Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Role Playing

Contemplation seems to be the key word for me these days :D As I was mentioning in my last post, some words, some sentences have a way of coming back to me.. and, each time they do, I find myself interpreting them differently, finding a greater depth to those words. Such is the case with these words uttered by my English teacher in my 2nd BSc. We had to study the play Macbeth as part of the English course and we had the good fortune of having a lady called Sukanya to teach us. She was simply splendid, and, through her, the play nearly came to life. We could feel the transformation of Macbeth, from a consentitious soldier to a ruthless tyrant, the slow degeneration of his relation with Lady Macbeth, the way they go from being husband-wife, to partners in a crime, to the point where the mere sight of the other reminded them of the sin they had committed. Sukanya ma’am taught the play amazingly well. In this course, she brought up a few topics which were pretty unsettling.

One of them was the fact about role playing. She was asking us, “when are you truly you?” or rather, ‘who is the true you? Does the true ‘you’ ever surface?’ At college, we play the role of a teacher/student, outside, we are friends of someone, even at home, we do not stop playing the role of a dutiful daughter, a spouse, a parent etc. So, eventually, in solitude, do we relax completely? Or, are we so used to role playing, that even in solitude, we can’t stop? Do we subconsciously assume the role of the kind of individual we/others want us to be? These words were hard hitting and disconcerting at the same time.

At IIT, in a course called Environmental Science, in the module handled by Prof. Asolekar, one of the exercises was “role playing”. Here, all the students had to assume different roles in a given situation and argue for the cause from the point of view of the person whose role they were assuming. The debate was about banning motor vehicles in the whole of IITB. The Prof. took on the role of the director of the insti, while we students took on the roles of student bodies, mess workers, cleaners, faculty members, environmental activitists and similar groups that might be affected by such a ban. We girls together formed a women’s group [representing the wives of the profs] and we opposed the ban saying that such a thing would hinder all our day to day activities which involved bringing in groceries and stuff, also with dropping kids off at school and picking them up etc. Though our argument wasn’t really strong, we built upon it steadily, and managed to put across a strong view, stating inconvenience and also, safety as our main points. The point is that as we got caught up with role playing, I was getting more and more convinced about our role, and, also that if such a ban were to happen, the women would seriously be terribly inconvenienced!!

Both these things, what Sukanya ma’am said about role playing and also this activity that we had done at IIT came back to me in the weekend. And, I wondered – Isn’t it true? Role playing is so dangerous! The more you assume a role, the more you start thinking like a person, and the deeper you get into it, the more firmly you start adopting the beliefs of the character whose role you are assuming, And, after a certain point, your ‘astitva’ is lost. You no longer have an existence beyond the role. I have seen this happen to several women. They end up being daughters, wives, mothers, sisters of so-and-so and the person that they are totally loses existence! Such a scary thought! I don’t want to lose my identity ever and will stirve to maintain it !!

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