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Saturday, February 5, 2011

From dog to thief: an actor's journey

This carpenter sacrifices paid work for art's sake.

Paulose leads a double life - he works as a carpenter at a workshop in Shuwaikh during day, and takes up multiple roles an actor, director, theater activist, singer and storyteller by evening. A Bible skit he wrote and directed was performed last month at the cost of overtime pay at work. These days, he takes half days off with loss of pay from work to prepare for a theater ensemble that will be performed today at the Indian Central School, Jleeb.

Your story is exceptional," I said, after meeting up with him at the play's rehearsal camp at 11 pm, "because while many people extend their work to receive overtime benefits or take up part-time jobs, you take up an activity for no material benefit.

He smiled and showed me his amputated middle finger on the right hand. "I lost my finger at work," he said, "And I endured the pain because of art, because of the spirituality it fills me with".

Paulose, 49, had to discontinue his studies in 11th grade. He attended a sculpture course for a while, but when his mason father fell ill, "I had to do something that would guarantee me a sure income," he said. His love for carpentry took him to India's high-tech city Bangalore, then to an American military camp in Baghdad.

He has been in Kuwait for the past ten years. After fulfilling familial responsibilities - marrying off three sisters, setting up his own family, and marrying off his daughter, he says, "Now it is time to strike a balance," he said. "I'm not for all work and no play, neither am I for all play and no work.

Like many expats, Paulose has not spent much time with his family. Separation, exhaustion, anxiety over children growing up back home, ageing parents and a struggling wife are issues this actor-activist has faced just like everybody else. "Art has opened the door toward stardom for some, but for me it is the way to freedom," he added.

Being handicapped, Paulose accepts characters that are Dostoyevskian - those of the downtrodden. Last year, Paulose enacted the role of a dog. Today, he will play a thief in a skit presented by Future Eye Theater, Kuwait. The protagonist is a person who achieves a fine balance in life. That holds true for the actor as well.

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