Congratulations! This period has taught each one of us theatre artists that we don’t like a readymade life. Actually this time has just brought it back to us, because we’ve never liked the readymade. We’ve never liked people telling us that life needs to be lived a particular way. That’s why we set out etching a different path for ourselves…different from the readymade. I used to go to readymade shops to buy trousers and my waist size always belonged to people much taller than me. So I had to make alterations. Nothing readymade has ever fitted me. That’s true for you also, isn’t it?
Let’s face it. We’ve never had it easy. So let’s not tell ourselves that these are difficult times. Trust me, my friend. I am 55. I’ve spent 40 years in the theatre and it’s never been easy. Oh no. We create work and somehow try to get paid for it. Somehow survive. Not just physically, but also mentally survive…amidst a lot of naysayers… people who say “that won’t work”. This has happened over the years, hasn’t it? We’ve had to go beyond their naysaying habits. We’ve had to go beyond our own naysaying habits.
So let’s be straight about it. This Covid-19 has flattened the world. But we’ve been in any case demolished many times through our lives! This pandemic has just demolished others too. What it has shown to us, yet again, is that the world need not necessarily be in rhythm with what we want from our lives…our dreams, our aspirations. The thing is, we always had to keep ourselves motivated. We were never around people cheering us on, saying “Yes, come on, you can do it!” Of course we weren’t. When we sometimes managed to perform a show, people would say “theek hai yaar”. Most of the time they didn’t even come to watch it. Isn’t it true? We have hunted out press reviews, found our names and shared it with friends. That’s what we used to do in Delhi growing up. People would say “haan haan, padha woh, haan dekha.” They weren’t really interested. So remember this. Speak the truth to yourself.
You have been your own cheerleader.
The story continues, dear friend. You and I need to be our own cheerleaders as this reality hits us hard. Theatres are closed. We don’t know when they will open. Yup, it’s a fact. When will the next pay cheque happen? Don’t know. When will the next work happen? Don’t know. What do we do till then? We’ve got to stay alive. Stay alive not just physically, but also in spirit. And there’s no point in deflating yourself. I personally stay motivated, because I want to keep my spirit alive. Otherwise I’ll just about survive. And what is the point of just about surviving? Feeling wretched, feeling angry, feeling upset with the world? There is no point in that.
Theatre for me is a place where I go to play…to do the very thing that people said I couldn’t do it, but I can. I did. Keep that spirit, keep that anger. At the same time do things to nurture yourself. This is a great time to do riyaaz, do that backstage work which you probably haven’t had time for.
This is a great time for you to actually experience pain. Pain is not a bad thing, although I hate it. But since it is there we might as well make the most of it. I have allowed this period’s pain, this period’s fear, this period’s uncertainty, to allow me to discover things which I hadn’t done earlier. I’m allowing the world to pressurise me and to discover new outputs of me. Pressure can either crush the eggs or it can give birth. Depends where the pressure is applied. Allow this time to rejuvenate yourself.
Remember your spirit, your life, is most important to you. My dreams and beliefs are important to me, because they take me beyond this moment. Beyond this limited time…this limited distance that I can see from where I’m standing right now. They show me that, you know what, I don’t see it right now, but I have dreamt it, therefore it is possible. You need to have this belief in yourself. For this you will have to negotiate with life and the people around you. You will have to negotiate situations. You will also have to negotiate what you had agreed to do or not to do in the past. You may have to take up certain jobs which you wouldn’t have before. And it’s really okay to do that right now. I have understood that if I am alive then I can go back to the things I am passionate about. I’ve done a lot of jobs where I have thought why am I doing them? I had to do them to survive. Because if I’m alive then I can also essay out my passion.
So my invite to you is that when you are creative, you have the capacity to use your pain, your fear and even the absence of hope, to show up in creative ways that the world has not yet imagined. Colour your own painting in unique ways. Find jobs, find people, find new ways to upskill yourself. Learn. Devise ways to communicate your story. This digital world is forcing us to learn things which earlier we would have said, “that’s not my thing”. This period is teaching you there is nothing called “that’s not my thing”. Remember, if you are hungry you don’t need motivation. No hungry person has needed motivation to go out and look for food. Look for your work as if its food. Look towards the next day as if it is a hungry person who needs that new day to create something. Remember this – your life, your responsibility. Lucky that you are creative. You will find beautiful new ways to fulfil that responsibility. New paths will and can be carved out in this period, my friend. And I want you to be the person who carves out that new path. Let’s have tales from you a few weeks from now, a few months from now, a few years from now, saying that, you know what, I created something which even I never imagined I could. And I did it because I’m amazingly creative. Cheers.
– Ashish Vidyarthi