Kids Corner


Kultar’s Mime:
Four Children in the Aftermath of 1984
A Play Coming Soon To Your Neighborhood





On April 6, 1903, the city of Kishinev, the capital of the Russian province of Bessarabia, erupted in violence. A horrific pogrom was organized, targeting the Jewish population of Kishinev.

After three days of violence, 49 Jews were dead, 500 were wounded, 1300 homes and businesses were destroyed and 2000 families were left homeless.

The young Hebrew poet, Haim Nahman Bialik, went to Kishinev to talk to survivors and report on the pogrom. Bialik wrote one of his most famous poems, ‘In The City Of Slaughter’ in response to the Kishinev pogrom, using searing, powerful imagery to describe the horror that descended upon the Jewish residents of the city.

81 years later, New Delhi, the capital of the country which claims to be largest ’democracy’ in the world, India, was witness to, and complicit in a horror of even greater proportions.

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India was shot dead by her own bodyguards. They were of the Sikh religion. What followed was an orgy of murder, rape, arson and plunder, unleashed upon the innocent Sikh residents of Delhi and 40 other major cities across the country. In Delhi alone, more than 3000 innocent men, women and children lost their lives.

The poem, ‘Kultar’s Mime’, written by a young Sikh poet, drew upon eyewitness accounts of the Delhi pogrom to describe the sufferings of the Sikhs of Delhi, through the eyes of a group of young survivors.

There are uncanny similarities between the Kishinev and Delhi pogroms. Both targeted minority communities with violence following libel, innuendo and propaganda, designed to stoke fear and hatred.

Kultar’s Mime, the play, synthesizes the sufferings of innocent victims of organized violence, separated by thousands of miles, numerous years and insurmountable differences of religion, language and culture.

Drawing upon the raw imagery of both poems, it tells a story of human suffering and courage, reminding us that in the end all innocent victims are the same, regardless of the manner in which they worship the One, God of all, what religious and cultural traditions they observe, and what tongues they speak.

The play is set in New York City. A collective of young Jewish artists, influenced by Bialik’s ‘In The City of Slaughter’ decides to commemorate the Kishinev Pogrom by organizing an art exhibition in which they intend to display paintings about the pogrom accompanied by a reading of the poem.

As they get together and revisit Bialik’s poem, it occurs to them that it would be very powerful to honor the suffering of the innocent victims of Kishinev by shining the spotlight on other similar instances of organized violence that the world has largely forgotten. They decide to focus on the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 in Delhi and make it the subject of their exhibition, using words from the poem to augment the impact of the paintings they have created about the Delhi pogrom.

As part of their commemoration of the 30th anniversary of 1984, The Sikh Research Institute has partnered with Sarbpreet Singh and J. Mehr Kaur, the playwrights, to produce ‘Kultar’s Mime’, which will be staged in Boston in September 2014 and New York City, New Jersey and in Canada (Ottawa and Toronto) in October 2014.

All performances will be open to the public and no admission fee will be charged.

An ensemble cast of professional Boston area actors has come together, and rehearsals have started.

Further performances are being considered in Vancouver, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Area. The production team welcomes inquiries from individuals or organizations who would like to bring the production to their city.

Our dream and hope is to eventually take the play to New Delhi, India.

The production team can be contacted at and will be happy to provide detailed information on how to host the production.


Kultar’s Mime is an immersive theater experience, which draws upon poetry, painting and music, to tell the story of four young children who were victims of the 1984 Delhi massacre.

The dialog draws heavily upon the poem of the same name, which was inspired by three works that appeared after the tragedy.

The first is a booklet titled ‘Who are the Guilty’, a report commissioned by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a civil rights organization in India, which painstakingly documented the terrible crimes that were committed in Delhi after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The second work is an article by Madhu Kishwar titled ‘Gangster Rule’, published in the Indian progressive magazine “Manushi“, which intrepidly documented the events of 1984 in sharp contrast with most mainstream media in India, which had been tightly muzzled by the government.

The third is a paper by anthropologist Dr. Veena Das, titled ‘Voices of Children’, published in Daedalus, which told the stories of young children whose lives had been devastated by the violence. The play draws upon several of these stories.

The backdrop for the storytelling in the play is provided by eight original paintings by Evanleigh Davis, which represent her response to the poem.

The paintings depict the children whose stories are told as well as key incidents and persons who feature in the narrative.

Classical raags from Punjab and the subcontinent are used as preludes to set the mood in several key scenes. Traditional melodies from both the Gurmat Sangeet and Sikh Classical traditions are employed in support.

The events of 1984 have inspired an artistic response, mostly in the form of feature films such as “Amu” and “Kaya Taran” and documentaries such as “The Widow Colony“.

Kultar’s Mime“, the play, is one of the first attempts to tell the story of 1984 using theater as the medium.

The performances are dedicated to the suffering of all innocent children in political and communal violence, which sadly continues unabated the world over.

The play is currently scheduled to be performed in Boston in September 2014; and in New York City, New Jersey, and Canada (Ottawa & Toronto) in October 2014.


J. Mehr Kaur is a theatre director and Smith College student interested in experimental and immersive theatre work. She serves as Artistic Director of Two Paths Productions, is its co-founder, and also directed its flagship production in 2013, a devised piece called “Kultar's Mime“. She recently directed "Seven", a documentary play, which was presented at Hillary Clinton's 2014 Women in Public Service Institute. She will be directing a production of "Water by the Spoonful" at Smith College in Spring 2015.

Mehr is currently at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York, and will be spending a semester at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in the fall. Her interests in theatre span political and social justice theatre, new play development and classic texts.

Sarbpreet Singh is a playwright, writer and poet, who has been writing while pursuing a career in technology for several years. His commentary has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition, The Boston Herald, The Providence Journal, The Milwaukee Journal and several other newspapers and magazines. He writes a weekly column for the popular culture magazine, He is the founder and director of the Gurmat Sangeet Project, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of traditional Sikh music and serves on the boards of various non-profits focused on service and social justice. He is active in Boston Interfaith circles and was recently recognized for his interfaith work by the Boston Globe.


Michelle Finston is an actor, a teacher in visual art and theatre, singer, dancer, aerialist, and puppeteer. She holds a BA in Fine Arts and an MA in Teaching in Arts Education from Tufts University. She has acted in several productions at Tufts University, Emerson College and various other theater companies. She has also been featured at the Eugene O'Neill Puppetry Conference. Recent credits include Jen in “John and Jen“, Mel in “Prisoner on 2nd Ave” and Doralee in “9 to 5“.

Allison Matteodo, who has worked in film, television and theater, is a graduate of Williams College. She also holds an MFA in film production from Boston University. Allison recently performed as Sofya in the 4th Wall Stage Company's production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," adapted by David Mamet; Tre Alee's series "Karma" and Michael Cimpher's film "Lucky Star." Upcoming projects include the role of Clara and Mrs. Pearce in Flat Earth's "Pygmalion," and the role of Viola in Perro’s "High Heel Samurai."

Addison Williams, is a graduate of Georgetown University. He has been featured in several productions at Georgetown University in addition to multiple productions by Washington D.C. and Boston area theater companies. Recent credits include “Hamlet“, Jan Karski in “Remember This: Walking with Jan Karski“, Father Flynn in “Doubt” and Shane O’Neill in “Begotten: O’Neill and the Harbor of Masks.”

Cat Roberts graduated summa cum laude through the Honors College University of Massachusetts, Boston, with a double major BFA in English and Theater Arts. She had the role of Hermia in “A Midsummer Night's Dream“, Directed by Daniel Gidron at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Recent credits include Nina in “The Seagull“, Viola in “Twelfth Night” and Adriana in “A Comedy of Errors“. She was awarded the Louis E. Roberts Prize for demonstrating excellence and versatility in the Performing Arts Department in 2014.

Christine Scherer is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton. Recent credits include “Hairspray” (Penny Pingleton) and “The Crucible” (Mary Warren) at Binghamton University. Classically trained in voice, she has been singing since she joined her church choir in the sixth grade.

Poornima Kirby, Assistant Director and Movement Coordinator on “Kultar’s Mime“, graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in Drama. She has also trained at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Arts and Shakespeare & Co. Her professional experience encompasses both theater and film. Recent acting credits include Cecily in “Importance of Being Earnest“, The Countess in “Hairy Tales“, Faustus in “Dr. Faustus“, Michelle in “The Walker” and Isabelle in “Foundling“. In addition to other skills, Poornima brings her varied experience in physical theater to “Kultar’s Mime“.

Kelly Smith, Stage Manager on “Kultar’s Mime“, graduated from Providence College with a B.A. in Theater and Writing. Kelly has an extensive theater production resume that spans stage management, lighting design, sound design and set design. Kelly’s recent stage management credits include the “Complete Works of William Shakespeare“, “Three Days of Rain“, “Sand Mountain” and “Goodly Creatures” with the Hub Theater Company; and “27 Tips for Banishing The Blues” and “Ugmo and Eenie Go Down The Ruski Hole with Sleeping Weazel“.

July 24, 2014


Conversation about this article

1: Kulvinder Jit Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), July 24, 2014, 1:14 PM.

Looking forward to seeing it. Please keep us informed of the venue in Toronto. Congratulations to all those involved in this production.

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Four Children in the Aftermath of 1984
A Play Coming Soon To Your Neighborhood "

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