Artist, writer, disaster

A review on “Binodini Opera” the Play, with some further self narrations

After a rather hectic last week of September, my aunt and I decided to go watch a play at the theatre on Saturday the 30th. She too has been busy ever since her arrival in Kolkata and both of us wanted to wind down. After much internet surfing, we found one play that suited our forte. “Binodini Opera” written by Abanti Chakraborty and co-written by Sibashis Bandopadhyay has been hitting the waves recently so we decided to check it out. Initially my mother wanted to go as well, as she read great things about the play on Facebook, and so we booked three e-tickets. Unfortunately she couldn't make it, and now I'm jealous of her. Because witnessing that play might just have been the worst theatre experience in my life so far.

After two hours of travelling through almost every other transport there is in Kolkata, we finally reached GD Birla Shabhaghar. Not gonna lie, it's a good place. A very photogenic interior and good air conditioning. However they were not allowing us to carry water bottles inside, which was pretty inhumane if you ask me. I still sneaked in a bottle of mine without notice. I tend to get rather parched at all times so I need some water to wet my mouth and throat. But that's besides the point. After collecting our tickets, aunt and I had a photo session. Following us other people started amateur clicking as well, as if we gave them some confidence. We waited for half an hour or so outside the hall before finally being let in.

The audience, in big halls like these, are divided into tier categories based on what amount of ticket we purchase. We were in the Gold category, and in front of us were the Premium. It was surprising at first to see the Premium completely filled up and the Gold being half empty because while booking the website had shown that the Gold seats were almost full as well. However, by intermission the concerning bit changed its reason for being so concerning in the first place.

The play started quite late, around half passed six. That should've been our first red flag, but it wasn't. Instead it was the first two minutes of the play. They started with a song as an intro. Live music with instrumentalists at the back and the entire cast on the stage singing the song. My only detriment is that I waited. I waited way too long in hopes of it turning around and somehow becoming a good play. But from the very beginning it wasn't and I should have seen that coming.

Noti Binodini is the finest most prestigious figure in Bengal theatre. Bengal theatre flourished because of her, and yet her life was full of pain and suffering. In the last year of my Bachelor's degree in English, I had to study her autobiography. Reading her words opened up an entirely new world for me. My respect for her increased immensely after gaining more knowledge and clarity and my love for her character was immortalised. Thus, to see such a terrible misrepresentation of her on the stage made me feel utterly visceral and I ultimately felt that I could not stand it. After the curtains fell for half time, my aunt and I decided to leave.

But before we get to the end of it, let's discuss the nitty gritty a little.

As the name suggests, the drama was a rather poor attempt at a musical. Dialogues were all over the place and the beginning didn't even make sense. Neither of the actors had a voice or throw of words you'd expect from theatre artists. Everything was rather bland and things seemed off. Nothing was connected, neither the events nor the actions. The play started in medias res and tried to make up for it by quickly summarising the backstory through feeble dialogues, which was an absolute disaster. Actress Sudipta Chakraborty was not a good pick for the role of Binodini. Girish Ghosh was portrayed even worse. The relationship between the both of them was not established beyond a guru-shishya state and that bothered me because of its inaccuracy. At some point they decided that making Binodini dream about acting as Lady Macbeth would be a great idea and then that went downhill trying to portray it on stage. In a hall full of appreciative clapping that felt like well practised cues, my aunt and I were sitting abysmal, impatient, and dissapointed. At the end of the day, there was no creativity. All they did was adapt the autobiography of Binodini Dasi herself but made a terrible interpretation out of it. Even the stage design is not worth appreciating.

Our entertainment fiasco of the night came to an end when aunt and I decided to set off homewards as soon as the bell rang for intermission. As if we hadn't witnessed enough drama already, the bus that we got up on brought our worst nightmares to life. Definitely at no point during the two hour ride home did we feel like we were going to survive. It almost felt like we were running away with all our might from the disaster that ruined our evenings. But the torturous journey somehow felt deserved, as if we'd brought this doom upon ourselves.

I wish popular theatre troupes did not use other popular pieces of literature in vain in their dramas that don't relate to the topic or genre. The Lady Macbeth scene was entirely unnecessary. The genre of the play itself was unclear actually. Was it abstract? Was it absurd? Was it a musical? Was it not? At no point could I answer these questions in my head. I've never trusted Facebook reviews myself but I've trusted mother's opinion. It disheartens me to see her being proven wrong this way. What a waste of time it truly was and I never wish to experience something like this ever in the future. Do I recommend watching “Binodini Opera”? Absolutely not. Are you free to disregard my opinions? Most definitely. But here's a warning: heed your actions, lest you suffer. 'Netflix and chill' would be a much better option in my opinion.

365 days around the sun with(out) you You're here.........you are, Near but far, far away from me

I imagine your touch burning me I imagine your unfathomable soul caressing my cheekbones In the dead of night Lying beside me Gently Holding me

I imagine your softness coating me Engulfing me whole as I reach out with my soul To yours To be yours Wanting you to be mine

I'm thine, mi amor This heart? Not mine This mind? Divine, unaligned. You shine upon me like the moon

You aren't the moon But you're eyes are like stars in the sky I've longed to reach for. You form my huntress shape, My haunted drape transforms into beauty

My bow and arrow reaches for you And thus reaches for me too I pierce us with the countless spirits of lost souls that walk the earth I pierce us together, until only we remain In this domain

Two hearts entwined You smile Your soft cheeks in mine. I'm a coward, still scared of speaking the words out loud But you know You've always known

You can read my actions like I can read yours I need not speak while you breathe You need not answer while you listen to my bosom rise and fall Under your pressure Measure Thy soul with the palm of my hands And tell me I don't speak the truth

Do I not speak the truth? To love you so I've waited 365 days, To tell you so I've waited more Would you not believe me so if I spoke the truth?

Would your hands withdraw? Would your cheek? Will I reek of the rotten smell of the dead fish left far too long in the garbage bin? Will I perish?

I'm scared, you see And I think you know 365 days around the sun with(out) you But all I want is this The want of a touch The want of a caress The want of a hug The want of a kiss

Take away my fear And replace it with you, please Take me away With you, please.

This experience was more than a year ago.

I was on my way to college, sitting on the left side of the bus, the ever doomed “Ladies Seat”. Funny thing is, I've come to find this side of the bus most comfortable. Especially the third seat from the door. In most buses, it's always perfectly aligned with the windows, and does not have a raised platform beneath the foot for the tire, or a locker under it or under the seat in front of it that can stop the feet from a spacious movement. And it's a field day if I get a window seat in a more or less empty bus. That means I get to enjoy the windy ride without sweating or having to worry about getting sick while blasting my favourite song of the month in my earphones.

Unfortunately for me though, back when this event happened, I didn't look like someone who would occupy the “Ladies Seat”. I looked like someone who would occupy the General Seat. My hair was short, I had a mask on, the kurta I was wearing was very masculine and did not show enough of my bosom for the prying eyes regardless of gender.

Now let it be known, since then, I have grown out my hair and do in fact, at will, pass off as what is considered to be “Female”. I don't hate how I look. But I do hate the unneeded perception of me sometimes. But, I'm now less bothered to think about what the others are thinking of me. I can present however I want, whenever I want, whether it be fit for a Ladies Seat or General Seat or no seat at all. But a year ago, I was not so confident.

And so the time came when the bus stopped and a couple got up. I'm not one to make judgements but later I felt like they were probably not the kind of people to be aware of the existence and occurence of a gender spectrum on a daily basis. The husband, I assumed, thought of me as someone who should not be sitting at the Ladies Seat and, for the lack of a better word, was taking up space for his precious wife who was very much fit to be sitting in the Ladies Seat. She was wearing a burkha head to toe for all I care, but again, I'm not one to judge.

So ofcourse, the manly man of the relationship proceeded to ask me, “Bhaiya, Ladies Seat me kyun baithe ho? Apka jagah nahi hai, uthiye!” In a semi-rude and semi-protective tone. (*Translation: “Brother, why are you sitting on the Ladies Seat? Thats not your place, get up!”)

If I wasn't so busy wondering how to answer that question, I would've appreciated the camaraderie. After all, any husband in their right mind would not want their wife to sit on the Ladies Seat beside someone who should not definitely sit on the Ladies Seat, especially in this day and age. But ofcourse, that wasn't the case for me. I was taken aback, and I spent a good few seconds in my head processing his words and trying to come up with a good way to answer.

I quickly deducted that I had three options :

Option 1: I could tell him that I was a woman and that he should, respectfully, fuck off. But that would be a lie, and I'm not sure my dysmorphia was capable of handling it properly.

Option 2: I could get up and give his wonderful wife, who definitely deserves my seat, a place to sit. My introverted self was very happy with this idea, but my lazy ass was not having it. After all, it was my very own comfort seat, the perfect one in the whole bus. Why should I give it up so easily?

Option 3: I could speak up. I was not sure what I would say, but I felt that atleast if the husband heard my shrill voice scared by his masculinity, which very much did not resemble the voice of someone who sat on the General Seat, he would put two and two together and let me go and find another seat for his wife.

Mind you, this thought process went through my head in the flash of a second. So obviously, it wasn't nearly enough time for my survival instincts to work to it's fullest potential. Therefore, I ended up putting my mask down and revealing my face and staring him dead in the eye in confusion. It might have looked like I was challenging him or something but deep down I desperately hoped that my not-so-unsuitable-for-a-ladies-seat facial features could at least give him a hint to leave me alone, for I did not find my voice to speak. Thankfully, a lady behind me came to my rescue and hinted at my non-existant femininity to the husband, who then adjusted his eyes in seeking out my docile curves beyond the black Kurta I was wearing –which I bought from the male section at a mall– and quickly apologised. He even smiled, and then left with his wife to go towards the back of the bus.

Once he was gone, I put the mask back up to hide my own smile. If I was confident about my femininity, none of that would have made me smile. If I was confident in my masculinity, none of that would have made it difficult for me to communicate. But I am neither. I'm just a gender disaster, happy to be mistaken as someon who at first sight did not appear to be fit to sit on the Ladies Seat.

// On bonds held by lose stitches

Two days ago I went to the print shop I know the owner for 5 years now He was playing “Chithi Na Koi Sandesh” on the radio It reminded me of a story my mom told me Of my dad, after his dad passed away And he used to play The same song while sitting all alone in grandfather's rocking chair in the verandah It made me wonder Who was the print shop owner missing that day?

This morning I sat down with mother to peel some tamarinds It was my first time doing so But I'm a fast learner, a kinesthetic one too She didn't need to teach me for too long I've read about animals grooming each other as a form of showing a love Monkeys, chimps, gorillas. Mother puts oil in my hair sometimes. But unlike most mothers, I have to request her to do it (Not the other way round) I wonder, if today made us closer If I showed enough love.

We were walking, brother, father and I Towards the river. On the road we saw two kids playing with paper and scissors They were cutting heart shapes out of ruled papers They were sitting on the footpath I wonder, if their hearts were as white as those papers.

// Basically I finished Broadchurch, the BBC show, and had to get this out of my system

I found summer in your violences I found claustrophobia reckoning me Beckoning me To hold on And do right by you one last time In this love we bound each other in I found a one sided road to your garage And when I arrived there it was empty But the keys were on the floor Keys to a parked car in my dreams And you were on the driver's seat while the passenger's was empty I was on the road ahead And you were driving full speed with headlights blaring Mind glaring, I screamed And you heard me but didn't heed So here I was lying face first on the wooden floor instead of a concrete road And the stars shining up above could be seen through reflections of my pooling blood all around me Without having to lift your head up, up, high up and gaze at the clouds Beyond the roof, beyond the many floors over our heads A wooden floor under the open sky A car parked on the side An accident, a murder Deliberate Honest I thought you promised, I thought you promised.

There are parts of my skin that need itching Parts that need to be bitten There are parts that need to be cut And parts that need to be beaten

There are parts of my skin that need to be stitched There are parts that go low Like valleys and mountains and cities within There are parts that glow

There are parts of my skin that are boundless Stretching as far as the ocean untamed There are parts of my skin that are trapped Eternally in a void so endless

There are parts of my skin that have never been touched By someone unknown, but someone trusted There are parts of my skin that have been violated all over Bruised, cursed, blamed and rusted

There are parts of my skin that have never seen the sun There are parts that have never seen the moon Parts that have never felt a breeze But have always longed for them to happen soon

There are parts of my skin I have kissed There are parts I need to be kissed There are parts I need for someone to cherish There are parts I need to be worshiped before they perish

I have parts of my skin that are incomplete And parts that will repay the world's debt tenfold I have parts of my skin that long for promises unbroken And hold the record of a history forever untold.

Kaleidoscopes are good at judging people Their reactions to the shifting colours will tell you why they laugh and why they cry Oh restless soul, leave this hole before you fall in love with the city Sitting in a photo gallery is a comment on society They'll frame the lives of those infront of you who have never touched a camera before And force you to appreciate it as Art They'll look at your face expectantly As if asking for affirmation “This is moral, right?” “I did it correct, right?” “You love it, right?” Oh restless soul, leave this hole before you fall in love with betrayal

I'm sorry to the flowers I trampled along the way While I ran for dear life, far far away I'm sorry to the lily pads I carelessly jumped upon When life threw arrows at me while my mind was gone I'm sorry to the buds that died under my feet For I didn't have time to stop nor had time to treat I'm sorry to the cherry blossoms that went unnoticed When I was too busy reading a tapestry, unfocused I'm sorry to the wild ones that got tangled in my ankles Because I never reached out so you pulled me with shackles I'm sorry to the roses and the tulips in the hay That got left behind by a lovers dismay I'm sorry to the ones I've thrown at the feet of idols For I'd have only known devotion like a fifth grade recital I'm sorry to the unborn ones that perished under terror I wasn't there to stop it, and I wish life was fairer I'm sorry, beloved rhododendrons, I'm sorry to the moon I'm sorry I clung to you without melody or tune I'm sorry, dear rafflesia, no one appreciated your worth You had to feed on dead carcasses, yet not symbolised with rebirth.

She is a hint of green in a sea of blue She sees cracks on the glass as spider webs She has headphones on, not to drown the silence outside, but the loudness inside And her hand shakes every time the housefly lands on the cup of coffee sitting in front of her Long forgotten Gone cold

There are four cars outside the cafe window Parked in a neat row Their blinkers are on As if they're about to take a turn when the signal goes green Except there is no signal And there is not turn. The road on goes straight ahead And at the end stands black fur and yellow eyes Yellow eyes that feel like dual muzzles of an air rifle Pointed right towards her forehead No aim, no goal, just the suspense Till the trigger is pulled She finds herself not wanting to fight it She has seen people fight But she's not a fighter, no matter how much everyone tells her that she is She doubts herself every hour of every day She doubts all her relationships except that with her brother That one, she doubts the next day

She wishes people would just tell her That how truly alone she was That no one really cares about her She wishes people wouldn't lie about liking her There's nothing to like about her She has given it all away, has let it perish There's nothing left within that rusted ribcage of hers which is missing the last two floating bones Her insides are broken, battered, bruised And she wishes there was someone to whom she could show it all Open up and fall apart and break in their arms Only for them to pick her right up along with all her pieces She wishes she was not alone But she doesn't want to be not alone She wants to live, not die And she wants to be sure if the trigger will be pulled at some point after all She wants to be sure that she isn't the one pulling it She doesn't want to kill herself She wants to live As long as someone else wants her to as well, until her time is up And she wants to try her best till then.

She thinks of a climax, the last scene in her very own play And she wants to say goodbye to only her brother He's the first one that comes to her mind, And then she imagines her loved ones looking at her corpse long after the trigger is pulled Long after she was unable to say her goodbyes She wants to cry at the fallacy of it all But there are no tears left to shed So she drinks her coffee instead And drowns her worries in it And pretends that the cars outside the window aren't about to make a u-turn away from her life

She finds a string, and pulls And she holds onto that tightened string She doesn't want to let go But she wishes the string would snap on its own Letting her freefall.

He's walking He thinks of a poem while he walks He wants to write it when he goes home But will he be able to? Will he remember it with the intensity and flow it has in his mind right now? He doesn't ponder upon the thought though That's not what he wants to do.

He's in a lecture, a seminar And he drifts off He wants to be present He wants to show an expression of relatability on his face to the speaker in front of him The author, of a book he didn't care to remember Or ask, Was so vulnerable. (He could never do that) Instead he's thinking about that poem The room is cold It makes him want to sleep There is a bag on the table And the handle is hanging off the edge It's disturbing He wants to fix it It's not his bag Intrusive thoughts are winning

He's always been asked the right questions But given the wrong options to choose from They never give him the correct ones, only check instead if he has courage enough to choose the common one. He always wants to add a secret third correct option to the question paper Which he wants to tick with black ink Before submitting But that is never the case He regrets it He regrets the futility of it

His life is a mess of plugs and sockets In and out and off and on He runs the risk of getting electrocuted But he doesn't care enough to dwell upon that thought If the world wants to take him, he will let it Why anticipate?

Loud rock music blasts in his ears No one around him can hear The person sitting beside him can't hear the loud screams beyond the rock music His loud screams, that muffle the rock music His ears ring with so much noise With so much loudness It's unbearably calm

The bus keeps turning He clutches onto the bar on the seat in front of him He doesn't want to fall, doesn't want to lose balance Doesn't want to let his body be defeated by the momentum He's trying his best His monthly Midas touch, rapidly rusting away, screams at the top of its voice Much like the music He's trying his best His father begs His mother is dissapointed But he's trying his best

There is a beast on the footpath Running alongside the bus It wants to outrun the bus Seems as though it is giving the run all it's got It's giving the chase it's best shot He feels like a prey But in a competition with the predator much smaller than him He's not to be eaten But to be challenged He feels like he's going to lose. The bus wins, obviously It's a manade thing But does he?

His life is filled with accidents Drivers at fault Passengers at risk Never the other way round For once he's lucky that he's not to blame His life is in the hands of those who know less but act like they know more He doesn't care He can't bring himself to care If he does, it will drive him mad And he can't afford to do that He has to stay sane For the world's sake He has to stay sane

He walks with a limp in his leg He thinks about how The things you do to die are far easier than the things you do to survive And he limps He bumps into a friend who pulls him into an orchestra Or perhaps a circus There's someone dancing at the center of the stage “Look,” he's friend says, pointing towards the dancer. “What is he doing?” He asks. “Composing his next Best Seller.” His friend answers. “A novel?” He asks once again “Are you serious?” His friend nudges, “A play!” And he watches the composer in action

The playwrite with half lidded eyes dances to an unsteady rhythm that somehow he knows He recognises A foreign tune he heard somewhere Maybe in a forest, maybe in the gym It's a tune he knows too well but can't quite place He limps forward and there's no one to stop him He doesn't want to be seen by the dancer, Just wants to observe his effortless movements It's almost as if he's floating Somewhere along the way he thinks he himself becomes the dancer With an audience to watch him He makes them happy, he feels happy doing so

Somewhere along the way the lines blur His head tilts To survive becomes to die and to die becomes to perish and to perish becomes the reason to be reborn He doesn't want to be reborn Oh but he must For that's the rule of existance He wants to dance in this endless loop of existance instead And pretend if only for a second That he is alive, for nothing but himself. Alive and free.