12 Jan 2017: British Bye’s buying gestures via “The Price of Everything”

Kolkata audience sat mesmerised while a young writer-performer from north-east of England, Daniel Bye, delivered a performance titled The Price of Everything in the cavernous auditorium of G D Birla Sabhagar, on a mid-December evening. Coincidentally, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had demonetized our currencies (? 500 and ? 1000) just a couple of days back. Hence, anticipating a brilliant lecture-performance from Bye at this crucial financial juncture, I rushed to the venue after my tedious college-schedule. Naturally, the hall was packed with an odd-500-some audience who kept waiting avidly for the performance. I, too, took a seat in the front, fishing out a TT identity card.

Daniel Bye, a young, feisty performer made his entrance hurriedly to the centre of a dimly-lit stage. In a jiffy, he went on talking about prices, tagged on everything he bought from The Spencers, a famous ‘all-you-need’ shopping complex of Kolkata. Shopping bags dangled from both his forearms and he went almost out of breath to arrange the contents on the table that stood at the right corner of the stage. To our utter surprise, he fished out milk-bottles from all the satchels. Homogeneous-looking sweetened milk-bottles. We were growing curious to know, what the purpose those would serve at all. Bye, interestingly enough, engaged the audience with his recounting, “How much is beauty worth?”, “What will people pay for an air-guitar on EBay?”, “Can I have a glass of milk?” ...blah ...blah. Immediately, he made us aware that his was no mindless drivel, but, it was a performance lecture on “Values: social, economic, humanist.” We were never pissed off with whatever he kept saying, as the style of narration was interesting and arresting.

Though a solo performance, the audience stayed hooked to his brilliant way of putting things. At one point of time, while expatiating on the value of ‘human kindness’ at length, Bye did not hesitate to call up quite a few from among the audience, to join him in ‘drinking milk’ spree. He amused us by saying that the glasses of milk were for free and they were lined up for the audience. Even I joined the audience to share a cuppa with Bye!

Post milk-drinking session was a bit personal recollection of a chain of events, in which, the narrator tried to disseminate to the people in and around his neighbourhood, the necessity of kind acts in expectation of nothing – save “a smile and a thank you!” He recounted how he stood in a queue for buying a ticket for some show and how he bought one extra for a man standing behind him. Taking a cue from him, he too, bought a ticket for the man standing behind him. The gesture went viral and the narrator, being encouraged, left some packets containing little cash for the help of others and by the evening, he found to his utter surprise, that, the man standing next to him collected all! However, his spirits did not dampen and lastly, he kept 200 pounds in a packet and left it in  the public place, with a tag that he who would chance upon it, should give it away to someone who needed it and whom he did not know. He left his email ID and phone number, in case the person would love to contact the giver of the sum. And, to his utter dismay, he got a mail, asking, “Hey, are you queer?” Ripples of laughter filled the auditorium.

While winding up, he said, we too should ape his gesture. We should come to the help of others, without expecting anything in return, save a smile and a Thank You! Before leaving us to be wowed by his brilliant, untiring, far-from-boring solo “performance lecture,” he handed a small packet containing Rs. 2000 only, carrying his email ID and phone number to a person from among us and requested him to pass it on so that the ultimate receiver would be kind enough to give it away to a person he knew not. Bye would keep waiting for the response of that individual, he said, by way of conclusion. An impeccable performance from Daniel Bye, no doubt! We are to drench the society with the ‘milk of human kindness’ (Wordsworth), an unforgettable lesson. Price of everything does not remain on the tag attached to it, but, everything seems of worth for the love and kindness with which it is given. A special big hand for Dick Bonham, the Director and of course, Annabel Turpin, the Producer. His whistle-stop tour in India would continue for a few more weeks and then we will wait for his next performance sometime in the next year, may be.

Report by: Dr Ketaki Datta, Kolkata. Email: ketaki.datta@gmail.com

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