Honestly, I have never watched any stage plays. Well, just a couple maybe. Never had the luxury, never had the time. But in the past few months, I’ve been witness to two productions by IIMACTS… and trust me, I’m hooked for life. No brownie points for guessing that they are the theatrical society at IIM A. Their latest production, Ilhaam, which roughly translates to 'Inspiration', got me thinking…
The story of a middle-aged man, known to the world as Bhagwan, the play beautifully portrays the constant tussle between myth and reality, order and chaos, the said and the unsaid. The play must’ve meant different things to different people. For me, it symbolises the travails of being different, of not confirming to society, of finally achieving the enlightenment one only hopes and prays and begs for. It symbolises the greatest irony of our life, when even though we profess uniqueness, we are infinitely scared of everything that is different.
Simply put, the play depicts the constant struggle of the mind to be free of all bounds, yet its fear of letting go… The play had it all, it made me cry, it made me fret, made me fear contentment… I sank to the ground with Bhagwan, I danced in step with him.
Ilhaam also gave me food for thought. I could identify with the protagonist at so many levels. Have we never taken decisions that would help us fit in with the crowd? Are we not afraid of looking at things anew? Afraid of challenging what is established? From deciding on what to wear, right up till what profession to choose… all our decisions are dictated by the societal norms. I’d be lying if I claim that these choices have never been thrust upon me. Though choices make us feel like masters of our own destiny, but are we really free to choose?
One of the most poignant moments of the play was when Bhagwan loses his ability to communicate with the outside world. He is happy as long as he inhabits his own utopia… he lovingly chides a bird, has heart-to-heart conversations with a speech-impaired beggar. However, his sheer frustration and fear at not being able to talk to his family, at not being able to get his message across, at seeing his own kids run away from him with terrified shrieks… it is enough to make even the strong-hearted cry. His agony is beyond words. Have we never felt the same helplessness? Have we never felt as if we’re being pulled down under… a leaden weight tied to our ankle… pulling us in the murky depths of the plain and the ordinary? Has our soul never thirsted for the novel? Mine has… and it has felt the same anguish as the protagonist did.
The scene where he takes his “medicine” tugged at my heart. He knows that it hurts him, knows that it numbs his true senses… but he still bears the agony. His love for his family is his sole guiding light. It is his motivation, his destination. The way he reasons with himself over why he needs to take that medicine is akin to how we pacify ourselves when we let go of something that we truly desire. It is how we fool our mind into believing that All is Well (Yes, 3 Idiots).
However, the one thing that I’ll forever remember the play for is the protagonist’s dance. The slow foot movements, with the sudden jerks up towards the sky, as if the soul wants to break free from all shackles of society… it made my heart melt. It was in that one moment that I truly understood what my struggle is all about.
As I close this post, I find myself humming it…yet again.