Basic Life Challenges Had Audience Overwhelmed On Sunday

by Mehru N Nisa

SRINAGAR: In 2019 sci-fi, Ad Astra Brad Pitt’s character Roy McBride says: “We go to work, we do our jobs and then it’s over. We are here and then we are gone.”

The cast of the play, Ser Peth after the performance was over KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

And it was precisely what today’s play at Tagore Hall said in so many words. Written by Nisar Naseem and directed by Farooq Sumbali, Jhelum Valley Cultural Forum, Sumbal Bandipora’s Ser Peth told the story of a person right from his birth until a point in his life where he gets fed up with all the things, people and situations around him. Ser Peth is a Kashmiri word that can be translated as overwhelmed.

The play leaves you with a disturbing question, “Is this all there is to life? To be born, to work, get married and then die?” You keep on repeating the same question until you realize that there’s no answer or maybe, you find an answer but you don’t want to face it. Maybe!

The story starts with a couple who is happy about giving birth to a son after seven daughters. The son – Basheer Ahmad is the protagonist of the play, is played by Ubaid Ahmad Wani and the play follows his life story. Since he is the only son of his parents (which is a big deal in a society like Kashmir), he is pampered right from birth but since the world is equally unfair to all, he faces a lot of troubles later on in his life.

After his birth, his parents are so excited that they almost start fighting with each other about his name. Later on, two peer saebs (clerics) name him Basheer Ahmad for which they even ask for a gift from the parents. The play then follows Basheer to school, where he gets confused because of so many subjects and all the lessons that he has to remember.

A scene from the theatre play, Ser Peth, that was showcased in Tagore Hall on March 21, 2021. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

After a while, Basheer fall in love and the stage becomes a cupid’s den. His partner (played by Shahida Alvi, who also plays the role of mother in the play and who played the daughter-in-law’s role in Tike Lal ) tells him that her father doesn’t approve of their marriage because of some petty rift with Basheer’s father. Ser Peth tells us of all the struggles one has to go through in finding a job, not to mention the corruption and harassment throughout the process.

Well before the curtains fall on the Ser Peth, Basheer’s mind has become a clutter of all the happenings in his life. His parents’ taunts, her wife’s grievances, matters in his office and other challenges of life have created a disorder in his life to a point where he can’t take it anymore and starts shouting “mye gouw ser peth”. At this point, the curtains fell on the stage.

With themes like corruption in offices, daily inflation and the ever-rising unemployment, Ser Peth also hinted towards the underlying issues and situations that are created in our lives because of no fault of ours. There was a sequence in the play where Basheer’s parents start arguing over his unemployment to a point where his father asks his mother to leave the home.

With little music in the background and the use of simple lighting, the play tried its best to create fewer distractions. The end of every scene in the play was marked when all the artists would come up on the stage and started running in a circle clapping their hands on particular drumbeats.

The play had performances from Irshad Ahmad Bhat, Ab. Majeed Pardesi, Masood Bin Habeed, Irshad Ahmad Bhat, Inam Ul Haq, Mir Irshad Ahmad and Nazir Shilvati.

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