INDIAN EMBRACE

by Carol Dance

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INDIAN EMBRACE

by Carol Dance

The play is set in Varanasi, India. The time is now. Most of the action takes place in a guesthouse where three Australians converge for a family reunion. John is a world-weary idealist working for an international aid agency. He hasn’t been back to Australia in many years. His sister, Pamela, is also an expatriate living in New York, but she returns to Sydney every Christmas. She works for a corporation that is starting a business in Varanasi. John is anti-business; Pamela is anti-aid. Their younger brother, Chris, acts as the peacemaker between John and Pamela, to his detriment. Chris has never before been out of Australia and lives a quiet family life.

Act One builds a picture of both the Australians and the guesthouse’s Indian family, in the context of international concerns. Vikram, the owner of the guesthouse, represents the faded aristocracy in contrast to his daughter-in-law who exudes modernity, youthful enthusiasm and change. She wants to immigrate to Australia and tries to inveigle Chris to be her sponsor. Pamela’s Indian agent provides a comic exploring of the differences between east and west business cultures, and between the agent’s crass business dealings and Vikram’s gracious manner. Act One ends with tension between the Indians, and a bitter disagreement between John and Pamela causing Chris to challenge their blinkered views.

In Act Two, the Australian family and the Indian family merge into one, following a riot that keeps them confined to the guesthouse, and following the mysterious disappearance of Chris during a riot. The 1984 Bhopal industrial accident sparked significant events in the characters’ lives. Vikram’s wife and daughters were killed in the disaster. John’s first field job was in Bhopal, resulting in a breakdown. John and Vikram are bonded, each having helped the other to recover.