Bombay Black, Kalimán & The HindoosThursday, February 28, 2008
A Hindoo is a Hindoo and a brother to the man who knows his
vernacular. And a French-man is French because he speaks his own
As a boy in Buenos Aires the absolute exotic was India, not China & Japan. The only Chinese people I had ever seen were a couple of female math wizards in my class at the American School. I had spotted one Japanese man who was a florist/gardener. His name was Matsumoto. I had never seen a Hindu. All Hindus wore turbans in my imagination or lay on nail beds as seen on Ripley's.
I wasn't prepared for the day when my father brought two strange gentlemen for dinner. My father besides being a journalist (the Buenos Aires Herald) was a freelance translator for the Indian Embassy. He had invited a couple of the embassy officers for homemade curry. Only my father would do something like that. The two gentleman arrived in a Hillman Minx. For weeks my neighbourhood friends questioned me about the strange dark men and their just as strange small car.
I had heard my mother and grandmother talk about the bombays (rhymes with whys)of Manila. People from the Indian subcontinent were called that in the Philippines much in the same way as they may be called East Indian here in Vancouver. I only later found out why Indians were bombays and not Hindus. It seems that hindu with a t at the end is an extremely foul word in Tagalog.
The idea that all Hindus wore turbans (all those Hollywood movies with Bengal Lancers, and Kim with Errol Flynn) was further reinforced for me in Mexico when the legendary magician/hero Kalimán appeared in comic books.
He never killed anybody but would use a blowpipe with a tranquilizer to subdue his enemies.
It wasn't until I came to Vancouver, saw Gandhi and a Passage to India that I found out about partition and that only Sikhs wore turbans. But Bombay and India, nevertheless have remained on the extreme of exotic for me.
When Anosh Irani (above, left) came to my studio in 2002 for a Straight photograph for an article on his new and first play The Matka King it was like having Kalimán in my studio minus the white turban with the jewel in the middle. The play, The Matka King I saw with my eldest daugther Ale. We were both charmed. It was a fairy story for adults.
Bombay Black which I saw with Rosemary last night is another exotic fairy story for adults. Everything that happens is unexpected. It reminds me of Argentine tango companies being advertised in Vancouver as "Direct from Buenos Aires" as if a stopover in Houston would affect their authenticity. Bombay Black felt "direct" perhaps by the fact that a lot of the language used could be deemed anochronistic. It is a modern play about life in India now. It's the shits and other words like it and my suspicion that Padma (Deen Aziz) just might own a cell phone that gave the play that air of "direct from Bombay".
A murder may happen in this play (and I will not reveal if it does). The solution to getting rid of the body is in itself so surprising that it is worth the price of admission!
Our seats were in the middle of the middle (very Canadian) and I was able to see enough of Apsara (Anita Majumdar) in the little that she wore in the first act (when she danced!), that I can guarantee had I brought my usual binoculars I would have easily turned into a a cauliflower, a Brussels sprout or perhaps a stick of celery. For Majumdar has the power to turn all men into vegetables. Kalimán would have known that.
I would like to point out that this fine play and many others, as well as dance, the visual arts, film, opera, music, circus (yes!) and other cultural activities are part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. These events are all listed in a brochure available, as mine was, at the theatre and probably in other cultural venues of our city.
It was only last week that Robert Kerr, the Program Director for the Cultural Olympiad came to my studio. I was expecting a man in a suit. His leather jacket and striped shirt were as refreshingly surprising as the contents of the brochure.
Bombay Black is presented by the Arts Club Theatre Company at the Granville Island Stage from February 21 to March 15, 2008