1984: I could smell gasoline

Kultar's Mime, the theatrical play on Sikh genocide in Delhi, shakes Jasbir Kaur to her core. She tells us why.

Jasbir Kaur | Opinion | Asia Samachar | 1 June 2016 |
Kultar's Mime play at Temple of Fine Arts, KL, 29 May 2016
Kultar’s Mime play at Temple of Fine Arts, KL, 29 May 2016

For a non-KL resident, driving into KL is always adventurous and not the good fun kind of adventure. Let’s admit it, KL traffic is notorious but last Sunday, she managed to surprise me because my drive to Temple of Fine Arts was pleasant; perhaps she is more tame over the weekend. We even managed to find a parking spot right in front of the venue. Thanks to my skillful driver, we secured that spot because only he could have parked our SUV in such a tight spot, lodged between a big lorry and a minivan. A spot many dared not attempt.

It was full house and everyone was dressed to the nines for this play –“Kultar’s Mime” a theatrical presentation using poetry, paintings and music, to tell a tale of four young children who survived the massacre of Sikhs in India (#1984SikhGenocide).

SEE ALSO : Universal stand against violence – Takeaways from Klutar’s Mime

It happened in 1984, after the assassination of Indra Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguard which led to waves of mob violence and slaughter of more than 3000 Sikhs in just three days. It was a coordinated widespread killing by the leadership of India at that time. There was unrest for 36 hours in Delhi but only the Sikhs were targeted, tortured, tormented and killed.

Well that was the extent of my knowledge of the 1984 genocide which I gained through some articles I’ve read online.

I have even seen similar stories of such dastardly acts when men turned against each other simply because they had suddenly realised that they were from different religious beliefs or sect. But what I experienced that evening, at the play, shook me to my core. I am a crier and cry easily but this was beyond that.

There was a lump in my throat. I was overwhelmed by the emotions that kept hitting me all the way from across the stage right to the back of the room, where I was seated. With a simple backdrop of eight painting, a black glove and head scarf, a pair of sunglasses, a red shawl and only lighting, the cast members entranced me and a majority of the audience because there was pin drop silence from where I was seated.

Photo credit - Sarbpreet Singh (the poet)
Photo credit – Sarbpreet Singh (the poet)

My sensitive heart could not take the agony and pain of those four young and innocent children and what they had witnessed and endured during the 1984 pogrom.

I was sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned room but bits and pieces of me were sucked into the play. I could smell the gasoline poured unto a father who could no longer fight off the mobs. I curled up my feet, pulled my knees closer to my body when different coloured hands stripped the innocence of young naive girls. I dug my nails deep into my palm when eyes were gauged because it had seen men turned into barbarian and pounced onto their mothers, sisters and fathers like they belonged to a different species.

I wasn’t prepared to be sucked into this vile time but neither was I a coward to run out of the room. I stayed and watched and realised that violence in this world is not limited to any one community. Such similar injustice has happened before; well-coordinated and murderous riots against Jews in 1903 in Kishinev, Russia. Or the Turkish massacre of Armenians, the holocaust, mass killings carried out in the former Yugoslavia and the African country of Rwanda during the 1990’s.

Tyrants will always want to oppress people so people need to speak out if that is going to stop and this is exactly what Kultar’s Mime play is all about.
It’s opening the drapes off the injustice that had taken place and forgotten as if it never happened or that it was their own fault it happened in the first place. These genocides, ethnic cleansing, mass murders or whichever term deemed fit, needs to stop.

As it is, we are already at war with mother nature due to our bottomless greed, do we need more reasons to wage war against each other?

[Jasbir Kaur blogs on surviving parenthood at BeeRaise.

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]


Fun-filled children’s theatre workshop by Kultar’s Mime team (Asia Samachar, 27 May 2016)

Universal stand against violence – Takeaways from Klutar’s Mime (Asia Samachar, 31 May 2016)

Kultar’s Mime – Why am I helping to organise this performance? (Asia Samachar, 8 May 2016)

Meet Director, Poet in 1984 hidden story Kultar’s Mime (Asia Samachar, 6 May 2016)

Kultar’s Mime: Play depicting hidden story of 1984 (Asia Samachar, 5 May 2016)

A review of Kultar’s Mime (Asia Samachar, 22 May 2016)

Kultar’s Mime: Powerful new books tells 1984 Sikh genocide story (Asia Samachar, 15 May 2016)


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