“All the world’s a stage,” (really?) | Radha D’Souza

“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare wrote, and his words made me happy. If all the world’s a stage, I am the actor and spectator, the speaker and listener, the director and directed, the choreographer and dancer…
My coloured soul which slumbers deep within me in a grey blubbery pouch imprisoned between my rib cages stirred and interrupted my happy train of thoughts. “Shakespeare was a white man. You are reading Shakespeare like a coloured woman.” Having uttered these words, my coloured soul snuggled and snoozed again. Really?

I returned to Shakespeare’s words. This time, I read lines 2, 3, 4 through to lines 27, 28, 29. I was filled with horror. Is this what he is saying about me? That, as an infant I bruised my mother’s nipples in my desperation to live, even as she put me to her breast to nourish me, even as she writhed in pain caused by her inflamed, sore, red nipples?

That, now I sit on my chair in front of my desk and watch the faces, neck and above, ZOOM in and out of my computer screen all day, busts without torsos or limbs? That, I will continue to sit on my chair, in front of my desk, as ZOOM manages the entries and exists, day after day, until one day my head drops on my desk, my last breath leaves my grey blubbery pouch, and my slumbering coloured soul seizes the opportunity and escapes imprisonment?

A dreadful denouement.
I turn eastwards.
“All world is maya, an illusion,” Sankara wrote. “It does not matter who enters and exits, when and how, and what words they utter. All world is maya and, the stage a mirage.”

The people zooming in and out of my LED screen do look like mirages. I cannot kiss them, hug them, catch the light in the corner of their eyes as they speak. I imagine their hidden bodies and my backlit LED screen illuminates their faces like halos. I close my eyes, meditate, empty my mind of all thoughts, clear my eyes of all images, my ears of all sound, even as the faces flash in and out of my HD LED screen. Long after my head drops on my desk, my last breath leaves my body, and my cheeky coloured soul escapes to freedom, ZOOM will continue to flash faces across my screen. In the maya within concentric circles of maya that encircles me, ZOOM is eternal, everlasting.

My coloured soul yawned and curled up snugly in the grey pouch. White man. Coloured man. What’s with these men? I shout.
I push away my chair and jump up. I hear my feet stomp the ground beneath me. I stomp again and again. I recognise patterns, cycles of beats, a rhythm. Soon, I am dancing without an audience and my dance intoxicates me. Words tumble out of my quivering lips and cast a magical spell around me. There are no listeners. I flail my arms about and realise they are enacting my words to the rhythm of my feet. There are no spectators. My intoxicated eyes spot the door and I trapeze in and out of entrances and exits.

I am in my garden, the coloured flowers in full bloom, the trees pregnant with fruit, the water in the pool shimmering like a mirage. My spectators. My audience. My listeners, directors, choreographers, my light technicians.
Look! I call out.
Having animated me, her job done, my coloured soul is fast asleep, deaf to me and to my words.
I deliver a dialogue on impulse.

Mr Shakespeare, you are wrong. The actors are more important than the stage.

Sri Sankara, you too are wrong. The world may be maya, but a mirage is as beautiful as the water it mimics.

Yours with love.
I curtsy with a flourish.


Life is animated. Animation is dramatic. Drama is theatrical.

Radha D’Souza is an Indian writer, critic and social justice activist. She practiced law in the High Court of Mumbai in the areas of labour rights, constitutional law and human rights. She is also an activist lawyer working with labour movements and democratic rights movements. Currently she is Professor of Law at the University of Westminster, London.