Anecdotes from a maid's life

The inevitable presence of domestic help is highlighted through this play

Anecdotes from a maid's life

We realise what we are missing when the ‘kamwali bai’ goes on a chutti. Whether it is 10 or two days, the household comes back to normal only when she returns.

It is the significance of the inevitable presence of our domestic helps that was highlighted by Nadira Babbar’s Saku Bai. Staged as the opening performance of Theatre In Motion festival at LTG, the play was a monoact by veteran actress Sarita Joshi who is not just a popular face on TV but an ace performer too.

Her experience helped her sail past technical glitches, with the audience overlooking the rustling noise of a mike to enjoy her dialogues as she narrated her tale of becoming Saku Bai in Mumbai from being Shakuntala - hailing from a rural background.

The stage was setup to depict the living room of a modern house. With the sound of thundering clouds, Saku comes in through the main entrance and remarks at the disheveled state of the house, “as if there has been a bomb-blast and the inmates ran away leaving everything!” Her comic punches coupled with her expressions aroused laughter and made the audience listen to her tale in silence.

The plot remains simple yet traverses various serious issues such as education of the girl child, physical assault on young girls, poverty, extra-marital affairs and unprotected sex leading to HIV. These grave matters are tied together in one narrative and presented as sugar coated tablets with jokes, impromptu dance numbers and lots of mimicry - best one being that of unwanted, hypocritical guests.

From being slapped by her mother for wanting to go to school to being asked by her daughter to get educated, Saku tells the tale that could stand true for any lower class woman grappling with poverty and striving to survive with dignity. The lights (by Ravi Mishra) dim as and when Saku goes into a flashback only to be interrupted by the door bell or the phone ring which make her come back to the present.

Penned by Nadira Babbar, the script is absorbing and improvised upon by her actress - who has been associated with the play which has had more than 2500 shows till date. “I had an idea that religious places like Shirdi have been highly commercialised but knew nothing of the ‘Kodi wale baba’. This is an inclusion by Saritaji,” says the director who chose to keep common names such as ‘Shakuntala’ and ‘Vasanti’, which can be related to, in everyday life.

The curtains, however, draw abruptly with the narration of a poem by Saku, leaving the audience asking for more.

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