Thrissur: Voices for peace and tolerance were heard loud and clear at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFK) when the 16-member Lahore-based Ajoka staged a play, ‘Bullah,’ here on Friday.
This is the first official tour of a troupe from across the border after the Mumbai terror attacks and assumes significance in the wake of New Delhi calling off the Indian cricket team’s tour to Pakistan.
An olive branch
The play seemed to offer an olive branch, echoing voices of sanity and making a strong pitch for a return to reason.
“The answer to bilateral problems lies in better people-to-people contact. How can two countries, with a shared history and culture several thousand years old, think of severing ties or prolonging conflict? Dialogue can solve problems,” said Madeeha Gauhar, director.
The tour has not been without problems. Two members, employees of the Pakistan government, could not reportedly secure no-objection certificates for visa requirements. Three members backed out owing to pressure from their relatives who feared that a journey to India was unsafe at this juncture. Three Indian artistes/technicians replaced them.
“For security reasons, many advised us against visiting India now. But we were confident that Indians would welcome us warmly. We could feel the warmth and support when we staged excerpts from the play at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on Tuesday. Ajoka is not new to India. It has performed extensively in India, calling for better relations between people in the subcontinent,” Ms. Gauhar said.
In the theatre festival, Pakistan shares space with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Iran. One cannot miss the flags of the countries aflutter at the venue, upholding the message of peace and cooperation.
Beacon of hope
The choice of ‘Bullah,’ which dealt with the life and times of Sufi poet-mystic Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) was apt. “Remove duality and do away with all disputes. The Hindu and the Muslim are none other than God,” he wrote.
He lived in an era when the sub-continent was torn by war, hatred and hopelessness. He witnessed civil and religious strife, and political chaos. His words were a beacon of hope in those troubled times.
“He was among the most liberal Muslims of his time. He did not see a conflict between his mystic beliefs and his devotion to music and dance,” said Ms. Gauhar.
The Pakistani artistes strove to convey that nothing mattered in life more than love, peace and brotherhood. If only life would imitate art.