Gestures of Resistance & Exchange
Last night my students from the Academy and and the College came together to perform short pieces of theatre for each other (with reference to The College & the Academy); an event containing processes that were filled with gestures of resistance and exchange.
A few days after the Academy’s hierarchies had approved our proposal to invite the cadets to our College, they realized that their visiting protocols did not permit cadets to ‘come into contact’ with foreign nationals. Although it was talked about as an archaic rule that no one understood any more, the fact that this rule was stated on paper caused some upheaval at the Academy. Were their cadets going to come into contact with non-Indian students; with the ‘Other’? Would these young men flirt with the young (non-Indian) women that they were going to meet, and God forbid, exchange email addresses and phone numbers? What if these ‘non-Indians’ would somehow tarnish the discipline of the Indian cadets?… Gestures of resistance abounded in the two weeks prior to last night’s show — gestures that while admittedly disingenuous to the people making them, had to be followed as a performance of protocol. These back and forth conversations of ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe not’ continued until two hours before the cadets actually arrived on campus; so up to the very last moment, we were not sure if our gesture of theatrical exchange would even happen.
But it happened. Somewhere in the Academy’s hierarchies, someone stepped in and ensured that this event took place. So, the cadets came to the College, they performed their piece (a brief overview might be found in the post Gestures of Auto-Ethnography), and students from the College performed a series of scenes/ monologues that they had been working on. The performances were followed by a discussion in which the cadets — who were extremely skeptical about the idea of performing monologues that talked about their lives — were met with positive and appreciative responses as to the honesty of the work. “Your monologues were so personal, so honest, thank you for sharing them”, students from the College said, and were met with amused and sheepish smiles from the cadets who did not believe that their thoughts/ opinions would elicit such a response. “We’ve never done or seen performances like this before”, the cadets responded, “we didn’t know that theatre could be like this.” The two groups of young people talked, walked, chatted — without exchanging email addresses or phone numbers, of course, under the watchful eyes of the Academy’s accompanying faculty — and came away (it seemed) with a sense of appreciation for each other. That although they came from different worlds, somehow, theatre became a gesture of exchange between them.
Whether the Academy will want to pursue this relationship, whether this ‘different’ theatre was something too ‘different’, whether there will be negative outcomes from the cadets’ interactions with students from the College, are all unknowns today. Today we rejoice in the success of this one small gesture of exchange. And tomorrow, well tomorrow we will wait for the gestures of resistance that are sure to return.