Divyani Rattanpal

Writer : Dr. Anil Kumar Pathak
Direction : Devendra Raj Ankur
Cast : Nidhi Mishra, Prachee Paathak, Ragini Kashyap, Subhash Ahirwar, Rohit Bhagwat, Shekhar Singh, Akhilesh Kumar, and Shaurya Shanker.


Indian epics and myths deeply revere motherhood. Yashoda, for instance, is invoked in countless hymns for her son, Krishna. However, the degradation of Indian family values has led to situations where a mother's own children's homes have become chambers of cruelty.

To the outside world, she may seem "safe" within the confines of her four walls. Yet, her body and soul know the truth-she's held hostage in exchange for monetary perks like pension or family property.

The poignant drama, LAAWARIS NAHIN MERI MAA HAI, captures how one such woman finds catharsis by abandoning the safety of her home and seeking refuge in the "unsafe" territory of a footpath.

Mai lives alone on a footpath, surrounded by the memories of broken familial relationships that she and her husband once nurtured with love and sacrifice. What was supposed to be a comfortable retirement for the couple becomes an endless series of persecutions at the hands of their two sons and daughters-in-law. After the patriarch of the house-Mai's husband-passes away, her treatment worsens. She rebels by secretly leaving the house and establishing a new home for herself on the footpath of a bustling city. Ironically, she finds a more loving family among the street urchins, who selflessly care for her out of affection rather than for future property rights or a pension.

On this footpath, Mai crosses paths-quite literally-with a hardened government officer who pities her and offers to take her to his home. However, Mai sternly tells him to first take care of his own mother, who is alone in the village while her son fulfills his duties through WhatsApp and bi-annual visits. This confrontation forces the officer's son to confront his own guilt-Is he a bad son? Has he abandoned his mother? Is sending money home enough? Can he do more?

The play, LAAWARIS NAHIN MERI MAA HAI, delves into themes of the parent-child relationship, corrupt family values, greed, loss, and betrayal.

Drawing from Grotowskian Theatre, object transformation plays a vital role in the narrative. Cloth, for instance, is used dramatically as an invisible divider within the partitioned family house. After the elder brother's schemes succeed, the same cloth becomes a headgear, symbolizing honor and victory. It later signifies the womb, illustrating the poignant battle between pure emotion like motherhood and the material realities of the world. Thus, the prop, through transformation, becomes deeply symbolic of different aspects of the narrative.

The play also employs a multiplicity of voices, borrowing from Bakhtin's heteroglossia theory. This highlights the various ways in which a mother is left shortchanged by her children. For instance, the phrase "Main busy hoon, thodi der mein call karti soon" (I am busy, I will call later) echoes throughout. Different dialects are used to depict the universality of motherhood and the challenges the institution faces today.

The roles of mothers are portrayed with superb perfection by NSDians Nidhi Mishra and Prachee Pathak. Meanwhile, the other actors-Ragini Kashyap, Subhash Ahirwar, Rohit Bhagwat, Shekhar Singh, Akhilesh Kumar, and Shaurya Shankar-excel in seamlessly transitioning between roles.

The monologues, written with precise emotion by Dr. Anil Kumar Pathak, add depth to the play.

What's particularly striking about the play is how, amidst celebrating motherhood, it poignantly portrays the suffering of an infertile woman. The disdain she faces from her own family members, the shattered remnants of her dreams of motherhood, and the uncomfortable role of being the aunt who must provide emotional and physical labour for her siblings' children.

The play concludes with a lingering question: Are we all, to some extent, guilty of abandoning our mothers? If not physically, then perhaps emotionally? In a land of ideal sons like Rama and Krishna, are we cheapening the transcendental love of a mother by reducing her to a mere currency?

*Divyani has worked as a journalist for The Quint, where she was also among the Founding Team members. While there, she also hosted and produced a podcast and fronted several standups. She's also worked for The Times of India group. She's now a theatre and film actor.

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