15 March 2009


Finally, I watched a play by Neil LaBute. I heard about this playwright about 3 years ago when his play, "Fat PIg" was doing the rounds in New York City. Since then, its been a long fight to get access to one of his plays, a movie based on his play or books on his plays; somehow all of these were either booked or checked out with a mile long list of people wanting to subscribe to it. But this week, I got my wish and watched his play at the Bush Theater

The theater itself is quite special with a narrow staircase leading to a small room with an U- shaped seating arrangement. There were only 3 rows of seating and not more than 50 seats, making it an intimate performance. This play was a monologue, with smoking on stage! Now this was something I wasn't prepared for. Sure the ticket specified this as did the usher, but it was still unsettling when 5 minutes into the play the actor lit up. Nerd that I am I actually counted the number of smokes: he ran through 5 cigarettes in a 70 minute performance. 

I dislike smoking and smokers, which is why I have spent better part of a afternoon understanding the smoking ban imposed by the Indian Government. So it was quite difficult weighing the decision to watch this play. I couldn't pass up the offer cause I didn't think Neil LaBute's racy plays would ever premiere in India so I had to take the chance. Surprisingly, the smoke didn't bother me at all. I had opted for a 3rd row seat to be as far away from the smoke but I think the actor must have used a brand that didn't permeate the room. It did get me thinking though - What if this actor didn't smoke, but had to, just to play a part? and this got me thinking about acting in general. As an actor you have to play parts and take on personalities that are far away from your personal beliefs so it must be a hard job. I also wonder if it is easier to play roles that are perceived to be socially or morally superior, like playing Gandhi or King of Siam vs doing roles of Gestapo agents or slave traders. Brr... I am just very happy that I have job where my personal beliefs are very well aligned to the work I do! 

Coming back to the play. Wrecks was a story told by a very talented actor (Robert Glenister). It was played beautifully, the story told in conversation style with a very fine smoke ring thrown in to charm the audience. This was Labute play though, so I knew something bizarre was about to happen and it wasn't till the end of the play, as we clapped for an encore did it finally hit me. I don't want to reveal the spoiler but all I can say is that it was scripted so subtly and played so well that a big whopping aspect of the play didn't hit home till I left. This was a powerful new experience - a feeling of disbelief long after the moment has passed making you wonder if you really did hear it right. Luckily I went with a friend so I could confirm what I heard. In most plays the audience reacts: laughter for the comedy bits, sighs for the sad moments and strong gasps for the shocking bits. We had the laughter and the sighs but no gasps and it was particularly ironic since what was revealed wasn't acceptable by any moral standard. 

What more can I say?  Can't wait to see another LaBute production and would recommend the playwright to anyone who enjoys intense theater. 

14 March 2009

Annie and Frank

Actually I am quite sure that is not what their real names are; nevertheless, they are the highlight of my running expeditions around Regents' Park. 

Each weekend I do my long runs at Regents' Park: the glorious garden which caters to many runners, cyclists and walkers in central London. As I round up the outer path I first encounter the Keeper's quarters of the London Zoo before hitting the ticket box. Depending on how late I get there the narrow path is either deserted or filled with prams, children running wild and exasperated parents as they wait for the ticket office to open. After delightfully dodging this crowd my heart sing a high note as I peek across the road to the Giraffe enclosure. There they are: Annie and Frank. The first few times I ran around the park I was too early to catch them but lately my timing has been perfect. Their keeper usually opens their stalls and Annie saunters outside. Frank is a bit wary so he sticks his head out of the stall munching on morning oats or whatever it is that they eat. Most often I find Annie out and about enjoying the morning sunshine or cloudiness (this is London after all) while Frank watches her having a good time.  

I have decided to run the half marathon in Edinburgh on Apr 5th. This is the first time I have trained alone, without the joy of sharing the blisters and adrenalin with a team; it's been challenging to be running 5 days a week by myself. One way I get through my long runs is by keeping exciting things along the way to look forward to - an art I perfected during my Washington DC full marathon where my dearest friends L and E as well as family alternated at various mile markers to keep me going. At Regents' Park I use Annie and Frank, a milkshake shop and fields of daffodils to keep me going. Spring is here so my running is accompanied by the glorious tweeting of birds; the males are shining their coats and practicing their arias for the mating season. It truly inspires poetry but luckily for you, my reader, I cannot compose a ditty to save my life! Here's a picture of daffodils that may instead, inspire you to go out there and run.

8 March 2009

The auntie process

I have recently become an auntie to two girls. Although I am not an auntie genetically I certainly feel a level of emotion that I have never felt upon hearing about a baby's birth. This is my first time of potentially having a role in the upbringing of the next generation - of baby sitting, of day out with kids, of bedtime story telling etc. I have to cautiously say potentially because the babies born are very far away from me right now and I don't know when I will see them but see them I will.

Becoming an auntie by phone has presented a couple of things for me to mull over. The first was - what do I want to be called? I had thought of this before and settled on mausi : the north-indian term for auntie, specifically, the mother's sister. Both my nieces though are through my connection with the father so technically this couldn't be applied yet I felt the most comfortable with it. One thing I was most certain of was that I don't want to be "Megha Aunty" because it makes me feel like I am off to a kitty party and will only stop by to pull on the cheeks on my nieces with the compliment "Cho Cheweet". Also I am in the process of discovering my culture and indianizing my language abilities so I thought settling for an Indian version of Aunty was the way to go. The choice therefore was either Chachi, Atai, Mausi, Mami or Chikkamma. I went for Mausi because I am a sucker for alliterations. Mami was eliminated because it's Aunty in Hindi but grandma in tamil. So, Megha Mausi I have become.

The next vista that this new relationship has created is one that relates to gifts. Now I have to make my foray into knitting afgans, looking for sales in Baby Gap and figuring out what size goes on what baby age group. This is vastly challenging because I hate shopping; it is very rare that I remember my size when I visit a store so stocking baby information is going to very tough. I might have to create a little black book of info or outsource my gift buying. Making the booties isn't too hard if I didn't worry about what colors the moms like for their babies. Now I have to watch out for the baby and the parent's interest.

Looking forward to a whole new world of experiences with babies!