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Who or what is m. mule?

Well firstly, once upon a time there was a donkey who was blue and because he was blue and his colour clashed with the world around him he was banished to live under a red bridge where he exuded sagacity and dispensed profound bon mots to those who came to seek advice while gawking at his blueness.

Suniti Namjoshi's Tales of the Blue Donkey (1986) was one of my first introductions to the fact that Indian literature could be cosmopolitan and wry, be not parochial and not provincial and be oh-so-fabulist.

My very first directing effort for the community was, thanks to Suniti's generosity,  a performance adaptation of one of the Blue Donkey tales at the very first Desh Pardesh Festival in Toronto (another watershed moment) where I got to work with the fabulous Malika Mendez (and yet another watershed moment).

My mule is a tribute to that donkey.

Mule because:

  •   it is not a donkey and exists in a copyright-free zone 

  • of it's a hybridness: A mule is the product of a male donkey and a female horse and a symbol of us hybrids everywhere. I prefer my mule to Rushdie's mongrel. Me and mule have dignity and are trying for class. 

  • stubbornness: I particularly like the notion of a mule determinedly resisting any attempt to make it do anything that it doesn't want to do. However, that popular myth/stereotype of mules being stubborn is apparently, if you research via google, just that a myth or stereotype.  God (pick one of your choosing) knows me, and my kind are all too familiar with myth-making and stereotyping, so I embrace the stubbornness of muleness.

  • googling mule + stubbornness throws up interesting snippets of in-defense-of-mule ephemera. I particularly love the idea that a mule's supposed stubbornness is a result of a strong instinct and/or capacity for deep thought. 

  • and Mule because it alliterates with the 'm' and you know how much we Indians love our alliteration (or is that just another stereotype?) 

And the 'm' in m. mule is...

Inspired by/in tribute to that fabulous play M. Butterfly by Henry David Hwang. A riff on the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, Hwang's play is based on the real-life story of the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a Peking opera singer. They met in 1964 and even supposedly had a child in 1965. They continued an off and on affair for the next twenty years.


Boursicot and Pu achieved notoriety first when they were arrested for spying for the Chinese government in 1983. The story of the French diplomat who turned spy for the Chinese government for the love of a woman was sensation making in itself, but much much more salacious details emerged during the trial when it was revealed that Pu was really a man. That this fact was something of a surprise to Boursicot who had thought all through their 18-year relationship that Pu was a woman became a sensation in its own right.

m.mule  Is a tribute to this potent example of the power of invention, of our capacity to live in self-serving denial, and the perpetual yearn for romance and love.

                                        m.mule is also a tribute to Hwang's beautifully nuanced swipe at orientalist fantasizing and gender stereotyping. 

The 'm' in m.mule is also for:

  • Macaristic: to be macaristic according to a dictionary of choice is to take pleasure in, or praise of another's joy; a beatitude or making others happy through recognition and felicitation. 

  • Mudita, a Hindi word is more or less a translation of macaristic. Mudita means joy, particularly in reference to sympathetic or vicarious joy or the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being. 

And that is why m. mule. 

Avatar Design Ursula Weidenmuller. With thanks

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