Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Another meaningful New Years’ Eve Event – with Provisos

New Years’ Eve last year had been spent in the open air, with my visiting brother and his wife, at the Call Against Patriarchy event at Ranuchhaya Mancha near Rabindra Sadan, Kolkata. Even though I really didn’t know many people, and wasn’t at all involved in the “scene”, I had an amazing time. I must also confess to a warm feeling of pride, being able to show my “foreign” brother and sis-in-law that we Indians, and Kolkattans, are not just sitting idly by; that we are reaching out, trying to sensitise, trying to resist, to make change.

This year, I have been a lot more active in the queer and activism spaces.  Organising Addas, volunteering for NGOs, writing for handbills, blogging, meeting people, getting involved in Pride planning, and so much more has made this a pretty good year, brain-food wise. So, what could be better than to end the year with a repeat dose of the event? And this year, I was on stage, with a few friends, attempting not to totally screw up a forum theater presentation on “intersectionality of oppression”.

Needless to say… it was amazing.  While the pleasure last year came completely from being a voyeur, this year’s fulfillment was more participatory. Also, being involved a little bit in the planning process, and doing the writing – again – I felt much more like a stakeholder this time around.

And so, my two bits as audience and stakeholder.  As audience, there isn’t a lot to be said. It all looked nice, if a little curiosity-engendering or line-blurring for many people. There was music, dance, skits, recitation, and more. Most of it was visually striking (if not always visually pleasing to the average person) and all of it brought out questions. All in all… successfully doing what it set out to do, getting the person on the street to think, question, and take a new look at the status quo.

As a stakeholder, however, there are a number of things I wish to say. Not directly negative, maybe, but things which…with a little tweaking… might have made OUR event even better. For one thing, I felt as if we didn’t have enough time, as if the planning was all a little last minute. I am sure there are extenuating circumstances, and the main organizing group did not mean to make everything so rushed. Maybe, since we all know that we want to do this every year, next year we can start the planning process much earlier?

This would have quite a ripple effect. Some of the acts were visibly or not so visibly, quite hastily put together and would have benefited immensely from more thought and more rehearsals. I include my own piece in this, because we barely had enough time to give it 3 or 4 run-throughs over 2 days, where ideally ANY theatrical or stage production should be rigorously rehearsed.  Additionally, with a little more time to work on the script, I am sure we could have fixed some of the issues and improved the overall quality of the presentation. And this is true of some of the other presentations as well, I am sure.

In addition, a bit of a mishap happened with the common literature, the content for the handouts.  While I am sure most people will not notice, and that it won’t really have very serious long term consequences; as a stakeholder I am aware of what went wrong, and wish there had been the time…the elbow room… to fix it.

And, with a little more time, maybe we could have had a sort of dress rehearsal or combined final rehearsal? That would have smoothed out issues with cuing music and so on, in my opinion. Not a necessity, of course, but would make the whole thing smoother.

One other thing I thought we could have done a little differently. Maybe someone could have curated the content a little bit? Although most of the items were on point and in keeping with the “patriarchy” and “resistance” theme of the event, including the wonderful musical presentation by the special kids who did a tri-lingual version of We Shall Overcome, some items just had nothing to do with the theme.  While it is wonderful to see so many talented underprivileged kids do so many fun things, there could have been some attempt at maintaining some sort of connect with the overall theme of the event. Given time, and a little back and forth, it is possible that some such idea could have been worked out, even within the Rabindrik, Classical, Bangla space that the performances seemed to occupy.

Another thing time, and curating, might have achieved is the optimization of duration. While some items could have been a little longer, being more dramatic or theatrical in nature and presentation, some SHOULD have been shorter. I come back again to the kids, and wonderful though they were, I personally thought 30 mins was a little too much time, even broken up into 10 min chunks as it was. In fact, being broken up, these items basically acted as intrusive wedges taking up a lot of time when the next act could have been on stage. This delayed the whole thing, and frankly, got boring after a while. There is only so much recitation and dance one can watch…from the same few kids… no matter how talented and smart the kids are.

There were some intra group issues, and some friction, which could also have been sorted out more easily and much more amicably perhaps, if we had had more time in the run up to the event. This again comes from a very personal place for me, since I care about many of the parties involved in multiple sides of these strife situations, and the mata does not like to see her cubs fight. However, it is essential for future events to be successfully organized, and for the long term benefit of the movement itself, for such issues to get sorted out.

Other than that, it was all good. People watched. Passersby stopped. People became curious. People asked questions. People got uncomfortable. People made fun. It was spectacular. It was disturbing. It was thought inducing… all the things that we really wanted to achieve. In short, it was another New Year’s Eve well spent.