NOT MY LABEL: A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY
By Donisha A.Â Â
Indiestry Exec Donisha A. interviewed writer and performer Rula before her first performance of a monologue titled “Not My Label: A Journey of Discovery.” During the interview Rula expressed her views on societal labels, taboo themes and performing on stage.
On Friday Jan. 15, excitement and nervous energy filled the air as writer and performer Rula stepped on stage at the Washington, D.C.-based Flashpointâ€™s Mead Theatre to perform â€œNot My Label: A Journey of Discoveryâ€. This was the writerâ€™s first time performing a monologue, but it was not evident in her performance.
Â [Press Photo]
Presented byÂ Ambassador Theatre International Cultural Center (ATICC),Â â€œNot My Labelâ€ is based on the true events surrounding the aftermath of anÂ extramarital affairÂ . This deeply-personal story unfolds as the main character is banished by her friends and family. She then, goes on an emotional journey to regain her power and integrity.Â
â€œThis piece that I am performing today started from aÂ novelÂ that I am writing,” Rula saidÂ â€œAs I was writing â€˜In the Boxâ€™ I said â€˜this really happened to me.’”
After this realization, Rula embarked on a journey to bring her story to life on the stage.
“['Not My Label'] is an in-your-face portrayal of people being labeled,â€ Rula said. â€œAnd the subject matter is controversial. [â€œNot My Labelâ€] is about what this woman goes through after a very interesting love affair takes place.â€
Rula said that she focuses on taboo issues â€œbecause no one wants to speak about them.â€
â€œMy goal is to push the envelope of cultural taboo,â€ Rula said.Â â€œ[My stories] are pretty raw. I donâ€™t care how people react because I write from fearâ€¦fear of failing. Thatâ€™s what helps me overcome writerâ€™s block. One of the catalysts for me to write really has been from fear and it keeps me going through personal problems, to put it out there.â€
Although Rula has received accolades for her form of self-expression, she realizes that a number of people may not agree with the themes that she expresses in her short stories.
â€œ[â€˜Not my Labelâ€™] is so controversial that people have threatened me,â€ the writer said. â€œItâ€™s a very taboo subject.â€
In â€œNot My Labelâ€ Rula proclaims: â€œThere is right and wrong, and there is anomalies. I have never been in your box!â€
Another one of Rulaâ€™s deeply-personal stories, â€œZoloft Nationâ€ gives readers a glimpse into the life of a woman who is battling depression.Â
When crying became my only means of expression; when fatigue was my partner in bed. I began family therapy because it seemed to be the appropriate choice of action. I was dubbed as mildly depressed after spewing the symptoms which included anger. I resisted the route of medication years prior, being the first to haughtily deem it as â€œan easy outâ€; I started to consider it as a last resort to regain sanity. Finally I merged with the others in the private confines of healing.
~Excerpt from â€œZoloft Nationâ€ (Rula, 2009)
In â€œZoloft Nationâ€ Rula proclaims: â€œThe first thing to do isÂ Realize,Â Recognize andÂ Regain yourself.â€
â€œItâ€™s taboo to be considered depressed,â€ Rula said. â€œâ€˜[Zoloft Nation]â€™ was about my situation at the timeâ€”humbly accepting help.â€
Read the full text ofÂ â€œZoloft Nationâ€.
Â In â€œThe Honor Codeâ€ Â Rula tells the story of a father who is upset with his daughter for abandoning traditions and embarking into an interracial relationship.
He braced his foot a few inches from the gas pedal. This was the moment he had been waiting for, never contemplating the consequences. He could only imagine his fatherâ€™s tired eyes and his familyâ€™s curled lips if they knew about Sabeen. Anil had boasted that his daughter was skilled in the Urdu language and that he had raised her to abide by their traditions, even oceans away from their native country.
~Excerpt from â€œThe Honor Codeâ€ (Rula, 2010)
Read the full story at the bottom of the page, to find out how it ends!
Â Rula has endured a number of hardships due to her subject matter and honesty; however, she said that through it all, women have supported her journey.
â€œWomen have been my anchor,â€ the performer said. â€œEvery time Iâ€™m going somewhere, these ladies are coming with me, because in the end, we are nothing without each other. Itâ€™s the truthâ€
One of Rulaâ€™s supporters is her acting coach and mentor, Lilia Slavova. Slavova has been acting and directing for 35 years. Rula and Slavova met in December 2009. Since that time, they have been working to enhance Rulaâ€™s acting skills. Â
â€œI believe in fate. Lilia and I hit it off and I told her about my storyâ€”the idea behind me pushing the envelope,â€ said Rula.
â€œ[Rula] contacted me for her child who wanted to act,â€ Slavova said. â€œShe asked if I could see her as an opportunity. I am on the board as a mentor [at ATICC], and once I heard her story I had to accept.”
Â [Rula and acting coach/mentor Lilia Slavova]
[By Donisha A.]
Rula is self-publishing a book of short stories and poems titled “Me, Myself and the Others“.
â€œI’m looking for short-fiction stories, as well as moving poems from start-up writers,â€ Rula said. â€œBasically, I’m looking for bold, capturing pieces. Not too lengthy.Â Short story fiction is my genre and the weirder, the better. This is a good way for artists to join me in my collection. They will receive the notoriety by being included in a publication and feel good about their work. No money is involved, but it is an attempt to spread the word of new artists.â€
The independent writer and performer hopes that one day, her work will be received on a larger scaleâ€”much like that of well-known writers who have a number of resources.Â Â
â€œOne of the things that anger me as a writerâ€¦I read a review of a short fiction writer and they said it was the best short story ever,â€ Rula said. â€œAnd I said â€˜if they think that she is great then I have nothing to lose.â€™â€
Rula said that although it is difficult to discuss deeply-personal issues, she gains closure every time she performs in front of people or writes a story.
â€œThrough performing and writingâ€¦I call that the least expensiveÂ therapy,â€ Rula said. â€œAnd through the pain of characters, I get through my day. The more I perform [â€œNot My Labelâ€], the more resolution I will come to.â€
Contact Rula atÂ firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ if you would like to submit short stories or poems to be included in “Me, Myself and the Others.”
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â [By Donisha A.]
Anil Pujabi sat in his dusty grey SUV, his mangled face of contempt hidden by the tinted windows. The mix of hatred and rage morphed his face, causing his right eye to bulge and twitch sporadically. He could hear the leather seats squeal against the shift of his weight. Other than the hum of the cars drifting by, there was a heavy silence. Heâ€™d been in the confines of his car now for five hours; the heat of the day producing slick beads of sweat melting into his eyes. He sat staring through people, seeing them as pebbles bouncing by; meanwhile spied a curious couple across the street, oblivious to their surroundings. He watched them prancing between stores, smiling and inhaling the liberating breath of the day as he suffocated in his anguish.
Twenty five years ago Anil left his hometown, Islamabad. He had refused the expectation that he would be defined solely as the son of a shop owner, or settle for a prearranged marriage. He also objected to the rigorous religious teachings forced upon him. He saw himself as a prisoner of an oppressed regime and preferred the words of poetry to the brash dialogue of politics. He scrounged enough rupees from odd jobs and extra hours at his fatherâ€™s shop, to buy him a ticket to freedom. Anil practiced everyday in front of his crooked mirror reciting one hundred times â€œI will go to America,â€ believing his words would make it possible. He prepared weeks in advance for his interview with the Embassy to show them that he was different than the others applying, that he was a believer of freedom, and thus worthy of entry into their Kingdom. He was granted entry avoiding a painful burial in a cocoon of rituals.Â Anil caught himself snicker out loud at this recollection, thinking how he had not prospered as he thought, becoming a laborer instead of an entrepreneur. His aspirations had dwindled and his traditional thoughts managed to hold him back. Realizing that this Kingdom was only different from his hometown by virtue of the mixes of races, he felt defeated. Anil had entered a different type of ritual: The Rat Race. His flashbacks of what could or should have been kept taunting him making him feel like a failure.
It was her hair that caught his attention, causing him to sit erect. It glistened in the sunâ€™s rays, and he could almost smell the Neem hair oil used to give it sheen. He was interrupted briefly from his passage back in time when he saw her. The couple he had seen earlier was now less then five feet in front of him. Anil never saw himself as racist, but the manâ€™s tall athletic built and his eggplant polished skin repelled him. He was of the mindset that races do not mix.Â She was familiar to him, yet not so familiar. Once he recalled he had helped her apply the oil to her strands, encouraging her to let it grow beneath her hips. Now, he imagined his fists pulling at her ends as he took a sharp knife, as he chopped of the long tresses. This could not be his precious Sabeen that he had raised for eighteen years, standing here against tradition and honor with a man that was not Pakistani, but black as midnight. She ridiculed him publicly, he thought. He had been lead to her deceit months earlier when he found a stash of love notes under her tattered mattress. A good girl did not date, and certainly aÂ goodÂ Pakistani girl would not date outside her race.
He braced his foot a few inches from the gas pedal. This was the moment he had been waiting for, never contemplating the consequences. He could only imagine his fatherâ€™s tired eyes and his familyâ€™s curled lips if they knew about Sabeen. Anil had boasted that his daughter was skilled in the Urdu language and that he had raised her to abide by their traditions, even oceans away from their native country. He saw the couple approaching his vehicle and he wanted to push the weight of his grief down on the pedal, ridding himself of his daughterâ€™s betrayal. He had raised her to be honest, loving andÂ traditional. He hated himself then, thinking of his hypocrisy, thinking of how he was no different than his predecessors. He fought back the bitter taste of vile rising from his parched throat, fighting with himself for what he was about to do. In the frozen moment that seemed to linger, he watched the couple cross the street in front of him. Sabeenâ€™s sudden duck in the middle of the street, searching for a dropped ruby earring reminded him of her tender years of playing hide-and-seek. He had giggled freely with her and tumbled on the sprawling hill of the park, enjoying her youth with her. Suddenly, she bolted upright noticing the hum of the engine, meeting for the first time her fatherâ€™s eyes. Her light speckled eyes widened with fear as she registered the man behind the wheel as her father. In an instant, Anilâ€™s arm buckled to the Reverse button, his dead eyes staring as he reversed.
He would be proud as he drove away that day, leaving his daughter shaking in the street to have defied the brutal honor code he should have carried out. Although Sabeen was dead to him fro now on, he fought the urge to repeat the cycle of vengeance. Anil would only be doing this for the sake of the culture he had refuted. His honor was by turning away and dispelling the ignorant paradigm.