The Radio Play, written by Shahida Rahman and directed by Pablo Robertson, is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Lascar Heritage Project.
The Lascar is a novel set in the 1860s. Although the word ‘Lascar’ is presently outmoded, it points to a rich and unique aspect of world history. Translated directly, the word means ‘sailor from East India’. However, the term bears a wider applicability and was regularly used in reference to non-Europeans that served on British sea vessels. Lascars were recruited for work aboard British ships from Bengal, Yemen, Assam, and Gujarat. The Lascar experience was defined by two overriding factors: performing work at a servile capacity and remaining in ceaseless activity while at sea, be it maintaining a particular vessel or working on a variety of crafts.
The story that follows expresses the essential, spiritual truth of the Lascar experience, using a fictional modality. On display will be the characteristic harshness and dislocation of the typical Lascar experience, illustrated through the narrative of a Bengali man named Ayan. Ayan Miah’s older brother is being ravaged by cancer, so Ayan takes to the sea as a Lascar in the hope that he will earn enough money to help his ailing brother. What Ayan doesn’t realise is that his dark skin could very well be his death sentence.