On February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, the world celebrates love in unique ways. In Mumbai, “Readings in the Shed,” a group of passionate writers and thespians, digs out and reads out the private love letters of people, whose public personae often defy the very idea that they can be, when deeply in love, often “rendered as vulnerable and even foolish as you and me,” as RITS creative editor, Himali Kothari puts it.
When the first edition of “Letters of Love” was started in 2019, according to RITS founder Nikhil Katara, it was so successful that they decided to turn in into an annual event. Selections included the love letters of Albert Einstein, the scientific genius, whom few would associate with the seemingly “irrational” sentimentality of a lover. He had written to his beloved: “Oh my! That Johnny boy/ So crazy with desire/ While thinking of his Dollie/ His pillow catches fire.” These were read out to a delighted audience who craved for more.
Though 2020 and the pandemic did put a spanner in the works, the power of love did not allow for spirits to dampen and this year, RITS is back with the private love letters of a selection of public people who have intrigued the world with their work in diverse fields
This year, the love letters shared between writers Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald will be read out. As will the passionate outpourings of desire of Oscar Wilde and Kurt Vonnegut, political dissident-turned-statesman Vaclav Havel, and the school teacher Hildreth Heiney, to their beloveds. Then there are the yearnings of photographer Andrei as expressed to actress Marilyn Monroe and of the actress Juliette Drouet to author Victor Hugo. The passionate love letters of painter Frida Kahlo & her lovers is a special attraction.
RITS enacts the readings, making the sessions vibrant, bringing alive bygone eras. It awakens long lost pasts, through the magic of love.
The readings of the love letters will be held at the NCPA Experimental at 7 pm. Directed by Nikhil Katara, the session will be performed by Asmit Pathare and Kyla D’Souza.