‘The Storm within…stories of abuse’ performed at The Park Hotel raised awareness about some pertinent issues through the powerful medium of theatre

The weather was perfect for a supper theatre performance outdoors. The audience settled down in their seats with a drink in hand, nibbling on sushi and an assortment of canapés. However, that was as comfortable as they were going to get all evening as the play ‘The Storm within…stories of abuse’ directed by Mala Pasha of The Torn Curtains, Hyderabad dealt with some very uncomfortable issues.

The play, an adaptation of Meri Kahani written by Umbreen Inayet and Mehreen Ponja was based on research interviews of South Asian immigrant women in Canada. It consisted of six stories, mostly monologues, of women who have been abused by those closest to them.

The stage was set as a living room and invited the audience to come in and listen to stories that are not often spoken about in living rooms. The actors brought to light issues such as homosexuality, gender, domestic violence, harassment, abuse by in-laws and how people often do not recognize that they are being abused.

The performances addressed the helplessness that homosexuals feel when they are forced into heterosexual marriages and the long years of suffering in a marriage they agreed to, so that their family would not have to face judgment from society. One powerful monologue told the story of a eunuch and the way they are labelled by society and treated as outcastes although they have a celebrated history and are even called upon to bless functions.

The play succeeded in making the audience sit up and experience the pain and angst that people in such situations feel. Powerful dialogues like “The dark red mehendi on my hand now stained with dark red blood from the first time he hit me, ” shows how women are subjected to such treatment immediately after their marriage.

Just as the audience began to feel that these were issues that did not concern them as individuals, the play began to talk about the harassment that women face everyday from their in-laws and husbands. A heart touching dialogue between a lady who had moved overseas after marriage writing back home to her mother, showed how many fear talking about the situation at home as they believe that what happens behind closed doors must not come out. The lady’s mother counsels her by saying that these things happen and she must learn to deal with it shows how over generations, women are trained to accept being scolded by their in-laws and are tortured mentally. The woman craves to spend more time with her husband and kids alone but is unable to as her husband is caught between striking a balance between his wife and an overprotective mother.

The performances were bold and did not shy away from using profanity and graphic descriptions. The play definitely struck a chord with the audience as the discussions about the play continued over dinner after the performance.

Mala Pasha says that she wanted to do such a play as many believe that abuse does not exist among the educated and the city’s elite and is a problem faced only in a certain strata of society. “Indians have the habit of brushing such issues under the carpet. It is high time people discuss and recognize abuse and support those who are facing it.” Using theatre as a medium to highlight these stories makes it very real and personal as the audience can connect with the characters better. “One play may not make a difference but it takes many drops that make that ocean and therefore we have made an effort to create awareness,” she says. One must not ignore the desperate cry for help by saying “such things happen in our society… deal with it.”