PARTITION Stories of separation by Sonam Kalra

Currently this is, perforce, a Delhi-NCR-centric review, but one hopes that this latest show by Sonam Kalra will travel the country and beyond…

“Partition Stories of Separation” was performed for the first time at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre in front of a sold-out audience this weekend.

A show devoted to the trauma and sorrow of Partition was never going to be easy viewing and there were moments of great sadness.  Great, heart-wrenching sadness.  When the elderly Sikh spoke about the death of his sister, I could hardly breathe, it was so raw and painful.

But this pain, which Sonam Kalra talks about in the programme, cannot –  and must not – be avoided or ignored:


This trauma is part of the DNA of the subcontinent and it has to be commemorated and shared, especially with the gradual passing of the brave generations who lived through the horrors of Partition.


Through song, and poetry, and interviews with amazing people who lived through Partition, this traumatic period of history is brought to life by Sonam Kalra, Salima Raza and Sonam’s team of amazing musicians.

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But for me, what moved me the most, was not so much the looking backwards at history, but the positive looking forward towards peace and reconciliation.

And here the energy and thrust of a younger generation with a different mindset was in evidence.

I loved the inter-active feeling of the show –  from old fashioned postcards on which we were asked to write our message of peace starting with the positive words “When we meet…”, to the hashtags to be used on social media to build a dialogue with “The Other Side.”



There were cute, quirky touches, such as a “postbox” for the postcards for Pakistan.


We were even given pens, ensuring that there we all had no excuse not to write.

A pile of old luggage in the entrance to the auditorium spoke volumes.


I hope that this show travels the length and breadth of India, and more than anything else that it travels to “The Other Side.”

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Shabash to Sonam Kalra for giving voice to painful memories, but than anything for presenting the pain with so much love and, most importantly, hope.


Not sure that a disclaimer as such is really needed, just because I’m privileged to count a talented woman like Neena Nehru as a friend, but anyway here goes – the exhibition I’m going to review now is that of a friend, who also happens to be both an accomplished artist and also a poet.

In her exhibition at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre, Neena has juxtaposed some of her poems alongside her striking paintings, telling stories of lives that are fractured and distorted by life, by man-made conflicts, by “tectonic plates of conflicting values.”  There is no way the visitor can ignore Ms Nehru’s message, because she presents it boldly and strikingly.  We are all leading lives fractured to a greater or lesser extent:


The artist is fascinated by faces, and constantly re-interprets them:



Some of her faces, like the one below, have an echo of Gaugin:


There are some striking series of paintings, which stand alone as individual statements, but are that much stronger when viewed as a collective, such as this series entitled “Adam”:





Ms Nehru can be brutally honest at times, as in this hard hitting poem, which must surely resonate with every single one of us who has switched off a programme or a news item that was too disturbing:


The artist makes valid visual points about how women are viewed in society:


Be sure to study and enjoy the brightly coloured installations in the centre of the gallery.  The one below is entitled “Game of Cards” and portrays the different cards in life dealt to a woman, and how she plays them :



And then there is this intriguing moveable installation called “Revolving Roles”:





The exhibition is on until this weekend, so why not go and mark International Women’s Day by viewing the work of an intelligent, thoughtful woman who has her own very striking take on life?


“Abducting Diana” at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi

I was very happy to be going to the theatre, to see a play in English, in Delhi.  With friends.  And so off we went, 6 of us, to see “Abducting Diana” at the India Habitat Centre.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Had it been a middle school play, it would have been a painful evening (“and a school play with one of our children in it, at that” commented one of our party).

But this was no school play.

Actors gabbling their lines so fast, rather like teenagers, so you literally could not understand what was being said.

Wooden acting.

Masks that made comprehension even more difficult.

Oh, the whole thing made for a dismal evening.  The play lasts 1 3/4 hours, without an interval, but that didn’t stop some people just getting up and leaving.  We were too pusillanimous to follow them.


We booked our tickets via  Seats are Rs 250 or Rs 350.

And there is another performance tonight, Sunday 21 April at 8Pm at the India Habitat centre.



Yoko Ono’s solo, lone performance in Delhi, India, at the India Habitat Centre last night (15 January 2011) was a distinctly odd event.

The auditorium was packed to the gills, with an orderly and clearly enthusiastic audience, all seated a good half an hour before the performance began.

Because I suppose that’s what it was.

A performance.

Ms Ono looks amazing for 78, absolutely fantastic, with her trim figure, snappy dressing, and sort-of-Michael-Jacksonesque hat.  Oh, and the trademark dark glasses, of course.

Ms Ono moved around the staged with a mike, looking fit as a fiddle.

The 2 Indian musicians, a sitarist and a tabalchi, looked elegant and smiled and were models of the best kind of Indian elegance.

As for the rest…

…the best I can say is that it was rather like watching a sloshed relative at a party who grabs the mike and thinks she can sing.  And dance.

Off-key careening is the word that comes to mind.  Lots of shouting and panting and wailing and a few lines in English, and the 2 lovely Indian musicians valiantly accompanying her, while she tripped around the stage, wiggling her hips from time to time.

Ms Ono performed 2 songs (?) which lasted an ear-splitting 30 minutes.  I swear I saw the musicians smiling at each other in a sort of “oh what the heck?” kind of way.

Interval = about 15% of the audience voted with its feet, including my husband and son.

They missed the best bit which was the Q & A.

All the inevitable questions about John Lennon – “Does he still live in your heart ?” –  I ask you, what a daft question.

What is your favourite song ?  I suppose the questioner meant a Beatles song, as opposed to her own, and I don’t think she really replied.

Do psychedelic drugs enhance creativity ?  Ms Ono gave a not really specific answer, and then when the questioner persisted, turned away.

She was much more of an appealing figure answering/not answering questions, so I am glad I stayed.  She made many of we ladies of a certain feminist generation cheer (and we were quite numerous, I was happy to see) with some of her answers to questions like “What is women power ?”  (Obviously asked by a man)

Ms Ono talked a little about the Beatles and John Lennon and made a rather endearing comment about how much she was hated after the Beatles broke up, saying “I was not a very hateful person before.”

Glad I saw her in person.  But sitting through another performance ?

Never again.