“The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?”
Yesterday, I touched briefly on why I walked away from my first love... theatre. It stopped being a team sport, which was what I loved most about it. It became about outdoing each other, outdoing your last show, every time the focus shifted more towards what your general public wants. Creatively, it was slow murder. Insolent Knights, the troupe Natasha Ejaz and I formed together in 2008, was born out of a desperate need to put the fun and creativity back into theatre, and take out all the pressure of "outdoing" anything or anyone, censorship restrictions, and funding or sponsorships. We performed in a tiny room at Civil Junction our first year, with audiences sitting on the floor and packed in like sardines. We had one spotlight (a tall lamp we borrowed from Atif Siddique's house and brought to the venue in my Santro with the top part sticking out of the window as Atif held it), a portable stereo which we only used once, and no entrance charge. This was only possible because Mr. Arshed Bhatti, the owner of CJ, was kind enough to let us use that space for free (something he did on so many various occasions I don't think we can ever properly thank him).
We had so much fun in those early performances, and took such creative license that we miss it. We performed at NCA Pindi, Nysa Lounge, and Kuch Khaas, where we have performed since 2010. Insolent Knights is still dear to my heart, but I feel we've lost our raw quality, that experimental feel. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Natasha and I aren't in the same city anymore, and part of the energy was the two of us laughing hysterically over chips and soup at CJ. Us saying, "Wouldn't it be crazy if...?" Of course it would be crazy, and that's how we liked it. It was not about perfect performances, not at all - we embraced all the lost creative souls in the city just because they wanted to be there. You want to perform? We will find a way to include you. There were no auditions, just an open door policy. We worked a lot on the newbies, no doubt, from writing to performance, but it was that atmosphere of creativity without stifling control that made it special... at least to me.
I could blame a number of things for why I walked away from commercial theatre, but the blame game is pointless. The only truth worth knowing is that I chose to walk away from it. I might go back, one day, if the time is right. When and if I do, I will know better not to take everything to heart, not to be mortally afraid of failure, and to create from within.
Even if you have to pay the bills and do something that you're not crazy about, find the time to create for yourself. Not because it's what people will like to read / see / hear, NO. But because it's what you want to say, what you have to say, otherwise you will spontaneously combust. Create because you need to create.
As for competition, when you create for yourself, there is no competition, not even yourself.
On a completely unrelated note, I have an observation to share, and I'm curious about whether or not this happens with other people also. Here goes: every time I get a phone call, my offspring decide that it's the perfect time to pretend like they're training for the circus. I mean, that's the only thing I can imagine they must be trying to do, otherwise how can I explain the acrobatic jumping, running in circles and loud yelling? It happens every single time, and can only end in tears (both mine and theirs). I've tried going into another room, only to be followed endlessly. As a result, I rarely talk on the phone anymore, so people think I'm careless with my phone (true) or antisocial (possibly), but... it's just too stressful. There's no way I can concentrate on a phone conversation in such conditions. I think I also have phone phobia. I don't know if that's a thing, but if it is, I have it. It started as a mortal fear of the phone ringing when one of the babies had just fallen asleep. After some time it became a mortal fear of the phone ringing at all. Ok, ok, I am getting better since they don't nap anymore, now it's more me leaving my phone in a different room. I apologize to my friends who have been let down by my phone phobias - it's not you, it's definitely me.