Encountering the Other, Accosting the Self
Rustom Bharucha, Theatre and the World: Essays on Performance and Politics of Culture, Manohar, Delhi, 1990,308 pp., Rs 250.
Two deeply entrenched views meet and reinforce one another, when a sage with a floating white beard speaks to a wide-eyed stripling, of having composed a poem which is:
the story of your race, how your ancestors were born, how they grew up, how a vast war arose. It is the poetical history of mankind. If you listen carefully, at the end you'll be someone else.1
The speaker is Vyasa, the poet-seer, who is also the legendary ancestor of the warring clans of that vast epic, the Mahabharata, and he is seeking a scribe who will hold fast his words, for the benefit of all those who come after. In their recent dramatization of the epic, Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carri^re have carried Vyasa's message to western audiences. Two well-established self-views have here accosted and reconfirmed the modality of each other's existence. The 'east' has often been convinced that it is the bearer of spiritual traditions no longer accessible in the 'west', and the 'west', tiring of the breakneck speed of the business of living in industrial and post-industrial society, has often looked for succour to the 'east'. In Vyasa's words the 'west' and the 'east' seem at last to have met to become all of mankind, the 'east' in some ways to have even ancestored mankind. But where does this encounter take place and where, all said and done, is the 'east' located?
East and west have of late been meeting in the kind of performative situation which has come to be designated as 'intercultural'. There have been few consistent efforts to gauge this phenomenon, which enjoys an increasing vogue. Symposia and conferences organized to throw light on the issue have not, to my knowledge, questioned the basis; they have tended rather to elaborate and illustrate the varieties of interculturality. Erika Fischer-Lichte, in her edition of the proceedings of a symposium on the theme (Bad Homburg, Germany, 1988), defines interculturalism then in the all-