He said, she said

Updated: Feb 03, 2019, 10:32 IST | Anju Maskeri

Readings in the Shed's V-Day edition will feature letters of love, longing and lust by people you had never expected

He said, she said
Theatre actor Reshma Shetty and comedian and voiceover artiste Gavin Methalaka will be reading the letters

Long before polyamory became one of the most searched terms on Google, English novelist Virginia Woolf was living the consensual, non-monogamous life with husband Leonard Woolf in the 20th century. It's a relationship in which you're open to experiencing love in different forms with different people. American author Ernest Hemingway, on the other hand, was grappling with the harsh reality of being friendzoned, where you are no longer a dating option. How do we know this? Through their letters. And now, after months of digging into doggy-eared literary texts, the folks behind Readings in the Shed will present these curated exchanges on February 14 at the NCPA.

Nikhil Katara, Curator
Nikhil Katara, Curator

Talking about the Valentine's Day edition, creative editor Himali Kothari, says, it all began with the intention of talking about love, albeit from a different point of view. "While ideating on the content, we came across love letters from famous personalities, but famous for reasons other than love. That only prompted us to dig deep."

Hemali Kothari, Creative Editor
Hemali Kothari, Creative Editor

Along with director and curator Nikhil Katara, she made several rounds of public libraries and scoured the Internet for relevant material. For Katara, it was about looking at the idea of genius, which has always been associated with problem solving. "I wanted to find out how these people behave when confronted with the principal question of love. In a way, every letter is an autobiography because it tells you so much about the person and the time they lived in," he says. The evening will feature readings of letters penned by eight different personalities, including theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, the Polish scientist who worked on radioactivity and won two Nobel prizes, and Warren Harding, the 29th US President, and also the most scandalous of the lot. "He was in a relationship with his best friend's wife and wrote some very racy, sexually explicit letters," says Katara.

During the research process, they also stumbled upon interesting trivia about Curie. In 1911, when Curie won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, she received two telegrams; one informing her about the prize and the second that said the letters detailing her highly charged love affair with Paul Langevin, a scientist five years her junior, had been made public. "In the letters, Curie is cajoling and entreating him to leave his wife. And we were stumped, because, 'Hey, is a scientific brain same as mine?'" laughs Kothari. The evening will also feature snippets from Rukmini's letters to Krishna, one of the oldest recorded material from the Bhagavatham.

But it's not just about love; there's lust, longing and heartache. "It's nice to see that people were a lot more liberal in saying what they felt. Of course, they didn't know these letters would be published some day. All in all, it's a good study in human evolution, and how the idea of love has evolved, yet stayed the same in so many ways," says Katara.

WHEN: February 14, 7.30 PM
WHERE: Tata Garden, NCPA, Nariman Point
ENTRY: Rs 300
LOG ON TO: bookmyshow.com

A lot like love

  • Albert Einstein's letters shed light on his relationship with Mileva Mari-Einstein, whom he coincidentally divorced on Feb 14, 1919. By his own admission, he never knew how to remain married to one woman.
  • Rabindranath Tagore's letters to Victoria Ocampo, his ardent Argentine admirer, revealed a subtle, platonic relationship that flourished across two continents.
  • Kurt Vonnegut drew up a contract with his wife Jane, in which she listed chores he should be doing in the house.

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