An Adventure and what it meant to me...
“And the worst thing is that I could’ve stopped it sooner and I didn’t because I thought I loved you enough little ways except for the right one, the big one”
Playtext from Jyoti’s character, An Adventure by Vinay Patel
With a small synopsis and the excitement to see brown people that look like me in an actual theatre production, I walked into the Bush Theatre to watch ‘An Adventure’ by Vinay Patel and what I took back was nostalgia, heartfelt home truths and my grandparents.
‘An Adventure’ is a discrete window into a 54-year marriage, following the life of arranged newlyweds Jyoti (Anjana Vasan) and Rasik (Shubham Saraf). Vinay Patel’s play introduces us to the Jyoti and Rasik in 1954 Independent India, but the pair have hope for a new life and leave Ahmadabad for Rasik’s birthplace of Kenya. Nairobi soon becomes home and local man David (Martins Imhangbe) becomes Rasik’s business partner. Things take a left turn when David becomes involved in the Mau Mau uprising against colonialists, leaving Jyoti and Rasik to leave for Britain. Birthing two children (both played by Aysha Kala) and living as first generation immigrants, the pair make home and grow old in the suburbs of London.
From just a theatre goers’ point of view, ‘An Adventure’ is an expressive production, holding countless moments of applause and a love story that transcends borders. But for a second generation British South-Asian, like myself, this story meant so much more. The characters portrayed by the talented cast opened a catalogue of my memories, moments that I had previously witnessed and words from my childhood that still echo clearly in my ears.
Jyoti’s character reminded me of my grandmother, a demanding Bengali woman who was unapologetically herself. Escaping the Indo-Pak war of 1971 with her husband, she found refuge in a 2-bedroom council estate in Brick Lane. She was the balance Rasik needed, my grandfather, an optimistic out-of-the-box man for most of his life, until life subjected him to working in grim factories across East London. He struggled with living in Britain, a foreign land he couldn’t familiarise himself with, eventually leading him to leave the country on his own. The most striking element which Patel triumphed with in his play is the representation of love, our grandparents version of love, the complexity that was left unsaid. Maybe love meant something different for them. Maybe love was the process of my grandmother’s tea making, the lentil soup and fish on the dinner table every night. Maybe love was in my grandfather’s wages, the envelope of money he would slip into my grandmother’s hand.
Older Jyoti (Nila Aaalia) in act three is the result of a woman who strove for more in life, hopeful for a redemption she never really found. Overlooking a boating lake in London with a wheelchair bound older Rasik (Selva Rasalingam), Jyoti says “I have a very precise feeling that I’ve failed. Don’t you feel that too? That our lives were a failure?” These were familiar words, words similar to that my own grandmother had once said. Disappointment lingers in every expression as older Jyoti continues to speak to Rasik, “you know you’ve never asked me if I loved you in the first place?” The truth that brought it all home, love was never the foundation of their relationship, neither my grandparents’ relationship, it was compromise, it was a home built for two.
Vinay Patel’s ‘An Adventure’ is not just a portrayal of colonialism, picket lines and marriage. This is a story of two people who let displacement erode their shared experience. An exhilarating start to a trip of finding love to a slow-paced acceptance of passiveness, which become uniform for Jyoti and Rasik. This play was a unique experience for me, Vinay Patel’s effortless writing gave voice to the life stories of our grandparents, a stage they could call home. The mesmerising cast (especially Anjana Vasan and Shubham Saraf) gave absolute life to their characters. Madani Younis’ direction was exceptional, watching each sequence unfold was nothing short of enchanting.
The play officially closed on the 20th October 2018 however, the playtext is still available for purchase and worth every penny.