The Life of Mehru

Sarah Liggera ’17
Contributing Writer

It’s an honest struggle to be a global citizen. Even as bombarded as we are by news stories, music, television shows and movies, depicting the lives of distant people from distant lands is hard; it’s nearly impossible to truly understand what life is really like for those in far away lands. Not simply places such as Beijing or Bangkok, even Quebec or Seattle resemble only a clutter of images—of people and buildings, horror stories from the news or romanticized ponderings of what we know to be true.

Hence why the work of people such as Afreen Gandhi ‘15 is so important. Since her first semester here at Smith, Gandhi has been writing and directing plays depicting the lives of people often overlooked or ignored by the media. A theater and film major with a concentration in South Asian studies, she has focused her efforts on portraying the lives of everyday people in the South Eastern Hemisphere. Last fall, she wrote and directed Smith’s first South Asian play, Family Duty, in collaboration with EKTA, STC and the South Asia Concentration.

Gandhi’s goal is to “include and represent South Asians in the Smith Community. In order to break down the stereotypes about South Asian women and families, my plays and films…attempt to showcase the discrimination and day-to-day problems faced by those whose voices are seldom heard: women, the mentally ill, and religious minorities.”

Her latest work is set in her own hometown of Allahabad, a small town in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Titled Mehru, the play shares the story of Ramla, a middle-aged woman trapped in a loveless and abusive arranged marriage, and her journey to find true love… which she ultimately finds after meeting a woman who “can love, protect and fight for Ramla better than any man ever has.”

Based off of the short story Love Unclassified, written by Afreen Gandhi’s mother Nighat M Gandhi, “Mehru is a story of love, myth, magic, and the blurring of the socially constructed divide between masculinity and femininity.”

Mehru, which is derived from the Arabic word Mehr, brings about an awakening in Ramla, in which she is forced to confront the dichotomy between her idealized existence in which true love is found and garnered… and the harsh reality of her life outside her daydreams.

While the work itself is unique, the cast selected to portray its characters are just as promising, chosen not only for their raw talent but also for their enthusiasm and ability to personally relate to the play’s story and message of unity and understanding.

Mehru stands as a promising pathway to a different culture, all through the entrapping tale of a woman forced into a life she detests and her struggle to find love and meaning in spite of it.

Scheduled for 7:30 PM in Hallie Flanagan Studio, Mendenhall on October 3rd and 4th, entrance to Mehru is free of charge.


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