For those of you who don’t know (in other words have been living under a rock), Insolent Knights is a group of talented people who come together every so often to give Isloo-ites a night of creative energy and…well, insolence. The group under the leadership of the Tiny Two (Naseem Hassan Shah and Napoleon Bonaparte beware!) will write, sing, act, read out loud or in others words, simply perform for anyone who wishes to come. It’s an open house, no tickets at the gate. Just come with an open mind and decide to have a blast. That’s all we ask of you.

I’m thirty two. My life is filled with jobs, housework and everything any other working mom/wife has in her life. I’m also rather OCD with regards to my daughter (but then, which mother isn’t?) and with all this to my credentials I am the oldest in the group of Knights. Oldest and well, only the second mom … and only full time working mom. (The other mom, the ever gorgeous tulin, is blessed with an unsung hero, her own mother, who looks after the darling Zohra… and frankly, without whom, Insolent Knights would have ceased to exist.)

Being the oldest I’m the odd one out. First of all, I’m too mature or serious. Secondly, I have no idea what these kids are talking about most of the time. From the jokes to the songs. Ofcourse I know them, but my knowledge of them is not drenched in enthusiasm. E.g. I watch Glee but do I worship it? of course not! Gone are the days when I had time to worship shows and stars. In short, I’m in a little league of my own in this group…. And did I cite one more difference, I’m the most inexperienced when it comes to performing.

So, with all my so called maturity, over a decade’s life experience and personal seriousness… when I tell you I have learnt much from these knights, not just about performance but about life and work ethics… would you be surprised? I thought I’ll walk you all through what these knights have taught me.

1. Equal Opportunity Employers

Doesn’t matter who old you are, it really doesn’t matter. I may feel OLD in this rather young age, compared to the mom of a fellow Knight who performed a while ago and brought us all to our knees. The oldest knight she was.. and the youngest, not even a teenager yet comes up every time with a confident inspiring performance.

2. The LFA is a living document

Us development sector folks with our LFAs, project documents, mandates, missions and strategies sometimes follow the rules too seriously. The knights add new lines, new jokes, new acts at the last minute, based on the response of the audience or new ideas that you just know will work well.

3. Risk Analysis

They are not afraid to experiment, of the idea that “what if?” it doesn’t work. They are not afraid of failure or offending people. Because all people are different, some people will like it and well, some won’t…. and thus, no time to waste in trying to please everyone. Just have faith and try your best

4. In-house Capacity Building

For a tough task master as myself, I found it almost shocking that every time I screwed up, made a mistake, I was met with a smile, a suggestion, an idea. Never was I made to feel foolish, silly or inexperienced. Of course now I believe I’m good… not too good, but still better than average… but I also know that a week ago I was not. How I was changed, how I improved is only because of those smiles and suggestions that it happened on its own.

I still remember Tasha encouraging me at my poetry recitation, which I was too afraid or self conscious to do. I still remember how she gave me confidence. This little person, many many years my junior, became my mentor for one evening and changed me.

5. Have faith in the project

We just got together three days before this last Insolent Knights. Two days before we didn’t even rehearse our lines. Many times I doubted we could even pull it off. The first time we all actually got together was the actual night…. But one thing kept us going, our faith in each other and our faith in what we were doing.

6. Team Dynamics

“If you forget your line, I’ll cover for you”. “If you want, I can give you a cue.” “Oh! It doesn’t matter if I’m next onstage, I’ll still help you rehearse your lines”. You feel protected, not alone. You know that no matter how well or badly you do, your fellow knights will hold you, protect you, cover for you and will rejoice in your success more than they will in their own. This for me is the real spirit of the knighthood. Our individual performance evaluations matter less than the joint collaborative ones.

7. Real Decentralization and Community ownership

I remember Ibrahim when he first brought his script. I saw that script exchange hands and become a team effort. Everyone owned his script and added their own little bits and before we knew it, it took on a life of its own. Of course, all under OB’s leadership… but from that Ibrahim to the Ibrahim I romanced two nights ago, I see the emergence of a young man I am proud of.  Doesn’t matter how angrez or desi you are, doesn’t matter if you don’t know Rihanna or Lady Gaga or don’t know who Maulana Fazlur Rehman is, you will give input to each other’s work, and the other will humbly accept it.

Sure there is little we can say to Tulin, Tasha or OB that will add to their performances, but they will listen and talk and discuss. No one is too experienced, no one too young, no one too silly. Everyone gives their input. This is why every skit is our skit, whether we’re in it or not!

8. Free of biases and prejudices

I have seen many audience members at insolent. Many have mentioned how these kids seem to be so rich (It is only I who have witnessed them pitching in to buy the yummy-licious Kuch Khaas cookies, or sharing a cab, or taking public transport to reach the rehearsals). Many think these kids have had it too easy (I know of the part-time jobs to make ends meet). Many say how angrez these kids are, when I know many who well, are not! But I have never seen these knights draw those lines, make judgment calls… either on the audience or on each other. The accept you as you are and respect you as you are. They will learn from you and value you. Again, the spirit of the knighthood.

9. Gender Sensitive work policies

Two hours before the performance, one person panics. She has no baby sitter. Immediately arrangements are made, people come up and volunteer to take turns in looking after the baby. The only mother in the office is made comfortable, her daughter will go through various godi’s, multiple mamu and khalas before ending up with her dad; and this bring me to the most important point…

10. Family Counts

Like any other working woman would tell you, I could not have done this without my husband and my friends. From those who baby sat Saaru so I could go for my rehearsals or played with Saaru at the rehearsals, to the man who is my true Knight, who left his work early to be with me on two evenings, and ended up missing half the show entertaining our little toddler. Family includes the friends who came to the event to support me and to laugh in case I failed to be funny.  Family includes Tulin’s selfless mom, OB’s ever supportive siblings who come to every single event and whose honest feedback I wait for every time. Family includes ZQ and Noorie’s moms and the many other multiple siblings, friends, spouses who come to be a part of our show and make it all worth it.

These are some of the many things I have learnt. Perhaps I should have this blog in two parts. Because there is so much I could say, but I must go back and spend time at home with my little bacha and pack up for Eid, where I leave one set of family to visit another.

Eid Mubarik you all! See you next time.