Sunday, April 27, 2008

sukh aur dukh ki kahani

the title of this post is also the title of a show i saw yesterday at the culture project as a part of women center stage. "sukh aur dukh ki kahani, a journey of love, risk and loss," brought on a sense of unknowing and/or not understanding was part of the entire process at the show yesterday. andolan, a non-profit founded by and for low-wage south asian women workers, brought five women together to tell their stories of struggle and to empower themselves through performance. the result of their own self-explorations is a powerful show that exposes the truth of the variety of immigration and u.s. living experiences of south asian descent. i think (and i know in my own experience as an imperfect and often ignorant person) that south asians often are placed in the model minority pool along with east asians. it is very rarely (if ever) that we see s. asians portrayed as financially struggling unless the movie or film is actually set in s. asia and the character is a beggar or servant, or it is wartime. in u.s.-set movies/t.v. shows/novels, south asians most often suffer from being overlooked in the professional sector, or are mocked for accents and cultural differences, but there is, as far as i know, no real portrayal of low-wage domestic workers of south asian descent. south asians are also often seen as legal immigrants, not illegal ones.
"sukh aur dukh ki kahani" explodes all of those stereotypes. there are four languages spoken in the show- english, bangla, hindi and marathi, and of those languages the director only speaks english. two teenage interns provided translation for the women across their language barriers, and the show was created by the women across their differences to speak out against violence. at the beginning of the show the director made a point to welcome the audience to fully experience the discomfort of not understanding, and to try to connect to the emotion in the women's performances without full translation. key phrases and words were displayed on a screen in english, and the program provided basic english translations for the five stories shared.
in the q-and-a, one man asked whose stories the women were sharing, and whether or not they were written collaboratively. it was explained that all of the women were sharing their own experiences, and the courage it took for them to get up in front of all of us became all that much clearer. to speak of being in the country illegally, to speak of escaping from your abusive former employers' home, to speak of losing two infant children to hunger in front of 100 strangers is, i'm sure, terrifying, and the grace and strength the women brought to their words was beautiful. andolan will be trying to take the show other places in the future, so keep your eyes open. they also take donations, so if you're looking for a place to share your resources, check out the website.
i thought of this poem by audre lorde as i left the theater yesterday, so i'll share it with y'all~

the brown menace
or poem to the
survival of

Call me
your deepest urge
toward survival
call me
and my brothers and sisters
in the sharp smell of refusal
call me
roach and presumptuous
nightmare upon your white pillow
your itch to destroy
the indestructible part of yourself.

Call me
your own determination
in the most detestable shape
you can become
friend of your own image
within me I am you
your most deeply cherished nightmare
scuttling through painted cracks
you create to admit
me into your kitchens
your fearful midnights
your values at noon
into your most secret places
you learn to honor me
by imitation as I alter
through your greedy preoccupations
through your kitchen wars
through your poisonous refusal
to survive.

To survive.
To survive.


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