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questions from a worker who reads

questions from a worker who reads

Bertolt Brecht

who built thebes of the seven gates?
in the books you will find the names of kings.
did the kinds haul up the lumps of rock?
and babylon, many times demolished
who raised it up so many times? in what houses
of gold-glittering lima did the builders live?
where, the evening that the wall of china was finished
did the masons go? great rome

is full of triumphal arches. who erected them? over whom
did the caesars triumph? had byzantium, much praised in song
only palaces for its inhabitants? even in fabled atlantis
the night the ocean engulfed it
the drowning still bawled for their slaves.

the young alexander conquered india.
was he alone?
caesar beat the gauls.

did he not have even a cook with him?
philips of spain wept when his armada
went down. was he the only one to weep?
frederick the second won the seven years’ war. who
else won it?

every page a victory.
who cooked the feast for the victors?
every ten years a great man.
who paid the bill?

so many reports.
so many questions.

(The illustration is a painting entitled ‘Man Reading’ by John Sargent) […]

November 14th, 2008|Arts & Culture, Personal, Poetry|0 Comments

Ajoka Theatre and the Caucasian Chalk Circle

My piece published in The Friday Times (October 24 issue)

Who is entitled to keep the child – one who is a better, nurturing mother, or the one who may be the natural mother but could not care for the child? The larger question then haunts the audience: who is entitled to ownership – the one who has the deed or the one who tills the land?

Ajoka Theatre has revived a production that was first staged twenty three years ago. A deft adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, its vernacular version, Chaak Chakkar, is a timeless comment on the viciousness of Pakistan’s exploitative culture of power politics. Perhaps the duo, Shahid Nadeem the playwright, and Madeeha Gauhar the director, would have tried to capture bits of social reality in the mid 1980s when General Zia was still the Lord Master of Pakistan. Why did Ajoka choose to stage this after a gap of two decades?

As Madeeha Gauhar explained: “In 2008 one marvels at how Brecht had foreseen the chaos, the anarchy, the shameless switching of loyalties of recent years, especially since the return of the popular leadership exile.” The seat of total power, “symbolized as Lal Mahal, is uncannily similar to Lal Masjid and Lal Haveli of our times,” she added. […]