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Kabeer – A Play That Touched The Soul

Ranjani Saigal

Actor singer Shekhar Sen presented the story of the mystic who used his poetic brilliance and divine inspiration to spread the message of Love, Peace & Harmony on Sunday, April 23 at 4:00 pm in Brooks Middle School; Lincoln, MA.

All the praise I had heard about this work did not prepare me for this fabulous production which succeeded in making the audience feel as though they were in the presence of that great spiritual master, Sant Kabeer.  The inspirational poetry of Kabeer combined with the well trained voice and Shekhar Sen was able to transport the audience time and space to the house of Kabeer and listen to his philosophical discourse. In about two hours, Sen re-created on stage the life and times of Kabir who lived 600 years ago in North India.

The play opens on the scene of a Brahmin widow, reluctantly and painfully, giving up her infant "illegitimate" son. The baby, placed in a basket and set afloat on the Ganges, is rescued by a childless Muslim weaver and his wife who immediately take him into their heart and home. Even as a child, Kabir finds that he is treated as an inferior both by the mulla in the Masjid and the pandit in the temple — for the shadowy circumstances of his birth are an open secret. The teenaged Kabir enjoys riling the mullas by asking if God is hard of hearing — why else do they shout out the daily prayers from the minar of the Masjid? If God is all-pervasive, Kabir asks the Hindu priests, why the worship of idols?

As the young Kabeer gets enlightenment poetry just seems to flow from him. Sen recites many of Kabeer’s Doha’s. Before he recites any poem he created the context for the Doha. This helps the audience understand the true meaning behind the Doha. Other scenes including the marriage of Kabeer and later his death were powerful.

Historically, Kabeer has been regarded as a bridge across sectarian divides. These divisions have been cause of tension not only between Hindus and Muslims but also a wide range of sects within each tradition.  Kabeer tried to make the Muslims and Hindus understand the true nature of the Divine. More importantly he wanted each individual to be more human. When the priests in the temple insult him he refutes them by saying “ You worship those man made idols and yet you insult me who is an idol made by God’s own hands”

When the Muslim emperor asks him if he accepts Islam he replies “Hum Islam ko Manthe hain. Lekin kyat um Islam ko Janthe ho?” (I accept Islam but do you understand the meaning of Islam. The emperor had given orders to break temples which infuriated Kabeer. “Do not show your courage to inanimate stones. By hurting people’s feeling you are hurting God”
Sen’s presentation had the audience spell-bound for the entire two hours. We hope the revival of the ancient actor-singer tradition will bring more such presentations in the future.

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