Comprehending life can be annoying at times; we all want a firm foothold for that. You can only get it by investigating the “truth”.
Saleem, a young vibrant man is in the search for truth. His life is filled with good friends, a pretty woman who dearly loves him, a loving and caring mother. His mother advises him regarding life and tells him that before he goes out to seek the truth he must learn to differentiate between the right and wrong in simple things. He ventures himself into finding the truth but in the end he is lonely. However, he finds the truth that life is as complicated as we make it.
This is synopsis of a three-act play staged by the Kinnaird College’s Najamuddin Dramatics Society. Penned by late poet Taufiq Rafat, it was performed on Friday and Saturday in front of a large audience. The hall was filled with silence, infrequent hilarity and rumble of ovation spoke a lot about the performance of the actors. Dialogues, direction and set were brilliant.
Foothold — Pakistan’s first full-length English play — was written in 1969. Despite remaining unpublished till date, it had been performed twice — once in 1969 and then in 2008 (which was more like a reading with a bit of performance by NCA students).
The play starts with a scene depicting a typical Pakistani railway station; a residence of dirt, passengers and homeless squatters. The fallen leaves add a dash of pathos to the set that is home to the protagonist, Saleem, station master and two homeless men. A rustic woman is waiting for the train, while Saleem and the two squatters discuss ‘truth’. As the two are trying to reach the truth through religion and faith, Saleem thinks differently.
He explains: “Religion is way more than just fasting and pilgrimage”. He says it is not just a prayer it is way more than that. He is instantly advised to worship and be a Malang. Saleem tells them that he has been a sole worshiper in a destroyed mosque. He believes that prayer is more like a petition to God, just to give it a purpose.
A disenchanted Saleem goes to his friend Mustafa’s house, where he meets another friend Ali, his love interest Nasreen and mother Fatima who try to bring him back on the “right track”.
Nasreen’s is a hopeless love and she complains of Saleem’s ‘sympathy’ and tells him it is worse than his ‘cruelty’. She is invincibly sad and wishes that she had never met him.
When they realise it is futile to argue with Saleem, they just go on and taunt him.
The play reminds us of Buddha’s quest for reality. It is journey of discovering the truth in a modern setting. Saleem goes through anger, taunts and agony but as you reach the conclusion of the play he begins to realise that “illumination” comes through a composed life. This is exactly what the station master makes him learn by showing him the railway track and the two lines that run parallel, symbolising a composed and a balanced life. Therefore, towards the end he finds the brutal truth.
“Theatre has been closely linked with Kinnaird history and every year the Najamuddin Dramatics Society stages great performances. Following its timeless tradition of appreciating theatre in all its forms this year we present to you ‘Foothold’ by TaufiqRafat, a distinct play likely to strike a chord with the audiences as it did with the cast through its theme of self-discovery and exploration of one’s personal professional and spiritual pursuits. I hope you all had fun.” Hijab Hassan, president of the society says in the end.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2015