The Creases in My Sari playwright Sindhuri Nandhakumar couldn’t make it to her own premiere last night, as she is working in India and Sri Lanka. But she promised to wear a sari to mark the occasion! She wrote to Alumnae Theatre Company’s FireWorks series producer Molly Thom: “My soul will be in Toronto with you and everybody else who has been working so hard on this play.”
This is Sindhu’s playwright’s note:
Born to an Indian-Tamil family in the Sri Lankan Central Province of Kandy, I grew up firmly steeped in the periphery of a conflict. Ealam and the war zone were far away from me. My family, while sympathetic to the plights of fellow Tamils in the North and East, were largely apolitical and strove to continue running their small businesses without attracting too much attention from either the military or the Tamil Tigers – money is what had brought them from India to Sri Lanka, after all. Large numbers of my relatives had fled to India after the 1983 pogroms, but there was a certain stoicism about the war. The mentality was that even if we were affected, it wasn’t our battle.
In 2009, two months after the war ended, my family migrated to Canada. The move wasn’t politically motivated – it was economic. We moved in to an apartment in Scarborough, and for the first time in my life, I experienced a sense of Sri Lankanness that I had never seen before – there was an obvious display of pride in Tamil culture, and that too a uniquely Sri Lankan Tamil culture. I have seen more signage in Tamil in Scarborough than I have seen in Sri Lanka. I have learned more about Jaffna cuisine in Toronto than I did in Kandy or Colombo. Not being able to travel to the former war zone until recently, Toronto was the first place where I learned more about the “other” Sri Lanka.
I also learned that people in Toronto had displayed their anger about the war more vocally than most Sri Lankans had. People in Sri Lanka either didn’t or couldn’t protest with such vigour, probably because they feared for their lives at a time when the President and his outfit ran the country with an iron fist and an unforgiving attitude. Canada, on the other hand, provided a platform for these grievances to be aired, and provided a home for many of Sri Lanka’s Tamil refugees to express themselves and their identity.
I felt both a part of this world and excluded from it. Yes, I grew up in a war torn country, but much like Chanaka [played by Suchiththa Wickremesooriya in The Creases in My Sari; his father is a military man], I grew up in privilege. I wanted to write about these tensions within my own identity, and that is what gave birth to this play. I hope you go on a journey with these characters and feel the battle between the political and the personal as much as I did – as much as I still do.
Carolyn Zapf, the dramaturg of this play, is probably the sole reason why this play exists. With her encyclopedic knowledge and kind attitude, she did not let me forget about the play until it went through the many revisions that it did. I owe her all my gratitude. Thank you Carolyn.
The Creases in My Sari runs to Sunday Nov 13 in the Studio at Alumnae Theatre. Showtimes: Wed – Sat at 8pm, plus 2pm matinees on Sat & Sun. Tickets: $15. Purchase online (http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html) or reserve at 416-364-4170 Box 1 and pay cash at Box Office . No credit or debit cards accepted for in-person sales.
7pm on Friday Nov 11 – Pre-show panel discussion (in lobby) with author Koom Kankesan; former Tamil refugee and current PhD candidate Thursica Kovinthan; and Sri Lankans Without Borders member Amra Ghouse.
Saturday Nov 12 – post-matinee Talk Back: Writer and director discuss their artistic process and answer audience questions about the play and the production.