Mothers’ Day Mosaic

So many designated days of the calendar have an apparently frivolous function. Mothers’  Day may appear to be one such- so the onus is to endow it with personal meaning, and imbue it with a relevant combination of nostalgic tribute and personal introspection.

My departed mother, Dr Louella Lobo Prabhu was a creative genius who enjoyed her share of fame in her allotted span of life, even as she deserved even greater recognition and renown. Traditional maternal instincts were perhaps secondary to her ardent pursuit of the creative life and performing arts, but her versatile span of activities and endeavours is my deepest inspiration. More than ever today, I revere her as my greatest role model, and feel grateful for the privilege of proximity to such a unique and gifted human being.

Mothers’ Day ought not to be limited in its focus on biological mothers. Many of us have known maternal surrogates who have nurtured us with the overflow of the parental spirit. Foremost of these for me was my beloved grandmother Dorothy Anne Castelino, who is a role model in my own affectionate indulgences with my children. A mother-in-law can often transcend the traditional stereotype to emerge as a compatible and caring individual. Though departed from our lives, I affectionately remember my husband’s mother Manjula Mehta – her lavish gifts, excellent cooking and most especially her valuable lessons in the care of my firstborn.

There are often enriching gifts of affection and encouragement from empathetic female elders – aunts, educators and mentors whose presence can make a significant difference in one’s life. It’s fitting also to appreciate those who embrace motherhood, not via the womb, but as a conscious decision of the heart as adoptive mothers. There is the often overlooked nobility of those who look after the orphans and marginalized as caregivers in the concerned and compassionate manner that deserves applause on Mother’s Day, beyond the automatic respect to biological labels. I would even include single fathers in this category. Not long ago, a habitation of eunuchs in India was gutted by fire, and many of these unfortunates with gender constraints perished. There was some controversy about awarding compensation to biological parents, when it was discovered that deep familial bonds existed in this complex and marginalized sub-culture. The surrogate attachments of offspring and parent can arise in almost any circumstance.

Mother figures, even in the abstract, have a certain impact on our lives. The most significant of these, of course, is Mother Nature, whose unbounded gifts are taken for granted to the shameful point of abuse. When you think of it, figures like the Virgin Mary and the Mother Goddesses of different faith systems translate to the spiritual realm of humanity’s trustful experience of the benevolent maternal spirit. One may appreciate also the benign mantle of educational institutions in achieving personal growth from the affectionate honorific of Alma Mater, Bounteous Mother.

With regard to personal parenting, one finds it is not even the dilemma of Kids versus Everything Else, but often the precarious tightrope walk between Kid A and Kid B, guided finally by whose need is greater at a point of time. It’s also a delicate balancing act between heeding their need for a parent’s presence, and giving them the space they simultaneously crave for personal evolution.

Even as I’ve benefited from multiple maternal figures in my life, I equally see my maternal instincts as being highly expansive in nature.  The family pet is like another child with a special place in my heart. I’m conscious of a vast reserve of affection for my children’s friends and peers – a warm pleasure from interaction and a steadfast empathy with their concerns. The more troubled they seem the more I gravitate to them, often to the annoyance of my own. Equally, I feel grateful to all the wonderful ladies who’ve been there for my children in my absence- boarding house mothers, friends’ parents and many mentors.

Motherhood lends a peculiar combination of firmness and fire to the spirit – look around you at a parent-teacher meeting, and you will find mothers in a majority. I myself have never been short of articulation, whenever I felt children, (including or excluding my own) deserved a better deal, often leading to fruitful synergies for general benefit. My frequent speaking engagements in youthful fora, and forays into writing and directing Children’s Theater are an extension of the maternal role, inspired by the idea of positively influencing young lives. Likewise, the philanthropic spirit for me is strongly rooted in finding one’s own children mirrored in others, that prompts participation in feeding programs, educational sponsorships, various forms of assistance and reward.

Beyond my own species I also find myself expanding to a maternal sense that  sees in every creature an entity once rooted in family, capable of the gamut of sensations in pain and pleasure that humans manifest.  It’s a daily ritual, wherever I am, to venture out and feed the homeless creatures of the neighbourhood. Good mothers urge children not to waste anything on their plates. My own take is different – I firmly believe it’s a criminal waste to let inevitable leftovers rot in a bin – there’s always a hungry creature that can benefit, if we take the trouble to move out of personal comfort zones.

My ideal of parenthood increasingly embraces larger realities, like the environment, because I have to rationally envisage the kind of place that my great grandchildren and their descendants (or for that matter all present and future creation) must endure if we are thoughtless in this lifetime.

Here’s a warm wish on Mother’s Day, 2012 to every individual who has acted in a kindly capacity, with a heartfelt message to persevere in making the world a more thoughtful place.

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Mothers’ Day Gathering

A gathering on Mothers’ Day at an animal welfare shelter might have been unusual, with little apparent connection to a calendar occasion that principally celebrates human mothers.  The event was to cut a ribbon for a facility for pregnant homeless animals and their litters who have a rough time in public places, and later integrate them with the Animal Birth Control Program.

Speaking on the occasion,  I noted the happy co-incidence that an article of mine published on Mothers’ Day last year called “ Love that Transcends Boundaries” makes a plea for the expanded application of the maternal mindset. Animal lovers would surely relate to the experience of cradling a young or injured animal in our arms, and the words “ my baby, my little one” spontaneously emerge in offering re-assurance. Animal Planet thoughtfully has a Mother’s Day Special to celebrate good mothers in the animal kingdom, but I’ve always felt an instinctive oneness  with a mother of whatever species- whether a lioness seen on safari in Kenya suckling her cubs, a bird painstakingly building her nest, or the rather common sight of a stray dog valiantly fending for her pups in streets and gutters.  The facility is named ” Matruchaya”= the ancient Sanskrit word for a mother’s protective shade.

I had another personal point of meaning with the Mothers’ Day event. My late mother Louella Lobo Prabhu was revered as a creative and intellectual person in her lifetime. She also stirred up my earliest sensitivities towards animals. Her wide reading shared with me at a very young age cruelties of testing on animals in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and automobile industries, against which I still remain an ardent opponent. My childhood was  not only enriched by pets at home and shelter given to animals who gravitated to our surroundings, but I was inspired by the example of a leading public figure who thought nothing of stopping the car to buy bananas for a performing roadside monkey. She gave me an exposure to literary classics like ” Black Beauty” which told powerful and poignant tales from an animal’s viewpoint.

Matruchaya’s board meaningfully proclaims its goal of “ Extending Family Bonds”, because the furred and feathered also deserve an opportunity to feel secure. We may have factually experienced that a puppy taken away before its time from the litter has behavioral problems. And we ourselves may have been touched to witness the bonds of tenderness and playfulness that bind a litter, quite akin to that of a human family.

But there is yet another relevant extension of this beautiful idea. Earlier this week, I was reading a book on Zen which thoughtfully says the universe is not a brutal whole whose parts are engaged in a survival of the fittest. Rather there is an inter-connectedness among all living creatures. I also recall a teaching of the Dalai Lama that each living being is connected with every other through familyhood in millions of past births. Notional constructs perhaps, but eloquent appeals to practical demonstrations of the compassionate spirit.

At the very least, we must perceive that animals surrounding us  gave up their independence and wildness to become friends of human beings. We ought to repay what one may term that “ evolutionary debt” with protective and compassionate actions, by integrating them into the larger spirit of earthly familyhood.

Right now, in Ukraine which is hosting the European cup, the merciless massacre of street animals is happening- I just signed an online petition to try and stop the horror. Amidst the carnage and heartlessness around, the activities of welfare  organizations like Animal Care Trust in my city stand out as a beacon of hope and appeal to the heart that beats in all of us.

I have been deeply influenced by Thic Nhat Hanh’s ” The Art of Power”  which says we are at our most powerful when we are compassionate. My hope is that every person present at the gathering would be a role model of the  nurturing spirit, with enough kindness and courage to reach out to a living being in want or pain. The hope is for those who will lead their fellows  in compassionate power, to inspire the greater growth of caring communities.

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A Shudder From The Ocean

I remember where I was when the tsunami of 26.12.2004. devastated much of  coastal Asia. I was hosting a birthday party for my mother, the last time I would enjoy that privilege because she died a mere month later. We had no inkling of that then, but news of the killer wave rather sobered our celebrations. Last year, the continuing catastrophes at Fukushima glued one to television sets, but for all one’s horrified  empathy, there was still undeniable relief at being far away from it all. India’s west coast has been a serene sanctuary, substantially spared seismic turbulence, both from sources of land and sea.

Which is why the tremulous earth on April 11, 2012 took one by surprise. It was for me a day like any other, defined by a quota of things to be done, and irritated at anything that interfered with desired routines. A little before lunchtime,  I felt that distinct instability of perception, like the computer screen wavering in front of me and my chair  moving without any  force on my part. Visual fatigue, I surmised, and shifted to a sofa for a break. The sofa appeared to have a life of its own; I distinctively sensed a movement that felt like the gentle rocking of a boat. It was a surreal moment of not knowing whether it was a touch of vertigo or imagination… And perhaps I would have continued with that sense of confusion, the feeling of having hallucinated, had I not received a call to leave the building, joining all those who had felt the shudders too.

Mine was not a moment of heart- stopping terror probably experienced by some. Clarity came in by and by that a massive earthquake had happened beneath  the floor of the Indian Ocean near Aceh in Indonesia, 8.6 on  the Richter scale, one of the strongest in a century, with after shocks of 8.2 that had this widespread and frightening impact. Television screens assured one that this was not an isolated experience, but something widely shared by people in elevated places and high rise buildings in many parts of South India. A tsunami alert was in place, even though it was later understood that the clash of tectonic plates in this instance resulted in the widespread horizontal movements  reaching us thousands of miles away rather than the vertical displacement of water that culminates in a tsunami.

With the hindsight of no damage to person and property, one can count it as one of incredible and unforgettable moments, definitely for the personal store-house of interesting experiences. But the dividing line between horrific disaster and life as usual is very thin. It was a rare encounter with the cosmic which we ordinarily accept in  benign form- the sunshine that warms us, the rain that revives us and all the millions of unseen phenomena that sustain life on the universe. The  tectonic plates in the ocean floor that made intimate contact  with one’s living space were a rare brush with cosmic  aberration. A thought that like human beings having a bad day, cosmic elements can have their tantrums, mistakes and negative interactions.  A wake up call that there’s more to the stuff of geography texts than we  regard as relevant for our ordered lives.

The shudders in the earth will be faint memories as life regains its customary momentum. The forces of destruction and recreation constantly happen, and in the vast unknown, universes constantly die and take new birth. Our planet and our spot in it are probably too minute for a particular disaster to matter in the cosmic timeline.

There’s a popular tendency to regard the universe as a notional ally in one’s activities, a reciprocal partner of our emitted energies. As a personal construct, this probably works well to maintain self-confidence and to give a motivational spin to co-incidence. But it’s our encounter of the inexplicable negative event that humbles  human arrogance,  making illusory our sense of being in control, of believing we can appropriate the universe for personal ends. There’s an immensity and intricacy out there we simply cannot command or take for granted; we can only be grateful when it’s life as usual.

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Millennia ago, volcanoes erupted here. When the sound and fury died, hot ash mixed with water to create a soft stone called ‘tuf, further evolving with the action of wind and water to fantastic formations. From the vantage point of our basket in a hot air balloon, a wondrous landscape floated before our awed eyes. From our aerial view, it surely seemed as if  the spires, turrets and domes that feature in architecture are presaged in these monoliths of Cappadokia in Turkey. A cocktail of champagne and cherry juice celebrated our descent to a fragrant earth.

Later in the morning, these geological marvels were viewed from a ground level. They had a function beyond the visual- the soft stone was pliable to the tools of early civilization. A visit to the museum in Ankara had acquainted us with the achievements of the ancient Hittite civilization which had flourished in Anatolia. The Hittites were famed for breeding horses here, and  appropriately Cappadokia derives its name from Greek words for the ‘land of beautiful horses’.This was also a place where the most exquisite pottery took shape. Ancient workmanship still survives in local pottery factories whose wares dazzle the eye in their glaze and interesting shapes. Pigeon Valleydescribes a place where pigeons were reared as winter food; in summer their droppings served as a natural fertilizer.

The town of Avanos took us to a later stage in cave dwellings. The Roman Empire held sway here- when Emperor Constantine introduced Christianity in his realm, the caves would be redefined because life here centered around the new faith. An entire community of  Christians made their homes within the caves. Communal living is evidenced with a long natural stone table, and another arrangement for baking bread- a forerunner of the ‘Tandoor’ which originally hailed from these parts.

The caves  included sacred places of worship. These cave churches have beautifully painted icons in varying stages of preservation. In many cases, there has been defacement owing to a movement called iconoclasm, which sought to do away with imagery in worship. The “SnakeChurch” has an interesting painting of St. George slaying the dragon, akin to a large snake. The “ Sandal’ Church is so called, because of the ancient practice of removing sandals during worship. Domes have been moulded into the ceiling of caves and adorned with paintings of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saints, Evangelists and Fathers of the Early Church.

Some distance away, we visited an interesting underground cave city which probably served as a hiding place from persecution for the early Christians. The engineering to provide utility within a natural structure was quite ingenious- stone doors easily closed by a single person from inside were inviolable to a mob outside. There were living quarters for families, places to thresh flour and bake bread, press and store wine.The caves are on different levels like a present day multi-storey complex- we descended to 4 levels from above, often in crouched position. I imagine a  substantial portion lies unexplored below.

If volcanoes erupt, can thermal waters be far behind? Beautiful Pamukkale was the logical continuation of our journey.In ancient Roman times, the city of Hierapolis flourished around these springs. An important element of the city was a Necropolis, with elaborate tombs and burial chambers. A great Roman Bath with the name of Apollon serves as a natural swimming pool for tourists. An impressive theater and marketplace conjure up essential aspects of an ancient Roman city. Cats greeted us in various areas of these monuments.

Pamukkale however most enchants for its spectacular and singular natural beauty. In Turkish, its name translates to mean “ Cotton Candy Mountain.” Water from the clear springs flows down a series of calcium carbonate terraces called “ travertines” with the external appearance of ice and snow.  This is probably a live process of marble formation, and not surprisingly, we would gasp at the beauty of innumerable marble sculptures at  the  neighboring ruins of the ancient cities of Aphrodisias and Ephesus.

Water in these rock pools  reflects the shade of the sky in surreal beauty. A tender blue during our visit, it can equally reflect the orange or crimson of a sunset and the inky blackness of night.

Some hotels in the area have been built around a natural hot spring, and the PAM spa where we stayed was one such. Luxuriating in that natural heat seemed to chase all cares away.  The mineral rich mud that we daubed ourselves with was delightfully therapeutic.For a while, we spread ourselves on warm rocks as hot streams gushed under us and steam rose to the night sky. Music drifted to us from the open air restaurant below. From above, we were bathed by the mellow light of moon and stars. Poised between the serene sky and the turbulent dramas of the earth’s underbelly, it was a rare moment of magic and mystery.

My poem “ The Path of the Volcano” in an earlier book “ Aerial Roots” carries the line                      “ The volcano will gain its devotees.” The natural legacies of volcanic eruption are phenomena to marvel at  in the awesome artistry of these  cave cities and calcium terraces. I hadn’t known about these amazing places at the time of writing, but enthralled  visits to Cappadokia and Pamukkale, the offspring of volcanoes, validate the imagined truth of that line.

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Whispers from Within

It was my late mother Louella Lobo Prabhu who unconsciously passed on to me the passion to be original. My youthful years were about knowledge and erudition. She discounted them for the greater challenges and achievement of being true to one’s own thought processes and creative faculties, of being original rather than repetitive, whatever the value or validity of someone else’s work.

To repose faith in one’s capacity to be original can be daunting because one is humbled by the profundity of what has gone before. What gives one courage and confidence is that as long as we live life, in all its variety of events, people, objects, natural phenomena we are capable of highly individual responses .

The point is to develop the self-confidence and courage to articulate, and even go against the grain of collective thinking from personal conviction. The individual ‘ gut’ feeling is often the starting point of original thought, that reposes trust in the power of one’s own understanding.

‎”Know thyself” said a philosopher, Socrates I think. “Trust yourself” says me, reposing faith in inner antenna for trying to make individual sense of life. My confidence on this flows from my experience as a writer and public speaker. It’s amazing how the most unlikely subjects provoke a stimulating examination of personal experience for arriving at a general relevance. This approach has never failed so far in providing me with original thoughts that readers or listeners relate to, even if they are sometimes contrary to general or even specialist opinion. It may not necessarily be the right opinion for all times and places or people but perfectly true from personal experience at a point of time.

To illustrate, I recall a recent event where I was the valedictory speaker of a National Literary Seminar where the inaugurator,  renowned and veteran novelist Shashi Deshpande, asserted that despite  the changing times, the lot of the Indian women hadn’t changed( or so it was reported in press coverage) . Though a recent debut author, I enjoyed the courage of my strong individual opinions. My own  ardent message was that while problem areas exist, Indian women  have much to celebrate in terms of achievement, that as writers we must look beyond themes of oppression to explore the intriguing and fascinating psyches  of women and people in general. To buttress the latter point, I had an example in that very morning’s newspaper of a mother and daughter  who had colluded to kill the spouse/ father in violent crime. Both Ms Deshpande and myself expressed valid personal convictions, from the standpoint of not absolute reality but relative positions. Indeed it is the relative position of place, time, social setting, combined with the inner make up of imagination and  passion that contribute to the totality of experience that finds itself in individualized self-expression.

As a matter of principle, I never write or speak what I haven’t personally sensed to be right for me, because I believe convictions should be rooted in authenticity. When a meeting point between one’s inner and outer world happens, the resulting whisper of original thought can outshout the loud cliche.

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Easter Explorations

Every festival of whatever faith or culture is capable of a message of general relevance. The festival of Easter with all the ritual days preceding it has its own universal significance, regardless of whether  an individual’s rationality can accommodate  physical resurrection of the dead when viewed outside the paradigm of unquestioning faith.

It’s interesting to note that  various mythologies contain the prototype of the Christian resurrection story. In Babylonian myth as deciphered from a tablet in the British museum, the god Bel ( Baal in Hebrew) is taken prisoner, tried in a great hall, taken to a mount and executed, descends the mount and disappears from life, to reappear amidst wailing women, revealing many parallels with later Gospel narrations of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The universality of the resurrection construct across various cultures  is perhaps rooted in the longings of the human spirit for immortality and invincibility amidst the varied circumstances of life.  Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ enjoyed particular resonance amidst the slave and subject peoples suffering the cruel excesses of the Roman empire, with the burning hope of dignity in this life and a benign afterlife in the next.

Maundy Thursday finds expression in Leonardo da Vinci’s  “The Last Supper”, a popular and universally known artwork, even if the creator of this masterpiece is believed variously to have been outside orthodox Christianity as a Freemason or Knight Templar. It commemorates the collective breaking of bread with an underlying message to reach out to the deprived, diseased and disadvantaged of the earth.  This mandate of universally reaching out  in human  empathy was an unusual deviation from the self-contained structure of   Hebrew society at the time. It is very appropriate that this cosmopolitan sense is re-inforced till there exists no sense of otherness with different but equally valid faith and belief systems.

As Christianity took firm root in the Roman Empire, the idea of a risen Christ had to be merged with prevailing pagan festivals that celebrated springtime as a renewal of the earth.Easter eggs and bunnies were fertility symbols that would be appropriated in popular celebration of a hallowed event.

Synonymous with the life giving bounties of Spring, the spirit of  Easter should  have its own worth for our environmentally troubled times. Thoughtless depletion and wastage of resources form part of a grim big picture of floods, famines and climatic disasters through the phenomenon of global warming. To love one’s neighbor has a wider implication today- it could be an unseen person on another side of the planet who must bear the brunt of  one’s destructive over-consumption. The sense of sacrifice and self- denial inherent to the preceding  Lenten season  fits in well with conscientious consumption patterns to be carried over in the longer period to renew the earth and promote socially responsible actions.

Good Friday which precedes Easter is a reminder that life is a mixture of sweetness and bitterness, that sad experiences  come with their own hope of wisdom and renewal. Easter  symbolically can be regarded  as a call   to rise to our better moral selves. In a general sense, we may aspire to the higher reaches of human potential, to transcend mortality with relevant impresses of enduring worth in this life itself. The Easter story is the ultimate inspiration towards  dramatic reinvention of the self for riveting transformational possibilities.

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A Feminist Playwright

  Louella Lobo Prabhu  commenced her impactful literary life as a novelist in her teens with “ The Quest’  which was serialized in a magazine. Interestingly, this is not in an Indian setting, but in an authentically British one, faithfully recreating the world of famous  classics that she admired as a student of literature. Its protagonist, unusually is a male, JulianDelafield. The young novelist detours the world of law, the British foreign office, the second world war and the performing arts in an unusual  philosophical quest.

It is as  a dramatist that she should be appropriately remembered on such occasions as  Women’s Day. She was perhaps inspired as a playwright by  Hendryk Ibsen’s drama  “ The Doll House’, with its eloquent plea for a woman to be valued as an individual and not as a man’s plaything.

Her stupendous dramatic corpus of 42 plays was the subject of academic dissertation and theses even in her lifetime. She will also shortly feature in an authoritative  anthology of Indian dramatists. Some of her published dramas exist, and many more enjoyed stage performances. New publications and re-prints could be expected in the near future.

One of the most notable features of her work is its focus on strong female protagonists; they are intelligent  women who work around their circumstances for a greater good.

 “ I Have a Dream ”- her first play,  ( a one act Musical  in 4 scenes ) was written and extensively performed by women’s colleges during International Women’s Year in 1975. Its protagonist  is  Lisa, a dedicated anti-cancer researcher in pursuit of life saving drugs with significant sacrifices on the personal front .

No Greater Love– (a one act Musical with six scenes), spotlights the extreme personal sacrifice of a brilliant and promising college girl amidst a background of turbulent inter-personal relations.

Razia, Queen of India is a very interesting historical treatment  of India’s first woman monarch, one that shows her as intrepid in battle, independent in love, and novel in her secular and benevolent vision towards the ruled.

The Lute Player– A Musical for children  gives   a feminine twist to the age  of  medeival chivalry. Queen Hope, disguised as a wandering minstrel boy,  rescues her captive  husband from the cruel yet strangely music loving King Anacreon.

A Blossom Fell  is a  radio play on the gifted but tragically short existence of Bengali poetess Toru Dutt, written and  performed in 1976, for AIR Calcutta.

Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan are torchbearers for people with disabilities in  A Hidden Treasure, and it is Ann Sullivan’s feminine intuition and perseverance that wins the battle against Helen’s multiple disabilities.

Once Long Ago in Bethlehem– A Children’s Musical , written and first performed as a radio play in 1980 for AIR  Calcutta, on the adventures of Miriam,  and her life changing encounter with the Christchild’s family and the Three Kings of Orient. The intelligence and talent of the orphaned Miriam are an interesting counterpoint to the dilemmas of the pregnant Mary, mother of Jesus. It  was modified into a stage play and performed with a cast of 100 children as actors, singers and dancers  after the playwright’s death in 2006.

In  Woman in Shadow, Mary Todd Lincoln is shown as a steadfast helpmate in President Abraham Lincoln’s fight to emancipate the slaves, contrary to prevailing notions of this American first lady’s personality.

Clara Schumann in  Broken Melody displays an extreme fidelity in marriage to her mentally ill husband, the composer Robert Schumann, utilizing her own celebrity status as a pianist  to popularize his then lesser known music on the concert platforms of  the world that would give him lasting fame.

My Brother’s Keeper centres around Esther, a brilliant  Jewish woman’s personal strength and capacity for sacrifice amidst the horrors of Nazi Germany.

A comedy  Show Me the Way to Go Home  is about a mid-life home-maker who seeks to improve herself and save her marriage at the same time.

Tomorrow’s Headlines  centres on the spirited young journalist  Shefali, who takes on an unscrupulous mining baron in a  courageous  investigative scoop. Pitted against a corrupt  media establishment, she soldiers on for her journalistic ideals, supported by  a handful of  upright individuals willing to stick their necks out for a good cause.

Deep in My Heart- examines the complex issue of race relations through the touching sacrifice of Laura Lane, a British teacher with great affection for the country of her adoption, during the First War of Indian independence.

When The Twain Meet– re-visits the freedom struggle, seeking to redefine the idea of  conflict in drama as not between good and evil, but often  between equally worthy viewpoints. The drama of Indian independence is viewed from   contrasting perspectives- of Sonali, the Bengali aristocrat who takes to Gandhi’s way, her brother Ranjit who embraces extremism, and Sonali’s English fiancée Nicholas , an ICS officer who does his difficult job with a strong empathy for India.   The focal point is undoubtedly Sonali. Torn as she is between love for Nicholas and her native land, she will only accept him when India is free and they can meet, not as ruler and ruled but as equal individuals.

The women protagonists of Louella Lobo Prabhu are perhaps not your women next door, they are rather  idealized prototypes:  remarkable achievers to serve as role models for other women’s aspirations. They are meant  to inspire other women in their struggles for identity and the quest for equitable relationships. Interestingly, the male leads are rarely seen in opposition  to ladies-  Lisa’s admirer Krishna, Nicky the ICS officer in “ When the Twain Meet”, Arun the IAS officer in “ Tomorrow’s Headlines”, are sensitive and empathetic men, true soulmates who support their high minded strivings and wholly worthy of these strong and talented ladies. Ethical principles combine with  a strong achievement drive and individualist streak in her heroines.  She seeks to make the point that exceptional individuals attract and deserve each other for a better society to happen. It’s also encouraging that her plays imply also the supportive function of feminine bonding between ladies of comparable ability, as mentors, confidantes  and friends.

Taking a cue from ancient Greek dramatists, she believed entertainment could be combined with a social message. In a preface to one of her plays, she opined that liberation must come not from men, but from age old social and cultural conditioning that limits women to traditional roles.Her work is a plea for understanding that a woman’s need for constructive achievement is as great as the need for love. Liberation for the woman would be the meaningful new maturity of equality, that values  personhood over accessory status. Accordingly, her  themes and characters project the hope of  women in wider horizons of activity.

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