Khatijabai, the women, is the main character and Karmali Terrace is the place where she lives.
The play’s timeline starts from 1930 when Karmali Terrace was built (somewhere near Colaba, Bombay) to 1950 when she, Khatijabai, came to the house as a young bride and finally, the play, ends or merges with the present times.
The stage setup depicts Karmali Terrace as an Upper Class Bungalow with huge windows covered with expensive curtains. There is a party in the house and she invites everyone on phone. From the standpoint of India in the 1950’s, this speaks a lot about her status and her community. Also, it could be deduced by the names in the play, that unseen characters are mainly Gujarati speaking Muslims and Parsis.
The storyline starts with how she, Khatijabai, arrives in the house, after marrying a rich man twice her age and twice married earlier. Herself abandoned by her mother and raised by an uncaring relative, she strives hard to make herself valuable and likeable by energetically taking care of a large family, then producing her own large family. Her care,attention and dedication towards her family shows her as someone who tries to complete what she did not receive herself. Finally, with time, the family breaks up one by one as the individuals either die or grow up and move away from the house.
This is a one act play, enacted by gutsy and healthy looking, Jayati Bhatia who successfully portrays all the characteristics of a rich khoja muslim family. She brings an upper class feel by showing Khatijabai as a prim and proper women throwing good parties and networking with the “who-is-who” in her community who are also prominent in Bombay society. She is also gritty as she is shown to bounce back after the suicide of her son and extra marital affair of her husband.
In the end, the old Khatijabai is left alone in Karmali Terrace. The parties are over. The family split also leads to the breakup and deterioration of Karmali Terrace. But the ebullient old Khatijabai makes new relationships and life carries on.
Karmali terrace has a distinct old Bombay feel as the places associated with the story revolve around Colaba and Byculla. Worli is referred once as a far of place from Colaba, which it probably was in the 50’s. It’s a play which describes the flow of life from the eyes and life of a woman. You can give it a try.