The last leg of The14thTale is to Ahmedabad in the Gujarat region of India. Right after the workshop at Pune, we hop on a plane and Rob, Preeti (of the British council) and I fly to Mumbai to meet Christina my producer from Fuel, and we carry on from there to Ahmedabad. It is further up north and the weather is cooler, such that we reach for jackets as soon as we exit the airport. In the morning, we go to visit the theatre. It is called Natarani and it is an outdoor amphitheatre. I have never performed this play outdoors and all sorts of new fears assault me. I began working in theatre after a bad experience in Glastonbury Festival where I read poems to a drunk/high/wasted audience who cared nothing for words, with rain, wind, far off bands, screams and loud laughter crashing into me, I ran to theatre because indoors, I could control silence, sounds, light... even smell. Natarani meant none of that and during the first sound test, the passing traffic, rustling trees, dogs barking and birds arguing above bested my voice and we agreed that I would use a stage mic. Rob gets to work and Pretti and I leave for a little bit of shopping. Ahmedabad is known for having the best fabric in Gujarat and the shops do not disappoint. It is tough to choose. The clothes are earthy coloured, patterns are just DOPE! I buy scarves and shirts for me and mine, and we hurry back to the hotel to rest before arriving at the theatre for the show in the evening. Before I am to tell the tale again, there is a tryptic of India dance performances, the first is classic, others contemporary. Christina sits beside me as these masters take the stage, the women wear marine-blue fabric adorned with bells and intricate jewellery, just stunning, the light and their movements are precise, each muscle controlled to perfection. The audience roar and backstage, I thank them for their work. 30 minutes pass and it's my turn.
It is safe to say that I have troubles. I am not accustomed to using a microphone. It keeps slipping down or up my face, or rubbing against my skin. My throat dries up in the night air and the lump between my chin and throat grows irritating during the play. I try to focus, to tell the story rather than 'act' the story. I take my bow, thank the audience and disappear off stage not entirely pleased with myself. When I surface, Rob who controls the light and sounds says simply 'that was hard work' and I nod. He has seen the show more times than anyone and knows it well. To everyone else, the show went well and I thank them for their compliments. Dinner is served on a gorgeous restaurant on a rooftop and the next morning I go to the British Library in Ahmedabad for my workshop.
There are about 20 participant, all of them female. The one guy who turned up freaked at their numbers and disappeared. The workshop is on imagery and metaphor and I focus on 'Litany' a poem by Billy Collins (google it, there is a three year old kid who recites it from memory on YouTube) and the participants get, and love the poem, such that towards the end, it descends to chaos as they suggest their own interpretations and I have to yell to get them back on track. After I break down the construction of is poem, the task is to write their own versions of this poems and they come up with some stunning stuff. The lady who makes the peace sign below, writes about Facebook and keeps us guessing till the final line on the final word.
After the workshop, it's a whistle stop to the hotel to grab bags, dash to the airport, fly to Mumbai, land and get to a clinic to see yet another doctor about the alien life form growing behind my chin. In the waiting room of the private clinic, Preeti and I talk and I discover that we have much, much more in common than I thought at first. The conversation is deep and shallow, personal and general, poignant and playful. She speaks about her husband and family life, I swap similar stories and soon, we are the last people in the clinic. The doctor calls and he is an old friend or Preeti's. He examines me thoroughly, prescribes my medicine and I thank him for his time. We stop by a pharmacy. I spend my remaining rupees on medicine and though it feels far too soon, we say goodbye to Preeti and part ways promising to cross paths once again.
I type this on a Piccadilly Line train back to my home after a long flight. I will meet my sisters and parents and give them gifts, tomorrow, I shall meet my lady and do the same. Weeks after, two or three at the earliest, I imagine my subconscious will spit out an image that is symbolic of the last eight days. Perhaps in its dissection, I will discover an epiphany. Something bright, patterned, hot, spicy, that reeks of people and place, perhaps it will hold a poem.