Scars are an aide-mémoire for Riti Sachdeva. As metaphor they fix a truth in our collective memory by fusing two apt objects. The scar etches on the body a trace of its trauma; Parts of Parts & Stitches is a raised embroidery on the fabric of history, a trace of the scar of left by the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

The scene opens on a Hindu wedding in Punjab just as the subcontinent is about to gain freedom from colonial British rule. Rumor has it that India and Pakistan are to be divided, but tonight two families will come together to celebrate a wedding. The women tease bride-to-be Yamuna as she embroiders her wedding sari. Messengers from the village warn the families that violence has broken out between Hindus and Muslims, but rumor and fear are banished to the margins and shadows as parents and guests lights torches and dance a sacred round to celebrate the mystical interweaving of opposites — man and woman, sun and moon, sky and earth.

That night Jiwan tries ever so gently to coax his new wife into consummating their marriage. She is painfully shy and falls asleep still dressed in her wedding clothes. The next morning he tells her he must leave tomorrow to go back to the city and his job: when he has secured a place for them he will send for her. On their last night together, Yamuna overcomes her fears and the two are fused in body and soul. He promises to return as soon as humanly possible, after which they will never be separated again.

The social fabric is torn when the families learn that the bus carrying Jiwan back to the city has been attacked by a mob, and all the men on it were hacked to pieces. The scene phase-shifts into a shadowland where primal, pre-Modern forces envelope the stage in a fog. A chorus of Vultures, who have heretofore been disembodied whispers or subliminal fears are made flesh and talk to Yamuna. She sets off on a quest, like Isis, to find the pieces of Jiwan’s body and sew them together with red thread from her wedding sari. Like Lear, her devoted friends finally break her out of the madness that has crazed her wits, and like Lear there is no happy ending or reunion with her beloved, because this tragic national nightmare is far from over.

Yamuna and the Vultures

Director Cat Parker has created a suitable mise-en-scène to capture both the realist and magical realist elements of Sachdeva’s epic. Video projected onto a screen that serves as the the back wall of the theater comments like a visual chorus on the action of the play, and the Vultures, dressed in black leather with red mesh across their eyes, terrorize the stage like a gang of Harley riding harpies. Mariam Habib as Yamuna carries the show from beginning to end, gracefully pivoting from demure virgin to devoted wife. Spectacle, myth, and history are woven together seamlessly in this thoroughly enjoyable show.

Parts of Parts & Stitches

Through March 31st

14th Street Y, 344 East 14th St

Advertisements