Meet the Cast of 5 Weeks
April 7-23, 2017
The Lab Theater
Thurs through Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 2:30pm
"Before becoming involved with "5 Weeks", I didn't know my own history. I was never taught about the Partition in school and my own family seldom talked about it. The Partition is a powerfully formative and incredibly painful memory for anyone who experienced it. It's barely even history yet. My grandparents experienced that violent and divided landscape, they experienced everything leading up to it, and they raised my family in the aftermath. It's a point of pain and shame and extremely complicated consequences that are not acknowledged or spoken of.
I came to participate in this journey of "5 Weeks" in a serendipitous way which allowed me not only to explore my interest in being part of a growing community of South Asian artists, but also allowed me to learn more about who I am and where I come from. This play allowed me to expand my understanding of the generations which came before me with greater clarity; and it allowed me to recognize how important it is to tell this story so that we may never repeat history."
I am here in this play because of the Theme, 5 Weeks, of Partition when our own people got uprooted and separated. My husband was born in Lahore in 1946. When my in-laws left Lahore it was burning into flames. They saved themselves and reached Khemkaran, a village in Punjab just 40 kilometers from the India-Pakistan border. We still have our ancestral home there. Dr. Manchanda always wanted to visit Lahore but could not. It is sheer coincidence that my character's story is of Lahore and I am reliving the memories shared by my family. This is what pulled me to this play.
I dedicate my performance to my dear husband who would have loved to see me play this role. He is the one who gives me strength to play this character.
I had deep-rooted desire to act. By the grace of God and blessings of Swami Chinmayanandaji, I got this opportunity. I hope and pray this grace continues and I am able to do justice to this character.
My heartfelt thanks to Pangea team and the cast. Hope that this play brings out the message that goodwill and oneness of human beings always prevails despite all external differences. The British could divide the land, but not the goodness in the hearts of people.
"Though my family never had a personal impact due to partition, I grew up seeing and facing it's ugly consequences.
The unnecessary hatred, the mindless communal violence and the uncomfortable vibe between the communities is something that exists even today.
It is unfortunate that our education system has done nothing to eradicate that. I hope through this play we are able to show people as humans and not just as products of our religions.
Although I do not have a personal story to share about partition, I would like to share the fact that my great-grandfather was a true follower of Mahatma Gandhi and firmly believed in Gandhiji's principles of truth and non-violence.
My great-grandfather led the subpart of the struggle that got independence, but the benefits were hurt by the divide and rule of British policy. Centuries of cooperation and cohabitation were destroyed by creation of fear and religious division.
The sacrifices made by my great-grandfather, his family and many other freedom fighters inspires us to be tolerant and secular.
My paternal Dada (grandpa), who is 95, experienced partition while he was in college at Lahore. He was brought up and raised in Amritsar, but had moved to Lahore to study medicine after getting a sports (Kabaddi) scholarship.
My paternal Dadi (grandmother) was back in Amritsar at that time. He recalls going back to Amritsar while he was in college to bring my Dadi to Lahore before the partition had started to take place.
The bus ride to Amritsar was full of tension as the murmur and talks of riots were spreading around already. He recalls leaving the house behind and all their belongings with it. As my Dadi and Dada reached Lahore, they decided to stay at a relative's place until things settled down.
This was as concise of a story as I could get from my Dada before he went on to talk about his Kabaddi days!
Nazma Ahmed, my paternal grandmother, was born in Calcutta, where her family lived prior to partition. Her father was an architect for the British government.
She told me about the men and women being taken away from their houses by the mobs and the trucks full of corpses passing by their house. They lost everything. The house was looted and burnt to ashes.
They took the train to Dhaka, East Pakistan at that time. After moving to Dhaka, they were often called “ghoti” and discriminated as refugees in Dhaka. She got married few years later to my grandfather. She settled down in Dhaka. After all these stories, I always wanted to know more, wanted to be part of it.
My grandfather was an orphan who was brought up by his aunt and became a very successful doctor in the town of Bagerhaat, Khulna in present day Bangladesh. He and his family had to leave overnight and give up their life and move as refugees to Kolkata in 1947.
Stories about how shellshocked they were to find out that their home and land, where they were born, was no longer India and was carved out to be then East Pakistan.
How my grandfather, the only adult male member of a family of 13 women, navigated safely to a land that was as strange and as new as any other, how they moved from a 'haveli' and sprawling land to being cooped up into a 2 bedroom house in Tollygunge...how they started from nothing....and how within 18 months of moving to this new land the young doctor passed away - leaving behind a family that was left to fend for themselves.
But it was a story of not only immense pain, sacrifice, and hardship but also a story about the human spirit.
I, Joydeep Kumar Haldar, want to dedicate this to my grandfather Bijoy Krishna Roychowdhury through this brilliant piece of narrative created by Meena Natarajan and directed by the brilliant Dipankar Mukherjee... 5 Weeks!"
I grew up in rural Punjab and heard of the stories of the partition. Partition impacted every family in Punjab including mine. It is my privilege to tell their stories in this play.
It should not be repeated ever. One of those unfortunate events which changed the course of history."
I was only 4 ½ month olds when I was adopted from Calcutta and brought to the United States where I was raised in Minnesota. Prior to being involved in this production, I knew very little about partition. Through this process I have learned so much of not only about what partition was but how it deeply impacted the people of that region- a terrifying outbreak of violence and death. That people who coexisted for almost a millennium, had something forced upon them that split them apart.
These stories that are portrayed in the play are of my ancestors that I didn’t know about. It is a tremendous piece of history that not only effects the past but also the present and future. I am fortunate enough to not only learn from the text but also from my cast mates. The experiences that they and their families have had because of partition has been so incredible to hear.
All these stories shed so much light on where I came from and the experiences my ancestors most likely lived through. I'm am beyond grateful to be a part of this process and production.
My mother's older sister was directly impacted by the politics surrounding partition. My uncle was murdered by muslim rioters who were targeting someone else and mistakenly attacked him. While testifying at the trial, my aunt (in her mid-20's) asked the judge to forgive the attackers.
Her logic was that forgiveness was the only way forward to heal the wounds and end the cycle of violence for the coming generations. The judge agreed and commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment!
I recognize that I have a very benign approach on "dealing" with India's neighbors because of this exemplary act of tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. If there was one person I know in my life, who would have been totally justified in wanting to 'hate', it was my aunt.
By choosing to forgive, she gave me the gift of humanity vs. the toxicity of hate. I am indebted to her and wish we had more people like her. Her example inspires me to this day - in these troubling times where so many of us seem to be succumbing to messages of division and hate.
This is why 5 Weeks is so important to me and why I chose to participate. It is a very small dedication to remembering and honoring my Aunt's legacy.