robertisenberg

India: 4

In India on September 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm

India 5

To complement my play, Chai, performing this week at the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, here is an essay I wrote about India for InPittsburgh in 2000. These photographs were taken during my five-day sojourn in Chennai and Mamalapuram. Chai is produced by the Theatre Factory and is directed by my esteemed colleague Christine Pini. See www.pittsburghnewworks.org for details.

Naresh stops and turns suddenly. “I have two sons,” he says. “They have gone to university. They study architecture.”

“What do they do?” I ask.

“Nothing. No jobs here. A man I know in Germany try to find them design job, but he calls and says is too hard to earn visa. If we are rich, maybe. But for me, no.”

As I stumble back to the road, listening to Naresh’s broken narrative of warriors and priests, the land seems so stagnant. Even the Pallava lighthouse, which used to signal merchant sailors from around the known world, is stunted and fallen apart, dwarfish compared with the tall colonial lighthouse just a few meters away. Time and again invaders have battered the Indians, until all the lower castes know is poverty and servitude.

I see Raj’s cab down the road, and he waves. I shake Naresh’s hand and give him 300 rupees – 50 more than his fee. As if an extra dollar is going to find his son a job, or bring the tardy monsoons. We drive off, weaving around motorbikes, nearly hitting tired vagrants, but stopping fully for every meandering cow.

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