Escaping the Racist Escape Room Paradigm

In lieu of a kids’ Halloween party this year due to the whole plague thing we decided to invite one family at a time to try their hands at our escape room, The Great Kohinoor Diamond Heist, throughout the month of October.  In case you’re not familiar with escape rooms, you’re not really locked in a room, it’s just pretend. In order to find the hidden object or “unlock” the door you have to solve a lot of puzzles and look for hidden clues. This one is set up in our dining room. Here’s how it came about.

Imagine if it were ‘Escape From Jehovah’s’ Witness Island’ or any other religion

My biracial son and I did our first escape room this summer. It was called Escape From Voodoo Island and the idea, as explained in the introductory video before you enter the room, is that some evil Haitians have kidnapped an ambasaddor’s daughter and are holding her captive on “Skull Island” which is full of evil voodoo practitioners. Your job is to crack the codes in their hideout in order to rescue the daughter.  We had a blast doing it but on the way home I told my son the storyline kind of bothered me and that if I were Haitian I might have been especially troubled by it. First off, voodoo isn’t evil,

it’s just a religion, I told him, and it’s only frightening to white people. Secondly, did you know the French colonized Haiti to enslave the people and take their resources? No wonder Voodoo gained popularity as a tool to cope with and ward off colonizers. 

Oh, dear

Later this summer we did another escape room, The Lost Jewel of Zanzibar. In this one, you are an archeologist in the 1930s working for the British Museum.

CISF’s Daring Rescue in Bangalore

Yours Truly with CISF Officer Ravindra Pratap
The Absent-Minded Professor with CISF Officer Ravindra Pratap.

This week I left Kolkata to spend a week in Bangalore working with the highly acclaimed Bangalore Little Theatre  (affectionately known as BLT) where I will catch some of their new plays, accompany them to a rural area where they do theatre education outreach to economically disadvantaged schools, and where I will teach a one-day playwriting workshop to BLT members.

My Indigo Airlines flight was on time, and finally during my flight I got to have one of my much anticipated Indian delicacies, the Indigo Airlines chicken junglee sandwich and a cup of Darjeeling tea. If you haven’t tried one, you haven’t lived. You think I’m kidding.

The trouble began after I landed at KIA (Kempegowda International Airport).  I grabbed a luggage trolley (always free in India; a lesson for US airports) and dropped my shoulder bag into the topmost rack of the trolley near the handlebar.  My two pieces of checked luggage arrived on the belt in no time. I tossed them onto the trolley and made for the exit while opening the Uber app on my phone.

Along the way I stopped at a small shop in the airport lobby, left my trolley near the shop entrance and took two steps to the counter to buy a bottle of water, all of which took less than 60 seconds.   I was soon outside pushing my trolley up and down the sidewalk, past the Subway, the Krispy Kreme, and a host of other colorful eateries that were primarily a mix of South Indian and US cuisines, looking for the blasted Uber pickup spot. I had already requested the car so I needed to hustle.

Only when I reached the Uber stand and started to load my luggage into the car did I realize my shoulder bag was missing.  I whipped the trolley around and walk-ran back toward the terminal.  Some wiseguy had lifted my bag right off my cart while I was buying water, I  fumed.   Where am I, Philadelphia?

I flagged down a security guard. “Excuse me, my bag has been stolen.”  After the struggle of going through the particulars in English (my broken Bangla is worthless here in the state of Karnataka where the native language is Kannada), he sent me to the airport’s Central Industrial Security Force control center.  The CISF is a branch of India’s armed police force and is tasked with guarding industrial and infrastructure sites, including airports.

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The Magical Island of Weirdos

weirdos proof

The uncorrected proof has arrived! The boy wanted to write a chapter book this summer. He stuck it out through 10 chapters. I served as mentor/editor and bad illustrator but the story is fully his own. He wants to give out autographed copies for the holidays and wants it to look like “a real book.” I’m self-publishing a small quantity to make that happen. What a hoot! This is just a teaser.

weirdos3

weirdos proof2