Deconstructing the walls that separate us


A scene from the play Deewar Keh Uss Paar staged in Islamabad. — Photo by Khurram Amin
A scene from the play Deewar Keh Uss Paar staged in Islamabad. — Photo by Khurram Amin

ISLAMABAD: Imparting a message about peace and tolerance, Theatre Wallay put on a performance of Deewar Keh Uss Paar, an adaptation of Dr Seuss’s ‘The Butter Battle’ at Go Organic on Friday.

Produced by the Karuna Centre for Peace USA, Critical Connections USA and the Peace and Education Foundation Pakistan, the play targeted the children from ages seven and onwards.

The cast also included child actors including four-year-old Sarmad Hussein, Maseel Naqvi, Zainab Hassan and Sharjeel Haider.

The play was introduced with a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi which reads: “Khoon apna ho ya paraya ho, nasl-e-adam ka khoon hai akhir. Jung mashirk mein ho keh maghrib mein, amn-e-aalam ka khoon hai akhir”.

The scriptwriter, Ikram Ullah Khan adapted The Butter Battle which is an anti-way story which discusses the arms and nuclear weapons.

The play discusses how fights between neighbours escalate from rocks, bats and staffs to guns. The two sides then invest in nuclear bombs with neither side then ready to use them.

The director of the play Fizza Hassan said the play was a team effort. She led a discussion with children in the audience about why walls are constructed.

Varying answers came from the audience with some children said walls were built because of status differences, others saying because of a fear of thefts, for partition purposes.

Ms Hassan said: “We thought working with children will be difficult that the adults accompanying them will be in charge but the children proved to be more intelligent and confident than the adults.

They understood the theme, the story line, the conflict and the symbolism.

“They also had remarkable stage presence and character interpretation. They even gave us pointers for directions at times.”

Though it was very enjoyable, the play had important messages about peace and tolerance.

It showed how minor differences can cause misunderstandings which grow into disagreements and escalate into conflicts.

There were also moments throughout the play where a decision or approach could have diffused the situation.

In an interactive session afterwards, children talked about what walls are and why they are constructed in Pakistan. Many answers came up including discussions about walls in classes, between India and Pakistan, the rich and the poor, provinces and religions.

An audience member and renowned classical dancer Indu Mitha said: “Lifestyles also come between neighbours. We see differences in how people dress and behave and we start to think they are different to us. We should understand that unless someone or something harms us, we should not think of them as separate from us”.

Ms Hassan said the play was the beginning of a peace building through theatre project. Theatre Wallay got a grant six months ago for outing together a theatre project aimed at tolerance in Pakistan.

They work with children between the ages of 10 and 18 and conduct workshops.

Another audience member, Niaz Nadeem said: “I know Theatre Wallay for their good quality, interactive theatre. I was inspired by how they tackle simple but critical issues in society in a creative and interactive manner. I was impressed by the performances of child actors and the discussion generated after the play.”

It is the parents’ responsibility to teach the children about tolerance, said a guest, Fouzia Shahid.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2016