Play Strewn with metaphors, students take a new look at Tagore's writings

A row of chairs sourced from a primary class of a school, a set of drums that you'd associate with sports day and a dozen pair of denims greeted the audience that gathered at the Oxford bookstore, The Park. “We didn't buy any props for the play. We looked around the school storerooms and classrooms and brought along things that would suit the play,” says theatre director Parnab Mukerjee. Giving the audience an idea of what to expect from Parable of That Post Office, he says, “Tagore is not the property of Bengal and neither are Maqdoom Mohiuddin and Faiz Ahmad Faiz the property of Hyderabad's Old City.”

Parable of That Post Office is a departure from Tagore's acclaimed play, The Post Office. Designed to be performed for an intimate gathering, the 44-minute play opens with students holding up placards that remind us of varied but disturbing events of the century — Gujarat 2002, Irom Sharmila, anger in Manipur, Delhi 1984, Gaza strip, 26 years of Bhopal, Kandhamal, Mullaithivu saga and more. A lone voice sings ‘How many years can a mountain exist before it's washed to the sea?'

Snatches of Tagore's writings, particularly poems from his book The Gardener, blend with a few lines of Telugu poetry as students tackle a gamut of issues — from the ‘Munnabhai'sation of Gandhi to the mindless rat race for IITs and IIMs.

Parable of That Post Office succeeds in urging us not to make Tagore appear mundane and boring. A line in the poem goes, “We have succeeded in importing Shakespeare but failed to export Kalidas.” Tagore, it underlines, thrives in his Indianness rather than just being an author, playwright and a poet. A point well made, even though at times the play bordered on being abstract. The post office remains a metaphor, leaving the spot light for fragments of reports on contemporary issues.