Shiv, or A Set of Odd Coincidences


This morning I got up early to manually water some plants. I hadn’t done this since I moved out of my parents’ house in Brampton, Ontario. The plants that required watering today belong to the Caltech Alumni House. I had to water them manually because the sprinkler system had been shut off, so we (“we” being EXPLiCIT, or the Extracurricular PLayers at the California Institute of Technology, the student theater group here at Caltech) could stage a play (Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor”) in the backyard of said House. (We open this week! If you’re in the area, come check us out!)

The rest of the day involved moving heavy stage components and set pieces 400 m south from our scene shop at 275 S. Hill Avenue to the backyard of Alumni House at 345 S. Hill Avenue. This process is known as “load-in”. About a week ago, I was freaking out about load-in, because it involves lifting heavy things and coordinating a lot of people. Also, my mom decided to fly down from Brampton, Ontario to Pasadena, California on load-in weekend. The expectation was that I would be able to spend time with her, but free time is rare on load-in weekend.

However, load-in was completed smoothly and I managed to extract an evening’s worth of free time. My mother and I spent that time watching a play called “Shiv” at the Boston Court Theater. It was written by Aditi Brennan Kapil, and that is all I knew about it going in. It turned out to be an extremely poignant, moving, deeply true play about the strained and odd relationship that exists between immigrant parents and their children. As somebody who moved with their parents from India to Canada in early adolescence, this play felt amazingly authentic. It rang true (especially with my mom sitting right beside me). Know that I had not planned for load-in, my mom’s visit, and the last weekend of “Shiv” to happen simultaneously. But they did, and that was the first coincidence.

The second was that Kathryn Bikle, who directed me during my first time on stage, was in the audience tonight. She has, of course, been a huge influence in my (rather piddly) acting experience, and I had no idea she was going to be there tonight.

The third was named Karthik Srinivasan, an understudy for the role of Bapu in “Shiv”. He started off in New Delhi, studied engineering at a school in North America, caught the acting bug while in school, and decided to become a professional actor. I am guilty of the first three, and having vigorous internal debate about the fourth. We chatted briefly with Dileep Rao, who did a masterful job in the role of Bapu, an Punjabi poet immigrant in Skoie, Illinois.

And the fourth was that all these unlikely and weird convergences decided to happen in a single, long, tiring day, at the end of which I decided to type them up so that I would remember that parts of my life I consider to be separate and neatly divided are, in fact, not.


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