Pune three. Pune is a whole other kettle of fish. It is one of the satellite cities of Mumbai, a four hour drive past mountains, over rivers, past lorries, motorbikes, coaches, people carriers and taxies screaming past us and less often, us past them. I fall asleep for most of the journey. Something of the rocking on roads, regardless of how bumpy, lulls me to sleep. I wake up when we stop outside a filling station/food court and, for want of a less patronising phrase, it looks 'authentically Indian' same clash of bright colours, of patterns, aroma and sounds, tucked into the humid night. It feels so familiar, so picturesque and typical of the exported idea of India, that they oddest thing about the experience is the Korean pop song 'Gangam Style' blasting from a bad speaker. We are staying at a university campus for our time in Pune and there is a music festival going on. Rob and I go down and attempt to get our individual grooves on to the band, but it finishes quickly and we return to sleep for the night.
In the morning, I'm dropped up at the British Library in Pune which is similar to the Free Word centre in London, and prepare for a morning of 'media interactions' - essentially, interviews with various journalists. The first guy I meet is Rohan Swamy, about 22years old I think. I am first struck by his name, which I hastily mention was used in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Rohan successfully hides the yes-I-have-heard-that-many-times look on his face, but a hint of it comes out of his voice. It is raspy, quick and his English is brilliant, perhaps better than mine. I like him instantly and we spend about half the interview talking about him and his work. He promises to send me a short story of his and we step outside for pictures, shake hands and he leaves. The next journalist is more reserved and old fashioned in the sense that he does not record our conversation, but makes small notes as we talk. The final interviewer just hands me a white sheet of paper with three questions, points a digital SLR at me, pushes the record button and asks me talk. I do so. We shake hands and downstairs, I wait for the taxi to take me to the theatre and arrive to find Rob hard at work.
The theatre is beautiful but the stage is too far away I feel, to easily recreate the sense of intimacy that The14thTale truly comes to life in. It worries me. Despite how well the show went in Mumbai, I am nervous about clarity and meaning, how parts of the show turn on a single word and if it is lost, the moment is lost and as both writer and performer I want to try and avoid this at all costs. I begin to think of the text and how to make it more local. Are there any words I can can ground in India? Are there culture references that have equivalents here? I find that though 'Lynx' is the prevalent deodorant in England, here, it is 'Axe'. They do not use 'McCleans' as much as they use 'Colgate'. I change 'tubes of red acrylic paint' to 'bottles of red paint', 'supply teachers' to 'substitute teachers' and after the cue-to-cue check to ensure the lights and sounds are working in order, there is 10 minutes to warm up before the show goes up.
The show goes down to a round of applause. It is by far the hottest space I have ever told the story in. The fans were switched off as they interfered with the play and in the dressing room afterwards, my shirt is entirely and supremely soaked with sweat. I collapse into a chair in the theatre after the show and thank the audience members who stayed to see me. I sign a few books and thank Marukh. Without her the show would not have happened, she runs a theatre company and school here, helped with marketing and a part of me thinks her blood flows through everyone who came. I think of her as the unofficial mayor of Pune. She seems to know everyone and their mama. Marukh, I say, I'd like to see a doctor; there is a swelling between my chin and my throat that seems to have sprouted the day I landed and steadily grown bigger. It is late Saturday night but Marukh reaches for her phone and calls a doctor who happens to be her neighbour, who isn't in town, who calls his assistant, who comes to meet me the following morning at Marukh's house.
She lives in a closed compound as colonised by greenery as it is by mopeds (the default mode of transport in Pune) and dogs. The young doctor arrives, grabs the girth under my chin, pokes and prods it, says it is a glandular infection, prescribes some medicine and leaves quickly, Marukh thanking him for his swiftness as an aunt might thank her nephew. I get a taxi to the pharmacy and race back to the campus for the first of the two workshops I am to deliver today. The first starts 40 minutes late and I rush through the 'Poetry for Performance' workshop and get another taxi to the the second venue for the 'Crafting Personal Narratives' workshop. This goes much, much better. I break down themes, personal experience, structure, inciting incidents, trigger, conflict & response, climax, resolution and return. I explain how all stories have this structure but they are remixed, reordered, told from multiple perspectives, in multiple of ways and there are such things as open endings that don't tie up the story, but suggest there is more to come. Endings such as this one...