Monday, February 17, 2014

Seeing an Indian play - "A Brimful of Asha"

As many of you know, I like to do fun things with husband-ji on our date nights. I am always looking for something out of the ordinary to do, to keep our date nights exciting. So, when I saw that an Indian play was coming into town, we HAD to go...

The play was called "A Brimful of Asha" and it was about an Indian mum trying to get her Canadian-born son married. An arranged marriage....

I wanted to see this play because I thought we could relate to all the Indian-isms and culture clashes; and also to get a greater understanding of arranged marriages. As a foreigner, the concept of arranged marriages is extremely difficult for me to understand. That, combined with the fact that my inlaws had a love marriage, and so did my SIL - there is really no elder to help me comprehend it, or "sell" me the idea. 

The play consisted of the mother and son arguing back and forth. The son was 27 years old and the mother wanted him to settle down and get married; whereas he wanted to focus on his career and meet someone naturally. The mother wanted to set him up on an arranged marriage because he had no girlfriend and she was getting worried. She felt it was her job, and her responsibility to make sure her son found his life partner "before she expired". 

The thing about Indian families, is that a marriage involves all the family members. The parents revel in their children's union, and equally enjoy the togetherness. It continues on when the couple has children - the grandparents' enjoy their time with their grandchildren. So after the son got married, the mother's next job was to pressure him to have children, so "she could enjoy"...

Another thing that the play touched on was also the generational problem of who knows best. Do the elders know best? Or do the young people know best? It wasn't really clear. The generations had so many differences between them.

Later on in the play, it came out that the mother was only pressuring her son to get married because she herself was getting pressured by society. She said that every single time she went out, people would ask if her son was married yet and then talk badly about her in the open and give her unsolicited advice on her son AND her parenting. She said that people would go out of their way to make her feel like an unfit mother because her son "wasn't obedient". So, in reality - she harassed her son the same way she was getting harassed.

One of the requests that the mother had was that her son marry someone who was born in India (despite the fact that her son couldn't speak Hindi). She said this was because, "after I'm gone, my son will have no connection to India", which I thought was interesting. 

The story also went into the background of the mother - how she had dreamed as a young girl to open a school, and was practically forced into a marriage. She picked the man who lived abroad in Canada because she thought it would be exciting to leave India. The reason why she wanted to live abroad was because she hated Indian gossip. But then she got really homesick and she regretted leaving. She raised Canadian-born sons who had little-to-none connection to their culture. She also complained how she had to give up all of her dreams when she got married and had a family. I kind of felt bad for her. Of course, as a stay-at-home mother I can relate to the idea that when you have children, your career naturally takes a backseat - and not in a bad way. However, I don't know why the mother didn't continue on with her hopes and dreams after her children were in school. I think that is why she ended up putting so much pressure on them. Her son even said the reason why she was so aggressive regarding his marriage is that "she was just bored".

The play also touched on conflicting ideals in terms of the son's career. The son was a theatre actor and didn't make that much money, but it was something he loved doing and was ambitious and passionate about it. His parents were always pressuring him to give this career up and trade it for a more steady job. The mother said, "you have to live comfortably with more money, rather than working for passion". The mother said that she wanted to study dance but her parents did not let her because they thought it was an "extra" activity that was deemed "unnecessary".

What I thought was really interesting was the complicated dynamic between the mother and the son - a relationship that fascinates me....

Overall, I thought the play was really fantastic. I would recommend that everyone see it - I would have loved to take my parents and my inlaws too. There were lots of culture clashes, generational differences, and loads of laughs. It was excellent.

A Brimful of Asha will be coming next to Toronto (March 19-22); and Kamloops (April 10-26).



  1. It sounds really interesting! You are lucky to live in a place where you have access to these things :) Definitely take advantage of it - I know I will when I move back to a real city :)

    Also, you have the Brimful of Asha song stuck in my head now: if you haven't heard it (or even if you have; it should be stuck in someone else's head too.)

    1. Yes, I love living in a big city! Lots of things always going on :)

  2. @Alexandra

    India had economic and social insecurities which still persists though we pretend that they do not exist. Arranged marriages have existed for communities to inter marry and survive. Wars, famines, religious prosecutions ravaged the population. It does not help if every year a new invader gallops into your country and puts your entire village/city to sword.

    The west never faced such circumstances leading to prolonged periods of peace. It had virtually no historical/social baggage to deal with. When you have confidence in the society and government you work towards towards your own betterment. This pulls the entire society and country towards development. The freedom of choice is direct outcome of this.

    Unfortunately, this insecurity still persists in our country. The society does not inspire much confidence in the individual and we seek refuge in community, caste and religious identities. the bottom line is financial security through marriage for women and insistence on following prestigious careers for men. As they say "You are not happy if you cannot put food on the table and pay your bills".

    1. "Wars, famines, religious prosecutions ravaged the population. It does not help if every year a new invader gallops into your country and puts your entire village/city to sword.

      The west never faced such circumstances leading to prolonged periods of peace. It had virtually no historical/social baggage to deal with."

      Someone needs to learn their Western history a bit better.
      Wars, famines & religious persecutions have indeed ravaged the populations of Western countries.
      A rather recent example in my own family-
      My grandmother & grandfather fled famine, war, religious & political persecution by Stalin in the Ukraine to come to the US in 1932. Google 'Holodomor

    2. @anonymous - what about World War 1 & 2? And the millions of war refugees that were displaced, not only in Europe but all over the world?
      It is interesting what you said about Indians finding refuge in community/caste/religious identity....

    3. @cowgirl bebop - similar story in my russian grandmother was forced to be a child soldier at 13 during World War 2, to stay alive. She saw her best friend be raped by SS men. She came to Canada as a refugee and was separated from her entire family in the mayhem. To this day, we do not know who or where her family is - they were all displaced.
      So many of my friends in the West have some tragic story in their family related to WW2 :(

    4. @Alexandra

      It is true that the millions were displaced due to the world wars but in between there were times of peace and prosperity in Europe. The Europeans fought with each other over colonies in Asia and Africa and less on their own land. India has faced such catastrophes from time immemorial. First came the Aryans, Greeks, Huns, Sakas and then muslims. Mehmud Ghazni invaded India seventeen times. Can you imagine seventeen times?? India was always a densely populate country. You can imagine the massacre and destruction each invasion brought. The Rajput women committed mass suicides or "Jahuar" by jumping into huge fires, in the forts, when all men folks died in battle to save their honour. Can you imagine the social conditions of those days. This conditions more of less continued right up to the nineteenth century. We were facing world war like situation quiet regularly in India.

      Just like your grandmother, millions of people were displaced after the partition of India. Many muslims families went towards the newly formed Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh families traveled towards India. The communal riots on both sides lead to huge losses of life and property on both sides of the border. The Punjabi families having lost everything in Pakistan, came to Delhi and lived in refugee camps. They have now prospered and became part of India. Our experience with these things are a little more frequent.

  3. Looks like a great play and the mother is really funny in the clip! Thanks for sharing

    1. Asha was toooooo funny! OMG I loved her!


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