Why does a title ‘Welcome Zindagi’ conjure images of a multi-speciality hospital in Gujarat, and a climax of tear drops and sad faces dramatically transformed into welcoming life, I wondered. Did I connect with a new sense of hope that the new face of Gujarat was giving me? Or was I being a cliché’d and bollywoodish?
My thoughts were interrupted with the announcement of the play itself. The first five minutes was about the clockwork life of most middle class families in Mumbai,depicted beautifully through music, actions and inventive props. It seemed like an interesting theatrical device to depict a mundane life routine. The story went like this: A Mumbai based Gujarati family of Ganatra’s had shifted from Kathiawar a long time ago. The characters were, ArunGanatra (Saumya Joshi),a clerk about to retire, BhanuGanatra (JignaVyas),his wife and mother of VivekGanatra (Abhinav Banker and their MBA (emphasis on the MBA!) son.Bhanu occupied the stage in a solo act, emphasized by a constant focus of the spot light, for twenty minutes, describing her husband’s routine in a funny Kathiawar accent
The story revolved around Arun, Bhanu and Vivek.. Arun, a less ambitious fatherhad fixed notions about life and was proud of his struggle that he insisted on talking about every now and then. On the other hand,Vivekvisualized himself as a successful business man, involving risks and money. Bhanuwas the silent spectator to these two companions in her life. Her humorous comments were the only perceivable connections one could draw with Arun and Vivek. The father and son had not communicated for years, and as the play describes, ‘due to lack of time’, not even on Sundays.. Father and Son shared a very formal,functional and dutiful relationship
The twist in this seemingly placid, middle-class existence takes place, when Vivek needs a large sum of money to start his business and is reluctant to ask his father. Bhanurefuses to speak on behalf of Vivek.Lot of arguments, discussions and disputes erupt, as Vivek tries to convince his father about the credibility of his business plans. These discussions worsen, and Vivekfinds himself forced to leave his house.Arun’sego, restrains him from calling up his son and leaves him out of his retirement function too.The headstrong Vivek does not pay any heed to his mother’spleas to attend the function. But Nature plays a role and the event gets cancelled due to heavy rains in Mumbai. Interesting invocation of the Gods at this juncture in the narrative!
The climax of the play is anextremely poignant farewell speech by Arunthat he recites in front of Bhanu. From thanking Bhanu for always being there for him, to finally expressing his love for Vivek – he expressesin a soulful manner emphasizing the importance of giving time to one’s children and prioritize one’s personal life and most importantly the need to communicate with one’s loved ones.Vivek who hears the entire speech from the front door entersthe house and hugs his father. Needless to say, this reunion iswelcomed with a huge round of applause and watery eyes from the audience.
Nothing dramatically different from those many narratives across films, plays, books that deal with this agonizingtheme of growing isolation in urban living in India, I think. But what stirred me up was the fact that something as clichédand as oft-repeated a theme as this, continues to affect us and make us underline the significance of love, relationships, communication and families. We never seem to have enough of this theme and clearly never will. Maybe its time to ‘Welcome Zindagi’ and say no to living apart from one another!