Love, Lust & Labour

Love, Lust & Labour

I went to Khajuraho for a vacation. Alone.

It was incredible. I learned how to ride a cycle (think Phoebe from Friends, yeah, me in 2015), discovered a spiritual tea-shop, stowed away on a train and drank beer across the road from a 1000 year old temple. But mostly I spent my time making exclamations of awe and delight at the artistic beauty around me. And since for me, everything returns to matters of the heart and loins, here’s a little something (for those looking for touristy info, you’ll find some as an aside in the end!)

With love, from Khajuraho

Let it Show. Let it show. Let it show.

Couple Collage 1

Often times, an unspoken contract comes in to play with couples, especially though who are casually connected. The terms of this contract, myriad and varied, are all about enforcing one key thing: NO ONE MUST KNOW!

For crying out loud, if you think sex is something to hide away in a corner, you need to visit Khajuraho. Visit it and you’ll see scattered everywhere in the effusion of sculpture – couples – at times Gods and Goddesses at times just normal everyday people. Couple, who are basically just chilling in each other’s arms. Nothing particularly erotic, they are not even naked, they are just there, with each other, glacing askance to make eye contact, gently touching the arm of the breast, just enjoying the person they are with.

I know we are raised on a diet of guilt and no one wants to break convention. But just hold your partner.  Let everyone see. It’ll make one hell of a difference to your relationship, self-esteem and just all-round awesomeness.

It’s all in the details

Cover Pic

I can only wish that I could scream out in ecstasy as often in bed as I did when seeing the almost insane amount of attention to detail at Khajuraho. The darkest niche, the smallest step, the odd corner – the architecture and sculpture was meticulous down to the smallest detail.

And that is a big lesson for love-making. The small details – paying attention to the spots that someone likes being touched in, knowing how their skins feels when aroused, knowing when they might need to stop for a drink of water or simply knowing what their favourite colour makes an individual feel respected and cared about.

The closer you get the more complicated things will become

The temples look grand from afar; massive edifices, the stuff kings commissioned and only royalty had access to. But as you draw closer, you start to notice things – the flat illusion of distance gives way to levelled surfaces that towers above you, resplendent in fine sculpture that could very well be the greatest works of art in India. You can’t even count the number of statues. Your head spins imagining how many years it took how many people to carve these from scratch. The complexity baffles you.

People are pretty much the same way. The closer you get the more you see their complex natures and sometimes it’ll be too much and you’ll have to walk away. But if you give the complexity a chance you could end up surprising yourself.

A little restoration never hurt anyone

IMG_20151115_151343After the fall of the dynasty that built them, the Khajuraho temples fell in to disarray and were lost for centuries under forest and scrub. Discovered again by British surveyors, the temples had been neglected and desecrated for nearly 7 centuries before the Archaeological Survey of India finally got down to restoring them. And so as you get closer, things don’t just get more complex, you start to see the trauma and ravages of the years gone by.

The shadows, the cobwebs, the insect cases. Cracks, dust, chucks of stone broken away, entire sections missing, broken hands, distorted faces, blunted edges. It’s still the same structure. But now that you know what it’s been through, you love it even more.

Call me romantic, but I honestly believe that scars (physical and mental) make people beautiful, because they give them a story to tell. And none of us are capable of getting through life without being bruised now and then. Often we cover up the damage and put on a smiling face for the world. But it’s okay to let someone see the damage sometimes. It’s okay to ask that someone about their broken masonry as well.

So don’t be afraid. Get close. See the cracks. Explore.

Have a life of your own: It’ll only make your relationship that much more intense

IMG_20151113_113943There is a lot of sex and sensuality on the temple walls. But it definitely isn’t the only thing on the walls. There are wars, hunts, general everyday life with both men and women doing everything from slaying dragons to applying kohl. Together and on their own.

The lesson here is simple. Sex is important. But so is life. Any relationship that relies on sex for a definition is going to peter off sooner than fizz on can of Coke Zero. So do things together. Do things alone. And have amazing acrobatic oral congress (Hey, that’s the way the guides explain it) in between.

It’s NOT just Penetration


I don’t know when sex became this thing that men do to women in order to ejaculate. A lot of people talk about it that way. And their understanding of sex essentially boils down to a certain male appendage spearing different female orifices.

Well apparently, ten centuries back, our knowledge-base was much wider and men and women did a lot of things with a smile. Penetration was one of those things.

So, basically, there’s a lot of variety out there. Stop limiting sex to different positions in which to spear your partner.

Engage all 5 senses

Touch. Sight. Hearing. Taste. Smell.

Obviously the visual artistry of the temples at Khajuraho is undeniable. But there is also the feel of the stone under your feet and as you run your fingers across statues. There is the sound of bees buzzing and people laughing. The taste of winter in the air. And the smell of incense. Afterall a lot of the temples are still sights of active worship.

A lot of people claim that we are becoming a visual civilization. Be that as it may, sexual or romantic situations need to engage all your senses. To make you hyperaware of the person you are making love to. To fire parts of your brain that you didn’t know existed. So that sex becomes something you live as opposed to just witness.

Curves and Edges

Cover Pic

If you know the words to John Legend’s ‘All of Me’, you probably figured this one out. If not, here is the lowdown.

Like the sculptures and statues and carvings, each person has smooth (curves) and sharp (edges) aspects. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t enjoy one without the other either. It’s about time we started to accept people without all of their amazing contradictions.

In other words, it’s time to stop running at the first times of edginess.

Love is Hard Work

History claims Khajuraho at the height of its glory was home to more than eighty temples. Today only 21 exist or have been found. I visited them across my 3 days there, walking or cycling most of the way. Then there were the perambulations of the temples to see all the sculptures, steps that lead up to the platform and further steps from there to the sanctum.

So essentially, whether it’s site-seeing or sex, a little fitness and flexibility (none of which have anything to do with weight, mind you) can go a long, long way.

And finally, this is the biggest realization that I walked away from Khajuraho with:

Love is Worship

Couple 3

There is a reason that the imagery from the Kamasutra found its way to temples. Of course, there is a beautiful legend about the moon and a woman and a lot of jazz, but here’s my spin on things:

Khajuraho a testament to the power of love, sex and sensuality over our mundane lives. It is a silent reminder of the divine nature of our physical selves. It is a way for us to return to what we love most.

What we join our hands before, bow our heads for, go down on our knees for: Love.

And here of course if the promised

Practical Information

Getting there from Pune:

  1. Train to Satna (lots of options, 20-22 hours on road)
  2. And then bus or taxi to Khajuraho. Talk to Jani (09301949491). He was my cabbie. Be sure to fix a price with him before you get in to the car.

Places to stay:

They are all good and cheap. Just pick an option from the many online.


Take Guddu along to discover some of the more obscure ruins. I don’t have a number but you should find him at the curio shops outside the Jain Temples. Here’s a picture, in case that helps.


Ride them! The terrain is super-easy to navigate. Ask for Mohammad bhai (09893240074) to rent some.


I think I have been to few places that are so safe and secure. Everyone knows everyone and all of them respect tourists. STOP WORRYING!

Don’t Miss:

  • The sound & light show at the Western Temples
  • Buying weird-ass sex curios
  • Visiting the Chausat Yogini Ruins
  • Take a day out to go to Kalanjar. It’s one heck of a fortress with rock-cut walls dating back to the 8th century.

Also, carry water bottles and wear easy to remove-n-wear, sturdy shoes (I started walking bare-foot to avoid the hassle at one point). And fuck, this is not a family-vacay destination. Unless you are capable of addressing questions about naked women and copulating animals, use your brain and go to bloody Nainital instead.





OQ: Our Repertoire





1. .hop.skip.



A collaboration with 2 leading directors in Pune – Mahrukh Bharucha & Jaideep Mujumdar – to devise short plays centred around the theme of ‘Invisible Love’. Each Director worked with their team while I ran the devising process, workshops and overall aesthetic curation and production.

2. Mujhse Shaadi Karonge 2014 Based on research done with women who have used Matrimonial websites to find partners. This was a monoact that I created and performed for the annual summer festival at Artsphere, Pune.
3. Kiss & Tell 2014 Based on qualitative research done with 50 odd individuals, this play highlights urban relationships, the hook-up culture and the lives of young, single, intelligent women through the story of Frieda – a blogger and ghost-writer and her relationships three different guys. The play premiered on the 14th of February at Pukaar 2014, Pune
4. The Artist and the Aviator 2013 Explores the evolving relationship of the artist and the muse and whether it can transcend its traditional parasitic nature. Based on archival research. It was chosen for development by the Kali Theatre, London.
5. White Noise 2011 – 2013 Inspired by William Dalrymple’s book, ‘Nine Lives’, this play was an experimental foray in to many of the masks society wears through 4 unusual character – a Jain nun, an Idol-maker, a Devadasi and a mad woman.

The Play has been performed at:

  • ACT Festival, 2011
  • Bela Terrace Theatre Festival, Delhi, 2012
  • Kala Ghoda Festival, Mumbai, 2013
  • Bordersongs Festival, Kolkata, 2013
6. Anarkali 2012 Devised drama created with a team of 7 actors, the plat us based in an old-world kotha, it is the story of competition amongst the ranks of women working in the brothel and how that ultimately leads to the murder of one of the girls’ lovers
7. Charming 2012 This was a short play twisting the happy ending of the Handsome Prince-Sleeping Princess faerietale, staged at the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival in Mumbai.
8. Toba Tek Singh 2011 Based on the story of the same name by one of Urdu’s greatest writers – Saadat Hassan Manto, this play explores the strife and absurdity of the Indo-Pak Partition. Played out of a mental asylum in Lahore, the play was dramatized by actors between 16 to 33 years of age.
9. Food on the Table 2010-2011 A play dealing with the various forms of domestic violence, developed through research with the Stree Mukti Sanghtana.

Staged by

  • Key City Theatre, Washington, USA as part of the ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ festival of women playwrights
  • Contacting the World festival held in Manchester, UK in 2010
10. Sapphire Butterfly Blue 2010 / 2009 The script is a visual and auditory explosion of moments around the Salem Witch Trials that rocked Salem County, Massachusetts in 1692. The events of the play were juxtaposed to the modern-day witch burnings and tortures that occur in Bihar and Jharkhand, India through the production and used news footage and episodic story-telling.

Staged at

Zehen, an international theatre festival organized by Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication at Lavale

11. Geography of a Horse Dreamer 2010 Sam Shepard’s absurd play is the story of Cody, a man who dreams winning horses and is abducted by the mafia for his gift.

I was in charge of the training for actors and the physical work during the play

12. Mind Matters 2005-2010 The script deals with the dilemmas and pitfalls of psychiatry as a profession. Based on research done with students of psychiatry and people living with mental illness.

Staged at

The Inter-State Seminar on Research Methodologies in the English Language, Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune, 2010

13. Waiting



2009 Nothing happens, no one comes, no one goes.

Samuel Beckett’s seminal work, high-point of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ movement staged by us on a very, very experimental basis. Our amateur treatment wasn’t the best way to go about it. But it was definitely a learning experience.

14. All that remains… 2008 The play was a story of a family that has been living in an ancient house for generations but is now facing problems that cannot be explained away. This was my naive attempt at a penny dreadful.

Staged as

A fundraiser for Sahara AALHAD, Tamanna and the Steria India Foundation.

15. Where is my baby? 2008

My first play as a professional, this surreal, episodic drama was written for the NGO Tamanna and deals with the issue of sex-selective abortion.

It looked at the problem of ante-natal sex-determination through the prism of class, gender and society.

About ‘Be Wise or be Friendzoned’ article in Times Life

In response to this article printed in Times Life on the 1st of November:
Often, India is behind the curve on a lot of trends. But is it really so backward that Indian newspapers should feature a concept that has been debunked in the west way back in 2013, and proven to be as legitimate to male privilege as a woman cooking dinner and then bending over to perform wifely duties?
Let’s spell it out, shall we?
The ‘friendzone’ is not a thing. It never has been. It never will be.
In case, you want to do some research, here are some links for you to get started:
The only people who use the word ‘friendzone’ are sexist Neanderthals who believe that being nice to a girl means being entitled to romantic or sexual interest from her.
That being said, yes, a lot of people take advantage of the proverbial good guy (or girl, actually). That, as Gurcharan Das puts it, is the difficulty of being good. Yes, it is wise to teach our children (of all genders and sexualities) strategies to avoid being taken advantage of. But to explicitly make this universally human concept into bigoted, gendered indoctrination that teaches guys to demand for shit they have no right to? It’s not just absurd but retrograde. It’s dismissive of urban culture, the very thing the supplement aims to appease. It’s like telling the people of the Himalayas of the glories Yeti.
It’s a myth, get over it.
It’s bad enough that movies like Ranjhaana that glorify stalking and rape culture are still being made. Its bad enough that the police can use consenting couples as a way to fulfil their monthly quota. It’s bad enough that women have a hard time talking about their sexual needs and still being respected.
It’s bad enough.
Stop contributing to the mess.
Hina Siddiqui

Being One with Hiroshima and You


It’s been a while…


A lot of the past few months has been spent carefully dodging the question ‘So, what play are you working on now?’

My standard answer is some variation of ‘Creative side on the back-burner, this year dedicated to consolidating the business end of things’.

For a certain part, this is true. For the most part though, I have no way of explaining that I am negotiating the ridiculously self-appointed knife’s edge that still keeps the worlds of the artist and that of society separate. I have no way of communicating how the stability of making money of my art has severely undercut my ability to experiment, explore and simply take risks, in ways that I can’t even begin to understand. No desire really to get in to how jaded a part of me feels with the dearth of social comprehension that suffocates me like a poisonous fog. At times any way. I feel like I’d let people down if I somehow let it slip that I’ve become sensible but I still remain me.

Also, it probably bruises the ego to admit how cowed stability can make you. I mean, this is a company (yes, registered and all) that I worked my butt off to get off the ground. That did plays that were stopped by the police, that got plays done internationally, made the city first ever English Theatre Festival happen… the company that now sits around waiting, for something that I can’t yet define. A company that for a while had a lot of people associated with it, that has now become a front for a single artist’s (me) current inaction. A company that now feels the brunt of outliving public memory while straining under the weight of burgeoning nostalgia. A company that is an idea in search of makers.

A company that is taking a deep breath, waiting for it’s owner to dive in deep again, so that it can fill up her lungs maybe some day bring her back up again.

A company that needs to stop dreaming of being an organization, but embrace the individual that has always defined it.

An individual who is not yet dead. Just resting.

The Object of My Affection: Chronicles of OQ’s Drama Class



Most of our childhood goes in being told that every object has a specific use and using it it anyway other than that specifically mentioned will lead to specific… well…  consequences. Consequences such as being phenomenally yelled at (or beaten, depending on how you were raised) for using dadima’s chhadi as a tactical weapon during the epic siege of the holy bargat ka jhad. Sooner or later, staying on the good side of the parent/teacher/tribal elder becomes so important that magick beans, X-ray goggles and the Cape of Evil return to being just cuff-links,  glasses and a badly tangled mess of  soup spoons, staple pins and mum’s new salwar (long story). In short, we stop playing, grow up and need to get jobs.


The problem with that equation of course, especially in an upside-down world where the education system is geared to produces masses but the job market wants to hire individuals, is the complete elimitnation of creativity from the process of growing up, because creativity is simply that – using/seeing/applying things in ways they weren’t meant to be used/seen/applied. Lateral thinking as Edward De Bono likes to call it, or being ‘out-of-the-box’ as the corporate with a boxed-in vocabulary likes to believe, is the basis of many personality traits – all of them desirable, especially in children growing up to face a drastically different reality where Doraemon has replaced Do-it-Yourself and idle time which may generate ideas that can change the world is filled up by things that will no doubt keep the world from changing.

And this is why, we bring objects in to the classroom, to allow an exploration of everyday things sans their prescribed uses. The process involves helping children see the potentials of an object by stripping away it’s identity and creating new meanings or uses for it. And though some things were broken, it was all in the pursuit of creativity and thus highly forgiveable or so I am hoping is how my mom will feel.

While younger children worked with objects in pretend-play, the older ones created “museum exhibits” and became curators of their own collections. Here are some of the highlights of the session.


Arav telling us a story of a Lion (the puppet in his hand) and a Peacock (the quill stuck unceremoniously in the djembe case), who were friends till the Lion got hungry.

Arnav Arnav telling us about a ship, how it saw a rock through a magnifying glass and lit a firework (too small to be seen on camera), burned up and sank down.


And Shayan telling us about an Elephant and a Duck who were saved from a multi-dimensional whirlpool by a magick ring.



From tackling gross motor skills to promoting higher level thinking – all of it achieved through objects rounded up from my living room. A process that will carry on to the discovery of puppets, object theatre and a lot of crazy, unbjectionable ideas!


Our Way


The day draws closer and the feeling that this might be too big to handle, closes in. 

You get lost sometimes, doing what you do – loosing track of time, space and often people –  creating work and making dreams come true. And theatre binds you with this sense of impermanence – a feeling of everything being momentary, everything being live and instantaneous, intense and emotional and then when the show is done and the audience is gone and you are left sweeping up the dregs of performance on stage – you begin to wonder why it was that you started and what it is that you are left with. 

This is our – my – personal reminder… 

Pukaar started off as a pipe-dream to make plays happen and is now a six day theatre and performance festival that is a little over 24 hours away from becoming reality. In the process, we made a lot of connections, broke some too, learned to work together and got smarter at what we do. We made progress, we made mistakes, we made promises and we did our best to keep them. We discovered the most devious, dysfunctional individuals and we gained the privilege of working with some of the most gifted, generous and genuine people. Mostly we worked our ass off… OQ got the chance to bring on board two absolute gems, Kanika Mansharamani and Aarti Tiwari who made even the darkest hour resound with the hope of perseverance. These two girls have given it and continue to give it their all and being abundantly grateful for that would be an understatement. The Maharshtra Cultural Centre, with it’s pedantic ways and diffident process, has been the greatest ally we could have ever found. Niloufer Sagar and the Indian Cartel, Salome Mehta and the Artistes Studio, Sujay Saple and Shafeshift Collective, Arka Mukhapadhya and the Arshinagar Project, Sundeep Rao and the various other artists and performers who are coming down for the festival  have shown us the meaning of true commitment and the spirit of communal creation.  We doff our hats for Sanee Awsarmal, MSIHMCT Alumni and Zodiac Foods for last-minute benefits and Nicholas D’Silva and the entire team of Scoop Interactive for sheer tolerance levels. We have lost our festival virginity with you guys and it has been the most amazing first time ever. Forgive us if we fall in love. 

We’ve discovered ways to keep going when we want give up, ways to lean in the Sheryl Sandberg would be proud of and ways to follow our hearts and give others the courage to do so as well. This may not be the perfect, little festival but it is the perfect base for the future – OQ’s, theatre’s and ultimately any creative endevour’s. We may be left with nothing when the curtains close, but we will certainly not be left empty – our hearts and minds will be full of gratitude and accomplishment, of camaraderie and confidence and even in the weary recesses of our minds, we’ll be planning for the next time. 

We answered the call. And we did it our way. 

For these and many more awesome opportunities to watch performances, interact with artists and create something new, do come on down for Pukaar 2014.

For tickets log on to: 

Pukaar Schedule Poster