The last weekend, was one that reminded me forcibly, of my Bong-ness. Not that I’m ashamed of it… but neither do I wave my Marxist red state - Tagore spouting inheritance like a flag. It is just another thing that is an integral part of me, so much so, that I don’t really bother about it.
Alliance Francaise had put up a play over the weekend. All we knew about it was that it was on Shakespeare. Titled “Shreds and Patches”, we weren’t quite sure what it would be about, but priding ourselves on being adult discerning population, who like assimilating new experiences, we were eager to see it.
Turned out to be a one man show about “MY Shakespeare”..or rather, the actor’s own interpretation. The Actor.. I don’t know his name.. it wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the programme. All I can say is that he reminded he forcibly of a dear “brother figure” Babuda.. from the shadows of my past… and that I’m going to call this guys A. for ease of use.
When A. opened his book and talked about his first brush with Shakespeare, I was stifling my snorts. He was a Bong, of course.. only a Bong would get “The Complete Unabridged Works of Shakespeare” as a birthday gift. I should know… I have the very same book at home, sepia toned paged made brown by a child’s dirty thumbprints flipping through it. I love reading – anything I found was grist to my mill. By the time I had hit my teenage years, I had gone through the entire book.. don’t ask me what I understood though.
The play drew interesting parallels with today’s day and age, and characters and speeches of the famous literary guru. It rambled, turned on its own head, soliloquized. My friends who went with me…hated it.
So then, why on earth did I like it so?
Because it reminded me of my school days.. when we would have two-period-long Eng Lit class, with Sumita Mashi (also my English teacher right through middle school) vainly trying to explain Kubla Khan, Xanadu, Macbeth and As You Like It.
I remembered a summer afternoon, just after lunch break. We 9 friends had stuffed our faces with all the garbage we could find in the canteen. It was Eng Lit class; a one-and-a-half-hour long phenomenon where we would strive to read (AND comprehend) Shakespeare. Undoubtedly, we were giving in, without much ado, to slumber that was calling to us.
Suddenly, we were jerked back to awareness, from full fathoms five. A deep voice was emanating from the speakers..Sumita Mashi had gotten the tape of the play of Julius Caesar, and was making us listen and “feel” the words. The whole class sat and drooled over Mark Anthony’s voice… “Friends, Roman, Countrymen…lend me your ears”.
Shakespeare colored a large part of my growing up years. He took shape in our parodies in the Teacher’s Day plays, he controlled us in the form of verses learnt – for fun… “I know more than YOU do” (in retrospect, I can only say that we were all mad as hatters).He appeared like Macbeth’s Ghosts, in my dreams, before my ICSE.
Strangest things have ways of reminding us of loved ones and memories of wonderful times…