R&R: The Guru Of Chai
R&R: The Guru Of Chai
Until last night, I’d never met anyone as good at telling stories as my father. Ever since I can remember, dad has adorned his stories with big actions, accents, expressions and even makeshift props to bring a story to life. He’d creep, dance, swirl or whisper quietly to draw you into the tale. He’s play many unique, vibrant characters all at once, each with their own mannerisms and traits. Watching dad tell stories in this way was such a treat. I’d leave feeling as though my imagination has just been ignited.
That’s what happened to me as I sat in the audience at Guru of Chai. Jacob Rajan walked onto a simple but colourful stage dressed in white. His music man David Ward took a seat to one side. What happened during the next 90 minutes is rather hard to explain. Simply put, I went to India.
Guru of Chai tells a rich story that starts in a hot train station in Bangalore. A thrifty chaiwallah with a chai stand in the station is approached by seven young sisters. They’ve been abandoned by their father, and they need help. They ask to sing at his chai stand to earn money. The chaiwallah is afraid, because the Faqeer may disapprove and take all their money. But the sisters are desperate, and with the protection of a kind policeman, they sing to earn a living.
From here, the story grows wild. First, I was afraid in bustling Bangalore, with its hot nights, seedy cockfights and dark underworld. Then I was brave in New Dehli, a city full of Starbucks outlets and opportunity. I stood on a dusty street and shook my head at the antics of a rascal chaiwallah. I hid in the dark corners of a parliamentary palace and saw a hero’s morality fall to the ground like dust. I watched a family grow, stretch, break apart and finally try to mend. I cheered for a child’s courage, I wept for a woman’s loss. I was spellbound.
And the whole time, there was only one man on stage.
Jacob Rajan is the ultimate storyteller. He doesn’t tell the story, he lives it. He is the story. Watching him is captivating, there were moments when I had to remind myself I was in a theatre in Auckland and not actually on a dusty street in India, which is how I felt. I don’t want to give too much away, but the experience of being in this audience is quite unforgettable. There is magic. There is cleverness. There is light and haunting music, adventure and spontaneous applause. Your imagination will fizz for days.
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