Joe Ponders the Forest

I have offered little here, I’m afraid, but as David has been keeping you abreast in such a thorough and articulate manner with occasional entries from Cindy, you’ve hardly been left in the dark.  It’s 4am on Friday morning, and I’ve just seen Cindy off to the airport.  The cab ride there takes an hour or so – quite smooth, most likely, at this time of the morning – so she’ll be there in ten or fifteen minutes.  The end of her sojourn here, oddly enough, prompts reflection on my part; and coupled with the rich daily accounts already seen in these postings of our activities, I can make use of the early morning to step back and write more about the forest than the trees.

This last week has been a surprising fulfillment of our journey to the east.  Hours have been spent during our days this week with the most formidable figures of the theatre of Bangalore, and indeed presences in all of India:  Chandran Sakharan  – who would poo-poo being put in this class, but he has remarkable marketing instincts and skill coupled with such an energetic love of the theatre and significant business positioning that he has a powerful impact; Girish Karnad – who is a primary voice linking India’s cultural past with its theatrical future; Arundhati and Jogdish Raja – our hosts and founders of Jagriti, providing a home and focus for English language theatre in Bangalore (with a taste and mission that closely resembles the ambitions of the Rogue); and Arundhati Nag – celebrated actress and founder of Rangashankara.  Mrs. Nag is a remarkable woman of vision, who has chosen an impossible mission and business model.  She insists on bringing theatre to everyone, regardless of class.  Every voice and every ear.  She sets her own artistic ambitions aside on a daily basis, it seems, to lift up others.   And she does so with her eyes open.  She will tell you, with a graceful smile (and before you have a chance to bring it up) that her enterprise is almost absurd – and yet I could feel the power within her:  her work’s importance far outweighs its difficulty.

These have been people of tremendous grace and intelligence.  We all know, when we reflect, that the world is a very big place, and that such people reside in every corner of it.  But it is revelation to see, in flesh and blood, the confirmation of it, and a relief to be freed of the simplistic visions and prejudices of distance.

Every evening mothers and children in the apartment complex gather around the playground in the courtyard, comparing notes, swapping gossip, and bandaging skinned knees.  From our windows seven floors up, where the details of language are muffled, the sound is like any similar playground the world over.  Bangalore becomes indistinguishable from Tucson.

Cindy is at the airport by now.  Her flight departs in just under two hours.  Soon she’ll be in Rome.  Another place of which distance, report, and reputation have left us with misleading visions.

I am thankful for the clarity of these substantial minds and hearts.   The blessing, humanity, and revelation of these marvelous people.

— Joe McGrath


4 thoughts on “Joe Ponders the Forest

  1. Dear Joe, indeed I reject the idea that I belong in the company in which you have placed me, but gratefully accept the warmth with which the thought is expressed. It has been a pleasure to be treated to your collective talents, and it spoils all of us who have been exposed to it. I look forward to our future schemes and plots.


    • This is why I got off Facebook. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that you might be reading this, Chandran.

      Allow me to say, however, that it takes vision, initiative, and tremendous energy that, having seen Happy Days in a hole in the wall in San Francisco, you would say to yourself, “I’m bringing this to my home on the other side of the planet”. And then proceed to do it! To three full houses, for a completely unknown and untried production company created for the purpose in Bangalore, India. For Samuel Beckett, for God’s sake! I’m sure I’ll never understand how you did that, Chandran.

      And it was your energy that persisted and made this present contact possible. We’re finishing here with full houses which are certainly welcome for both us and Jagriti.

      I have not placed you in this company, my friend. You have made us part of this wonderful circle of artists – which given our distance and obscurities to one another is no small feat.

      I’m never sure what to make of it when someone speaks of “schemes and plots”. But when Chandran makes such a reference, the game may well be afoot . . .

      You are the real deal, my friend.

  2. Indeed…

    Bless the power of the arts, nest ce pas?
    Travelling mercies upon all of you. What a grand adventure!

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