constant in his integrity. He faces temptations, but always decides to do the right thing. Now you know why I like Will Estes.

I would take the 6 o clock bus from Stamford Train station to my home. And there was this guy who was a dead ringer for Will Estes on the bus every day. The Stamford Will Estes had mousy brown hair and a much slighter build, wore a blue jacket everyday, and a worn out back pack. He always allowed the other passengers to go first and was usually the last to get on the bus. It was his unfailing presence, everyday, at 6pm, in the line to get on the bus that has come to signify everyday life for me.

He may not be Jamie Reagan, but his quietness and ordinariness egged me on to be better than what I am right now. Victory lies in the perseverance of everyday tasks. To keep reading my books, to keep writing, to keep in touch with people near and far, to go the extra mile, because there is such joy in service. I have lived in Stamford for 15 months. Every tree, every crack in the sidewalk, every aisle in CVS is etched in memory. The Ferguson Library will never cease to hold my heart in raptures. I have seen the snow and the sun. As my assignment winds up, I wonder how I can say goodbye. To the wonderful card shop that always brought a smile to those who received a card I’d sent them from there. To the McDonald’s that remained open even at 12am when I wanted some comfort food. To the public library that remained open even in the face of an impending blizzard. To the railroad station that was located exactly 1.3 miles from my apartment and took me everywhere I wanted to go. To the downtown ambassadors. To the folks who put up the lights every winter and made Stamford a magical place. To the dog walkers and picture takers. To the bus driver who let me travel on the bus even though I didn’t have change. (“You ride my bus at least 3 times a week. It could happen to anyone”, he bellowed before I meekly went and sat, offering no more excuses).

How do you say, so long, Will Estes?

Weekly Photo Challenge:My 2012 in pictures

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Even when I was high school, I remember my Dad had a dream of visiting his younger brother in Canada. Now my parents belong to a dying breed of people. They are honest, hard-working, put their parent’s and children’s needs before their own and spent money on only what was needed. So, going to Canada went on the back-burner. For almost 20 years.

Last year, that dream finally came true. .And they visited not just Canada, but the United States too. The Statue of Liberty, the White House, Johnson Space Center, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the museum of civilization in Ottawa, the city of Montreal. Above all the joy of being with their loved ones and cherishing a long held dream come true. I marvel at God’s goodness in making 2012 a year to remember for my parents and me.

Though my parents visited in the Summer, it being the high point of the year, I thought I’d spend a few words, reliving the joy of that time, before I started off chronologically. I found it surprising, I don’t have pictures for all the months. And some months have so many events crowded together! I know I could go on forever, and so decided to restrict myself to 12 photos for this post, concentrating on the many ‘firsts’ I had this year.

Let’s start off with my first visit to a museum here, for the Presidents Day Holiday last year (Feb 12). I spent only a couple of hours at the American Museum of Natural History, most of it reading and viewing the history of the Native Americans. I was mesmerized and vowed I’d be back . I did visit again, with my parents in Summer.

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Mask of the Bella Coola Indians

Then came the wedding in April. Mum had a cousin in California whose boy was getting married. I remember him (Mum’s cousin) when I saw him last. On his vacation to India. In Mumbai, when he’d gotten my number from Mum and thundered over the phone to come meet him. He introduced me to every member of the extended family there and warned me never to consider myself friendless in Mumbai. I had to go, even though all I would be doing over the weekend would be flying to and from California. I’m glad I did. He passed away a month later.

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Getting ready for Tommy’s wedding

June was my aunt’s visit to NY. I was elated. It was my first time as a tourist guide. Showing them the subway, taking them on the ferry, and enjoying the delicious hot dog lunches.

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My Aunt and her daughters at the Statue of Liberty

July was a busy month. I finally got a visa-worthy photo and applied for a Canadian visit visa. On the 4th of July, I finally visited Ground Zero and bunkered down outside the Hoboken Terminal for a few hours to view the Macy’s fireworks over the Hudson River. Here’s a picture of the Bronze memorial dedicated to the first responders from this Fire Station who lost their lives on 9/11.

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The FDNY Wall memorial outside Ground zero

I visited my friends in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and received the happy news that a couple were expecting a second baby. So, we of course went out to celebrate – bowling, my first time.

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The International bowling league in MA

And of course, this is the month my parents touched down at Pearson International in Toronto. And visited me as well. Here we are again at the Statue of Liberty, with my parents standing against the Manhattan skyline. It was absolutely delicious catching up with my uncle too who drove them all the way down here.

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My parents, the tourists 🙂

August, was when I bought my first DSLR camera. A second hand one, slightly old, but bought with much love. Here’s one of the first photos taken with the new camera.

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Flowers at Camp-of-the-Woods in the Adirondacks

A major part of my adult life has been associated with a student ministry in India, that bring the claims of Christ to many who seek the truth. Many students travel abroad and settle down and seek to bring their light to their new surroundings. And thus the torch passes on, generation to generation. Here is the newest generation having some fun at the North East Regional conference I attended in September.

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Children enjoying the sparklers at the campfire

No pictures for October. Super Storm Sandy saw to that.

It was followed by the first snow storm barely 2 weeks later in November. Winter was finally here.

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Heralding the end of out door dining in Stamford

December, again was a very busy month. A friend had recently gotten married and they have forever been asking me to visit them. I did. And we danced on the lit up streets of NYC, melded in to crowd at Rockefeller Center, and cheered and clapped when right before our eyes a fellow went down on his knees and proposed to the girl he was skating with. Magical, magical city.

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Angels we have heard on high – At the Rockefeller Center

It wasn’t exactly a tradition, but my parents would try to squeeze in a Carol night at one of the nearby churches for my brother and I when we were kids. Working in a hospital, that wasn’t easy, but I loved getting dressed, sitting almost always in the last row, out in the open air, under the stars and hear the lovely voice of humans declaring the angels messages – Gloria, in Excelsis Deo! This year, thanks to Augustine and Theertha, I attended their church Carol service at Calvary Baptist Church in NY.

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Carol Night

And lastly, my year end vacation to Canada. It was lovely. Waiting for my cousin to give birth, putting up the Christmas tree, watching The Hobbit with my uncle and cousins, playing card games late into the night, joining my cousins to surprise their best friend on her birthday, forcing my cousins and their friends out for a snowy photo-shoot with silly props. It was a year that ended in joy!

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An ode…

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I never write poetry. I’m indescribably bad at it. But I thought it would be a good way to bring closure to my loss of my iPhone this Christmas.

Happier TImes

Happier TImes

We’d known each other for about a year
Pink was what it loved to wear
A beauty on the outside and the inside
Practical, useful, always by my side

Goaded me to catch up with friends and family
Mapped the way when I was in a strange city

Kept me company on long journeys
With books and music and games

Knew I liked to wake up
at different times on different days
That I was paranoid about the weather,
Fed my love of taking photos,
And made sure the little notes I scribbled were
carefully tucked away to cherish.

Now that you have gone
I look longingly at others
As their eyes behold and as they listen
As they tease and as they hold close their own

An ache, a tear, a sigh escapes
I still walk in unbelief
I never thought it would end so quickly
That a careless moment
would separate us forever

You’ve been a friend to me
And fare thee well my own true love, my iPhone.

 

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