Roosting Roosters

My chicken have come home to roost!

Seriously, the farm began sounding like a real farm the day Annie Cariappa brought Vito and Maria Cocklioni over. Of course, she didn't know that would be their names, she just knew them as her noisy naati kolis. But Zui was watching The Godfather Trilogy - Director's cut that season and the rest is history. 

There is quite nothing like the sound of a crowing rooster to make a yard, Old McDonald’s own. Maria laid 13 eggs that ended up in 5 full grown chickens – 1 hen and 4 roosters. Shankaramma’s standing complaint is that this farm spawns only male children. No eggs, no milk, they serve no purpose at all, sell those damned bulls, she pleads, but we just look at Chinna, (the latest in our stream of male spawn) his kind eyes and can't imagine selling him to an unknown future. At some point though, this will have to stop. Lakshmi will have to be kept away from the bulls. Maybe we should acquire another little female calf.

The chickens, meanwhile, have made the wall near the outdoor shower their space. They sit there looking picturesque all day. In the night, they make a flappy, short flight upwards and roost in the trees. 

Notice the number of combs? It'll be a short while before the rooster fights begin. Maybe I'll get some guinea fowl and geese to counter these.

Kothaiah got married yesterday so the whole family is away in Nellore leaving us in charge with help from Narsamma and Narsappa from the village. Yes, they share a name and are very happy to do so.

This morning, I found Anjali (the dark pony) with 4 feet of barbed wire caught in her tail. Try as I might, I couldn't get it out. Everytime I grabbed the wire she ran and I had to let go before the barbs ripped through my palm. Eventually, Narsaiah got it out. Next mission was to get all three horses into their paddock to prevent more of the same happening. It took about 45 minutes and the joint efforts of three of us - Narsaiah, Konarak and me. Call as we might, the horses just ignored us and went about grazing on the new grass that the rains have brought.  No amount of cajoling worked. Eventually Konarak brought out some Amul cheese and a tomato, imagining the horses like pizza, I assume. They ignored the cheese but the dog's got at it pronto. The tomato had better chances but suddenly Zara began bucking and running causing me to run too. Noorie finally walked into the paddock, having responded to my dha dha dha sounds and not to the tomato. Anjali in her short tempered way, followed and got chased a while by Noorie. Zara took sometime, but eventually and most huffily, she walked in too. Phew. I need a glass of wine.


Ranga Shankara: Samprati 2013

It's home to us.

We can walk around blindfolded, know the numbers of steps to the first greenroom, the width of the wings, what the cyclorama feels like when one rests a tired cheek on it, the taste of the sabudana vades and definitely better than to eat or sleep (openly) in the auditorium.

Ranga Shankara, Arundhati Nag's baby and one of the dead-best theatre facilities in the country, turned 9 on October 24th this year and will shortly kick off it's 10th Theatre Festival - Samprati, a platform to delve into the works of Girish Karnad. A fair chunk of the sun for this well known Bangalore playwright.

If we* love RS in the times of cholera, chikungunya and the rest of the year, we simply adore it at festival time. The weather is great, the girls are pretty, some folks are witty and everyone gets down with the buzz and excitement of a darkened theatre and...the lights coming on. The sheer, insurmountable thrill of witnessing live actors on stage.

I spoke to Suri (S.Surendranath) the new Artistic Director of Ranga Shankara, the morning before the festival begins. Despite being immersed in streamers, posters, interns and having to solve every manner of pre-festival crisis, Suri is his game and funny self, one eye on his laptop and the other on Veronica. “Ayyo Rama” he says “not 15 years, just 9. It's the 10th festival though.” In tandem with the festival in Bangalore, away in Mannheim, Lichtenstein and Nuremberg, the super successful Ranga Shankara-Schnawwl Theatre production 'Boy with a Suitcase" begins it's 8th run. Meanwhile Aru, utterly unphased by the hectic nature of it all, nibbles on a plate of bhel puri knowing, que serĂ¡ serĂ¡.

So, go people, go and enjoy Samprati! Eid is here and Deepavalli is around the corner. The energy at Ranga Shankara, during the festival, is electric, like nothing else. There will be seminars, discussion, debate, videos of monologues and lots and lots of theatre. Stimulate yourself (ok, I didn't mean in quite that way). Go to Ranga Shankara if you've never been before, you will be so glad you did. And if you are one of that royal we*, well, you know what I'm talking about.

Over to Suri...

1. Any pet dreams for RS, Suri? Where would you like to see it go in the next few years?
I want to reach out to the younger generation. That is where a lot of good and path-breaking things are happening. The new generation or the younger generation has developed its own language. Also, if you look at the demography of the country, about 600 million are under 35 today, making India the biggest youth nation. And about 140 million are around 19 years. How can we forget this audience? It is important that they are given a platform to say something that they really want to say. So in the next couple of years you may see a lot of these young ones performing at Ranga Shankara.

2. Samprati focuses on the works of Girish Karnad...what brought this on? Are you looking at new audiences? New interpretations? 
It is precisely with the same approach we started ideating for this festival. Give platforms to the younger generation. Girish Karnad's playwriting completes five decades came in as a bonus. Then we thought why not marry the two generation. For me it is a wonderful happening - Girish Karnad is from a generation earlier than me and the directors are from a generation after me. It is a kind of bringing tradition and modernity together, like what Girish Karnad has done in his playwriting. For him Modernity and Tradition are not two separate idioms. They are just two phases of any creative process. Like Ananthamurthy says, we must often question tradition to rediscover modernity. And this generation, in these plays, are doing exactly the same. Through Girish Karnad's plays they are questioning the tradition, they are redefining modern society, they are re-interpreting his works in a modern context. Yes I am trying to reach out to newer audience. Even if I get about 20 new audience per day, I am through. I will have achieved something.

3. What about new writing....are you exploring ways to encourage and develop a new crop of playwrights?
This festival could be a step for me to understand the way the younger generation works. In the coming years I think we should allow new writing to be on stage. There is an immediate necessity to get new play writing on board. We need to support new playwrights. Theatre cannot be stagnant. It lives in this moment. And to make it more lively we need this new play writing.

4. Seeing the spate of new and devised works at Ranga Shankara over the last year, do you see the need for dramaturgical interventions or guidance? Do you foresee the introduction of dramaturgs to our theatre-making process?
The need for a dramaturg is more immediate than yesterday. We need not intervene in the process. But certainly we need to guide them. A playwright gives us a focused play. Which is then open to many interpretations with a director/directors. With a devised play, though they may be good, this 'focused element' is often missing. When you have a team writing/developing a play, this is natural. It is then we need a dramaturg, to put the process, and content in order. Not to spill over.
Dramaturgy brings in a kind of cohesiveness to the entire process, from ideating to scripting and structuring the play. The dramaturg, he or she, is as responsible as the director to take the play to the audience. The director can only take the play further from where the dramaturg leaves off.

5. Do you foresee a time when Ranga Shankara spreads its wings and has festivals at other venues? For instance, what about a Folk and Traditional Theatre Festival at Infinite Souls?
Inshah-allah. Right now we are planning to take our AHA! productions to other venues in Karnataka. I come from a strong Karnataka background. I feel children in other towns of Karnataka are deprived of good entertainment. Good theatre, I feel, should reach out to them. Show them what is good. It has some challenges. Language is one. English may not be accepted all over. We need to produce some Kannada plays and take them out of Bangalore. Holding festivals is a humongous challenge. We need a lot of man-power. Ranga Shankara is ready to explore this possibility with a group of like minded people/teams. Why not...

6. What about theatre pedagogy? I have personally been involved with the pedagogy exercises that RS has offered the local community, including the Theatre Pedagogy for Toddlers Workshop. Do you see a Pedagogy Department at RS in the future?
I did not have a clue about this. But once I saw the Portugal team in this year's AHA! festival I am all for it. (Remember I have a grand-daughter, 18 months, who watched the show. She loved it!) We should really seriously start this. Will you help us?

7. How does RS reach out to the community....through interactions with school children....low income group children and so on. In what ways do you hope to further your outreach?
Aru and I are talking every day about reaching out. Our main concern is to get college students to theatre first and then to Ranga Shankara. We need to crack this. When I was running a television channel, we had the same challenge, to get college students to watch the programs. It is one section whose behaviour is very difficult to predict. We need to keep on trying. The school children are with us now. About half-a-million kids have watched AHA! shows at Ranga Shankara. And about one-third of them are those children who could not afford to watch a play. Thanks to Britannia we are consistently achieving this. But there is still a lot to do.

8. How is this RS experience turning out for you personally? Do you hope to leave some kind of mark on RS?
I loved theatre. And am enjoying it. After many, many errands in my life, I feel I have finally settled down. I really don't know about leaving a mark. May be leave a good theatre behind?


July: Dramaturgy, Open University and other ideas

A stream of visitors to the farm. The first avocados. A blitz of Bermuda cherries. A herd of wild boar who rooted around for fragrant khus-like grass bulbs. Rumours of elephants.
Then the team from Centre for Study of Culture and Society on retreat at Infinite Souls. http://cscs.res.in/

Long conversations into the night; about music, Ahmedabad in the 70's, the Identity Project, Aadhar Card. Ashish Rajyadaksha knows Konarak from that time, via the Emergency and rock concerts at NID. I first met Tejaswini Niranaja, during the research and making of Guhya, through her feminist writings, translations and writings on translation. Her idea that translation can be a tool for resistance, that used effectively, the very act of translation can be potentially disruptive, is a powerful one and has had an impact on many of us struggling with issues of multilinguality and form in contemporary performance. No more abject recipients and, further, conduits of words, but more cognizant of the embedded politics of language and text.

Woken early by squabbling peacocks, we walked up the hill to look on Savandurga by dawn. The dogs ran ahead of us, sure footed, eager, 3 patches of beige and white and one flash of black Maggi.


I've been wanting to organize and host a Dramaturgy Workshop for a while, inspired by Germany and the Boy with a Suitcase experience, and it all came together in July. Riding on the zeitgeist of all the new writing coming out of Bangalore, we gathered together, well... tremulously, is the word that comes to mind. We were: Arundhati Raja, Gautam Raja, Swar Thounaojam, Ram Ganesh Kamatham, Mallika Prasad, Kamal Pruthi, Deepika Arwind and Ruhi Jhunjhunwala. And me. Just a small group who had put out new works (that included text in English) in the last year and were interested to participate and hone our craft. Ruhi would be our scribe.

The plan was simple and open ended. I would make a presentation on Dramaturgy in general (from traditional to contemporary tenets) and thus a case for intervention between the points of writing and direction. And we would then, in small groups, make dramaturgical interpretations of 6 scripts. The framework for analysis I shared with the group was:
1. Language
2. Form
- Physical Dramaturgy
- Vocal Dramaturgy
- Musical Dramaturgy
- Dramaturgy of Silence
3. Content
4. Voice
5. References and referencing

The scripts we worked on were:
Bogeysystems - Swar (We didn't have the time for Lucky Lobster, though Swar submitted this as well)
The Wedding Party - Kirtana
Coding Music & Vydehi - Gautam Raja
Nobody Sleeps Alone - Deepika

It was bloody hard work, brave work, and yet we plowed through it, only stopping for food and chai. By around 9pm, we were about done, having presented the interpretations to the playwrights involved. Of course there was blood shed, what decent process would expect anything less.

Later in the night, Suresh Jayaram, the hugely well versed curator and founder of 1 Shanti Road made a lovely presentation on Representation of Body in Indian Art. He rooted it in the links between visual artists and performers, beginning with the outward gaze of Raja Ravi Varma's Galaxy of Musicians and taking us through G.Ravinder Reddy's giant bronzes of Telengana women and N.Pushpamala's frozen, highly referenced critiques of female stereotypes. Me, I fell in love with Anupam Sud's stage-like prints. 

Galaxy of Musicians

N.Pushpamala's The Other and The Mother

G.Ravinder Reddy

Anupam Sud


The next morning, the playwrights spoke briefly about their process and intention as a sort of riposte to the previous day's interpretations. Response, but not justification. It is an eternal battle, between playwright and director. The one's fight for autonomy and artistic independence and the other dragging in that damned fourth wall dilemma - the audience. It raises two questions immediately: Does the playwright write to keep the audience happy? Should the director care about keeping the audience happy? If we substitute 'happy' with 'provoked' there would be no argument. There is a certain sad futility associated with merely catering to an audience and the sub text of the battle is the knowledge that artistic freedom must be absolute. That intrinsic to artistic freedom, is artistic responsibility... and the rest is moot.

But hey, we don't gather for a Dramaturgy Workshop for the good times, right?! A meeting of artists with very different world views, contexts and intentions is bound to be fraught. Hopefully we took baby steps in seeking each other through close readings of text and discussions.

An issue that kept raising itself was that of 'the political'. Is the act of doing theatre, itself a political one? Are we being sufficiently responsive to our times? How has our post colonial history impacted us? How strong is our resistance through the act of theatre?

The other was transculturality. Since several of us had recently been involved in collaborations or trainings with other countries, we spoke a lot about the equations involved. It appears we haven't moved far from Said's Orientalism. Often, even a fairly exposed or evolved collaborator will err in favour of tradition over modernity, unwittingly choosing the embedded value systems the tradition also includes. Choose the mask over the face, so to speak. Let alone foreign collaborators, Mallika spoke of watching a koodiattam performance and then having someone ask if she could do the same! We asked why an urban contemporary artist must be compared to a traditional artist. Apples and pears. Why isn't a traditional artist asked to challenge the politics of gender and feudalism instead?

There were four questions I asked that we try and answer. Suffice it to say, we didn't. Well, not completely. But the questions have been tabled and we are mindful of them and struggling to frame answers in the context of a rapidly evolving Bangalore.

1. Why theatre?
2. Theatre for whom?
3. How do we deal with the changing spectator?
4. Can we be or should we be transcultural?

We ended with 2 promises from Jagriti Theatre that bode well for the future of new works. An online window for new scripts that will be actively promoted and facilitated by Jagriti. A festival of new works at Jagriti. There was also a feeling, perhaps not strongly articulated, but felt - that we should be directing each other's works. That directors, instead of looking elsewhere, should begin by directing plays that have evolved locally. If not as big productions then at least as works in progress, at least to increase community, a sense of solidarity and with empathy for each other's process.

With this, we look forward. To expanding our Dramaturgy Workshops into a public forum, open to all who are interested. To evolving modern Indian tenets of dramaturgy. To working in interdisciplinary ways. To, like Lilly in The Hotel New Hampshire "...keep trying to grow." And unlike Lilly, "...to keep passing the open windows."


The Dramaturgy Workshop peeps had barely left, when the Open University folks came in! What joy, to have so many friends at Infinite Souls in the course of just a month. To see familiar faces after so many years. Chellam Bennurkar, director of Kutty Japanin Kuzhandaigal, the seminal documentary film on child labour in the fireworks industry of Sivakasi and an old, old friend of our home. Corinne Kumar, whose very face and presence is enough to gladden anyone's heart, one of the Mothers of C.I.E.D.S collective, Vimochana and AWHRC (Asian Women's Human Rights Commission). Anita Ratnam, who I met 20 years ago, when Samvada had published the first ever study on Child Sexual Abuse in India and we used this study in the making of "My Children who should be running, thru Vast, Open, Spaces...' Srini Kaddur, wonderful man, who has a farm in Magadi and a tamarind grove not far from us and who is also part of C.I.E.D.S. Ishrath who works with Samvada. Suresh Jayaram of 1 Shanti Road who stayed over after the Dramaturgy Workshop, bless him. I had asked MD Pallavi to come as well, as she was on the cusp of both: her play C Sharp C Blunt, directed by Sophia Stepf, is one of the new works of the the year generated in Bangalore plus I thought she would enjoy witnessing the Open University dialogues. Kotaganahlli Ramiah was the one missing person, but we held his energy and ideas close. As Pattabhi's younger brother Shiv would say this group "... could have been seated at a banquet for the Gods".

This was our third meeting to forward Corinne's idea of an Open University, with a focus on justice and gender, for marginalized youth. She has the experience of running such a model in Tunisia for many years, working in the Arab world with all the restrictions of a police state. We sat beneath the banyan tree and dreamt out loud what we each wanted for this university. Inspiring to listen to the various experiences and ideas the group brought to the table. (check out their websites for a serious buzz) For me, the dream is to explore Sakshi-path deeksha, for want of another phrase. The concept of the individual as Witness. I first had this idea when I saw Amar Kanwar's The Lightning Testimonies. What would it be like, were we to understand the power and potential of each of us, as Witness? Would this enhance our sense of agency and engagement with the world around us? Would we then be less cynical, less apathetic?

We decided to make a small start with a Hunime Habba in Vardenahalli. We spoke with Nagamma, Sankaramma and Lakshmamma and asked them what they thought? How many people would attend? How does a play by Ramiah's Adhima group from Kolar sound? And some music? Janapada? Dollu? Harikathe? Once Nagamma bit, there was no turning back. So dates were fixed in November.

And that's that, right? We can only perform, put ourselves out there and see what happens next. Talk to our neighbours, Rame Gowda, Hanumanthappa and Ramchandra, spread the word, meet by moonlight and enjoy some theatre and music together. Side by side.

Sounds like a start to me.



Blogging from Germany: Frau Gronemeyer's Recipes

Sneha's Notes 
There is something simultaneously vicarious and lovely about people's recipes handed down over generations. A continuum of the senses, that transcends time. I have recipe books and notes from Konarak's mother that offer me a small window into her person. Even though I never met her, I know from her notebooks that she made menus for everything, from everyday lunches to dinner parties. eg Monday lunch: Tomato and cucumber salad, keerai, drumstick and mutton curry, rice, papads OR Dinner for MS & Vimala:  Spinach soup, cauliflower and cheese, roast chicken and caramel custard. I know she liked cooking Sri Lankan food because they had a wonderful time there when they took Twelfth Night over with Madras Players. I still cook from her Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book that her friend Malinie gave to her. I know her roasts and fish curry, learned from her father's recipes, are the stuff of legend. I know David and Doreen Horseburgh would drive down from Madanpalle just in time for one of her fine lunches perhaps of pork vindalho and yellow rice, take a nap and then go dancing at Blue Fox.

Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book
Last week Zui and I baked a Nusskuchen or Hazelnut Cake from a packet I bought in Munster! It was just stunning. From a packet! I have another packet from Germany, which I am keeping for next week, for Maulwurf Cake. This is a uniquely German combination of chocolate cake and crumbs and banana cream. It looks like a mole hill when ready, hence the name. Maulwurf means mole. But these packets are nothing next to the glory of real recipes, treasured and improved over time, by real people.

So it was a treat when Andrea Gronemeyer mailed me some recipes from her mum, Irmgard. Traditional German recipes for Apple Pie and Cherry Cheesecake. Yay!

Andrea Gronemeyer and her mother, Irmgard
Irmgard lives alone in a small village in north-west Germany. She is 87, a widow, with 7 children, 11 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. She loves to speak on the telephone with all of them.  She loves the German tradition of coffee and cake in the afternoon and always asks if you would like to sit down for same "kaffe und kuchen". And  she loves to read and to go to theatre.

Andrea's mother's apple pie:

3 eggs - beat untill fluffy 
- 150 gram sugar
- 100 gram butter
- 250 gram flour
- 1 cup sour cream
and mix it to a smooth dough and fill it in a buttered springform pan.

Peel 1 kilo apples and remove the seeds and slice it
mix it with
- 100 gram chopped almonds
- 150 gram raisins
steam it lightly
and put it on the dough
cover it with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon

Bake it for 30-40 minutes at 175 degree Centigrade

Cheese cake with sour cherry preserves

(As luck would have it, my mother gave me a jar of sour cherries. But in lieu of them I would use other soft fruit that is available - strawberry, cherry, peaches)

Mix  250 gram flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder
In the middle of it, press a little hole
Add 1 egg and 125 gram butter
Knead this into a dough

Put two parts of it on the bottom of a springform pan
cover the dough with 20 gram ground almonds

Pour off the juice of 750 gram pitted and preserved sour cherries,  drain them and put them on the dough

Mix and stir
750 gram low fat curd cheese with
200 gram sugar
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs
75 gram butter
65 gram flour
grated lime/lemon peel
3 tablespoons of fresh lime/lemon juice

Pour it over the dough and the cherrys

Roll out the third part of the dough and cut it into strips
Put it on the cake as a reticule

Bake it for around 50 minutes at 175-200 degree Centigrade

5 minutes before it is ready cover the reticule with a mixure of the yellow of an egg and water

If you try the recipes please let me know!

Love and Hug