Renu Brindle on Silence: 'My family never fully revisited their past. No words, no outpourings'
Silence is currently in previews at the Donmar Warehouse
I'm so thrilled to be part of this project as it's so very close to my heart.
My mother's family were involved in the Partition of India. They are Hindus, originally from Lahore, which is now in Pakistan but was part of India before 1947. And if you'd asked me, just a few months back, what I knew about the Partition from the experiences of my family, I would have said I knew barely anything as they never spoke about it.
I sometimes overheard snatched pieces of conversation about how my grandmother walked on foot for hundreds of miles, through floods, dangerous terrains and extreme temperatures, carrying a baby with barely any food to feed her child. Or how my mother, as a 12 year-old, was bundled through the window of a train, with her younger siblings, to travel alone on the long and treacherous journey to New Delhi. They ended up in a refugee camp and caught typhoid – but somehow survived. And my grandfather was presumed dead for two long years. Fortunately, he had been hidden by his Muslim friends in Pakistan. They were like family to him, and they saved his life.
My family never fully revisited their past. No words, no outpourings, just silence.
We eventually made a life for ourselves in Britain. A good life – and I am so proud of my family, particularly my mother who came through it strong and alive.
The process of the play has been very emotional but also very healing for myself, my mum, and my sister. It's hard digging into these deep emotions and trying to make sense of them. My mother is now elderly and my role in Silence has helped her to open up.
I am married to an English man and am very proud to be British, but I am also very proud of my heritage and culture. I will always be a Punjabi. It's so important that our future generations share where we came from and build a strong sense of identity and belonging.
Silence is so important as many of the people who have gone through this time, like my grandparents, are no longer with us. It gives voice to their ‘unspoken' stories and especially in Britain, as we are not taught this history. People like my mother are now only just opening up those stories and wounds, and healing in the process.
There are so many stories of courage, love and strength. We need to build bridges, not divide with lines and borders.
Silence is a co-production between the Donmar Warehouse and Tara Theatre. It premieres at the Donmar Warehouse from 1 to 17 September before performances at Tara Theatre from 21 September to 1 October.