Truth told through satire

Blatancy is not uncommon in Indian politics and it is getting starker by the day. There are blatant lies without which getting votes would not be possible. There is also blatant demagoguery, hypocrisy and narcissism. The recent instance of brazenness would be the naming of a stadium in the country. There is, of course, no shame in it when statesmen and great leaders preach it.

In Meghalaya too, being blatant has become the norm and is no more an exception. From the hoi polloi, the bureaucracy to the politicians, the trait of pen ryngkew is visible everywhere. Painter, poet and author Raphael Warjri, in his bilingual play Blatant/Pen Ryngkew, holds a mirror to the society and points out the afflictions in the system.

The clowns, Kohiaw and Kohsian, take the role of conscience and give a clear picture of the blatancy. The laws of life and living have been violated and the Holy Trinity is in deep discussions to resurrect what is left of the principles of life.
The clowns do not mince their words when they talk about the anarchy around. “It is better to be rude than to cheat, I believe,” says Kohiaw to the politician. For some, it is still better to be blatant than boring.

Through satire, Warjri brings out the problems of the indigenous populace, and at the same time, talks about the Khasi tribe’s degeneration that has become innate to the people of the state. The traditional values of life, the cordiality and respect for the high orders are no more. Now, the Holy Trinity is troubled by the plight of the people on Earth. “Man has turned away from God; he has defied God’s commandments. Father Almighty and Mother Decree have reprimanded.”

The author also reflects on the insider-outsider problem that has troubled the indigenous population for years. The influx of migrants in the Khasi land and the dominance of ‘foreigners’ over the locals have disturbing effects on the minds of the people. Natural resources are being exploited and humans are losing respect for other creations of the Almighty on the planet. “Mother Nature is weeping and bleeding.”

Wily and greedy politicians are looting public money and fooling the common man. During their five-year tenure, money is all that rules the game of politics. And all these are done brazenly.

Blatant is not only about the corruption in the system but how individuals’ depravity has gradually weakened the tribe’s very existence in their own land.

The plot of the play is based on the traditional practice of civil administration that has evolved with modernity. Warjri, who has authored several books in Khasi and English, had said during an interview that theatre in indigenous languages is a dying art in the state and “I want to revive it”.

First published in 2016, this contemporary comic drama can be part of the modern Khasi repertoire. What makes the play interesting is that it is a montage of modernity and traditional beliefs. The honest presentation and simple narration make it a people’s play.

~ NM               

Book: Blatant/Pen Ryngkew; Author: Raphael Warjri; Publisher: Riti Academy of Visual Arts; Pages: 90; Price: Rs 200