By Prof. Sehdev Kumar
TORONTO: Ravi Jain’s raw and amusing play at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto is a spicy tribute to the Indian mothers and to their perennial hope – asha – for a bride for their young sons.
It is a play like no other: the audience never knows whether it is watching a play, or listening in through some hollow walls on the bickering, arguments, accusation and threats in a kitchen.
Ravi and his mother Asha Jain have created this play together from their real, raw and endlessly convoluted schemes, in clever collaboration with Papaji, to hook up their 27-year old Ravi with a ‘suitable girl’ in India.
As a young and aspiring theatre director and actor from Canada, Ravi jaunts around the country, from Delhi to Bangalore to Jaipur to Calcutta with a Canadian friend. But in all his travels he never knows what page he will be on in his ‘binders full of women’.
There is a Neha in Bombay, and yet another Neha in Delhi, and yet another somewhere on the way to the airport.
Work in theatre is no profession for Indian sons whose parents are always aspiring, and pushing them, into law or medicine or business or accountancy. Ravi is hardly a ‘suitable boy’ in the business community of the Jains. But he will have to be passed off some how, with one shenanigan or the other.
No Indian son – or a daughter – can remain unmarried for very long, damned be the Canadian culture which insists on personal choice, or getting to know each other for months and years. Ravi’s mother Asha was married to a boy within a few days of never having met him before; that is the way of India; the love-fuv business comes later after the first baby is born. It comes somehow or the other, never mind when.
The play is the real thing; Asha is no actress, but if she were, would she be as real as she is here? Ravi narrates the story but it always revolves around the simmering but often thwarted hopes of Asha, the ever-present Indian mother.
From the guffaws of laughter in the audience from everyone, and not just the Indians, there was perhaps a recognition here of a Jewish mother, or of a Fat Greek Wedding, or of Marriage Italian style. It doesn’t matter where; marriage is no laughing matter anywhere.
In Dante’s Inferno, on the entrance is inscribed: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.
In the Indian marriage market, it should be declared: “Never give up asha; she springs eternal”.
The play continues at Tarragon Theatre until December 16.
(Prof. Sehdev Kumar lectures on International Cinema at the University of Toronto)