A Millennium Festival Project of the British Centre for Literary Translation, University of East Anglia
SUNLIGHT by KETAKI KUSHARI DYSON
The time is the end of 1989, after Christmas and the execution of Ceausescu in Rumania, when the fall of communism in Eastern Europe dominates the news. The place is the living-room of a family from West Bengal living in diaspora in Britain. Obhi, a Calcutta professor on his way to America to read a paper, has stopped in Britain to visit old friends. He finds that his host is away in Bombay, and his hostess, Deya, has to be fetched from some mysterious place by Bibi, a family friend and a teacher of Bengali. For a while Obhi is given some sharp entertainment and education by Deya's daughter, Shikha, and her half-German boyfriend, Rudy. Bibi returns with Deya, who comes home from hospital after a hysterectomy. The play is the interaction of these people as the short December afternoon deepens into evening.
talk about everything under the sun, generating passionate discourses
on a diversity of issues - from gender and the environment to language,
politics, identity, diaspora, and the cosmos. One small living-room becomes
a miniature of the human world, with the stars above and the ocean floor
below. As they explore the meaning of existence together, surreal spots
of time emerge. A suttee is enacted. Trying to grasp the meaning of some
lines by a 20th century Bengali poet, they search for a lost city drowned
under the ocean. They remember the street people of Calcutta and the storms
and floods of Bangladesh, Deya's ancestral homeland. There is sheer fun
too, as when the professor impersonates a Calcutta plumber, and they enact
a power cut, which was common in Calcutta at that time.