Jiv is “Canadian.” And “Indian.” And “Hindu.” And “West Indian.” “Trinidadian,” too. Or maybe he’s just colonized. He’s not the “white boy” he was teased as within his immigrant household. Especially since his Nova Scotian neighbours seemed to think he was Black. Except for the Black people—they were pretty sure he wasn’t. He’s not an Arab, and allegedly not a Muslim—at least that’s what he started claiming after 9/11. Whatever he is, the public education system was able to offer him the chance to learn about his culture from a coffee table book on “Eastern Mythology.” And then he had a religious epiphany while delivering a calf in Trinidad. By now, Jiv’s collected a lot of observations about trying to find your place in your world.
In this funny, fresh, and skeptical take on the identity play, Jivesh Parasram blends personal storytelling and ritual to offer the Hin-dos and Hin-don’ts within the intersections of all of his highly hyphenated cultures. This story asks the gut-punching questions: What divides us? Who is served by the constructs of cultural identity? And what are we willing to accept in the desire to belong? Then again—it doesn’t really matter, because we are all Jiv.
About the authors
Jivesh Parasram is a multidisciplinary artist and facilitator of Indo-Caribbean descent. He grew up in K'jipuktuk in Mi'Ma'ki (specifically Dartmouth, NS), and currently lives and works primarily on the Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver) where he works as the Artistic Director for Rumble Theatre. Jiv spent over a decade in T'karonto/Toronto working mostly in the independent theatre scene; there he co-founded the award-winning political theatre collective, Pandemic Theatre. He also worked as the Associate Artistic Producer at Theatre Passe Muraille. His performance work has toured across Canada, to the UK and Europe; and his research has taken him back to the Caribbean to Cairi (Trinidad & Tobago) Taino Carib & Arawak territory. He has been honoured with numerous awards and nominations including the Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award, The Dora Mavor Moore Awards, The Jessie Richardson Awards, The Harolds, and the Herald Angel at the Edinburgh Festival. He is also published with playwrights Canada Press, and has been a contributor to publications including CBC, the Canadian Theatre Review, and Spiderweb Show.
Tom is a T’karonto-based arts worker and the founding artistic director of Pandemic Theatre, a collective with a mandate for creating political work. Since 2018, Tom has acted as a producer for Why Not Theatre, where he manages multiple projects including the RISER Project (a collaborative producing model designed to address the challenges of producing independent theatre) and the Space Project (a program designed to access temporarily underutilized space for artist use). He was also the inaugural director and program designer of TENT, the Toronto Fringe's educational program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to theatre artists. Works for the stage include Mahmoud (co-writer), Take d Milk, Nah? (co-creator/dramaturge), and The Only Good Indian (co-creator).
Graham Isador is a writer and photographer in Toronto. He is a former contributing editor at VICE. His work has also appeared at GQ, Men’s Health, and The Globe and Mail. Isador’s latest play, White Heat, won outstanding performance text at the SummerWorks performance festival in 2019.
- Nominated, Governor General's Literary Award
- Nominated, Jessie Richardson Critics’ Choice Innovation Award
Excerpt: Take d Milk, Nah? (by (author) Jivesh Parasram; foreword by Tom Arthur Davis & Graham Isador)
Here’s the thing:
a Hindu can’t do an identity play.
’Cause identity is a Hin-don’t.
Identity means that there is an identifiable divide between things—where one thing ends and another begins.
And see, Hinduism teaches that these divisions are . . . an illusion. What we call Maya.
That this whole existence itself is just a dream of the great cosmic consciousness.
Identity is an illusion.
And so this play, this whole play, this whole genre of plays, in a manner of speaking has been about . . . nothing.
Because, for Hindus, true identity is . . . a field.
It’s just a field.
And we strive to look at the field
and see a blade of grass and think:
“I am that blade of grass.”
And what’s in the field?
And the cow is the blade of grass.
And you are the cow.
Because we are all the field.
And identity just divides that field.
That colonial concept: property.
Identity is just property.
Yours and mine.
And identity plays are just there to map it.
Secure the borders.
Did you come here to see an identity play?
Did you come here to watch me recolonize my thinking?
To partition it off to you in a digestible way so you too can feel assured at what the borders are between me and you?
I mean . . . in fairness, that’s how it was marketed . . .
So like . . . our bad too . . .
’Cause I can’t do that . . .
I won’t do that . . .
I won’t draw those borders . . .
Identity is a Hin-don’t because identity is an illusion.
That is a core belief I hold as a Hindu.
But in order to maintain that belief I need to hold onto my identity.
But part of my belief says that identity is an illusion.
So by that definition I also believe that I shouldn’t hold onto my identity.
But if I don’t hold onto my identity then I would just get sucked into the mainstream belief system, which doesn’t recognize that identity is in fact just an illusion!
So I need to identify myself, to identify identity as being an illusion!
But identity is . . . an illusion! And that is a Hin-don’t!
But I wanna be a Hin-do!
’Cause all I know is that we strive to look at a field and just chill!
So for the rest of this show—you can enter my mind!
That’s what we’re gonna do!
You can enter my mind and chill the fuck out!
“This engaging and powerful solo blends hilarious family-focused storytelling, incisive historical analysis of colonialism and imperialism and gut-punch first-hand accounts of everyday racism and marginalization in Canada.”
Jordan Bimm, NOW Magazine
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, Take d Milk, Nah? Is a must-see experience.”
Alyssa Mahadeo, Toronto Caribbean
Sam Mooney, Mooney on Theatre
“A thing of beauty.”
Lynn Slotkin, The Slotkin Letter
“I was impressed—nay, thrilled—by its boldness.”
Carly Maga, Toronto Star
“Hilariously entertaining and insightful.”
Cate McKim, Life With More Cowbell