“You do realize there was a story in there, right?”
“Yes. It’s about a girl first alienated by Karachi...who then slowly falls in love with the city.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?!”
I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me as I walked out of the FTC auditorium at the end of Sunil Shankar and Joshinder Chaggar’s contemporary dance drama, ‘Conversations 2016 – A love letter to Karachi’.
It was the wrong you feel exiting an acid trip that featured both fairies and the occasional slip into a two-dimensional reality; it was a wrong that felt so right I wanted to do it all over again.
There were characters in there for sure. I think it started with a crab on the beach.
“He represents Karachi, idiot.”
Did he? All I saw was this immense, controlled force. Too controlled for my liking. I felt uncomfortable.
Move faster crab – I can see the madness in you.
I was entranced.
What followed was a blur. Complete sensory overload delivered by a troupe of 14 dancers with the soul of Beckett who happened to watch episodes of American Horror Story and Monty Python’s Flying Circus simultaneously on split screens with Ahsan Bari’s music playing in the background.
It felt very... Karachi.
“You’ve missed the whole point. The crab is Karachi is the director. The troupe is NOT Monty Python! They’re chaotic, unpredictable, and difficult to understand. Part of a city that embraces everyone, giving shelter to all, exuding a generosity of an unimaginable kind."
"The city with the sea, and the undying passion for food. The cricket players on every street corner, and the footballers. The resilient youth of this city, who never give up. I know this because that’s what the event's Facebook page says.”
“I must have missed that. I was too busy figuring out a way to join them on the stage without ticking everyone off.”
At some point during one of Chaggar’s solo sorcery, I slipped back a decade. Back to university. Back to the first time I watched Waking Life with a bunch of kids from the drama society all dressed in togas because, you know, that’s what pretentious first-year kids do. Not the togas, the watching Waking Life bit.
There was this one scene on a bridge where a slowly fading dream character manages to jump forward in time to watch Chaggar on stage to proclaim, “Didn't I mention the ongoing "wow" is happening right now? We are the authors of ourselves, co-authoring a gigantic Dostoevsky novel, starring clowns…the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me. And on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.”
Chaggar was brilliant.
She was terrifying, electric, erotic, filled with joy. She made two aunties get up and make a quick exit as bodies molded into one. I thought I saw a boy and a girl kiss on the lips. At least, that’s what it looked like from where the aunties and I were sitting.
“See how Karachi brings all these different characters together? See how she [Chaggar] recognizes the beauty in what once seemed ugly, foreign?”
“I guess. The fact that this drama was given birth to in Karachi is good enough for me.”
For one blessed hour, I actually liked this city I generally hate. I think everyone who went did. Well, minus the two aunties. If anyone wants to go, take me with you. I could do it all over again.
Conversations 2016 is running from July 28th - August 14th, at FTC Auditorium Karachi. Tickets are available at Agha's, Roadside Cafe and at the venue.
So long, and thanks for all the fish