A couple of years ago at Jairangam Theater Fest, I witnessed the most powerful act of my life directed by artist Kismat Bano.
A resident of Guwahati, Kismat’s ancestors, were from Rajasthan and as she says, ‘she was fortunate enough to return to the land to perform.’
But this wasn’t the only time the then 22-year-old visited the state. She recalled how her distant relatives began banging her parents’ head with marriage proposals as soon as she stepped in college. This dragged the family to Rajasthan hoping to search a good match for their daughter.
“I was made to wear the best salwar-kameez while the elderly women put make-up on my face. Before the boy’s family, my relatives wanted to check if I looked ‘my best.’ When the guests arrived, I was asked to bring the tea for everyone. After a little murmuring in the drawing hall, I was made to stand, walk, and speak. Everything about me was inspected right from the size of my eyes, my fair skin tone to how long my hair was. The next morning, they called up to inform they’d rejected me because my height wasn’t ‘good enough’ for their son who ran a medical shop in Dundlod village.”
That moment, Kismat remembers, she felt like Helen Adams Keller, the American author who was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.
“That day, I was a part of the drama that was happening around me. However, I didn’t want to see or speak or listen to any of that. I felt like Helen.”
Upon returning, she decided to take a plunge in her life. Instead of revolting to her parents, she planned to take dramatics more seriously than ever. By that time, Kismat had just begun attending a local theater workshop. But was the journey easy?
“Not at all. My parents were a little skeptical. Since I was a child, every time I would see an army man or a doctor, I would be highly fascinated by their attires. When I watched films and TV serials, I thought I could be all of those real-life characters if I learn to act. Although the language was a barrier, I decided to take a chance and enroll myself.”
Somehow, her parents agreed to let her act but only in one condition. “I was supposed to participate in the shows happening only in Assam. Traveling with ‘strangers’ wasn’t allowed.”
Things changed the day when Kismat’s parents heard the loud round of applause after their daughter’s performance at a local theater.
“Once I gained their 100% support, I immediately applied for Ministry of Culture’s scholarship. My happiness knew no bound when I saw my name on the top of this list amongst many talented artists. The fact that I could make it without any prior theater training was outstanding. Since then, there is no looking back.”
So when did Helen Keller play happen?
“Thinking about what I went through, I could relate to Keller in many ways. One fine day, I went up to a local bookstore, bought her biography and finished reading it in three days with bloodshot eyes.”
The Kismat who had never enjoyed the company of books loved every page of Keller’s story.
“When I told people I was in the process of directing and scripting a play about Helen, people thought I was talking about Salman Khan’s mother, Helen, the famous dancer.” *laughs*
Kismat’s parents and I are among the millions of people across India who wiped their tears after watching the powerful Helen Keller play directed by Kismat Bano. At the little age of 23, she has been felicitated with many prestigious govt. awards.
The journey that began from getting to deliver just one dialogue at a local theater in Guwahati, Kismat, today, is a proud Director, Scriptwriter, and Actor who has successfully performed on international stages. She has her own production house called Wings Theater.
Wait, there’s more. Kismat is also associated with Guwahati Blind High School where she teaches the visually impaired kids how to perform theater and understand the art of acting.
The name Kismat Bano translates to ‘Destiny Awake’ in English. This young lady has indeed awakened to the reality of her destiny. We’re so proud of you, girl.
(Pictures are Kismat’s own)
December 24, 2016 at 7:48 pm
Kudos for her great achievement! She should be a role model to others. Her hard work earned her tremendous success.