Saturday, December 08, 2007


Usually, when you return to things you used to be intensely involved in in your hometown, they tend to have grown small and pathetic. As Neil Diamond put it: “All I’d see are strangers’ faces and all the scars that love erases”.

But happening upon news of a repertory group I used to belong to, I felt the absolute opposite. Jagriti – as it is now called – has become a Trust and a Foundation, its aims much larger, its future much brighter than the old Artistes’ Repertory Theatre would ever have imagined.

None of this is news to me. I’ve seen the plans, walked in the foundations of the building. I knew the name was going to change; my feelings were even consulted. But the reality, the enormity of it was only clear to me when laid out in unmistakable print on the impersonal pages of a website.

I’m still struggling to identify the emotions. There is definitely a swelling pride and a triumphant whoop. But there are also other things, harder to define.

This new Jagriti – a redundancy there, since jagriti is sanskrit for awakening – is a stranger. There’s another one in my mind, the Jagriti Farm where we played, worked and rehearsed, not just for the latest play, but for life itself.

From those insecure teenage years I’ve grown into a real person, with my own self, my own larger future. For one moment today I felt all my age and my distance from who I feared I might become. It was a great feeling of renaissance.

But also, across that distance, I recalled suddenly, vividly the summer scent of grapes ripening on the vines that used to grow across the road. The December morning glimpse of a field of hyacinths in the mist. And three boys cajoling roses by the armful from the neighbouring wholesalers, for the latest of their many crushes.

Perhaps it is best left, as most things should, to the words of Simon and Garfunkel: Time it was and what a time it was, it was / A time of innocence, a time of confidences. / Long ago it must be, I have a photograph.

Looking back there was much laughter at the farm, the tears were brief and few. There was creativity (as evidenced by the many ingenious ways in which the boys sought to kill themselves with Diwali fireworks), dedication (they renewed their efforts every year, in spite of their repeated failure to blow themselves up), teamwork and faith (you needed a lot of this for the elaborate system of backstage signals that were necessary in the days before walkie-talkies).

It is wonderful then, to know that the spirit of Jagriti is to spread its wings and fly wider and higher, to nurture and be nurtured by others. And so continue for a long, long time independent of us, its first graduates.

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