Modern Indian Drama: An Anthology 9788126009244, 8126009241

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Table of contents :
Part I. Listen, Janamejaya / Sriranga --
The vultures / Vijay Tendulkar --
One day in Ashadha / Mohan Rakesh --
Evam Indrajit / Badal Sircar. Part II. Hayavadana / Girish Karnad --
The lone tusker / K.N. Panikkar --
Siri Sampige / Chandrasekhar Kambar --
From sunset to sunrise / Surendra Verma. Part III. Aurangzeb / Indira Parthasarathi --
Mahapoor / Satish Alekar --
Mareech, the legend / Arun Mukherjee. Part IV. Hunting the sun / Utpal Dutt --
Whirlpool / Datta Bhagat --
Mother of 1084 / Mahasweta Devi --
Roads / Govind Purushottam Deshpande.
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Modern Indian Drama AN ANTHOLOGY

Edited by G.P Deshpande

Sahitya Akademi


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Jeevan Tara Building (fourth Floor), 23 A/44 X Diamond Harbour Road, Calcutta 700 053

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First Published 2000 O Sahitya Akademi All rights reserved. No part o f this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. ISBN 81-260-0924-1 Rs. 250 Cover design: K.M. Madhusudhanan

Typeset at Tulika Print Communication Services (P ) Ltd. 35A/1 (3rd Floor) Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 110 024 and printed at Bharti Printers, K-16, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi - 110 032


Introduction PART I


HAYAVADANA Girish Karnad THE LONE TUSKER K.N. Panikkar SIRISAMP1GE Chandrasekhar Kambar FROM SUNSET TO SUNRISE Surendra Verma





AURANGZEB Indira Parthasarathi


MAHAPOOR Satish Alekar











WHIRLPOOL Datta Bhagat


MOTHER OF 1084 Mahasweta Devi


ROADS Govind Purushottam Deshpande






M o st o f the plays collected here have appeared in print earlier. We are grateful to the following publishers/persons for their permission to include the plays mentioned below against their names, in our anthology.

O xford University Press N e w Delhi

Hayavadana by Girish Karnad Evam Indrajit by Badal Sircar The Vultures by Vijay Tendulkar

Seagull Books Calcutta

The Lone Tusker by K.N. Panikkar Siri Sampige by Chandersekhar Kambar Mother o f 1084 by Mahasweta Devi Mareech, The Legend by Arun Mukherjee

Enact (Smt. Sunita Paul)

One Day in Ashadha by Mohan Rakesh Aurangzeb by Indira Parathasarthi

Smt. Sova Sen

Hunting the Sun by Utpal Dutt


Wouldst thou the blooms o f the early, thefruits of the later season? Wouldst thou what charms and enraptures, what satisfies, nourishes, feeds? Wouldst thou heaven and earth in a single name comprehended ?— Name I, Shakuntala, thee and so is everything said! — Goethe on Shakuntala The German translation o f Kalidasa's Shakuntala was published in 1791. The enthusiasm it aroused, says a latter day American editor o f the play, ‘is immortalised in Goethe’s apostrophe’. He goes on to remind us that Shakuntala ‘was indeed an inspiration to poets, a thirst for natural colour, for unspoiled emotion, for the exotic, the supernatural, the gracefully wild*. He adds, however, that ‘lost on them was the insipidity, the superficiality, the cloying sweetness and sentimental falseness that we perceive today— less glaringly in Shakuntala than other Hindu plays, but patent even there’. These reactions ^re typical of the ambivalence of the poets and playwrights representative of ‘the eruptive forces o f Rousseauism and Romanticism' towards the ancient Indian theatre. Over a period of time India and the Indians left the ambivalence behind. The na­ tionalist movement which dominated Indian thought and self-per­ ception would have had very tittle use for this ambivalence. Slowly but certainly it convinced itself that ‘the romantic spirit had reached a pinnacle o f art but not alone in Shakespeare and in Calderon, but in the wondrous East as well'. From a nationalist perspective east was India. Rousseauism and Romanticism led us to believe that there always was and is an ‘Indian’ theatre. This theatre was supposed to be the classical theatre. Whether Kalidasa can take a place among the world’s great was no longer a relevant question. He was always there. It did not matter then that the English, French and German translations predate Shakuntala's translations in any Indian language at least by eighty to ninety years. It was only in the 1880s that Kalidasa came to be known in major India languages. Once he and the Sanskrit theatre generally were known, we as­ sumed that w e had always known them. In a peculiar way all theatre became non-temporal. No body knew for certain when Kalidasa or


Bhasa or Bhavabhuti lived and wrote. We were also uncertain o f t h e date of Bharata’s Natya Shastra, the most famous of the Indian t r e a ­ tises on performing arts. Early nationalism did not really need t o know. It already knew what it needed to. It was quite happy a n d contented to know that our ancient history, not unlike that of G reece and Rome, could boast of theatre, a theatre which inspired G oeth e to sing high praises to it. In a sense this view o f Ancient India which was at least partially a creation of European Romanticism encouraged the tendency to believe that there is the (and not an) Indian Theatre which is time­ less. Its linguistic character was uncertain. Was it Sanskrit? Was it Prakrit? Was it based on the Sanskrit Epics? These questions were perhaps never asked. Or if asked the answers to them were taken to be self-evident. The ‘heaven and earth’ of theatre was comprehended in terms of Shakuntala, i.e., Sanskrit, i.e., Indian theatre. In the middle of the nineteenth century our early writers were struggling with the classical heritage. Michael Madhusudan Dun wrote a play on Sharmistha in Bangla in 1856 while Kirloskar narrated the story of Subhadra (again from the Mahabharata) in Marathi less than a quarter century later. There was a Malayalam adaptation of Shakuntala in 1880 and so on. Vishnudas Bhave turned to Yakshagaan, akhyan and other folk and traditional forms to create modern, proscenium theatre beginning 1843. This history is important. A search for an authentic ‘Indian’ thea­ tre had begun within fifty years of Sir William Jones’ translation of Shakuntala in 1789. This search had two distinct features. It postu­ lated a comparable if not uniform “Indian’’ theatre. It also postulated a notion of theatre which is civilisation-specific. That in the past thea­ tre was civilisation specific need not be questioned. What this search seemed to suggest was that theatre would always be civilisationspecific. It would be a theatre of Indian forms which would be com­ pletely understandable; it would also be theatre of ‘Indian’, ‘time­ less’ content which is not easily understandable. In short a pre-mod­ ern theatre was taken to be eternal theatre. It did not seem to be material to this search that modem Indian theatre was being written in different languages and as such different language-cultures and situational specificities mattered as much to this theatre as to the theatre based on the epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Tagore and Khadilkar wrote their first play within about ten years of each other. But the chronological difference was not the only differx

Introduction ence. The languages and the ethos of the two writers were quite different. Bangla and Marathi would be as different from each other as Romanian and Spanish would be. They have to be thought of as different ( but comparable) theatre traditions. It is their difference that makes it possible to speak o f Indian Theatre. The difference lay in different language-cultures and conventions as also in traditional theatre in different areas o f India. The fact that the new theatre came to be written and staged in the shadow of the British rule also made a great difference to our theatre-practice. The first ‘modern’ play in India was staged in Cal­ cutta towards the end of the eighteenth century. That play was in English and was directed by a European. Interestingly this produc­ tion and Sir William Jones’ translation of Shakuntala were not far removed in time from each other. The former celebrated a modem European play. The latter celebrated an ancient Indian play. It has thus to be borne in mind that the last hundred years or more o f Indian people’s theatre-experience is defined or delimited by the parameters the ancient and the modern— ancient being In­ dian and the modem being European. A near-comic example of these parameters is provided by another translator of Kalidasa. In his trans­ lation o f Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitram. ( Malavika and Agnimitra) Tawney introduces (albeit in parenthesis) in the translation itself, his debate with or views of John Start Mill’s advocacy o f equal rights for women. Interestingly Tawney seems to suggest that the way Iravati the queen o f Agnimitra dishes out punishments would prove Mill wrong, Tawney uses the incident in the play to argue that Mill’s com­ mendation o f women’s equality may not be desirable after all! All this appears within the translation thereby breaking the discourse of the play and superimposing it by another which Tawney would want to force on Mill and the reader of the translation! That discourse is one o f tradition and modernity. In many ways one major problem of modem Indian Theatre has been how to handle modernity. Urban middle classes who patronise theatre in India have dominated the modem playwright’s world. The business o f modernity has taken several directions. To be­ gin with, an encounter with Europe/West made our playwright aware of a new term. Rarely was traditional-theatre in India bound by the text. There was a basic text which seemed to grow, to expand, at times to constrict itself in performance. A modern European text was more defined and delimited. In the traditional forms the text seemed xi


to create the performance. Early modem writing (fo r theatre) in I n ­ dia seemed to have been greatly influenced— almost taken in— b y the primacy of word that distinguished the European theatre fr o m our traditional theatre ( including theSamkrit one) which was a multiart form. It had music, dance, and the narrative. Now we were fa c e to face with a new form— a theatre of words and it seemed to fasci­ nate us. India therefore joined in the celebration of the English Theatre, especially Shakespeare. ‘Long live the Queen’ and ‘Long live Shake­ speare’ became the most widely known apostrophes. Shakespeare became an icon at the same time as, if not earlier than, in Britain. Indeed a typical school programme on Shakespeare day in England combined ‘Long live the Queen/King and a scene from a Shake­ speare play. Something similar happened in the colonies. Colonial theatre writing was greatly influenced by Shakespeare. A new prose style developed— a style which could be described as Anglo-native prose-style. Long, flowing sentences, ornate speech, Sanskritization of speech were some of its specialities. The colonis­ er’s sense o f culture and a Brahmanical sense of culture combined to produce a new language which some critics like Bhalchandra Nemade dismissed as Anglo-£/uz/(not even Anglo-native) language; making it sound as if it were some kind o f comprador culture articulated in comprador language. Bhat in Marathi usage means Brahman often used pejoratively. It may not be very relevant or even useful to discuss change in too many details. Suffice it to say that the colonial period marked a new phase in the development o f our languages and art forms. This phase was marked as much by discovery (like that o f Sanskrit plays from nineteenth century onwards) as by the creation of new styles of writing. This period also saw the standardisation of Indian languages as also by the discovery of ‘prose’ as such. Like Moliere’s bourgeois gentleman, a modern-day Indian also discovered that he had always spoken “prose”. Having discovered it he then went on to use it, to use it abundantly and in various forms. Drama was one o f them. Along with the retrieval of language and the creation o f the new forms that marked the colonial period, the question of modernity came to the fore. The social reformist or rebellious movements had raised the issue in a significant way. The upper caste/class reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy or a Shudra revolutionary like Phule (who, incidentally, had written a play in 1856) had placed several question xii

Introduction marks before any number o f ideas considered sacrosanct by tradi­ tion. The shastras do not provide for blasphemy either. In actual practice these distinctions existed, except that most ideas on the ques­ tion w ere imitative and clearly neither uniform nor authorised, but that's another story. Against this background the self-criticism which at times took the form of self-flagellation appeared to be hallmark of the liberal elite. This modernity-oriented self-flagellation was per­ haps the most remarkable feature of the period which most Indians fondly but with doubtful validity, call our renaissance. Modern In­ dian Drama is the product o f this so, called renaissance. On the one hand, India adopted a totally new form like the novel. On the other a traditional form of drama was recast in terms of the colonial legacy. Kalidasa was celebrated among other reasons, because that was the need o f the anti-imperialist movement. However it was Shakespeare who mattered more for the writers of the colonial period. This was not necessarily true o f our poets. A number of poets continued to write in traditional Chhandas, Matras and Vrittas. 'Free verse’ and the ‘Sonnet’ were the only ‘new’ forms that our poets did not know about. The European influence especially that of English and Ger­ man romanticism showed itself more in Ashaya (content) than in Rupabandha (form). A Portuguese poem which .vividly describes the eyes o f the beloved in its Indian avatara talked o f her ‘almond’ eyes. This is only one example. The point is twofold. India had not known the ‘novel’ as we now know the form. In that case it was a new beginning altogether. In case of poetry it was new world of experience. The Drama as it came to be written and performed in the colo­ nial period was different from the traditional in many ways. The ‘text’ leading to performance rather than the performance ieading to the text, now became the most prominent feature of the ‘new* drama. In that sense there was a break from the traditional theatre. Word seemed to matter more than even before, so did ‘Prose’. Dramatic speech became quite identifiably distinct. As has been pointed out earlier it was marked by long-winding sentences and some rhetorical quality. It was very Shakespearean. Brutus’ famous speech in Julius Caesar or Hamlet’s soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’ set the standards. The new styles had one very curious impact. Those playwrights who wrote ‘differently’ posed a problem. For a long time Rabindranath Tagore’s or Jaishankar Prasad’s plays were taken to be plays essentially for the closette. It was only in the post-independence period that these


notions were shown to be false. In short, the colonial period c re a te d a new drama which seemed to stand aloof from the drama we h a d traditionally known. There was a strong awareness of this difference. The Sangit Natak in Marathi was described by some contemporaries as opera which it was not. There was nothing operatic about it. A t the same time it used music in a way the traditional theatre had n e v e r done. The term ‘Opera’ came handy to distinguish it from the tradi­ tional musical theatre. But in its essentials it was quite removed from anything ‘operatic’. Today nobody would call the Sangit Natak an ‘opera’. This confusion or misapplication, if you will, of terms is o n e good example of how deeply conscious of the western forms our playwrights of the colonial period happened to be. Publishing plays as text was also a discovery o f a kind. At the beginning o f the twen­ tieth century, the Marathi word for a play published in book-form was 'Bookish Natak clearly distorting the meaning o f the world ‘book­ ish’. All this suggests, indeed emphasises, that for our early writers writing a play was coming to terms with colonial experience and with the west, generally. There were some examples o f writing for theatre in English. Tagore’s Chitra could be cited as an example. By the time independence came to India in 1947, modem Drama as we knew then was deeply aware of the west and also of moder­ nity. Inasmuch as it was a response to colonialism and imperialism, it was also a response to modernity, for colonialism and imperialism were ‘modern’ phenomena. With the arrival of political independ­ ence, we do not quite have post-colonial theatre. In fact the phe­ nomenon of the ‘post-colonial’ is more than doubtful and debatable. It is not even a phenomenon. It is the usage of the post-ideological world looking at the emergence of a political independence in the third world. To brand it as post-colonial' made a lot of sense at least superficially. At another level it helped the thinking processes which wanted to announce the end of imperialism. The term ‘post-colonial’ is one of the many ‘post' phrases which came into vogue fol­ lowing the failed students-uprising of 1968 (in France). From ’Post­ modernism’ to ‘Post-colonial’ to Post-histoire’, all these terms seemed to reign supreme. ‘Post-colonial’ seemed to suggest that the colonial was over and gone. ‘Post-colonial’ was and is a post-political cat­ egory. Indian theatre however seemed to pursue a different path. It was not post-colonial. It was not post-modern either. It seemed to hark back to tradition and the ethnic. It seemed to celebrate the ‘In-

Introduction dian’ more than any other form of writing in India. This was also the period when the Indian audiences discov­ ered the ’Director’. This is not to suggest that the director did not matter in the pre-independence plays. Of course he did. What hap­ pens in the period beginning especially with the sixties is that the audiences started reacting to the director. Hitherto they had reacted to the playwrights and the actors. Now they reacted to productions as well. It was not enough for them that they went and saw a production of Badal Sircar's Evam Indrajit or Tendulkar's Shantata. Curiously, with the sixties it seemed to matter whose production of Indrajit or Shantata one was going to see. It is at least arguable that now (post 15)60 that is) ‘production* mattered as much as a play. A performed text along with, if not more than, the written text was now crucial. In a country which produced the Natya Shastra which is a performer’s text par supreme, which was indeed a para­ dox. There were many such examples of cultural amnesia of a kind. If I have avoided the use of that term it is largely because quite often that term ignores the problems of modernity or tends to view them as problems o f amnesia. We shall return to this then in a while. The presence of the Director was a very meaningful phenom­ enon. All dramatic texts are Ananta Patha (multiple texts) by their very nature. Different productions by different directors o f the same play quite often make us aware of the potential of the text which would otherwise be lost. It so happens also that these productioas tend to create texts that are antithetical to each other. Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq, a Kannada play, was done by Alkazi in Hindi and by Satyadev Dubey in Marathi. These productions were not only in two different languages but also brought us face to face with very differ­ ent Tughlaqs—one avatara o f a play with another avatara of the same play in contention with each other. Such “non-antagonistic contradictions'’ add charm to theatre. In modern Indian Theatre, this phenomenon was not known before the sixties of this century. The Anant Patha character of a dramatic text is a major discovery o f this period. To discover the multiple texts being generated by parallel or different productions by different directors has been a valued part of my theatre-experience. Almost all writers whose plays have been included in this selection have been produced by different directors. Sometimes in the same language sometimes in different languages. Post-independence playwrights, especially the writers since the XV


sixties have shown a greater awareness of theatre and the m u l t i p l i c ­ ity of form that modem theatre employs. We have also had n o t a b l e examples of writer-directors. Ratan Thiyyam and Satish A le k a r a r e the most famous examples. In Tendulkar’s celebrated and t h e m o s t famous play (not included in this volume for that very reason! I t is not difficult to locate it) Ghasiram Kotwal the text, the music:, c h o ­ reography and direction combine to generate a complete and e x c i t ­ ing theatre experience. A different example of the w rite r-d ire c to r would be the late Utpal Dutt who combined enormous acting a n d writing talent with political energy. There is no better e x a m p le o f theatrically justified and immensely popular agitprop in India. Directors looked for formal experimentation. The Brecht w a v e of the seventies did not bring much Brechtian politics to Indian T h e a ­ tre. What it did bring was a fresh look at our own traditional and fo lk forms. Indian (and Chinese for that matter) folk forms, which w o u ld have otherwise continued to beat the pre-modern path w ere used for modem and subversive purposes by Brecht in his theatre. M o d ­ em Indian directors seem to have used Brechtian techniques m ore as celebration o f Indian national forms. In a way therefore w e depoliticized Brecht and turned his penchant for using pre-modern forms and techniques for modern, political purposes on its head. We celebrated the national, not in Brechtian essence but in Brechtian techniques. All this was done under the benevolent eye of the direc­ tors from the German Democratic Republic. (A similar treatment was given to Heiner Mueller as well) Be that as it may, it is undeniably true that what we saw was a dazzlingly beautiful theatre. Ratan Thiyyam celebrated the Manipuri. K.N. Fanikkar went back to Rasa and Bhava of the Natya Shastra. Great directors both. It is possible to argue as we pointed out earlier that while this “ethnic" element in theatre does give us some brilliant, dazzling moments of theatre-experience, the question remains if this could at all be the modern India’s theatre. A modern, urban Indian who con­ stitutes our principle (proscenium) theatre audience may not be in­ terested in it in a sustained way because these plays do not relate to his experience; let alone making sense o f it. In mighty industrialized pockets of India, a Tennessee Williams or Heiner Mueller is likely to work more than a folk tale. It is not my purpose to settle the issue here and now. A short introduction to an anthology of plays can hardly do this. Nor is it necessary to do so. It should be sufficient to indicate what the contemporary debate in Indian theatre is. At the xvi

' !


Introduction end o f the day, there is no gainsaying the fact that K.N. Panikkar in his Sanskrit and Malayalam plays and Ratan Thiyyam in his Manipuri fare g iv e us rich, dazzling theatre-experience. Unfortunately, Thiyyam’s Chakravyuha could not be included for technical and copyright reasons. The plays collected here are documents o f a kind. They record the modern Indian search for what can be called for want of a better term, theatre-personality. It has lot to do with modem post-enlight­ enment Europe. It has also lot to do with a post-colonial (the term is used here in very narrow almost chronological sense) Indian’s long, hard look at his traditions and folk forms. Taken together it is a search for identity. But it is also a search for artistic energy. The west is not interested in our ‘modernist’ theatre. It is interested in the ‘ethnic’, the ‘folk’. It has thus imposed a divide which many critics seem to blindly follow. It is true that there is a divide. But this divide need not be taken to mean that the ‘text’ is “their” business (the ideas, modernity etc.) and ‘performance’ is ‘ours’. There has to be a dialec­ tical process in operation here. In terms o f theatre, this anthology seeks to establish precisely that dialectical praxis; what diverse and dazzling forms it has taken and what a rich fare of dramatic writing this praxis has offered. Does this anthology offer a canon of post-independence thea­ tre? The answer is no. At best it is a step toward such a canon. 1 am aware that many more playwrights should have found a place here. To cover so many languages and so many forms is not easy. For one thing the space does not permit it. For another, getting hold o f texts, securing permission to reprint and all the rest of it, turned out to be more complex than expected. All that I can say is that the best of effort was made. In many cases getting an English translation within a short period of time proved to be a formidable task. Had it been an anthology in four or five volumes I would have included at least seven or eight authors who should be here. But that was not to be. 1 have also avoided the more well-known and otherwise easily available plays. ( Tughlaq or Ghasiram Kotwal would be good ex­ amples.) We have purposely gone to some very good but relatively less known plays in a hope that this would make the anthology in­ teresting reading and certainly worth the collector’s effort. The selections are entirely mine. I accept the responsibility of identifying the playwright and, their plays. The selection has a sub­ jective element to it. I hope that this introduction has made clear my xvii


concerns and interests. I realise that an academic student o f t h e a t r e would have written it differently. As a playwright I have r e a c te d to my contemporary scene. The plays are divided into parts. The logic o f that d iv is io n is roughly as follows: Part I features the playwrights who started the modern p o s t­ independence theatre. Part II features plays which take a look at our tradition, fo lk tales and folk-forms, martial arts and to an extent, Sanskrit tradi­ tion. Part III features texts which are the best examples o f the PostTendulkar modernity. Part IV features plays with direct and explicit political con­ cerns. This would include representations of the ‘left* movements, Dalit movement and a typical discussion play ( Raaste) which takes up the internal contradictions o f a movement. To be sure, one can see the post-independence history o f our theatre differently from the way I have done. I disown any claims to pronouncing a canon, but certainly hope that this anthology could be a first step towards defining an ‘Indian Theatre Canon' since In­ dependence. Unfortunately we are interested in creation o f icons. We should be interested in formation of canons instead. In 1994 Prof. Harold Bloom published what he called The West­ ern Canon’. Commenting upon Prof. Bloom’s selection Donald Ly­ ons, the theatre critic of the New York Post said that (Prof. Bloom’s list o f authors) ‘began with the epic of Gilgamesh’ and ended with Toney Kushner’s (wholly worthless) Angels in America’. My only hope and trust is that while many would want to include some more authors as, indeed, space permitting I would do myself, nobody would take the view that I have included a play which is, to borrow Lyon’s words, ‘wholly worthless’. It was a great pleasure working on this volume. I hope the read­ ers will enjoy reading it. I thank the Sahitya Akademi for inviting me to do this pleasant, but by no means easy, job.

G.P. Deshpande

PA R T-I It is always difficult to say where and how a m ove­ ment begins. An old Indian proverb has it that it is futile to trace a Risbi’s ancestry and a river’s origin. In a sense one could say that o f modernity as well. When, in the sixties, the m odem movement began it went back to the playwrights w ho have been writing since w ell before I960. S riranga was one o f them. Hence he leads the playwrights presented here. T endulkar has in many ways defined our moder­

nity as also its discontent. A critic once said that his plays ‘are notable for their uncompromising realism, merciless probing o f human nature (and) candid scru­ tiny o f individual and group psychology”. Vultures is an outstanding ex a m p le o f what I like to call Tendulkarian modernity. B ad al S ircar and M o h a n R akesh introduced a new

dramatic idiom in Bangla and Hindi. Evam Indrajit is a classic o f contemporary Indian theatre. So is Asbadb

ka Ek D in. These playwrights changed the concerns o f m odem drama and introduced a language which was an antithesis o f the pseudo-Shakespearean prose that dominated Indian theatre writing for w ell over a century.

Listen, Janamejaya SRIRANGA

Translation: Laxmi Chandrashekar

ACT ONE Scene when screen opens: Night skyforms the backdrop to the stage, which means it is dark. But fo u r spots, hidden behind partially illuminate fourfigures on stage. Thefo u r characters stand at equal distances from each other. The first, on the audience’s left is the man o f experience (an old man) clad in the complete outfit o f bis period; second, a youth in shirtsleeves (folded up) andpyjamas; third, a young w om an, dressed in m odern clothes; the last one, Samanyappa, the common man, middle-aged and in ap­ propriate clothes. The fou r stand unblinking, like statues, each bolding the piece o f furniture in front as if taking supportfrom it. The old man leans against the easy chair in fro n t o f him, the youth against a plain chair, the girl against a table and Samanyappa, against a stool. Three office screens separate the easy chair, the plain chair, the table and the stool from one another. After a couple o f minutes o f this visual, a spotlight facing the stage searchesfo r someone in the auditorium and finally lights up the face o f an indi­ vidual seated in thefront row. The individual rises at once and walks on to the stage, followed by the beam o f light. The stage lights up immediately and the back-lights on thefo u r characters go off. But the characters continue to stand like statues untilfurther instruction. The individual, who stands facing the audience now and salutes them withfolded hands, is the Sutradhar as we realizefrom his words. (folding bis bands and in a voice fu ll o f humility) Namaskar and er. er. . welcome. Pardon me. You must be wondering who I am butting in like this. So first, let me tell you that. I am the Sutradhar. Oh! I forgot to tell you the main thing. You have been invited here this evening to watch a play. "Why a play here?” “Is this the venue for a play?" “What kind of a play is this— lining up lifeless characters like this?" I know you are going to ask me all these questions. What am I to do? Tell me Gentle­ men er.. and ladies. The man must be feeling embarrassed about his work and its characteristics. Otherwise he wouldn’t have staged it like this— behind four solid walls and a closed door. I am only a Sutradhar. My job is to bring the play on stage. Not fixing a proper

sutrad har





venue for it. Writing a play isn’t my job either, if you ask me. T h e playwright told me, ‘I have written a good play, a play that i s going to be immortal’. Then I said, ‘It’ll be good for me if the? show is immortal too' and brought it on stage. Who knows, ev e n the playwright may have had his doubts about bringing such a play before the public. So he has thrust me before you. You saw those four characters, didn’t you? You will see their inside, their outsides, and finally their fighter-side, in the three acts that fol­ low. Along with these four, an old man (The old man begins to blink now), a youth (He too blinks), a young woman (She does the same too) and the common man (He too blinks now) and with this Sriranga, you will leap into this battleground called life. I said ‘You will leap’ and I have my reasons for saying so. These characters look like lifeless toys, don’t they? Why? Because they have no life, that is why, meaning, their life is not in them, but before them; which means, you are their life. So if you will kindly sit still and let your souls transmigrate into these, we can start the play. When that is done, life lived below will be raised to the level of the stage...

Another individual seated in the auditorium rises and says ‘It's got to be raised'. (staring at him fo ra moment)Well done! Sutradhar, whether knowingly or unknowingly, you have expressed something quite profound. If your play is also as profound as this... s u t r a d h a r (interrupting) Sir, why do call it ‘my play’? Who am I to stage the play? What am I worth? You are the one who is staging it. You are the one who is getting me to stage it. le ad e r What do you mean? s u t r a d h a r What I mean, Sir? What play can beat the human drama? Is there a greater researcher than Man who, instead o f walking on all four, found he could walk on just two legs and converted the other two into hands? Is there a greater scientist than Man, who made the discovery that instead of the immoral practice o f rob­ bing every woman of her maidenhood, it was possible to rid the body and society o f disease through marriage? Is there a greater architect than Man who, having built the present on the founda­ tion o f his past experience, has prepared the ground for con­ structing the future on top of it7 leader Enough. Enough, Sutradhar. If your play is as amusing as your leader


Listen, Janamejaya talk, start the play right away. Infuse those dead bodies with life again. Start the play. s u t r a d h a r That is not my job, Sir. l e a d e r What did you say? Isn’t it starting the play your job? s u t r a d h a r That’s not what I said. I said ‘Infusing the dead bodies with life again isn’t my job’. le a d e r (a t a loss) Whose job is it then? s u t r a d h a r The playwight’s. l e a d e r Where is he? s u t r a d h a r That is my question too. Where is he? l e a d e r (surprised) What do you mean? s u t r a d h a r Sir, I just asked where the playwright was. le a d e r (a t a loss still) What do you mean? You spoke yourself about something the playwright had mentioned to you. s u tr a d h a r Yes; that was about the man who wrote the play. le a d e r What does that mean? Isn’t the person who wrote the play the playwight? s u tra d h a r That is what I ask, Sir. le a d e r (annoyed because he doesn ‘t understand) What do you ask? s u tra d h a r I ask whether the man who wrote the play is be the playwight. le a d e r (with a sigh o f relief) Hm! Is this the kind of humour you have in your play as well? s u tra d h a r Humour? Where did the question of humour come from now? le a d e r (in a bored tone) All right. If you don’t want to call it humour, call it satire. Or say you are being playful. What do you mean by saying that the man who wrote the play is not the playwright? s u tra d h a r H o w do you say what he has written is a play, Sir? le a d e r What does that mean? s u tra d h a r That means... The players and the audience should also think that it is a play, shouldn’t they? Is it enough if the writer alone claims what he has written is a play? That is why I re­ quested all of you to transmigrate and fill these toy-like charac­ ters with life..., to remain still in the auditorium and raise your lives to the stage level... le a d e r (looking at thefo u r stillfigures) Chi! To fill the lifeless with life, we must be at a level higher than that of the Earth. Here. . . on this Earth... such corpses... such nerveless, lifeless creatures. .. such muddy footsteps of Father T im e... What can you fill in





these? You can fill in air perhaps! They might at least fly beyond the limits o f the Earth then. s u t r a d h a r (looking at the fellow) Aha! The leader is here. Making speeches is his job. So let him conduct the rest o f the proceed­ ings.

With these words he stands aside. The leader walksfrom the auditorium to the stage. Though he too, like the Sutradhar, addresses the audience, he looks above their eye level, as if throwing his words in the ten directions. We’ve got to raise it. 1say w e’ve got to raise the level of their lives. Raise it to the level o f Mars, of Moon, of Sun, if necessary. We’ve had enough of it; o f living on this Earth for thousands of ages. This Earth is crumbling down, like a rented house. It’s so old you feel it costs you more to repair it now than it did to build it. This too familiar, rented Earth is as sickening as our neighbour’s shadows. Get up, eat, work and sleep. Get up after sleep. Eat after you get up. Work after you eat. Sleep after you work. . . We’ve had enough of it. Be born, grow up and die; Growing up after birth, death after growing up and birth after death... Enough of this. One shouldn’t be bom at all. If born, one shouldn’t die at all. We’ve got to raise life to that level. We can stop birth now. If we are able to stop death, then the level of human life will touch the peak of the divine. We’ve got to raise the level of life to that point. Man should rise, taking advantage of the experiences of thousands of past ages and the zeal o f thousands o f future ages. The will power of thousands of ages, the creative energy of thou­ sands of ages... Man has got to imbibe these and raise the level of life.


Looking at the fou r characters who stand on the stage like toys. Experience, zeal, will-power and creative energy... looking at Sutradhar as i f struck by an idea. Hey Sutradhar SUTRADHAR Sir. . . lead er Why are you staging this play? s u t r a d h a r Because it is m y job , Sir. lead er Chi! Chi! Staging a play is not a job, it is an art. s u t r a d h a r ( ignorantly) What does that mean? lead er (like one who knows everything) That means... that means 8

Listen, Janamejaya . . . T h e blossoming soul.. . No. Perhaps, you could put it this way. . . The inner light o f . .. No. It means, the inner light o f the blossoming soul... That means.. .(in a tone that implies Can 7 y ou understand such a simple thing?’) You know what I mean? sutradhar Yes Sir, and then? l e a d e r That’s exactly what I asked you. What is the purpose of staging the play? s u t r a d h a r The purpose is to earn my bread, Sir. l e a d e r Tchi! Tchi! What a petty concern! s u t r a d h a r No Sir, it is not petty. This is what our philosophers meant when they said “What the eye sees is not the truth’. The stomach looks petty. But only a person who is trying to fill it knows how huge it is. One may go on filling it till one dies, it’s still empty w h en one dies, Sir. le a d e r This is why I said w e’ve got to raise the level of life above this Earth. Our life itself has become petty because of this rented Earth, on which we check to see if the house we have found has a kitchen or not. As long as we are on this Earth, this habit of filling our stomachs won’t leave us. And we won’t move forward. Why not, Sir? As long as the stomach is in front, it will pull us forward: Only the stomach, which is in front, sees the way forward. That is why the animals, which have their stomachs be­ low or inside, haven’t progressed like the human being. s u t r a d h a r (smiling) What about me then? What about my profes­ sion? Sir! Please put off your journey to the other world for a little while. Watch these toys become living characters like sleepers waking up from sleep. That the living should die is a fate that we cannot escape on this Earth. leader (interrupting) That is why 1say we leave the Earth itself. su tr ad h ar (continuing bis speech) That the living should die is a fate we cannot escape on this Earth; That the dead should come to life is a greater event to happen on this earth. You can live again, but step aside from the world of the play, for the present. leader And you? sutradhar Y ou are my leader in being the living dead, and I am your follower. You are the string and I the holder behind. I shall show you the way. Walk lightly so that the string doesn’t snap.

su trad har

As if acting this out, the two move to the right o f stage and out. A few moments’ silence. Suddetily the stage goes dark





and within a few seconds, a beam lights up the old m an’s face. He comesforward slowly in the light, with a mechani­ cal movement. Turning his face upwards, as if talking to himself even when hefaces the audience. (with the patronizing smile o f the elderly) Haha! Called us muddy footsteps of Father Timer? Poor fellow! How would he know this being nourishes the spirit of millions of years? How would he know that this being stands rooted in the experience of millions of years? Lifeless, if you please! Haha! This being has been constantly engaged in activities. This being has been taking pleasure in various kinds of activities. This being has grown from experience to experience. How could he know, that I am the personification of the experience of a million emotions, a million desires of a million years? And such experi­ ences too! In my mother’s womb, I have experienced growth without eating; In my mother’s lap, I have gained the experience of eating without working for it. In the homes of my childhood, I have learnt to eat to just to grow. In my family, with my wife and children, I have experienced working to eat. As the father of growing children, I have the experience even of not being able to eat after working for it; finally, I have eaten without being able to work, made others work so that I could eat and eaten what I have snatched from others; Uph! I, who has this varied, artistic experience of eating just to live, am I lifeless? I am the basic principle of progress. I, who, instead o f eating whatever I found in the forest, learnt to grow what I wanted to eat and have the experience of taking a step in the direction of progress, am 1 nerveless? I, who, instead of eating anything I found, put the woman by the fireside, so that what I ate tasted good, am I a corpse? Haha! I, who created a society which could feed and clothe itself happily on others’ labour, am I lifeless? The poor lunatic doesn’t knw anything. Says he has had enough of the Earth! Wants to go to the Moon! He doesn’t know that without experience it can be nothing more than a bit of fancy. If he takes the help of my experience, he needn’t take the trouble of going to the Moon at all, he can transform this Earth itself into the Moon! Mars, Moon, Earth! Ha ha! The words are like froth from the mouth o f a fellow fatigued with empty zeal. There is no achievement without experience. Zeal alone doesn’t get you results, (mum­ bles as if tired o f speaking so much) I am lifeless, if you please!

OLD m a n Lifeless! Corpses! Nerveless!


Listen,Janamejaya Nerveless! (Turning bis back to the audience, he walks towards the easy chair with slow steps. Just then the leader tries to rush forward, but Sutradhar bolds him back. He gestures to him not to do so and drags him in again. By now, the old man, having approached the easy chair, standsfacing the audience again) I. . .1 am the personification o f experience. Achievements are ful­ filled only through me. (He sits down on the easy chair as he speaks these words and the light on bisface goes out; He mum­ bles in the end.) Listen to me. There is no achievement without experience. Zeal alone doesn’t get you the results.

Darkness on stage again. Within a halfa minute, the beam o f light reveals the face o f the youth. Like the old man, be too comesforward and looks around with an upturnedface, acting as if someone has taunted him. H ow stupid! No achievement without experience, if you please! Zeal alone doesn’t get you the results, it seems! How stupid! Experience! What is experience? Experience is the prod­ uct o f zeal; what other experience do you have? I, the personifi­ cation o f zeal, am 1corpse-like? 1, who have the ability to bring another life into existence while saving my own, am I lifeless? Says he’s had enough of the Earth! And that, that impotent thought, is what experience is. Is progress possible with that kind of expe­ rience? The basic inspiration for progress is zeal, that is, me. There is strength in my body, enthusiasm in my mind and desire in my heart, I— I symbolize zeal, the basic principle of progress. No achievement without experience! Haha! Experience has its eye at the back while achievement is in front. Is a union between the two possible? A mistake! An illusion! An absurd thought! I am progress. Experience can’t take a step forward at all because it does not have the strength to stand firm on one leg while it lifts the other. It might stagger where it stands. Experience is blind; after witnessing what has happened in the past, it hasn’t im­ proved the present. Experience is lame; it keeps treading on the same steps. Experience is deaf; it needs to be given the same advice over and over again. Stupidity! It is sheer stupidity to at­ tribute progress to experience . . . You’re doomed if you trust experience . . . Chi! What experience? Ravana o f Ramayana, a king in history and a peasant living in the present— all three de­ sired Vashishta’s cow, Kamadhenu; Later, Ashoka desired the king­





dom of Kaiinga. One man’s experience did not save the oth er. Both fought wars! No achievement without experience! A ch ieve­ ment needs intelligence. Experience has no life of achievement without experience! Achievement needs intelligence. Experience has no intelligence! (He is now enthusiastic about himself.') A il that is a lie. A mistake! A fraud! The life of achievement is zeal; zeal is the strength of achievement... Zeal! Zeal is what brought man from the forest to the town, made mischievous man aw are of duties, removed the flints and thorns of cruelty and levelled the uneven ground o f autocracy and paved the royal path to unity. Zeal for joy, for peace and for security! Zeal for the voyage of progress! Zeal, which can heal all wounds, is the basic principle of human life. Experience, which is like a wound, is not enough. Why talk about going to the Moon or the Sun? If you have the zeal, the journey takes just half a minute. Zeal... Zeal... Tireless Zeal... It is from this... ( mumbling as if he has lost the thread o f his thought, walks back like the old man did earlier. Once again the tug o f war between the leader who moves forward and Sutradhar who pulls him back. Youth sits on the chair) Tireless ... ( gasping as if tired) Tireless zeal is where the flood o f progress originates from. Tireless . .. ( gasping as if tired) Tireless zeal is where the flood of progress originates from.

Darkness on stage again. Within a few seconds the beam lights up the g irl’s face. Her face is already lit up with a smile. Like the two earlier characters, she too movesforward slowly and appears to listen to something . . . g ir l

What a pity! Where do I hear this pathetic gasping from? Some­ one seems exhausted by tireless zeal! What a pity! What is the point o f hollering— “Zeal! Zeal!" What can zeal get you without will power? What you need most is will power and endurance. It is just like the male to scream “zeal— zeal”. True achievement is when you capture that zeal, convert it into will and act on it. It’s only when you dam the flowing river that the earth can yield. Isn’t it? But what does zeal do? Let the flowing water flow on and then claim i made the earth yield’. Man is like flowing water. Woman is the dam that arrests its flow and endures its constant pressure. So woman is the real cause of success and achieve­ ment. She is the mother who gives birth; She is the wife who helps man realize his creative zeal; How can man progress with­ 12

Listen,Janamejaya out the w o m a n who transforms the foetus in her womb into a living creature by nourishing it with her food, her blood and her breath? Pity! ‘Experience’ says man! ‘Zeal’ says man! What for? What can you do with them? If woman wasn’t the personification of will power, man would have known what a sterile will power. Why go to the Moon? Why go to the Sun? Is it possible for a man who has the woman even to think of another world? Will power. It needs a heart in flight. Which heart would fly if there was no woman! ( mumbling as if her thoughts are getting confused) Heart in flight. Desire for the woman. Beauty o f life. This.. This.. This is the means o f success. This is the means of progress. What path can man walk without riding the horse of desire? Will power is the horse that takes you to progress. ( Like the two eariier charac­ ters, she moves back. Once again the leader pushing himself forward and Sutradbar pulling him back. She returns to the table and places her bands on it) Progress needs will power. (mumbles)

Darkness orf stage again. Guffawing laughter heard after a few seconds. When the beam lights up the fa ce o f Samanyappa, the Common Man, he isfound laughing. He comesforward laughing. Like the earlier characters, he moves to stagefront. Raising bisface and checking bis laughter. Fine fun this is! Until this moment I hadn’t seen people who said they didn’t want the Earth. Who are we to say ‘I want this!’ or ‘I don’t want that!’ We aren’t bom because we wanted to be bom. We can’t avoid death if we don’t want to die. Why cram our heads with such unnecessary stuff? “What happened in the past’ What will happen in the future? What happened in the past? What will happen in the future?” Why does man go on harping on this? There was darkness in the past. There will be darkness in the future: To hell with it! Why not simply light a match when you come across darkness? Why all the unnecessary calculations? The mother of a first child doesn’t have the experi­ ence o f feeding a baby. The newborn doesn’t have the experi­ ence o f suckling milk at all. Still the mother feeds the baby, the baby drinks the milk and the world goes on. Is it true or not? “It is a mother’s duty to feed the child she has given birth to". Does a mother need to be taught this lesson before she feeds her baby? Does the newborn infant know, “Mother’s milk is nourishing.

s am an yappa




Healthy growth is possible only by drinking mother’s milk?” T h e n why does Man, when he is grown up, calculate before he d o e s anything? What does he want to be? He wants to be a big m a n ! Who is this big man? Let him come and stand before me, I s a y . . Doesn’t a big man eat? Doesn’t he father children? Doesn’t h e crave for money? Doesn’t he yawn when he is sleepy? D o e s n ’t he sneeze when he has a cold? This is sheer madness, if you ask me. A human being is a human being. How can you call him a corpse instead? How can you call him nerveless? How can you call me a corpse when 1labour with my hands to fill my stomach? He wants to be something in the future, he wants this, he wants that! Do you work hard for what you want or do you just open your mouth and say ‘I want’? I was four when my father died. What was going to happen to me? Where was the time to think about all that? I worked for whoever fed me; later they gave me clothes along with food; still later, they gave me food, clothes and a salary; ‘I have my food and I have my clothes; what do I need the salary for?’ I said and put away the salary. It’s been 25-30 years since I started putting away my salary. It may now be in hundreds or thousands! Who wants to count that’ One who spends the intelligence he has on what he already has is a fool, they say! They call you a clever fellow if you use it to count what you don’t have! How topsy-turvy Man’s affairs have become! He dies of sorrow caused by yearning for happiness! What happiness is it to invite sorrow— ( stopping suddenly as if confused by the issue) Hey! What is this? This is the influence of the company 1 keep. Why am I chattering on like this? (mumbling) No use allowing your mind this kind of leisure. One’s got to work. Eat. Work after you eat; exhaust yourself with work; go to sleep exhausted, get up and work. Don't allow your mind any leisure as you labour after you eat and sleep after you get exhausted; If you do, it starts calculating, about the joy of eating while you are at work; about the joy o f sleeping while you get exhausted; about the joy of chasing the woman you desire when she escapes from you; about the certainty o f catching her when you are close to her and she runs away from you again; That is what happiness is like, a woman who wants to escape. To savour it, you must have the energy to chase it.

Slowly, he moves to the stool at the back. Mumbling as he sits on the stoolfacing the audiencel What you need most is


Listen,Janamejaya energy, (laughing suddenly) Like our cleverfriends mould say—creative energy! HahahaJ Darkness on stage again. Full lights within a few sec­ onds. When the next scene is on a curtain should come down and bide thefou r characters. This helps in staging the scene thatfollows. As soon as the stage is lit up, Sutradbar drags Leader from the right wing to the stage; Leader resisting as if he isn t interested. Finally, Sutradbargets Leader to stand right ofstage Look Sir, three limes you rushed to the stage earlier, the moment each o f the three characters had Finished speaking. Stop­ ping you was an arduous ritual for me. Now, after everything is over, you won’t come when I call you, even when I drag you! Right? leader Hey Sutradhar! I am sure some of your magic is at work here. (pondering) Well, can we say it was your wisdom which stopped me? (as if recollecting what has happened) Ah! That old man— what ideas he has! I didn’t know experi­ ence would be like this. As I listened to him, all I wanted to do was just run up to him, salute him, fall at his feet and get the maximum benefit o f his experience. You stopped me then! I thought, This Sutradhar is only worried about his play. Damn the play! 1should simply push him aside and rush’. Ah! What philoso­ phy! For all you know, there was neither knowledge nor thought there. Still, for the moment, I thought I saw light there, (when he sees Sutradbar smile) Didn’t I tell you it was for the moment7All kinds o f things happened after that. You stopped me and I was highly disappointed. But the youth who came later, Superb! Su­ perb! What zeal! It isn’t enough if you say ‘zeal’. You have got to describe it as zzzzzzzeal! I was so zealous. Then I thought it was good you had stopped me earlier. ‘If one has so much zeal, what does it matter which world one is in? Let me at least feel the wind of that zeal’ I thought as I rushed forward. But again your hand was in the way. Oho! What shall I do with this Sutradhar? I must do something even if I have to tread on him to get past him. But again you stopped me! ( Sutradbar smiles again) I know why you smile. I agree. When I heard the girl, I nearly fainted. Ah! What a thought! The inspiration that gets anything done by man. The radiance of the face! The confidence in the voice! In the end, sittradhar




she actually said the only Man who is successful is the w o m a n ! But at that moment I didn’t even think o f it as an insult. I f o r g o t the differences between man and woman and rushed as if d r a w n by some power. (Sutradhar laughs loudly) Honestly; I didn’t r e ­ member I was a man and I wasn’t aware that she was a w om an . .. honestly... s u t r a d h a r I didn’t laugh because of that, Sir. I know why you tried t o rush in three times. What I want to know is ‘what happened t o you the third time’. lead er It was as if someone had slapped me on my cheek. s u t r a d h a r (surprised) What? lead er I said, ‘as if someone had slapped me’. As I went closer, both the speed and ferocity o f the slaps appeared to increase. s u t r a d h a r (like someone trying to understand) Why? leader Who knows? The old man’s experience, the young man’s zeal, the girl’s attraction— all this appeared a lie, an error. s u t r a d h a r That’s true too, in a way. le ad e r (taken aback) What was that you said’ s u t r a d h a r A lie is not a lie; an error, not an error. leader Chi! Chi! You too are talking like that last fellow, Samanyappa! s u t r a d h a r Who am I to talk? What am I, Sir? You are the one who makes me say those things. leader (staring at him fo r a moment) Are you the Sutradhar or a character in the play? s u t r a d h a r Why this suspicion, Sir? lead er Why? If you are only the Sutradhar, why don’t you make yourself understood? s u t r a d h a r Tell me now, which words of mine didn’t you under­ stand? leader Are you saying the words spoken by the old man, the youth and the girl were lies and errors? s u t r a d h a r Not just those! Even the words Samanyappa spoke at the end were lies and errors. leader ( mocking) That means your play is like that. s u t r a d h a r Why do you misunderstand, Sir? What you witnessed until now was not the whole play, but the first act. I told you right at the beginning— 'This is the first act called ‘Inside’. You are yet to see the outside. leader (interrupting) Why differentiate between the inside and out-


Listen,Janamejaya side o f Man? Man is Man. He doesn’t have hands, legs, ears and nose inside as well, does he? s u t r a d h a r Don't Sir. Don’t be in a hurry to make that mistake. When w e say ‘up and down’, w e look at both. When we say ‘behind and before’, w e can look in both the directions as long as we wish. But when we say ‘inside and outside’, can we look at the inside the way we look at the outside? leader Why should we? Why can’t we be satisfied with what can be seen? s u t r a d h a r What w e see isn’t like what it appears to be, Sir. Why, nothing is what it looks like! leader (voice shows surprise) What we see isn’t like what it appears to be. What do you mean by that? If you take a good look s u t r a d h a r ( interrupting) That's just what I say. What we see de­ pends on how we look. A husband, who sees his wife at home, finds another man’s wife whom he sees on the road beautiful. Yes or no? Why is it so? leader So? What exactly are you saying? su tr ad h ar This is all I say, Sir. A child is red like burning coal at the time o f birth, but turns ashen by the time he comes out to play in the streets and ends up being charcoal-coloured by the time he gets married. Why? leader (not comprehending) Why? su tr ad h ar Just as it happens from act to act in the play, colour changes from one stage to another in life too. But that is the outer colour. The changes in the outer colour may make you forget the persons inside. Because I did not want this to happen, I have showed you, at the very outset, what these people are like in­ side. But in the second act you will see who they are outside, what their story is and so on.


The curtain, which has been lowered earlier, opens as the last words o f the previous act are spoken. The scene there has changed. Thefou r earlier characters are alive now. The stage arrangements have changed as well. The three screens, which stood in a row earlier, now stand at different angles





suggesting three rooms in a real office. In thefirst room, the old man on the easy chair with a table in front o f him , on the table, a calling bell and various other articles in keeping with the status o f and necessaryfo r an officer’s job; in the second room, the youth on a plain chair, with a cup and a saucer on the table in fro n t... He has been drinking coffee or tea. . .files and papers in disorder, at the other end o f the table, the girl on a chair with a typewriter on the table in front o f her, The work has stopped half-way. She is looking at herface in her compact-mirror and behaving as a woman is supposed to. Finally, in fro n t o f the office screen, Samanyappa, the officepeon (o r watchman) sits on a stool, smoking a beedi. A minute after the curtain opens, the old man rings the bell on his table. Immediately the youth takes up the files; the girl starts moving her fingers rapidly over the keys o f the typewriter; Samanyappa crushes the beedi against the stool and sticks the butt inside his turban. For a moment, all three act as if they are waiting fo r the bell to ring again. But Sutradhar and Leader behave as if they are not aware that the curtain has gone up. All this while Leader has been scratching his head and looking at Sutradhar. Finally, as if it is no use standing there, he walks past Sutradhar to stage left and is about to leave. (stopping him ) What is this? You are not leaving already, are you, Sir? lead er (in a tired voice) What else can I do? What do you want me to do? 1had readand heard a lot about theatre. Thee was a time when folks said theatre was an amusement. But from the time they started paying money to see plays, theatre ceased to amuse ordinary folks and began to amuse only the wealthy. A play be­ gan to be written to suit the taste of whichever king paid the maximum money. Later they said a play holds a mirror to society. Like a mirror image, in which your left seems to be your right and your right left, a play began to reflect society topsy-turvy. While society took dowry a play said ‘No dowry’, You plucked your hair and screamed ‘love marriage’ in the play, and in society, you let your father drag you by the hair to the altar and marry the girl in front o f you. (stops when he sees a smile appear on the face of

sutrad h ar


Listen, Janamejaya Sutradhar, who has been staring at him until now) s u t r a d h a r So a play is now like politics, you say one thing and d o another— l e a d e r ( insisting on continuing bis speech) But now you are up to another game, of wanting to show the inside and the outside together— s u t r a d h a r (interrupting) How many times should I tell you, Sir? W h o am I to show you? Whoever wants to see can see. All one has to do is open one’s eyes. My job is only to keep them open. l e a d e r So what you are saying is your play won’t let us sleep. s u t r a d h a r Not my play. Your mind won’t. le a d e r (beurildered) Whatf s u t r a d h a r I said, your mind. Your mind won’t let you sleep. lead er (surprised) What sin have I committed to make my mind fret so much that it won’t let me sleep? s u t r a d h a r What do you mean’ Who do you think this play belongs to? leader W ho does the play belong to? (doesn't understand) It be­ longs to whoever wrote it; you could say it belongs to you since you are staging it. s u t r a d h a r (shaking bis head) To neither. Like a girl belongs to the house she is married to, a play belongs to society which has had it written; it belongs to the audience, meaning, you. You created the characters in this play. leader (greatly amazed) Me? I did? s u t r a d h a r (nodding) Yes. You, the leader. You, who persuaded people to build a new society. You say you want everything new, but are old yourself. So you say, ‘we need experience to build a new society*. ‘Experience is old, it doesn’t have the stamina, so we need youth’ you said; When only young men joined you, you thought, ‘at least half the youth, who are young women, may join the other side’ and said you wanted young women to join you as well. Afraid that the growth of independent thinking in society may lead to a different kind of experience, you raised the common man to the status o f an independent citizen. Forgive me, having announced a play and got the people to gather here, I had to start making a speech. But I had to because you have greater faith in speeches than in what you see. It is a play you have created. It is not right on your part to go away leaving the labour o f watching it to someone else. So kindly...



(interrupting) Have you gone crazy? I had heard t o d a y ’ s writers were crazy. But are the players equally crazy too? C h ara en­ ters I created, if you please! The play I wrote, he says! s u t r a d h a r Oho! The mistake is mine. Perhaps, you didn’t reco gn ize* the characters because I showed their inside? If you see w h a t their outside looks like... le ad e r Who? Where? s u t r a d h a r That old man, the youth, the voung woman and th a r Samanyappa? le ad e r Where? s u t r a d h a r In your office at ‘The Centre for the Creation o f N e w Society? le ad e r Whatf What did you say? In my office? S u tr a d h a * Exactly. Come! I’ll show you. leader

He takes him by the hand and walks all the way across to the right o f stage, turns there, stands and walks back to where they stood before— What is this? You have actually brought me to my office! s u t r a d h a r Sh. .Sh..! Look inside. lead er (gazes in surprise) Hey! What is this? These? These people work in my office...? s u t r a d h a r Sh. .Sh..! You recognize them now? All right. Don’t make any noise. Or come, let us go out o f sight. You can see your characters at play. le ad e r

Both disappear left o f stage. Now the characters on stage start their activities again. Samanyappa puts the beedi in his mouth and strikes a match; the girl is looks at the mirror and applies lipstick; the youth stares at her as he drinks his tea; the old man is dozing. In a moment, the old man’s head strikes the calling bell and causes it to ring; immedi­ ately the other characters begin to act as they had done on hearing it earlier. After another m inute... (looking at the g irl) He has enough stamina to ring the bell at least! g ir l Ayyo! What do you know? y o u t h (as if asking herfo r the secret) You mean? s a m a n y a p p a Did he ring because he has woken up or is there any work, I wonder? (rising) youth

Listen, Janamejaya (annoyed by the dozing and the blow to the head, rings the bell) y o u t h (p ick in g up the files) He doesn’t do anything else sitting in that chair ( stands up') g i r l (putting the m irror away) If it’s for me, I’m ready too. samanyappa (grum bling) Going by the way he rings the bell, either he was a priest in his last birth or is going to be one in his next birth

old m a n

The old man and the youth and girl are sitting in separate rooms while Samanyappa is outside these. Keeping this in mind, Samanyappa gets up, walks to stage-leftfrom upstage centre, stands near the curtain and peeps in as if through a door. (looking at him haughtily and with displeasure) What have you been doing? samanyappa Nothing sir. I have just come from your house. o l d man From my house? s a m a n y a p p a (politely) I had gone there to fetch your glasses, sir. o ld m a n (authoritatively) What took you so long? You have been away for nearly two hours. s a m a n ya ppa I would have come sooner, sir. But your servant couldn’t find it however much he looked for it. o ld m a n (with sudden unhappiness) Thu! You waste time unneces­ sarily, don’t you? You love going to fetch an object left behind at home, especially if you can get away from office. You could have asked me again before you left. I would have told you my glasses were left behind in the office yesterday. s a m a n y a p p a (as if the mistake is actually his) I didn’t realize it, sir. (just as be is leaving.. . ) o l d man Hey, look at me! I was sitting at home collecting my pen­ sion. Why do you think they brought me and appointed me here? Because they know my nature. Whatever the quantity of work, 1 finish it then and there, just like that. I came here to see that the work in this office doesn’t get tiring. You understand? Forget it. Send this fellow in. (annoyed when Samanyappa looks at him without comprehension) That fellow, send him in! Hurry up! (grum bling) It wasn’t like this in our times. samanyappa (outside) ‘This fellow’ and ‘that fellow’! He can’t re­ member a single name! One of these days the old man may even o l d man




leave his life behind at home or in the office! (As he speaks, he comes back to where he was, lights a beedi and tabes out afaded edition o f an illustrated story or novel to read.) (The youth laughs suddenly and the girl stares at him ) g ir l Why? What happened? y o u t h Just thought of something— g ir l Is it something you can’t tell me? y o u t h Why not’ Our office is called “The Centre for the Creation of New Society" and the one who creates it is an old man! Haha! g ir l (acting shy) Ish! y o u t h Chi! Chi! Don’t get me wrong. I’ll tell you how I got the idea and why. It was Brahma who created the world. He is called The Great Father’. We have a Great Father in our office to o ... g ir l That means you need experience to do great things... y o u t h Experience? You mean... this old man has the experience o f creating a new society as well? Everyone knows why he got this post. g ir l (as if she doesn't know anything about it) Why? y o u t h Because he is married to the leader’s sister. g ir l That is called ‘experience’. y o u t h You mean, one needs experience even to get married? g ir l O f course, you need experience to know how beneficial it is to marry a particular person. y o u t h (taken aback) So? You are suggesting that people in the past didn’t know about love at all. g ir l (like one who knows everything) They knew that too. They knew that too y o u t h What do you mean? g ir l (acting shy again) Go on! I don’t know. y o u t h (as if half to himself) Have a house full of children and love outside! Chi! That is primitive. g ir l It was in the papers the other day... y o u t h What7 g ir l You know all these things they make, the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb and so on? It said they have a bad impact... y o u t h Yes. They could But.. . g ir l (interrupting) Not like that... It said in the future people won't have any children at all. y o u t h (laughing) Hahaha! If newspapers started writing the truth they would run out o f things to writer everyday. Haha! 22

Listen, Janamefaya (a s be reads to himself) Hahaha! Hurrah boy! He takes her aw ay without even getting off his galloping horse! He de­ serves to b e called a Man. (He smacks bis lips. The beedi drops to the floor. H e starts lighting another.) g ir l No! It seems a great scientist has said this... y o u t h (surprised) What did you say? Do 1believe in God. . .? g ir l Not like that. I mean that there is someone called God, every­ body is equal in his eyes and justice will be done in the end... y o u t h (interrupting, with a sigh) I don’t believe in that kind of God. If there was such a God (pointing towards the old man’s cham­ ber), would such injustice have happened? Just imagine, that I should remain a clerk in this office after taking a special degree in the subject our office deals with! Fortunately, our leader has only one sister. Otherwise I couldn’t have hoped to get that post even after the old man’s death. g ir l (with a teasing laugh) If he had another sister, you would have married her! youth So it is not your degree that gets you the job, but the pedigree!

sam anyappa

Old man rings the bell looking annoyed. On hearing it, like before, the two act as if they are working. Like one whose meditation has been disturbed and is about to curse, Samanyappaputs down the book and rises Keeping a bell before him is like tying a bell round a cow’s neck. Ringing at every step! (Speaking, be enters the room where the youth and the g irl are. Youth, getting up, pacifyingly) y o u t h N o w it’s my turn, isn’t it? (Samanyappa nods. The Youth, busy looking fo r something, takes out a pack o f cigarettesfrom the draw, puts one in bis mouth, replaces the pack in the draw and begins to lookfo r something else) Any idea why he wants me? s a m a n y a p p a If I knew that I would be sitting in his chair. y o u t h (annoyed because be does not find what he has been looking for, opens the draw and shuts it with a bang) By the time I go in, will he even remember he called me? s a m a n y a p p a (taking out the matches from bis turban and passing them to the youth) He might ring again and break his hand! y o u t h (taking the matches) Thanks, (strikes the match, lights bis cigarette and returns the box to Samanyappa) There is still some tea left You have that. I don’t know what state I will be in when

sam anyappa




I come out! Keep some more tea ready, (going) Hatova badhatim prapya jitwawa bhokshase vargam— (As he speaks, he comes to where Samanyappa's seat was earlier, goes into the old man’s room as Samanyappa had done earlier. He takes very slow steps using the perusal o f files as an excuse.) g ir l It’ll be my turn after he comes. s a m a n y a p p a If the old man is alive till then. g ir l (showing fear) Hey, what is this? What sort of talk is this? s a m a n y a p p a Don’t worry, madam! The old man isn’t sitting there to die. g ir l Hey, I get scared listening to you. Suppose he rings the bell, we go in and he’s dead before we step inside. . . (stops because Samanyappa laughs) You find it funny? s a m a n y a p p a (controlling his laughter) Not like that... I just thought what if it really happened that way. If the hearts o f men in the prime o f their youth stop beating when they look at you and listen to you, what of the old man. . . (can’t speak further be­ cause o f laughter) g ir l (Either shy or angry) Go on! You Crazy Son of a Widow! You say such awful things! s a m a n y a p p a Look at the mirror and tell me what I said isn’t the truth! (The girl picks up the mirror out o f habit and puts it down again laughing.) Madam, don’t think I am a nobody. My father owned hundreds o f acres of land. That gave him the courage to take loans. I kept fifty acres and sold the rest to repay the loans. g ir l Who are you talking about? s a m a n y a p p a Me, o f course. Who else? g ir l Y o u have fifty acres o f what? s a m a n y a p p a Nothing. Just fifty acres. g ir l (insisting) I asked you fifty acres o f what? s a m a n y a p p a (insisting on making her understand) Just fifty acres; neither land nor site. 1 mean neither cultivated land nor site for construction g ir l Then why did you come here to work? s a m a n y a p p a You tell me why I might have come here, let’s see. g ir l (trying to change the trend o f talks) Not like that. What I mean is why are you telling all this? s a m a n y a p p a You tell me why I am telling you all this, let’s see. g ir l (in a tired voice) I am asking you the question and you ask me to tell you?

Listen, Janamejaya That is the mark o f a real man. g ir l (taken aback) What d id you say? s a m a n y a p p a Though he carried her away without getting off the horse, the woman must have gone with him quite happily. g ir l Don’t talk nonsense. Go, get the tea.

sam anyappa

Samanyappa comes’ out’ smiling and twisting his mous­ tache. When be is outside, after looking this way and that, be gets ready to settle down to bis book and beedi. The girl sits with an upturned face, as if deep in thought. By now the youth is peeping into the old man’s room. o ld m an

W h o is it?

It’s me. I believe you sent for me. . . o l d m a n Yes! When do I call you and when do you turn up? y o u t h No, sir. I came as soon as I knew you had called me. o l d m a n (smiling contemptuously) As soon as you knew I had called you! Which means, you need to be called before you come! y o u t h Otherwise . . . o l d m a n (continuing bis speech) Which means you won’t come at all if I don’t call you. y o u t h (at a loss) Otherwise . .. When your work. . . o l d m a n (suddenly banging the table) My work! My work! Which means, you think I am here to do the work? If I had known that, I wouldn’t have come here even if they had offered me a thou­ sand rupees. Do you understand? Even now, 1said ‘I don’t want it’. It must be a mistake to have experience. My work, if you please! My work! It is your job to work; do you understand? It is your work to know when I want you. y o u t h N o , sir. I mean, yes sir. I came thinking of that. o l d m a n You could have said that earlier! Che! We weren’t like this at'your age. Before our superiors called us we would be there to attend to our work! Why should I sit here now? At my age, when I should be meditating, why am I ringing this office bell? So that you may see us and learn how work is done. Yes or no? y o u t h Yes, sir. youth

o ld m a n

‘Right’. ‘Y es’. I f this is h o w you w ork, I w o n d er h o w y o u w i l l

m a n a ge ou r responsibilities in the future! G o d save this c o u n tr y !

Are y o u married? youth

N o , sir.

OLD m a n

You see? How w ill you g e t experien ce? How ca n y o u




know the joy of working in an office when you do not have the experience of marriage, home, wife or children? y o u t h Yes, sir. o l d m a n What did you say? y o u t h How does one know joy without experience. . . o l d m a n Hum! At least now you know . . . ( realizing he has said something wrong) Enough of that. What about that plotf y o u t h It appears they do not want to sell it at our price. o l d m a n Who told you that? y o u t h The broker was here. . . o l d m a n (in a tone o f displeasure) The broker came and got lost? Who asked you about that? What does the owner o f the plot say? y o u t h We sent for him. But he doesn’t want to come... o l d m a n (as if shocked by the ignorance o f the world) Well! I won­ der what should I say to you? Don’t you realize the significance of the task or need for it? What do you think ‘The Centre for the Creation of a New Society’ is about? To begin with, can’t you even create a new building for it? This is a growing centre. It must have a new building. We can’t start work without it. In spite of my telling you all this and even showing you where the fifty-acre plot is, you haven’t been able to meet the owner? y o u t h I’ll send for him, if you like. If you could go there yourself

( interrupting) What? I go there myself? y o u t h (like a drowning man clutching the neck o f the man next to him ) He might agree then, I thought.. . . o l d m a n (controlling his anger) If I have to go, why do we need you in this office? y o u t h (as if it is the last straw) WeH, since I have a special de­ gree.... I ... I o l d m a n Your special degree be burnt! If they had any faith in your special degree, why would they fall at my feet and bring me here, you have no experience o f anything! Get lost! I shall write a note myself. Get lost and send that this one to take it down old m an

Theyouth is about to say something, but changing his mind, returns the same way as he came. When he approaches Samanyappa... They say the average age in our country is twenty six to twenty eight. That’s a lie.

yo uth

Listen,Janamejaya (looking upfrom bis seat) What did you say, sir? y o u t h Y ou need experience, even to die. s a m a n y a p p a Why? Did anything new come up? y o u th Nothing new. It’s about that fifty-acre plot. s a m a n y a p p a (springing up) What about that plot7 y o u t h What else? The owner won’t meet us and the old man won’t change his mind. s a m a n y a p p a Why don’t you settle for his price? Why are you being so stubborn? Tell me. Shall I settle it9 y o u t h (surprised) Who? You will settle it? (disappointed) But who the ow ner o f the damned plot is... s a m a n y a p p a (interrupting) No need for you to worry about it. Tell me if you want it settled. y o u t h Settle it, man. You can keep the commission also. s a m a n y a p p a Commission? To who.... y o u t h ( interrupting) 30,000. A commission of thirty thousand. Not a small amount. sam anyappa That's what I asked, who you are giving the commission to. I mean who not to give it to. Stop worrying about it. By tomor­ row morning . . . (The youth is in bis room by now.) girl (rising) So, finally, it is my turn now, isn’t it? y o u t h ( nodding) Sometimes, I wonder why the Mahabharata story shouldn’t come true! girl (doesn t understand the context) What story? s a m a n ya ppa (outside') Fifty acres, thirty thousand! yo u t h Bhishma killed Shikhandi, it seems .. . (G irl stares at him ) The gist is that a man can’t kill the old man. s a m a n ya ppa (without noticing the girl come out) Fifty acres and thirty thousand! girl Don’t forget me then. s a m a n ya ppa That’s the marie of a real man. girl What is? s am an yappa (continuing bis speech) To remember the mother when he falls and to remember the wife when he wins. girl Get lost, you Crazy Husband of a Widow! (goes into the old man ’s chamber) sa m a n ya ppa (looking at her) I f o n ly she k n e w w h o is g o in g to hus­

sam anyappa

ban d w h o m , she w o u ld n ’t have said such a thing.

The old man rings tbe bell. The youth throws down thefile and lights a cigarette. Samanyappa sits down thoughtfully




and lights a beedi. The girl, like the other two, hurries to­ wards the old man‘s 'chamber1. Who is it? (sees her peep in ) Come! (when she comes in and stands) Sit down. g ir l I believe you wanted me to take down something... o ld m an (looking surprised) To take down something? Did I say that7 g ir l Th.. Th.. This one told me... o l d m a n Who? Our clerk? Irresponsible fool! Supposed to have a special degreer-on top o f it! Did he tell you that I said I wanted you to take down something?... Why are you standing? Please sit down, (looking around)Th\i\ I must have told him a thousand times to keep a chair here! g ir l Don’t bother. I’ll take down standing. No problem. o l d m a n What is wrong with this country, I say? Everybody wants money, but nobody wants to work for it. No ambition to come up. No common sense in spite o f being educated, (sees her tak­ ing down) Che! Che! Don't write that down. 1just pointed it out because the situation was like that. (She tears thepaper, crushes it and throws it where a waste paper basket is supposed to be.) Still, the office has improved a lot. What do you say? y o u t h (coming to the door, to Samanyappa) Will you bring the tea o l d m a n Not enough discipline and tidiness, but still. . . g ir l I’ll arrange for a flower-pot to be kept on your table from tomor­ row. s a m a n y a p p a ( f o the youth) Why isn’t your flower-pot here yet? y o u t h (with a touch o f authority) What did you say? o l d m a n There’s no need for that if you ask me. Instead of keeping so many flowers in one place, it would brighten up the office much more if you wore them and walked around. Eh? Haha! s a m a n y a p p a (to the youth) Your companion hasn’t come yet. y o u t h (same as earlier) She’ll come by the time you bring it. g ir l (as if embarrassed by the old man's words) No.... I’ll take it down now and type it right away, sir. s a m a n y a p p a (to the youth) How many shall I bring? OLD m a n ( to the g irl) Bring what? y o u t h Why ask? Bring the quantity you normally do. (as he moves towards his chair) Sa m a n y a p p a Shall I bring for three people then? y o u t h (turning) How many did you say?

o ld m an


Listen,Jatiamejaya (suggesting the old man's room) I haven’t counted him you know... (lights bis beedi when be hasfinished speaking) girl (to the Old M an) I said I would type it. old m a n Oh that! girl Let me take down. Dictate it. y o u t h (sitting in the chair) Why is she taking so lo n g to w rite down? s a m a n y a p p a (peeping in ) Did you call me? o ld m a n What is this? You are still standing? s a m a n y a p p a ( when befinds the youth staring at him ) All right. I’m leaving. I’m leaving, (puts o ff the beedi by crushing it against his foot and sticks it on bis ear before be leaves) old m a n I must have a chair here from tomorrow. You have to come here so many times in the day and stand for so long whenever you are here... gihl (interrupting) But... (acting bashful) I prefer standing. y o u t h What’s this? Is she sitting there as well? old m a n (sm iling) You know how much I liked what you said? That’s what they call humility. But in my view it’s wrong. That is the mistake you find in these government offices... Discrimina­ tion between superiors and underlings. Nobody is superior or inferior to anybody else; Each one is responsible for a part of the job. The work is complete when each one has done his bit. So how can anyone be superior or inferior? (sees her taking down) Hm... Ahem...What I mean is... (when she stops and looks at him ) You want to take down standing? Because.... I thought, since there is no chair here today, I would dictate tomorrow after I have made arrangements for you to sit down. The mater isn’t very urgent either. ( feels his pockets with his hands) Tu! There is this thing as well! 1wonder if I forgot my glasses again at home! girl Shall I tell the peon to... y o u t h Won’t this blessed fellow bring the tea at least? He is usually late, but he shouldn’t fetch it too soon today. If he brings it by the time she comes... old m a n (as if he has thought o f something) I see.... So this thing has happened as well? girl He can fetch it immediately. old m a n Tu tu tu! If he goes, that’ll be the end of the matter. Oh I had forgotten. Actually, there is something urgent... girl Shall I tell the peon to ...

sam anyappa



In d ia n


(interrupting) Yes.... That’s right... Do that g ir l Shall I tell the peon to... o l d m a n Tell the peon to take all the files and the typewriter to my house. The work won’t take more than half an hour. You can type it there and take my signature... g ir l Y o u said it was urgent. This might delay it... o l d m a n Che! Che! It's almost time to leave the office. Let him take these right away and w e’ll follow immediately. g ir l Then I shall send word home... o l d m a n Why? You’ll be home by then! g ir l All right. I’ll tell the peon. (She leaves and walking the same way as she did earlier, comes to her room) y o u t h (looking at her) Oho! Is it over at last? (She does not speak, but continues to look at the mirror and beautify herself) Che! Che! Do you need to beautify yourself even to drink tea? o l d m a n (rising, as if he is not aware o f it) Oho! My glasses are here, are they? I shouldn't go home leaving this here. (Twirls his moustachefeeling proud abut something) y o u t h The old man is getting to be an obstacle even outside office. Let me see what 1 can do. (Stands twirling his moustache. Samanyappa, who has come in with the tea in the meanwhile, sees her looking into the mirror and beautifying herself and stands twirling his moustache. Meanwhile, the g irl gets ready, looks around and goes behind the screen. Then the other three stand with their backs to the audience.) o ld m an

Just then Sutradhar enters tugging at the leader who rushes to the stage Look, Sir. What is this, rushing on to the stage, that too when the play is on? leader Damn your play! Let go, don’t stop me, such dishonest, dis­ loyal, irresponsible...

sutrad har

The curtain falls in between now. Who? Who are you talking about? lead er Who else? These people, who collect their salaries form me, pretend to serve society and spend their time serving themselves, these... (when he looks behind, the curtain hides everythingfrom his view) Hey! What is this? Where are they?

sutrad h ar


Listen,Janamejaya (letting him go, in a conciliatory voice) this is a play. They are characters. They are where characters should be. le ad e r Where do you mean? s u t r a d h a r In the green-room. Removing the paint they had put on... leader (n ot comprehending) Removing the paint9 s u t r a d h a r O f course. What did you think? Did you think it was their real colour? leader You mean. . . What are you saying? That the old man is not an old man? That---s u t r a d h a r (interrupting and shaking bis bead) That old man is actually an old man. leader But didn’t you say he had put the paint on? s u t r a d h a r Yes. But not for your sake. leader Ear whose sake, then? s u t r a d h a r For the sake of that gfrl in the office. leader (with a sudden sigh) Hm! I understand. You are confused yourself not knowing what the play is and what reality is. su tr a d h a r There is no room for confusion, Sir. Look, You are the one who is confused. You thought the play was different from reality. leader (taken aback) Wh. What did you say? s u t r a d h a r (continuing bis speech) You don’t realize that the play is the reality and reality is the play. leader (stares at him fo r a while) I’ll tell you something. Will you listen to me? su tr a d h a r What is it, Sir?

su trad har


D o y o u rem em ber m y tellin g y o u this before, that o n c e u p on

a tim e, th ey used to stage plays in the o p e n and w h o e v e r w anted w e n t to s e e them? su tr a d h a r


That later they started charging money to see the play? su tr a d h a r Yes. leader But now people won’t sit through this play of yours even if you give them money and invite them to see it... s u tr a d h a r (interrupting) Look, Sir. Why do you repeat that7Those who watch the play are not different from those who enact it. So who will come and from where, to watch it? leader Then where does the question of putting on the paint and washing it off come? s u t r a d h a r Inside and outside. leader




(not understanding) "Which side did you say? s u t r a d h a r Inside and outside; the inner self and the outer self. leader (contemptuously) Ohoho! I have it now! That old man in my office is a youth inside, but has the appearance o f an old man outside; and that youth is an old man inside, but has the appear­ ance o f a young man outside; that Samanyappa is a common man outside, but is a scholar inside. ( taking a deeply contemptu­ ous breath) Would you say the girl too is a man inside, but wears the guise o f a woman outside? Hm... Inside and outside, if you please! s u t r a d h a r Didn’t you leave out one more? Sriranga outside and Saraswathiranga inside? (laughing) No, Sir. The old man is actually an old man, the youth is a youth, the common man is a common man and the girl, a girl. Are you happy now? leader Then where is this inside-outside business? s u t r a d h a r The old man who is old when by himself, acts young in front of the girl; the youth who is young to himself, bends like an old man in the presence o f his superior officer; The common man who appears common to others, is uncommon when by himself; The girl who looks young has been the personification of womanhood for thousands of years. Why say all this? Let us verify for ourselves. Let us visit them one by one. (The curtain at the back goes up now. Thefo u r characters stand as they did in the first act. These two should not look back, even by mistake.) Con­ fident that there is no one nearby, these appear in their original colours. Come, let us hide ourselves and peep at them from a distance. (As he says this, he takes Leader to the right end o f the stage.) Look. leader ( looking in fron t) Where? s u t r a d h a r Don’t let your eyes look in front of you. (slowly turns him) Let them look inside; The eyes, used to looking in front, need to learn to look backwards before they get used to looking inwards. leader (The scene is visible now. On seeing it...) Hey... s u t r a d h a r (keeping his hand on his mouth) Sh sh! Let us hide. leader

Both disappear to the right o f stage (where he stands) Why don’t I marry her? She is a young woman and he is a young man. True. My age., (stopping himself) Che! That question is irrelevant. Who is an old man and who is a

old m an


Listen,Janamejaya young man? In these times, when a single bomb can kill every­ one in one go, difference in age has no significance at all! No! There is no difference between an old man and a youth. y o u t h Shouldn’t she know the difference between an old man and a young man at least9Or isn’t she bothered about it9Wasn’t she saying something about children not being bom in the future? Which means...? Che! What words? Whatever it is, an old man is an old man and a youth is a youth. A youth has the power of love, doesn’t he? s a m a n y a p p a This love is mentioned in every story. But I still feel it is a lie. When a man wants a woman, he may call that love. But how can a woman have love? A strong man, a bellyfuj of food, and enough clothes to cover her body and beautify herself; a woman will g o where she can get these things. That’s how God has cre­ ated the woman. A fifty-acre plot and a commission o f thirty thousand on top of it! Would she let go of these, in these times? Would I let her go? What else does a woman need? girl What does a man know about a woman’s wants? In these days too? In the past, at least the joy of thinking that the children were hers, made her forget other sorrows. In the future, she won’t even have that. She can have children from someone she doesn’t have a relationship with or have a relationship with someone without getting any children.

Leader stands before the audience with his ears shut. girl

I d o n ’ t w a n t an o ld m an w h o s e v e ry sight puts m e to sleep. I d o n ’t w a n t a you th w h o hangs on to the idea o f lo ve. I w a n t...

The curtain at the back comes down. ( remains silentfo r a while, then opens his ears; still looking in fro n t o f him ) Has the speech stopped? s u t r a d h a r (laughing) Finally, it has stopped. Hasn’t it? leader What? (suddenly turns and looks behind; doesn’t see any­ thing there) What’s this? s u t r a d h a r Didn’t 1 tell you? The act is over. leader ‘The act is over’, did you say? So the play isn’t over yet? leader




ACT THREE No, it isn’t over. The third act is coming up now. leader (staring at him) Amazing... I say it’s amazing. s u t r a d h a r What is amazing Sir? leader Y o u must have too much courage or too little drama! s u t r a d h a r Why Sir? Are you angry because I alone stood up against you and have had the better of you until now? LEADER (contin ues w ithout heeding h im ) Not that... Like this.. ..bringing men and women together in this manner. ■■ s u t r a d h a r ( interrupting) It was God, the creator of this world, who is responsible for bringing men and women together. leader (continues speaking)bringing men and women together and getting them to mouth obscenities and talk about secret mat­ ters... s u t r a d h a r (shutting the man's mouth with his hand) Stop, Sir! Stop! How can you make such a false accusation? leader (angry) False accusation? Hundreds of spectators here can bear witness to that. Listen.... s u t r a d h a r (looking at the auditorium) There is no one here. leader (feeling insulted) No one? What you see before your eyes... s u t r a d h a r ( interrupting) I see rows of human bodies. But you can’t call them spectators. At the beginning of the play itself, those creatures became still there and came on to the stage here. Those lifeless bodies of souls which have transmigrated... leader Bum your transmigration! You could say ‘lifeless’, o f course. Who would have any life left after listening to what that girl said? s u t r a d h a r Did she say anything so terrible? leader (taken aback) Did she? It was ... obscene .. .awful... s u t r a d h a r (interrupting) What was obscene? Who found it awful? Think about it, Sir. If you speak such things in front of others, then it is obscene. How can thinking about them be obscene? leader ( doesn't understand) Thinking about them? s u t r a d h a r Of course! What do you stand to lose if these four charac­ ters express what is in their mind, inside their homes, in the soli­ tude of their rooms? Forgive me, Sir, for talking about your loss. I thought leaders like you, who are always looking for their own gain, would understand quicker if I used the term. You do not leave any room for honesty in your affairs and before the public. But why do you object to these poor characters being honest to

su trad har


Listen, Janamejaya themselves? Or is your impatience due to the fact that the play is giving them the freedom o f thought that you aren’t able to give? Don’t you even have the patience to watch the play till the end? le ad e r If you have weight, I have the patience. s u t r a d h a r Weight9 In what? le ad e r In you r characters, in the words they speak... s u t r a d h a r ( with a loud laugh) Sir, they are not my characters, they’re yours. The responsibility for the words they speak is not mine, but yours. lead er (iv ith uncontrollable amazement) You haven’t gone mad, have you? I am talking about the characters in the play and you... (stops himself when be sees Sutradhar staring at him ) know, I know; you are now going to start a speech and say ‘this is not my play, w h o am 1to stage it’ etc. s u t r a d h a r (cheerfully) You guessed right. Whatever drama you saw until now is yours. leader (w ith an a ir o f inevitability) You have said this a hundred times and I have listened you. I thought that was your manner of speech! But this is getting to be too much, (decisively) Tell me clearly once and for all. How can a play, which someone wrote and someone got someone else to stage, be mine? Why should it be? What is it9Tell me clearly and let’s be done with this mad­ ness. s u t r a d h a r (consolingly) Patience, have some patience, Sir. iead er (stubbornly) No. Let us be done with it once and for all. You have to tell me. su tr ad h ar (smiling, lifting bis band in a conciliatory gesture) I will tell you! I will tell you! I’ll tell you even if you don’t ask me. Have patience. If I don’t tell you, I won’t be able to attach my happy ending to you tragedy. leader Wha.. Wha.. What was that9What did you say now? su trad h ar I said ‘to your tragedy’. leader A play? Mine? And that a tragedy? su trad h ar Yes. But the last scene is ours. It ends happily. leader (addressing the audience) Did you hear that, brothers and sisters? The play you saw until now is supposed to be mine! It is supposed to be a tragedy! su trad h ar Who are you addressing that side? Those sitting there are rows o f lifeless bodies. leader Oho! That is another obstacle.




No, it isn’t an obstacle. In a moment I can infuse life into those dead bodies. I don't lull their spirit like you do I infuse them with a new spirit leader Keep talking. I shall put up with it as long as you blabber things that I don’t understand. s l t r a d h a r ( clutching him tight and talking to him as if to a student who has to be taught a lesson and laughing at his fear) I shall make you understand. Stay still. lead er (as if hypnotized) You are using magic! s u t r a d h a r (stubbornly) No. LEADER (trying to face the audience) ‘No' if you please. You've seen it with your own eyes... s u t r a d h a r (stationing him forcibly before him ) No! No! Why do you torture those lifeless things with your speeches? Their ears have gone deaf listening to your speeches. Since you kept speak­ ing constantly, their tongues have stopped moving. If it had gone on like this, even their lives would have gone out o f them per­ manently. To prevent that and to hide them from you, I brought these creatures here and put them on stage. Here is something you might know. Living human beings take lifeless toys as their playthings. That is in humancreation. It’s quite the opposite in God’s creation. There, God gives living beings as toys to lifeless things. Breaking toys is not play, it’s mischief. You, leaders are indulging in mischief. You shout ‘Peace’ and plan war and killing. You persuade people into thinking that they are going to fly up to the sky and manufacture weapons which will condemn them to the world below. You mislead intellectuals with words like ‘knowledge’, ‘research’, ‘noble profession’ etc. and use them like you paid servants. Because 1didn't want these toys (pointing to the auditorium) to be broken by your mischief, I have brought them on to the sage here. leader Have you finished? On top of it you say I am the one who makes speeches! s u t r a d h a r Y o u would have. But I, the playwright and Sutradhar, wouldn’t bow down before you. You can’t buy me. I am the obstacle in the path o f yourxnischief. leader Oho! My mischief is the tragedy and your obstacle is the happy ending, is it? s u t r a d h a r Obstacle? (laughs) Sir, let me give you the taste o f a happy ending. Allow the play to continue on stage. Come away.

sltrad har


Listen, Janamejaya The curtain at the back goes up now. The scene has changed. The old man is writing something. The youth is doing car­ pentry work. The arrangement o f the screens has changed. A ll the screens are used to suggest Samanyappa’s bouse. The old man and theyouth are working in the open. Their clothes too suggest a decline in their status. Where to? s u t r a d h a r (turning him to face the scene) Look! For once, follow the footsteps of a follower.

lead er

Walking backwards andgetting him also to walk backwards, be disappears from stage right. The scene is more clearly visible to the audience now. The two screens on the right suggest the walls ofa house. They standparallel to the audi­ torium. The third screen stands a little awayfrom stage left ( It should not be pushed to the centre o f stage.), at right angle to the auditorium. The space enclosed within these three screens is the inside o f the bouse. Outside the house, centrestage—the old man, sitting on a chair with a table in front, is writing something. On the left, the youth, sitting on a stool, does some carpentry work. A few moments o f silence. Then Samanyappa comes out o f the bouse, lights a beedi standing there and looks around. He comes outside the third screen andpatsJbeold man on the back. The old man gives a frightened look.... (laughing) You haven’t got used to it yet, eh grandpa? I wonder for how many years you kept ringing that bell in the government office! So, how is it going? o ld m a n Quite well. s a m a n y a ppa You know, Grandpa, employing a fellow like you isn’t a problem at all. A chair, a table, some paper, pencil, ink and a pen are all you need to keep Grandpa’s cart rolling. Isn't it so? Haha, and one day, when you have to quit this world, perhaps, you won’t accompany Death without your table and chair. Eh? Haha! That apart; how’s the accounting? old m a n (with pride) My plans and my accounts, they never go wrong. sa m a n y a ppa You kept repeating that even when you ruined the government office! Eh? Haha! Hahaha!

sam anyappa



(sighing) That was a let down. I had no idea you were the owner of those fifty acres. s a m a n y a p p a If you did, you would have asked me for a bribe, wouldn’t you? o l d Ma n But now, I lost my job for nothing at all! I even lost my pension! (sighs again) s a m a n y a p p a Why? Do you have any problem here? o l d m a n No. None at all. s a m a n y a p p a You are all right then.


Both remain silent fo r a while. Samanyappa, thoughtful, throws down the beedi he has been smoking and lights an­ other. After watching the smokefo r a while with undivided attention, as if he has arrived at decision Hm... let me tell you one thing, Grandpa. Food to eat when one is young, and a field to run about; later, a woman for a mate; still later, children to show your authority on; that’s all a man needs. o l d m a n (without stopping his work) That is the life o f an animal. s a m a n y a p p a What else do you t&ink you are? o l d m a n Qooking up in surprise) What did you say? s a m a n y a p p a (laughing) By ‘you’, i don’t mean you alone; it includes you, him, me... all Men, that is. o l d m a n (stubbornly) A Man is a Man, and an animal is an animal. Man has wisdom. s a m a n y a p p a ( thoughtfully) Yes... That is true. An animal doesn’t have the wisdom to kill another being intentionally, and without any reason too... as it happens so often. o l d m a n (shaking his head) No. You will never s a m a n y a p p a What do you mean? Grandpa, are you saying I am not a clever fellow? If I wasn't how did I sell fifty acres out o f fifty and still have half an acre left? o l d m a n (taken aback) What did you say? s a m a n y a p p a You see the young man over there, I told him to do a sleight of hand; he is a clever fellow too. He did just that. I had fifty acres. The government bought fifty acres and I still had half an acre left! Haha! You call that dumb arithmetic. Grandpa? o l d m a n No.. .No... That’s cheating... s a m a n y a p p a Who did it? o l d m a n But you told him to do it!

sam anyappa


Listen,Janamejaya Ves. I told him. I thought if you took away fifty acres from fifty acres, you would be left with half an acre. That’s how ignorant I am. Would you call ignorance a crime? But what you are doing now is different. You might call this cheating. old m a n Me? Cheating? What have 1 done? s a m a n y a p p a You are building a house with poor quality material, for me! old m a n Che! Che! Not for you. s a m a n y a ppa I w a s w ro n g . I sh ou ld say ‘o n m y behalf; so that I cou ld sam anyappa

earn s o m e rent.

yes But we haven’t made an agreement with our tenants stating w e shall use only good material, have we? sa m a n y a ppa (thoughtful) Hm... That’s true too... Intelligence does come in handy at times. Quite true... That apart. Grandpa, how much did you say each house would cost? old m a n About ten thousand. s a m a n ya ppa H o w much rent are w e likely to get? old m a n About a hundred. s a m a n ya ppa (as if calculating) The total expenditure is ten thousand and the rent, a hundred rupees. Ten houses, which means in ten years all the money w e have put in... (stops in surprise when the old man gives a loud laugh) Why? Did I miscalculate even this? old m a n ( controlling bis laughter) The rent is not a hundred rupees a year, man! It is a hundred rupees per month. That is twelve percent! sam an yappa (surprised) A hundred rupees a month! old m a n N o w you understand how neat my work is? Experience! You need experience for everything! My experience o f living on allowances and putting my salary away in the bank... sam anyappa (interrupting) Do you mean, you are doing it here too? sam anyappa Leave it. We’ll see about that later. But I’ll tell you one thing. You know my nature, don’t you? Whatever the amount of work, finish it that moment, then and there. OLD m a n (surprised) Wha... What did you * sam anyappa (breaking into a sudden burst o f laughter) Hahaha! Were you reminded of something, Grandpa? No wasting time, understand? Ahaha! (laughs loudly. The girl comesfrom inside. Sbe is now his wife. Looking at her) What is it? girl You laughed so suddenly? Why? What happened to make you...

old m An



(to the Old M an) You saw that. Grandpa? That's how a wife should be. If you cry, she should ask you why you cried. If you laugh, she should ask you why you laughed. Otherwise, for whose sake should a man cry or laugh? Hahaha! (When he laughs loudly, the youth looks at him and he winks at the youth. Turn­ ing to his wife) Hey! Look here! If there is a bell anywhere in the house, hide it. Otherwise the old man will start ringing the bell of his experience! Let him first finish his work this moment, then and there. Hahaha! (Laughing, he comes to theyouth and stands watching him work) g ir l (to Old M an) You know his nature, don’t you? s a m a n y a p p a (to Youth) What does our special degree say? o l d m a n (to the G irl) My misfortune! y o u t h (to Samanyappa) I’m chopping it up into pieces. GIRL (to Old Man) You shouldn’t take it to heart. s a m a n y a p p a (to Youth) Why do you take it to heart, boy? y o u t h (to Samanyappa) Got cheated in every way. OLD m a n (to G irl) I told you it’s my misfortune! s a m a n y a p p a (to Youth) Che! Che! You leamt what everybody learnt. Where's the question o f cheating here? o l d m a n (to Girl) Just cheating! I tried to do something. But what happened was something else. g ir l (to Old Man) You didn’t do it deliberately Why go on about it? y o u t h (to Samanyappa) You did it deliberately and yet you ask me where the question o f cheating is? o l d m a n True. It wasn’t done deliberately. g ir l (as if consoling him ) Does Time let you know before it comes?

sam anyappa

Both fa ll silent as if immersed in their own thoughts. (to Youth, consolingly) What have I done? Your Time had arrived, you could say. y o u t h Time didn’t arrive. You brought it over. You didn’t tell even me that you were the owner o f the plot. s a m a n y a p p a What would you have done if I had? I know. Like you cheated the government you would have cheated me as well! y o u t h when did I cheat the government? s a m a n y a p p a When you measured fifty acres leaving half an acre out! Isn’t that cheating? Listen, I’ll tell you why you are angry. You cheated and I cheated too. You are angry because I proved to you that one doesn’t need a special degree to cheat. Isn’t that so? y o u t h Don’t mock my degree. That is my greatest weapon. That is

sam anyappa


Listen, Janamejaya why I am not afraid of anyone. In am not afraid even o f you. What do you know? If you don't talk right, I’ll quit. I’ll go any­ where I please, show this degree and whoever offers more ... s a m a n y a p p a (interrupting) Sell it to them! Hahaha! That is the life of an animal. y o u t h (surprised) What did you say? s a m a n y a p p a I said is truly an animal’s life. The dog and the cattle we have in the house do the work you do without any degree. That’s why I called it an animal’s life, (with a sudden guffaw, looking behind) Grandpa, I have passed on to him the words you told me. girl (to Old M an) What words are they? y o u t h What are those words? s a m a n y a p p a (laughing) You won’t understand. You are too green. old m a n (lik e a philosopher) I say, if his words were the truth, what would happen to Man in this world? Food to eat, a field to grow up in, a woman to survive and children to die. (with a sudden flash) No, no, that’s not what he said.. .he put it differently. girl ( to Old M an) What words? Tell me. old m a n (to G irt) He was speaking about you. y o u t h (to Samanyappa) Your Time has arrived now. It’s your turn to speak. Speak. Speak the words... Sa m a n y a p p a (to Youth) My Time didn’t arrive. I brought it over. Hahaha! Now I have passed on your words as well to you. Hahaha! girl (approaching Samanyappa) What did you find so amusing? sa m a n ya ppa Just take a look at these two! (pointing to Old Man and Youth) Did you take a look? They eat with my money and ad­ vice me! You know why? Not because they are learned and want me to understand as well. This is because I overtook them both and married you. They advise me because they have lost. If they had won they would be boxing my ears. Don’t I know their na­ ture? It’s your job to slog; so keep slogging. 1 shall take a walk. Hey boy! Because I am going out now, do you think I am going to get your tea? Hahaha! [Goes outform right o f stage.) y o u th Chi! Fool! Sheer animal! girl (looking surprised) yf/bo> old m a n (from where he is, as if speaking to himself) If his w ord s are the truth... youth Who else? Him. I still get goose flesh, when I think you married him.



I know. You were afraid I would marry the old man. y o u t h (looking insulted) me? Afraid? o l d m a n (like before) if there is truth in this world.. .in this world... g ir l (to Youth) Do you know why I married him? Shall I tell you the story? y o u t h I am not eager to hear the story of another's adultery! g ir l He said the same thing that day, you know. o l d m a n (as before, in a voice that shows he can t take it any more) If his words are the truth, what will happen to Man in this world, I say! y o u t h (taken aback) Same words? Who told you? Why? When? g ir l (herface brightens up as she recalls it.) Remember the day all o f us came to see this plot? As we went on looking, the two of you moved aside— you see that plant— there, discussing some secret. I stood alone, here— where the wall is now; the move­ ment of the clouds in the sky above looked rather nice. So I was watching them as I walked this way. A broken stem o f a plant stood there, but I didn’t see it. There was a big hollow after that— The house wall hadn’t come up yet— I walked towards that look­ ing up... (stops when she suddenly notices the youth looking hard. With a tired laugh) Why? Why are you looking at me like thatf y o u t h Listen. That happened seven or eight years ago. You are talking as if all this was only the other day... g ir l (surprised) Seven or eight years! Doesn’t really feel like so many days... y o u t h (contemptuously) You are a mother of four children now! You still say ‘so many days’? g ir l Well... Well! Seems like it happened only yesterday or the day before... (suddenly) What was 1 saying? y o u t h (like above) You were talking about no great matter! You were looking up as you walked and there was a hollow before you... g ir l (suddenly like before) Yes. That was it. If 1had taken one more step, I would have fallen into it. Then he appeared, all of a sud­ den— I don’t know from where— and stood in front o f me, staring at me— just like you are doing now! I shivered and broke into a sweat. I seemed to have woken up. I looked before me and he stood there smiling. "Shall I tell you what you were thinking about7" he said. I just stood there, not knowing what to do. “You were g ir l

Listen,Janamejaya looking at the sky”, he said. “You forgot the earth”, he said. I was unable to speak. 1don’t know if I just nodded or said ‘Hm’ like on e listening to a story. “Do you know the story of the earth and the sky?” he asked me. My face must have appeared bewildered! “W h y are you so frightened? If you don’t know, I shall tell you. Sit d o w n ” he said; led me by the hand and seated me on that dry, broken stem. “Listen. The earth and the sky never stay away from each other. One must be within sight o f the other all the time, that close they are. As they go on looking at each other, perhaps they forget themselves, sometimes. Sometimes the earth m oves up and becomes the sky. At other times, the sky comes d ow n and becomes the earth. When they are so united, we have crops, cattle, food, clothes and a whole New World”. When I asked him, “Why did you tell me this?” you know what he tells me? MYou are the earth and I am the sky” he said! o ld m a n (as if to himself but a little loudly) Perhaps, what he speaks is the truth. If what he speaks is the truth, then man and woman in this world.. ..(stops because be is not clear about the matter) girl (as i f absorbed in tbe story sbe has been narrating) Earth, sky... y o u t h (protesting loudly) Cheating.. .cheating.. .cheating! o ld m a n (looking at him, as if be hasjust woken up) Who? Who are you? y o u t h (taken aback) What? Wha... What did you say? Who am I? Hahaha! Then, who are you? (starts walking towards bim ) girl (stopping bim balf-way)! Don’t you understand? y o u t h (angrily) Whatf girl Can’t you see? Don’t you understand? y o u t h (after looking at him fo r a while, contemptuously) Hm... Looks like the old man’s end has come. His body is going stiff. Except for the face, there seems to be no life left anywhere else. Does it mean life has started leaving him slowly already? girl (sm iling) You don’t know anything. y o u t h (annoyed) I know. I know. I know. The old man is dying. How unfortunate I am! girl (looking surprised) What d id you say? y o u t h I said I w a s unfortunate. This old man is dying now! Couldn’t he die eight years ago or ten years ago? In the olden days, there was a practice in this world o f dying after people got old. If the father was a king, he would crown his grown up son and go to




the forest. They say, folks in those days entered the Vanaprastha stage, of going into the forest, when their children got married, and entered Sanyasashrama, the stage o f total renunciation, as soon as they had seen their grandchildren. Perhaps, those were good times precisely because of that. But now?... Look at this old man. He has been working and earning till now. Wiping out the future o f people like me with his old sweat. To be dying now! If only he had died eight or ten years ago... g ir l (interrupting) You would have been an old man. y o u t h Wh...What did you say? g ir l A s long as those who came earlier are old, the ones who came later are young. If the old man dies now... y o u t h (looking at him ) Yes.. .there are signs o f approaching death. OLD m a n (like a puppet, from where he sits) Fool! y o u t h (taken aback) Hey! GIRL Sh sh! Look! [The old man's acts are according to her words.] How he is trying to get up! Poor thing! I wonder how long it is since his organs stopped moving! His whole body is like a piece of wood! Look! He has got up! What is this? He is stepping for­ ward! That too with his eyes closed! Sh sh! Wait! His legs are moving like oxen which move even when the cart-driver is asleep! See! His lips are quivering! I wonder what he is saying! Or is he trying to say something? [Both rise to their feet as they watch him. The old man comesfront stage and standsfacing the audi­ ence as in the first act.) o l d m a n Who am I? Who are you? Haha! Fool! You and I! We are not two, but one. What I am today, you were yesterday. What I am today you will be tomorrow! y o u t h (frightened) “What I am today you will be tomorrow"! What’s this? Is he telling me? Why do his words scare me? GIRL Why? He said, I am today what you were yesterday! y o u t h (at a loss) What does it mean? g ir l Me. y o u t h (taken aback) What did you say? g ir l Me, I said. y o u t h (a little scared) What is this? Am I in the company o f mad people? g ir l (laughs) Why? Why do you get so frightened? You said it your­ self. I am the mother o f four children now. Today’s mother was yesterday’s wife; that’s why I said it’s me.

Listen,Janamejaya You and I! Haha! Mad people? Who am I, if you please! Haha! Fools! I am an old man, if you please! Absolute fools! I am not old. I am eternal. 1 am an immortal being. I am the eternal Time which combines in itself spent yesterdays and coming to­ morrows. I am the Wheel of Time which makes a track on earth by treading it constantly. y o u t h (m ore scared now) Time! The Wheel of Time! o l d m a n I am the Wheel of Time. I am Time... 1 am the Wheel of Time!...

o ld m a n

mumbling, be moves to the chair and stands behind it, as in the firs t act. The mumbling stops and only the lips are seen moving. The youth watches him, as if mesmerized, fo r a few moments. Finally, the old man becomes completely still as a t the beginning o f the play... g irl

Poor tiling!

(in a faint voice) Is he dead? Really? No, no, he can’t be dead! If he is, I’ll have to be an old man. I am not old. No, I can’t die. I won’t die. I... girl (consoling him ) Calm down... Calm down. Nobody dies. youth (Iik e a drowning man who has been saved) Nobody dies? You mean, he is not dead! I... girl (interrupting) Nobody dies. Didn’t you say it yourself? Today we have made progress. Science has given Man more power. Man is God and so on. y o u t h Me? 1said it? Che! I may have blabbered something in some excitement some time ago. girl Time has come for that blabber to come true. Nobody needs die anymore. We have almost conquered death. y o u t h (hopefully) What? What was it’ Is it true? Have we conquered death7 girl (continues her speech without paying bint any heed) If the living live, the dead can die. y o u t h (bewildered) What? What was it? What d o the living and the dead do? girl If the living live, the dead can die. But such a thing may not happen any more. The power Man is getting now w ill make everybody die and not allow anyone to s u r v i v e ! If every one dies at the same time, what’ll happen to Death? y o u t h (Slowly as if be is mugging it u p ) I f everyone dies a t the





same time, what’ll happen to Death?.. .If the living live, the dead can die!...If everyone dies at the same time...(turning towards the audience gradually) If the living live... where is Death?.. .the dead can die... If those living die at the same time... how can the dead die? How? How? (mumbling he too moves slowly thefron t o f stage. The girl stands looking at him. A couple o f moments o f silence. The youth's lips move. Meanwhile Samanyappa arrives. He enters talking.) s a m a n y a p p a Here! I have brought your tea... (suddenly notices the scene) Hey! What is this? (appears to understand after a few moments' scrutiny) Hm...So the root has had too much water! y o u t h (from where he stands) How? s a m a n y a p p a (taken aback) What did you say? g ir l (stopping him with a gesture) Sh sh! s a m a n y a p p a But...he said something! When I said the root has had too much water, he asked me ‘how?’ g ir l (as if trying to make him understand) He didn’t ask you. s a m a n y a p p a If it wasn’t me, who did he ask then? I was the one who spoke? y o u t h (like above) The root has had too much water! Haha! s a m a n y a p p a There now! Didn’t you hear what he said* g ir l Sh sh! I didn’t hear it. s a m a n y a p p a (taken aback) What did you say? g ir l That isn’t speech. That’s thinking; They have to know before they let us hear. Till then... (stopping suddenly) Look! He is ask­ ing himself? Do you see? s a m a n y a p p a (Frightened, he looks at him once, then at her and wipes the sweat on his brow.) y o u t h (like before) Fools! Haha! The root has had too much water, if you please! Haha! The root has had too much force. The flood has subsided! The root went down and the water went up! Hahaha! The root has had too much water, if you please! Too much water! (mumbles; mumbling, he moves to the other chair and stands facing the audience. His lips keep moving.) g ir l (to Samanyappa) Did you hear that7 s a m a n y a p p a I can see his lips move. Hey! Even that has stopped now! (Youth stands still.) I felt...the root had too much water. Poor thing! Too much or too little water would be no problem after the plant has grown. But when it was still growing, how could it withstand too much intelligence? See! The figure has


Listen,Janamejaya gone stiff. It withered away even before it grew! girl (as i f speaking to herself) How could it withstand too much intelligence while it was still growing? sam anyappa (with the pride o f being the wise one) If you want to grow, you must have the determination to turn your face to the sun; if you want to grow, you must have the courage to send your roots down to the dark womb o f the earth. girl ( moving to tbe edge o f the stage mechanically) You need deter­ mination. You need courage. sam an yappa (absorbed in bis own enthusiasm) But the moment they are bom, they start getting ready to die! Haha! In a hurry to die. (suddenly notices that the girl has movedforward and runs up to her) Hey! What is this? Why are you doing this? What’s the matter with you? Come on, let’s go in. Why don’t the dead die? They want... (He goes to bold her band andfinds that she too is changing into a stifffigure. He withdraws his hand in shock and screams, "Hey!”) girl (mechanically) Why don’t the dead die? They want....?” .. .Haha! I want it too. I want death so that the living can live. I want the joy too. I want the joy of dying after giving birth to the new. I shall g o down into the dark womb of the earth; let the new ger­ minate there... I shall rise up to the sun in the sky; let the new appear from there.... Only if the living live can the dead have the joy o f sa m a n y a ppa (going after her as she moves backwards mumbling, pleading like a lost boy) Hey..Hey.. .Look here.. .No...Thu! Let’s live. Even if there are only two of us left. We could have four more children. Let us live! Live to see the faces of our grandchil­ dren; let us look at the newborn children, play with them and become children again.... Be new again and... (By now the girl is standing beside the stool, facing the audience, Samanyappa is looking at her. She is mumbling.) girl ( mumbling) new...again.. .(goesstill) sam anyappa (not having noticed it, as if persuading her) Hm.. Yes... Let us live... Be children again... Be new again and...(stopping suddenly) Thu! Being in this company, have I also acquired too much o f intelligence? (noticing that she has gone still) Hey! (feel­ ing lost, turns to tbe audience) Hm...Like they say, it is the influence o f the company I keep. Because my companions are dead, I have to die too! (shaking bis head vigorously) Che! No





use allowing mind this kind of leisure. ( mumbling) No use.. .One has got to work and eat. Work after you eat; exhaust yourself with work; go to sleep exhausted, get up and work again. Don’t allow your mind any leisure as you labour, eat and go to sleep exhausted, If you do, it starts calculating, about the joy of eating while you are at work; about the joy of sleeping while you are getting exhausted; That is what joy is, like a woman trying to get away. Can’t run away. Can’t get away. Getting away is joy. Giv­ ing in is joy too. There’s such joy in taking on one’s sorrow! Such joy! ( mumbling, he walks up to the stool and stands on the other side o f it, facing the audience.) Such joy (mumbles, moves his lips and stands still.)

A few moments silence on stage Enter leader looking down thoughtfully and Sutradhat, looking at him. When they reach the centre o f stage.. (turning to look behind) Hm.. .Has your play ended at last? s u t r a d h a r (shaking his head) No. leader (surprised) Hasn’t ended? (as if has had a suddenflash) That is possible too. The question o f end arises only if there has been a beginning! s u t r a d h a r What did you say? leader ( with a contemptuous laugh) The question o f end arises only if there has been a beginning, I said! A play without a beginning may not end at all! s u t r a d h a r -You guessed right, Sir. leader (looking displeased) Right9What did you think I said then? s u t r a d h a r (politely) What did you say, Sir? leader (with obvious contempt) I said, since this is not a play at all, there’s no question o f it ending. s u t r a d h a r Y ou guessed right, Sir. leader (stupefied) What did you say? s u t r a d h a r 1 said you guessed right. leader Yes, you said that. I heard you. Since you have been saying ‘right’ to everything I said, let me tell you one more thing. s u t r a d h a r Command me, Sir. leader Do you know the man wrote this play? SUTRADHAR I do, Sir. leader Did you see him write it? s u t r a d h a r I did, Sir, I even gave him a few suggestions. leader

Listen, Janamejaya That apart. How did he write this? s u t r a d h a r What did you say? leader I asked you how he wrote this. s u t r a d h a r I didn’t get you, Sir. leader (stubbornly) Let me tell you if you didn’t. Listen. 1shall tell you something even you didn't know. I know that he was stand­ ing on his head when he wrote this. s u t r a d h a r (shocked) What did you say? leader (even more stubbornly) 1 said your playwright wrote this standing on his head! s u t r a d h a r (smiling as if tbe meaning bos flashed on him now) Oho! You mean the ideas in his head are topsy-turvy? leader What have you got to say, then? s u t r a d h a r I shall tell you if you permit me.


Now the curtain comes down on the scene behind. I think he would have done better to ask for permission before writing such a play. Hm. That apart. Tell me. What have you got to say? s u t r a d h a r (in a serious tone) I would say, instead of living a tran­ sient life, better die and be immortal... le a d e r (with a sudden burst o f loud laughter) Fantastic Fantastic! The playwright and you must be blood-relations. Otherwise you couldn’t have spoken such absurd, meaningless words with such ease! Haha! ‘Instead of living a transient life, better die and be immortal’ .. .Haha! But in this play, Sutradhar, who lives and who dies? s u t r a d h a r The play will end only after that has been decided, Sir. l e a d e r What is left of the play now? They are already dea.. .(just as he turns to look, he sees the curtain come down and the scene disappear completely.) Hey! What’s this? s u t r a d h a r What is what, Sir? l e a d e r Those four people we^e dead! s u t r a d h a r Which four people, Sir? l e a d e r What do you mean which four? The...These...Those who stood here at the beginning like lifeless toys?...Those four characters...the four people? Those have become lifeless, still figures again? I mean those who stood like that... s u t r a d h a r (interrupting) Excuse me, Sir. May be you couldn’t see it properly because you were also a part of it? Nobody died here! lead er





The old man, the youth, the girl and that Samanyappa.... s u t r a d h a r (interrupting) Don’t you see them all over? le ad e r (stubbornly) No man...No them...These people...I mean, the ones who were here on this stage... s u t r a d h a r (laughing) Sir, the ideas inside you must have affected your vision outside! The idea inside, that these people should die, must have made these people appear dead outside! leader What did you say? Are you saying that the living appeared dead to me? s u t r a d h a r Why not, Sir? In the same way, one may appear alive to one’s dead self? leader (annoyed) Hey! Sutradhar, are you suggesting that I, who am alive, am dead and these, who are dead, are alive? I am alive, not dead, do you understand? I am alive, not dead. s u t r a d h a r (laughing) In the kingdom o f the dead, those who are alive, are the ghosts. leader You mean I am a ghost? No.. .no, I am not a ghost. They are dead. I am alive. I am the only one alive in this kingdom o f the dead.. (suddenly) am alive...Everybody else is dead in my kingdom... (suddenly) No... No.. .That’s not it either.. .1 am ... I am... s u t r a d h a r (very politely) Who are you, Sir? leader (feeling stupid) I am.. .1am... s u t r a d h a r I shall tell you who you are. Listen Janamejaya, Ruler of this earth, the blind ruler was cleansed inside by the advice given by Vidura. leader And then? s u t r a d h a r ‘tell m e, tell me the first letters of self realization, 1 shall listen’, he said... leader Who said? s u t r a d h a r The blind ruler. leader Who? s u t r a d h a r You. leader Eh? (stands still in amazement) s u t r a d h a r Y ou are blind and you are the ruler. But now the blind shall not follow the blind. (The curtain at the back rises. Thefour characters come alive and hold the leader's hand... He acts like a blind man who can't see the way). Oh blind ruler who wants others to die and hear the story of other’s death! Those who want leader

to live, to stay alive... 50

Listen, Janamejaya Now the fo u r lead the leader by band out o f the stage .. .are together leading you to the right path. Go. A ll fiv e com e down to the auditorium s u t r a d h a r Oh! Life has come back from the stage to the auditorium! Th e play must be over then!

The Vultures (Gidhade) VIJAY TENDULKAR

Translation: Priya Adarkar

ACT ONE Time: any time. The set before you has three sections. The main section— centre and right—is the interior o f a bouse. A bouse that reminds you o f the hollow o f a tree. A drawing­ room fu ll o f knotted, worn-outfurniture. In it, a telephone. At its left, the fron t door, and a staircase leading up to a concealed door on the first floor. In the centre another staircase leads up to a platform that suggests the upperfloor. This is Rama's bedroom. In it, a bed and some cases and trunks. In the drawing-room, a door to the right leads out to a small courtyard, where there is a tulsi-vrindavan [an altar o f sacred basil]. In it grows a feeble strand o f basil. The second section: to the extreme left o f the stage, is a small shack-section: a garden passageway that goes between the garage and the house. It curves and rises so that it can be seen behind Rama’s bedroom. When the curtain rises, the lights on the garage and the tulsi-vrindavan are green. Those on the drawing-room and.bedroom, a dirty grey, almost black. There is light only at the rear, in the garden passageway. And Rajaninatb’s table-lamp (in the garage] is on. Rama and Ramakant are collecting luggage and packages. Rama in the bedroom. Ramakant in the drawing-room. They both go out, carrying suitcases. Ramakant turns up a lock on the front door. They both exit. Ramakant in front, Rama behind. As they are going. Rama stops suddenly at the door o f the gantge. And goes on. Both o f them go across thepassageway. A fierce wind. They disappear. While all this is going on, there is a constant sound like wind howling over a plain. When the two have disappeared, there is a shrill screeching of vulturesfo r some time. Then the passageway is drowned in darkness. Light in the garage. Rajaninath is sitting writing. He suddenly starts and looks at the door. There is the noise o f a corrugated iron gate opening. The noise o f the wind continues. The sound o f the corrugated iron gate being slammed. Then total silence. Rajaninath sits down again at the desk and begins to write.



O f a barren beast. The true companionship To a leper O f a mangy dog On the road to hell. For both, their future Is lost, unredeemable, And there remains to them Only— death. As, when a man's nose Decomposes, and only A rotting hole remains. A death unattainable. Ungainable. Even by prayer. Their time comes, But death does not come. The dragging trail does not end. The watcher's sufferings Greater than those of The living sufferer, Leave no escape. From this time forth, at least, Across the vision Will obtrude Creation. Now, at least, that barrier O f the unknown Will obscure the hell Within the brain. It still remains To breathe once, freely, Breathe with freedom— Such a freedom— After that living impotence O f twenty-two endless years. After that long, Interminable, Foul, besmeared, Most terrible daydream, Now, only now, at an end. The skeletons o f memory awake.

The Vultures The skulls o f dreams Begin their laugh. Those screams that time Has sw allow ed, sighs of pain, Harsh hissings, bursting sobs. From all, their curse is raised. And, as you watch them... [hepaused IDrawn irresistibly She was like a doe. An innocent doe, untouched. As lo v in g a s th e earth.

As the first shower of rain Translucent, hesitant, Now the ripple o f a stream. Now a rushing flow. And so, in a moment Full to the brim, unshed, A tender, tender-hearted Idol to adore. Like the coral flower. Or the honeyed sweetness Of dreams at dawn. —You never wish To waken from them... Twenty-two years Passed b y us, didn’t they? Too many years... Like this was Rama. Rama. M y sister-in-law. Rama. At her wedding, while playing The betel-nut game My lord brother concealed the nut Where she couldn’t find it. And when guessing, she didn’t dare take it out, Why there, on her shy, confused, And childlike features, Rain-clouds slowly filled, And flooding showers Ran down the soft slopes of her cheeks Still stained with the wedding Turmeric, and then that tall, grown girl,



Hiding her tender mouth Behind her hand, Loudly began to cry, And I, The immature, 1 giggled with the rest, All pressed by some tickling thought.

[Carefully controlled Return I beg, return. Go back into your tombs. Fall back Into your graves. Leave now at least To this unfortunate, some forgetfulness. The peace o f loss of memory, Leave it to me. To me, long dead Through a million deaths By memory. Now, at least. For once, at least. For once. Then she stepped over

The bridal measure, And crossed the threshold O f her new home. But it was no home. Not a home, but a hole in a tree Where vultures lived In the shapes of men. A haunted burning-ground Surrounded by evil ghosts. Was that a home? I remember— Once when I found No food for my hunger, Stifling my coming tears Within a pillow, Lying there, raging, smouldering. I ll kill them all! I’ll cut off their heads!

As a goat’s is chopped to mince and eat 58

The Vultures In the burning heat of that thought She came and passed her fingers Fondly over my head. So— So gently through this hair. Scared. But longing to pour out her love. I lurched and looked around at her. Jerked, as if a spark had burnt me. She stepped back a pace. Straightening her dress, And with lowered face, She looked at the floor, and said: ‘I’ve brought some food for you. From the kitchen. No one knows. Will you eat it? Don’t tell anyone What I’ve done. Or else, I’m afraid.. She laid o n me The burden o f her oath. Again and again. It was her oath, and I kept it. I didn’t speak. 1never died speak. 1dosed ray lips, and just looked on. Even when that looking on Became unbearable, 1didn’t utter A single syllable. Not even in my dreams. Their torture, their neglect of her, Their cold despising, her tormented Struggles, I surveyed.

I stood, A living corpse, a watchful stone. Like a worm, I watched and watched her. For twenty-two long years. All her hopes, her expectations Were scorched, uprooted where they grew. But she only knew One longing,

Only one. Embraced it to her 59


Tightly, as one might one’s life. Gathered up all her body, her being, Grain by grain. Threw off her chains in her need. The need to swell with fruit. A soft fulfilment. Each womb-bearing woman’s right by birth. A boon granted by life to any bitch. But on that thirsting vine There hung no fruit, There never played a flower. Instead, a huge and terrible wave Towered towards the sky. Came to that final, tender, feeble shoot. Tore, smashed, uprooted it. And then passed by. Left only... a little dust. A crumpled nothing. Left her a stark Insanity of stone Frozen from her tears. Empty of pain And empty of desires. And, on the swinging branch O f her rotted hopes, Five vultures. On the swinging branch.. . O f her rotted hopes... Five . . . vultures...

The lights fade. Spotlight on the passageway at the rear. Pappa is seen, working his toothless mouth. Rama just standing there blinking her eyes. Ramakant and Umakant looking here and there, picking their teeth and ears. Manik scratching her head— laughing. No voice. All silent. Only the loud screeching o f vultures can be heard. The lightsfade out.


The Vultures

SCENE II Fade-in. Morning. The worn-out house and its courtyard. Smoke coming slowlyfrom somewhere adds to the stuffiness o f the atmosphere. At a distance, a cuckoo calls out hopefully. And suddenly ends on a strangled note. Then from some direction, you can hear the sound o f people having words— unintelligible— with each other. The voices are male. Enter Rama. She approaches the altar o f basil at the right. In her hands is all equipment o f prayer. Rama isyoung. She is very thin, but still quite good-looking. In her bearing, there is the innocence o f a deer. She startspraying devoutly to the basil. She has closed her eyes and joined her hands, when suddenly there is an uproar outside the house, by the fro n t door. ‘Ungrateful bastard7 Get out o f the house. This minute! Comes here at an ungodly hour. Askingfo r money, the bastard! As if it is your father’s money! Get out on the road! O r I'll shoot you!’ Rama has unconsciously opened her eyes and is looking in the direction o f the voices, or, at least, taking notice o f them. Now a second male voice: ‘What are you waiting for, Ramya? Kick the bastard in the balls! Give him another! Slam him!' An exchange o f shouts. The sound o f blows. O f beating. Then this recedes, Rama can’t concentrate on her prayers any more. She somehow or the other hurriedly finishes them. Shepicks up herprayer things and, climbing the steps, enters the drawing-room. She is about to go on, but just then, Manik enters in haste from the door o f the staircase. She is in a great hurry. Her age: about 32 to 35 years. Her body has that withered look o f being pat its prime. Her eyes are dull; she has got up late. Curlers in her hair. Her clothes are disordered, as if she has come straightfro m her bed. She appears to be a hysterical type. She is smoking a cigarette. She throws the clothes which were in her hands onto the sofa. Puts a bottle o f piUs on a side-table, the cigarette in an ash-tray manik

( seeing Rama before her). Fine! I thought as much! I thought

you’d do this! I told you again and again last night, wake me at seven! But that's if you could stand to see others prospering. 61


I called out your name. But your door was shut. . . m a n ik Ha! So I should leave it open, should I? So you can come and strangle me, all o f you? It’s because I take care that I’ve survived in this house! Think it’s human beings that live here? The door was shut, says she! ram a

Goes to the sideboard. Takes a glass, takes out a bottle o f liquor, andpours some into the glass. Leaves the bottle open. Opens a bottle o f soda. Pours it in. Is there bathwater in the boiler, at least? Or haven’t you kept that, either? I’ll go without if there isn’t.

Rama puts down the tray o f prayer things and, coming to the sofa, startsfolding Manik's clothes. That old clown of a gardener Jagannath! He’s another case! Comes here every day. Asking for money. He and Ramya haggle away. Every morning. Ruin my sleep, the swine! Does money grow on trees here? Or is there a mine of it somewhere? Bloody cheek! r a m a But we haven’t paid him for the last two months. .. m a n ik Oh, what a sin! There isn’t enough even for us!

Takes the glass and approaches the side-table. Opens the bottle o f pills, takes one, drinks. Pulls at her cigarette. The last two months, I’ve been dying for that latest necklace at Harivallabh’s. But I can’t bloody afford it! If I ask for money, no one’s got any. Just a matter of one thousand. But Pappa comes at me in a fury if I even mention it. The old man’s become senile since we divided the estate. As for Umya— that miser, that lickpenny! No use asking him, the bloody ruffian! ‘Do you want a kick?’ he asks. And Ramya, the hypocrite, he just says your name. r a m a But I— m a n ik You don’t have to tell me that! Any witch’ll bear witness for the devil! He’ll give your name. You’ll give his. . . It’s not as if one thousand’s a burden for me. I just thought that for their oneand-only sister— but who wants a sister round here? Since the division, your husband even charges me board and lodging! I suppose I’m lucky he doesn’t flourish a knife at me. And get away with my share at night! That much for him! r a m a Don’t say that...


The Vultures As if I w o n ’t! When I had typhoid last year, far from looking after me, you’d all plotted to put poison in my medicine! rama No, n o .. . m anik I was careful. That’s what saved me! 1just refused my medicine. I wouldn’t even drink water. That’s what saved me. I never slept. Even in the dark, I never closed my eyes for a second. That’s how I survived. Or you'd have fixed me long ago! I know you all. I know you well. Come on. I’m getting late.

m a n ik

Snatches the clothesfrom Rama. Puts out her cigarette and walks o ff in a hurryfo r her bath. Rama goes to the sideboard. She puts back the soda bottle and its cap. Puts away the opener. She puts the bottle and cap on the prayer-tray, to take inside. EnterPappa, supporting himselfon the banisters. Thephone begins to ring. Pappa has a habit o f working his toothless mouth. A shrunken body. Gold-rimmed spectacles. Totally white hair, lie is smoking a beedi. ( working his mouth). What’s happened to Ramya, Bahui I could hear the row from upstairs. (Goes to the sideboard, and taking a bottle o f digestive powder, goes and sits on the sofa.) Rama Jagannath the gardener had com e... pappa I see. That pimp’s a bom shirker. Puts off his work all the time. Neglects it. Sits happily smoking away. (Takes a pinch o f the powder and puts it in his mouth. Puts out his beedi and throws it to one side. The phone stops ringing.) If you ask him, then it’s no dirt for manure, no this, no that, no bullshit! He’ll think of a dozen excuses. I’ve been watching him for 20 years. A kick in the pants, that’s what they need, to get work done, these people! A kick as they rise, and a curse as they sit. That’s all these servants can understand. Well, what’s happened to my breakfast? Or isn’t there permission today from the lord and master? From your lord and master?


Rama picks up theprayer-tray and sets out towards the sidetable. The phone starts to ring again. Rama \sattention is on it, but she justfidgets where she is. If you don’t have it, you’ll starve us to death!. . . What have I been saying, Bahu? Where are your wits? Kama (comes to the side-table carrying theprayer-tray. Puts Manik's glass on the tray). I was waiting for you to get up.



Mark that. If I don’t get up one day, God knows if you’ll notice it or not! Or else the old man’s corpse will lie rotting up there all day. While his Bahu ‘waits for him to get up!’


The phone, as if fed up, stops ringing. The phone. . . pappa Who the hell’s going to phone me? Must be for your brotherin-law. He always gathers all the darling little boys o f the neighbourhood. And plays the Gopi-Krishna game with them! Or else it’s for your husband. Every deal of his is a crooked one! He’s ruined the whole business. But it’s a crime if I mention it! The other day, he raised a flowervase to hit me. Going to lull me, he was! Sir, rather! Drop in the ditch! I’ve just stopped talking to him. (He goes into a fit o f coughing.) r a m a (with lowered bead). I’U-bring your breakfast. ra m a

Exit Rama. If I die, it’ll be a release! They’re all waiting for it. But I’m your own father, after all! If I die, I’ll become a ghost. I’ll sit on your chest! I won’t let you enjoy a rupee of it. I earned it all. Now, these wolves, these bullies!,,,


He has a fit o f coughing. Goes towards the sideboard and swallows a cough-pill. Then comes back and sits on the sofa. Meanwhile, thephone again starts ringing. Enter Ramakant. He is lean-bodied, snub-nosed, small-browed. There is something weak-willed about the set o f bisjaw. He is wearing tweed shorts. A sports shirt. Canvas shoes. An airgun in his hands. Good morning, Pappa. (Goes and picks up the phone, muttering) Bloody racket! Even before we’re up! (Leans his airgun against the sideboard. Taking the phone) Hello. Yes. Speaking. Jaygopal Sheth? What are your orders? You’re ringing bright and early. Yes. Cheque for four thousand? Bounced? But that’s surprising! It can’t happen! Hello. But... (Listening) They must have raised some technical bloody problem. Deposit it again, Shethji. I’ll ring the bank. Yes. You know, these banker fellows are all bastards. Who? No, no, our dealings are impeccable, Sheth. Business is business. One’s bloody reputation matters. Without reputation, what’ve you got? Business’ll fold

ram akant


The Vultures up! Yes. O.K. Bank it. Bank it once more. . . I’ll ring them. I’ll ring the bank. Yes. Good morning.

He puts down the phone. In a little while, enter Rama bringing Pappa's breakfast. Sheputs it on a side-table. Pappa starts exploring it. Moving his toothless mouth. Bloody old fraud! The bastard! On that cement deal o f four thousand last year, he kept a maigin of fifteen hundred! Is that business... or robbery? How are you, Pappa? Well?

Pappa, without answering, goes on with his breakfast. Here’s another confounded nuisance! Eats my food, and tries to act smart!

Comes and sits on a chair, stretching out his feet to rest on the sidetable. Look here, Rama, from now on, don’t give an inch to that gardener Jagannath. He was an old servant. He was Pappa’s darling. . . that’s why 1 kept him. But he is going too far, now. Give me a salary, says he! A monthly salary. First of each month. As if he’s the damned Governor! Came right into my room today. I’d have shot him. But 1 thought, he’s a family man. Wife and children. He’ll only die but they’ll raise hell against me! So I just slapped him. Blood streamed from the fellow’s mouth. Must have lost one or two teeth. Well, they’d have fallen out anyway. It's an old beast. Eh, Pappa?

Pappa doesn’t answer. He sits stirring his tea vigorously, moving his toothless mouth around. But what I say is, let us pay his money once and fo r... Ra m a k a n t There! There, Pappa! See the brilliance of your Bahu. 1 mean, endure the servants’ insolence, and pay them for it. Holy alms! And fall at their feet, I suppose. And worship them! It was all right for Pappa. The money market was fluid then. No competition. It rained money. Fine habits he gave to the servants. .. salary, food, betel nuts, clothes! p*ppa Not me. It w a s your mother! Ram akant Hear th a t1 Our m o th er was no relation of hist. rama

Exit Rama.


My enemy she was! She died. She left with me! r a m a k a n t And you with us! A bloody burden to the earth!


Snatches the toast out o f Pappa’s bands. Hold your tongue! I’ve shared out my property with you pimps. So I’ve become a burden, have I? r a m a k a n t Your property! Your millions! There wasn’t even bloody ten thousand cash for each o f us. And this house between us three. Monthly maintenance: one hundred and twenty-five. A bloody circus elephant would’ve been better off! And the business... a dead horse! The war finished it off! Even beggars and Brahmins shoved into the sand and lime business. A bloody alms-house! Tenders began to be filled at a loss of thousands. How could we make any profit? Sweating blood day and night. And still crying out for lack o f profit! Umya was much bloody cleverer! He grabbed the landed property at Lonavla. The shares. . . they were from bum companies, one and all. Wrapping paper. . . nothing more! p a p p a So I’m a fool! So now show what great feats you’re good for! r a m a k a n t Hear that! A w id ow ... advising her friend to cherish her husband! I’m doing all I need to, PapfSa. But let me just inform you o f your stupidity.


Knocks on Pappa’s head. pappa

My stupidity... yes! to produce bastards like you!

The phone begins to ring. Pappa, pappa! As the seed, so the tree! Did we ever ask to be produced?

ram akant

Ramakant answers the phone. (On the phone) H ello... speaking. Morning, Major. What can I do for you? Goods turned out bad? Very surptuing! How could they turn out bad? We’re not a useless firm of Sikhs! We’ve some prestige! How many? Fifteen sacks? Fifteen! But it’s impossible! (Listens) No. Something in your yard, perhaps... (Listens) What! No, no. No retumability. No fresh supplies of that item. (Listens) Breach of contract? Go ahead and sue! Oh, yes? We have our solicitors, too. (Listens) There’s nothing in the contract. . . (Listens) Extremely sorry! (Listens) Extremely sorry! That’s all 66

The Vultures right. K eep your military manners for the Border. No, no. This is business. (Listens) Gladly. (Listens) By all means! (Listens) See you in couit! ‘Bye!

Enter Rama. She picks up the plate, cup and saucer, and puts them on the side-table. She puts the stool in its place, then picks up the plate, etc. Ramakantputs down thephone. Trying to bloody threaten me with a lawsuit! I’ll sue his father! Bloody nuisance, these military contracts. Rama dear, that Achalanand Swami or what you call’im from Kandivali's coming this evening. To the Rajadhyakshas’, at Linking Road. Let’s drop in there. rama What is the use? r a m a k a n t U se... what bloody use? You’re a fool! So far, w e’ve kissed the feet o f at least twenty swamis. In other words, we should’ve had twenty kids, at least! Rama dear, it’s all luck, you know. Man proposes, God disposes. But let’s just go, this evening. Just for bloody fun! rama It’s a waste o f money, to o ... pappa (sitting moving his mouth). Yes, one’s father's money! r a m a k a n t Just watch your words when you join our conversation, Pappa. I won’t have you butting in when my better half and I are talking. Old man... ought to bloody sit quiet... fat chance! Give him an inch, and he’U swallow us all.

Takes out a cigarette-case and lights a cigarette. Then holding the case out, to Pappa. Smoke? pappa (loudly). No! Ra m a k a n t (closing the case and putting it in his pocket). Very well. Just doing one’s duty.

Enter Umakant. Flabby. Shapeless. Wears thick-rimmed spectacles. His appearance is comic and mournful. At the same time, repulsive. A rather effeminate voice. Puts the towel, underpants and vest, that he is carrying, by thephone. (to Rama). Manik...


Ram a

W h o ’s in th e bath?

Sheputs the breakfast-things which are in her hands cm the sideboard. Mechanically she starts tofold Umakant's clothes.



Why did that cow have to be in such a hurry to block the bathroom? Not a hope now o f her coming out for an hour! Thinks herself a beauty queen at the best of times! And now she’s after that Raja o f Hondur, she’s got above herself As if that sacred elephant would look twice at this poor man’s mare! Hopes that lecher'll make her his lawful Queen, if you please. r a m a k a n t Can’t tell, brother. He may, yet. u m a k a n t Then you may become a millionaire, yet! r a m a k a n t (affectedly). On the day you get married, yet! u m a k a n t (trembling with rage). Shut up! Don’t bring my personal life into this, Ramya. If you open your trap again, I’ll... I’ll smash it open for you! (Catches tight hold o f Ramakant.) r a m a k a n t (freeding himself). Try it and see. u m a k a n t (retreating). Just leave me alone, I’m telling you. For the last time! r a m a k a n t I’ll shoot you! Bloody bugger* You think my mouth’s a soda-bottle? Smash it open, says he! r a m a (to Umakant). Bhaiya, your breakfast. .. r a m a k a n t Bugger having breakfast! Never spends a bloody paisa for the family, even at a pinch! My brother—but a lifelong bloody enemy! For ever and for ever! Just take the day before yesterday. Had to settle an agreement worth seven thousand. I said, you pay it. I’ll return it with interest But Mr High-and-Mighty here got on his high horse! I had to slog round a dozen places for it. My brother! Swelling his bpnk balance! Black-marketing paper! If you’re a man, swell a woman’s belly for a change!. . . u m a k a n t (trembling, losing control o f himself). Ramya. . . shut your trap! r a m a (to Ramakant). Don’t say those things... r a m a k a n t When he dies, he’ll spread bundles o f money on his bier! He’ll lie down on them. And they’ll cart him off to the cemetery. No heir to his name! r a m a (heartwrung, to Pappa). Please, won’t you, at least... pa p pa ( moving his toothless mouth). What’ll tell’em? They’re devils, both o f them, the pimps! If I’d had millstones instead, ‘would have been better! u m a k a n t A mangy dog would have made a better father! r a m a k a n t That’s right! Bravo, brother!

um akant

Exit Rama with the breakfast things. 68

The Vultures um akant

It’s because w e’re here that you’re still alive, Pappa. Know

that9 Otherwise they’d have had to bloody bury the old man long ago! pappa Shut your foul mouths, you scoundrels! Bury me, will you! Talk o f burying me while I’m still alive, will you, you bastards? r a m a k a n t If you prefer, we'll discuss our life after you’re over and done with. Eh, brother? pappa If I decided to, I could throw you all out! (Ramakant and Umakant laugh._>The property’s mine! I earned it! I sweated for it! When w e started the business, there wasn’t even a capital of fifty rupees. r a m ak a n t

From this point, total indifference from Ramakant and Umakant. A ll this has been repeated to them frequently. Sakharam and I went hungry day and night. We sweated tears. We scraped and scraped for lunch. That’s how such a huge business grew up. (Ramakant rattles his airgun.J The Hari Sakharam Company’s’name became famous in the contracting business. We got an office. . . a phone. This property grew up out o f it. And now, go ruin it, go ahead, both of you! Rub it in the dirt, you pimps, and then repent! Airs like emperors!

Umakant takes some p ill or the other from a bottle on the sideboard. He admires himself in the mirror. And not wits enough to make a rupee! You’re after my life! You’re talking o f my funeral. But remember this. I’ll see you dead first! I’ll see your pyres burning, you pimps! (A fit o f coughing.) u m ak ant (suddenly remembering). God and see if that cow’s had her bath yet! Goes and rolls all over town, the cow! And then sits scrubbing herself. Just when one’s in a hurry! ( Shouting) Manik! Come out quick! Or I’ll break down the bathroom door! Ra m a k a n t I’ll tell you what. There’s mirror in the bathroom, isn’t there? Sits and looks at herself. u m a k a n t I’ll smash it! Then there won’t be any lingering. Ra m a k a n t Your father’s bloody legacy, is it? Whose bloody share was the mirror in? And who’s talking of smashing it? u m a k a n t I’ve an appointment at one fifteen. Now I’ll have to go out without a bath. All because of this cow!

Enter Manik. She has had her bath. A towel is wrapped round


her shoulders. For the rest... she is wearing a blouse and a petticoat. ( catching bold o f Umakant’s neck). Who you are calling a cow, Umya? You’re not worth four paise yourselfi Mind your tongue, I’m telling you. Don’t run away because I’m a woman! u m a k a n t (freeing bis neck and bitting heron the buttocks). Y ou ... a woman? r a m a k a n t What is the evidence? m a n ik Y o u bastards! You’ve no shame! Bloody ruffians! u m a k a n t (mincing about like a woman, one finger on his cheek). We don’t go for picnics with anyone... r a m a k a n t Or stay the night with them, either! u m a k a n t (picking up the bottlefrom the side-table). Nor do we keep those pills in our purse. m a n ik (snatching the bottle out o f Umakant’s bands). You’ve been dipping into my purse, you swine! r a m a k a n t So? Is it only that Hondur fellow who’s allowed to dip into things? Eh, brother? How’s that? m a n ik (turning towards Ramakant and pushing at bis face). Worms’ll rot your mouths, you bastards! u m a k a n t The whole town’s shouting it! Didn’t you two get drunk the other night9 In that room at the Majestic Hall? And make a scene?

m a n ik

He pulls at her towel. She screams. An absolute lie! We didn’t! You’re slandering us. Bloody beasts! You want to ruin me! You’d like to kill me!

m a n ik

She starts to exit. Umakant trips her up. Shefalls. (to Umakant). Brother, we are beasts! (They both faugh.) m a n ik (biding ber face and crying). Oh-h! These bastards’ll bum me alive one day! They’ll poison me, they’ll slit my throat. ram akant

Crying loudly, she goes upstairs to ber room. Hear that, brother? u m a k a n t (giving a cigarette to Ramakant, and lighting one up himself). We’re going to slit her throat! That’s why she goes into town daily... and falls round that idiot’s ...! And that worthless Hondur’s only a third-class Raja!

ram akant


The Vultures She’s bloody thirty-five years old. . . and couldn’t care less for the family’s name! u m a k a n t But I'll tell you one thing. If I were in her place, I’d have got at least twenty-five thousand out o f him, for sure! r a m a k a n t W h o knows? Maybe she will, too! She's a smart girl that way, our little Manik! Experienced u m a k a n t G o o d victim she’s spied out this time! Before this.. . that c y d e -s h o p owner. The film-company cameraman. And, in between, that stallkeeper from the Market. Used to roam round town with him. On his motorbike. Arms round his waist! To hell with it all. .. I’m getting late... I’ll go for my bath.

ram akant

He hurries off. Rama comes out o f the kitchen with a cup o f tea and is about to go out o f the house. For whom is this extra one? Aha! For our poet-brother? Go o n ... take It to him! That’s another bottomless pit! Hogs all that’s in the house. And sits writing those filthy poems. Modem poetry! Not worth a bloody paisa! Sheer waste o f ink! Ra m a He didn’t ask for a share o f the property, s o ... Ra m a k a n t Obliged to him, I’m sure. A kept woman’s bloody son! A bastard! If he’d come here begging for a share, I’d have shot him with my rifle. I’d have blasted him! And if he was so proud, then why does he come begging for food and tea? Ra m a He doesn’t ask for it. I make him take it. It’s many years since he stopped eating and drinking tea here. r a m a k a n t 1 know! You’ve always been on his damned side*. Observe your Bahu, Pappa. Likes her brother-in-law better than her husband. She’ll take him tea. Even if he says no to it. She’ll force it on him! And if he won’t drink it, she’ll feed him too. They're all bloody obliging us... by eating our food! Gimme that...

ram akant

He takes the tea from her and starts drinking it. Of course, it tastes excellent, Pappa! First-class tea-maker, our Rama! pappa He’s better than you a r e , you pimps! He doesn’t try to murder me! Ra m a k a n t Who? Oh, Rajaninath? He wouldn’t have the guts. A poet! What’s he got for a sword? A pen! Supposing he throws his bloody pen. Who’ll it kill? Not even you!


Go on, say it. Say all you want! Kill me. . . that’s all you bastards want. But I won’t die! I shan’t! If 1 die, I’ll become a ghost. I’ll trample on your chests! Who d’you take me for? I’m going to dance on your chests. Trample on them!

pa p pa

Goes o ff heatedly, leaning his body on something as he does so. Why d’you say such futile things, Pappa? If you become a ghost we'll be bloody arch-ghosts! Become a ghost! Bloody nonsense! (Seeing Rama) Yes, Rama dear? Why’re you standing here? Go. . . go inside. Do your work. Work’s important. (She starts to exit) And look here... remember this. From today, that poet’s tea is out\ Let him drink ink. I-n-k ink! A cupful, morning ana evening. Excellent for the health. A tonic. No joke!. . . And you know, Rama dear, I’ve got a deal in hand right now. A big one. Keep it dark. Don’t let the old man get wind of it. If it works, it’ll end our lifelong bibody misery! A house, a car, a chauffeur, the club, a cook, absolutely bloody posh! No bloody airs from anyone, what? You’ll get lots of leisure, too. Social work! And by then, we'll have a kiddie also. (Makes gestures to indicate a child.) A kiddie! A child! (In despair, she bides her mouth in the comer o f hersari) I really think so this time. Let’s see this evening what miracles the Swami will perform. Eh? Keep some— you know— about you. I mean, I don’t have any today. The bloody bank was shut yesterday, wasn’t it? Return it tomorrow. What? I know you always have some. That’s why 1 asked. I’ll get your necklace out ofhock, too. Next week. What’s money? Let this one bloody deal come off. And I’ll put an end to all our misery. Well, I’m off for a spot of shooting. Not one bloody bird did 1get in the garden this morning. All right. 'Bye-bye’ Rama darling.

ram akant

Exit taking the gun. Rama picks up the cup and saucer and sets out. The telephone starts to ring. Rama starts and stands still. The phone rings on. (Fade-out.)


The Vultures

SCENE III Fade-in. it is late at night. The drawing-room. Pappa and (Jmakant seated. Ramakant standing, glass in hand. On the sofa, a horizontal, lifelessfigure. The paraphernalia o f drinks a ll around. (in drunken tones, looking the body over carefully). Completely. . . bloody. . . had it! u m a k a n t Look a g a in . May be ‘live. r a m a k a n t Bosh! (Tries shaking the body.) He’s had it! Look at this, abs’lute corpse! (Laughs) Uncle Sakharam’s corpse. (Laughs) Our uncle’ s bloody corpse. Uncle’s hopped it. Look’t him. Drunk ‘mself t’death, brother. (Laughs) To bloody death! Damn bore! Drunk t’death! (Staggers over to Uncle’s body and stands by it.) Long live Uncle! u m a k a n t U n cle’s out of practice! Has t’scrape for food. Where could he get. . . y ’know! Ra m a k a n t P o o r Uncle! Used to down the whole bottle, brother. Straight. u m a k a n t H o w ’d Uncle. . . get here, Ramya? Pappa. . . Pappa cut his— er— throat! Pushed him out’f business! Ruined’m! Turned’m out o f house. Fifteen years ago. Ra m a k a n t Poor, poor Uncle! I pity him! I love him! Sleeping like an innocent bloody kiddie, damn him... (Pats him .) u m a k a n t W hy did Pappa... cheat Uncle? D’y ’ know? Ra m a k a n t

Ra m a k a n t O h , y e s . Y o u te ll.

Simple. Uncle was going to ... hm m !. . . clean Pappa out. But Pappa found out first. And then. .. (Sits on the stool.) Ra m a k a n t P oor Uncle! They’re both equal bloody swindlers, brother. Pappa’n’Uncle. u m a k a n t No. Pappa’s worse. Ask why. umakant

Ra m a k a n t W o n ’ t a s k !

Ask. ‘cause Pappa won! Uncle lost. Pappa swallowed th e lot! Put Uncle in a fix! Uncle cursed like fury. He raged. He said we w ou ’n’t see his face again. Said w orm s’d rot us! Ra m a k a n t 1 Poor Uncle! u m a k a n t (laughing and hiccuping). A n d t h i s 's h o w h e c a m e back! (Pointing hisfin ger) Like this! Ra m a k a n t (totally drunk voice). T h e y ’ r e a ll b l o o d y s w in d le r s '. F e e \ umakant



like crying, brother! Feel like weeping. Feel wretched, brother! Absolutely bloody wretched! No bloody kiddie! Sleeping like a kiddie, damn him! A child! (Pats him .) u m a k a n t I envy Pappa. I envy him! r a m a k a n t Pappa dear! Dear, would you like to. . . one more peg? One? Peg? p a p pa (with closed eyes). ‘On her brow the . . . crescent moon, oh! On her brow the crescent moon. . .’ u m a k a n t Leave’m. Give’t t’me. With soda.

Pappa swaying as he sits. The doorbell rings harshly. Pappa comes out o f his stupor a little. And goes hack into it. Umakant and Ramakant start looking suspiciously at the telephone. Enter Rama from within. She goes to the front door o f the bouse. Then re-enter Rama followed by Manik. Who is tired. Dishevelled. She puts down her purse on the sideboard in order tofill a glass. Goes to the side-table. Exit Rama. Who’s that7Oh! Dear Manik! Manik dear, how was today’s picnic ? u m a k a n t ‘d’you sleep well? r a m a k a n t That Hondur fellow didn’t pester our little Manik, did he? u m a k a n t (biccuping and laughing). .. Money’s worth! m a n ik (noticing the horizontalfigure on the sofa). Who’s he? (Going up to him, says in alarm) Unde Sakharam! How did be get here? ram akant

Enter Rama. She puts a shawl over Uncle. Magic! Now I’ll make’m dis’ppear. Look! One. . . two. . . m a n ik When’d he turn up, Pappa? (Pappa is in a stupor. To Rama) When did he? RAMA At d u s k . m a n ik Why’d you take the fellow in? Ra m a The bell rang. So I went to see. I didn’t recognize him. His beard was long. His clothes were dirty. He looked as if he had gone hungry for many days. He just pushed his way in. I thought he was a thief or a burglar. I was going to scream. . . but just then— r a m a k a n t I came in! I said, H’lo, Uncle. How’re you? Very glad to see you after such a long time, dear Uncle (winking) Manners! Bloody etiquette! But Pappa got bloody furious... ram akant


The Vultures He cou ’nt speak clearly. Just stood and shook! With rage! r a m a k a n t Pappa said. . . Pappa said. . . Why’ve you come here, you pimp? I like our Uncle, y’know. Uncle Sakharam! Poor. . . poor. . . u m a k a n t U n d e said, Cough up my money! My money! r a m a k a n t But our Pappa. . . Y ’know. . . perfect bastard. Great bugger, ou r Pappa! He said, Haven’t a paisa! (winks). A trick, dammit' u m a k a n t U n d e said— he said— You’re lying! Give me my share! My ¿hare! O r I ’ll— stay right here for it! Won’t go! (Exit Rama.) He said, Th ere is money. You’ve got it. Spit out my money! Ra m a k a n t Bui ourPappa was—smooth, y’know. Private Conference! Pappa’n’UncIe! m an ik What happened then9 Ra m a k a n t N o use. u m a k a n t U ncle stayed on. ( Points to him.) Ra m a k a n t N o , no, no, no, no! Not dead. Brother, he Isn’t dead. Uncle isn’t dead. Had too much, that’s all. Out of practice! Out, you know! Absolutely bloody out! I fed it t’him. My own uncle, y’know. Only uncle. m a n ik You mean this old wreck’s going to live here too? With us? Ra m a k a n t Y ’know. . . can’t help it! He’s out! Can’t walk on’s own! Can’t sit up. Can’t even open his eyes. Absolutely bloody. . . newborn.. . y ’know? A kiddie, damn him... a tiny little baby... m a n ik Then throw him out! He’ll writhe to death with cold all right. On his ow n! Ra m a k a n t Y ’see, brother? Poor, poor little Manik! 1 mean, where’s there cold enough to kill him? B’sides, his belly’s full o f dnnk! H e... will. . . n ot... die. m a n ik But w h ere’ll we keep this bloody nuisance? There’s hardly enough fo r us a ll... Ra m a k a n t . . And Uncle’s got into the stall! A bloody dead horse, dammit' u m a k a n t Ramya, Manik’s right! Let me— hmm!— chop him! And you— dispose o f him. One piece here— one piece there...

um akant

Manik starts walking slowly towards the record-player, thinking about something Aha! No, no, no. Sorry, brother! 1 am extremely sorry. He’s . . . y ’k n ow ... our uncle*. Father’s brother! Our own unc\e\

Ra m a k a n t



Damn him. Our own. . . r a m a k a n t Let’s— let’s take him off the sofa. Before he ruins ii. Put him down! It’ll get bloody dirty for nothing, the sofa!

um akant

Umakant staggers to his feet. The two o f them, with great effort, drag Uncle's body down onto the ground. That’s it.

Manikputs on a record, very loud. Ssh! Let him sleep, poor Uncle. Let him save a sound sleep. (Pats him ) Poor, poor Unde! (Sits there drunkenly, gentlypatting him.) m a n ik (shaking Ramakant). Ramya, this isn’t a good sign, I’m telling you. r a m a k a n t What isn't? m a n ik Come here a minute. u m a k a n t (suspiciously). Is’t about me? m a n ik Y o u come, too! (When they’ve come up to her.) There’s something fishy going on— it’s Pappa! (Pappa has slumped to one side as he sits.) r a m a k a n t You mean it’s Uncle! Our uncle! m a n ik No, no, Ramya! It’s Pappa! u m a k a n t Manik’s right. m a n ik He said Pappa had money, didn’t he? Unde said so. To Pappa. r a m a k a n t Oh, yes. Yes. Oh, I see. m a n ik In that case, I’m telling you, Pappa has got something! Hidden away. Somehow. Somewhere. So we can’t find a trace o f it. r a m a k a n t Bloody prove it! m a n ik (indicating Uncle). He wouldn’t turn up for nothing! I know the fellow well. He’s smelt something out. Definitely. r a m a k a n t You mean...? m a n ik And that ‘Private Conference? Just for the two o f them? It isn’t just today I’ve got to know Pappa. I’ve had my suspicions all along. r a m a k a n t Very, very wise girl, Manik! Don’t you think so, brother? Don’t you? u m a k a n t Manik’s clever. . . whatever else she is. (Hiccup) Must be thousands at least! r a m a k a n t Who can bloody tell? Millions, may be! m a n ik We must look sharp when we make our plans. It’s good from one point of view that Uncle did turn up.


The Vultures She sits on the stool. Umakant stands, leaning a hand on her shoulder. Ramakant leans a hand on his shoulder. Brother, I love Uncle! Unde Sakharam. Poor, poor Uncle. manik (tipsily). Poor, poor Pappa. um ak ant Absolute scoundrel! ram akant

The harsh screeching o f vultures begins to be heard softly from somewhere. Look how fast he’s sleeping... Absolutely bloody tight. Old man, when he sits and sleeps, looks quite bloody dead! Bloody funny, /know! Pray for’m, dammit! u m akant Ramya, let’s— y’know— finish Pappa off! Ra m a k a n t Bugger off, Umya. Are you bloody mad? Pappa— he’s our Pappa after all, y ’know. Got any sense of the proprieties, or not? Our— begetter! (Joins his hands.) Sin to touch him! filial piety! manik And, besides, what's the point? How would you find the money? Ra m a k a n t W ise, wise girt, Manik. Wise, wise y’know, brother. Let’S take Pappa for a ride tomorrow. On a dead horse! Flatter him... to the b lood y hilt... right up... and then... wham! Eh? End o f the game! (Laughs, banging his teeth.) The money. . . in our hands! manik (in great glee). Then my thousand-rupee necklace. . Ra m a k a n t Oh yes. Oh, yes. Dearest Manik. Poor, poor, Pappa. Poor Uncle. ..

The screeching o f vultures grows louder. (Fade-out).

SCENE IV Fade-in. M orning. The twittering o f birds. The part o f the stage by thegarage. Rama enters hurriedly with a cup o f tea hidden under a com er o f her sari. The garage door is closed. She knocks on it once o r twice. The door opens. Rajaninath (w ith half-open eyes). Who’s there? Seeing her, he rubs his eyes in confusion. Adjusts his shirt Rama

(slipping in ). Please take this quickly.



Why’ve you brought it? r a m a Take it, I said. (He holds out bis band in pique.) Rinse out your mouth first. How can you drink before that? The tea’ll get cold. Rinse your mouth. Quickly.

r a ja n in a t h

Rajaninath still looks at her with annoyance. Then he brings a vessel o f water and rinses out bis mouth outside the garage. Splashes water on hisface. Uses bis shirt as a towel to wipe with. Sits down on his rolled-up mattress. Rama stands glancing continually towards the bouse. He comes in fron t o f her. Useless bother. (She is silent.) One can buy tea at a teashop, too. (She is still silent.) One could order a tray. Make the tea the way one wants it. No obligations.

r a ja n in a t h

She is still standing bolding the cup o f tea. He snatches it from her. And if there isn’t any tea, so what? Many things one doesn't have. Doesn't kill one. Last night I went to tamasba. (Glances at her.) These days I go daily. And I do many other things, too. If anyone objects, let them cover their eyes. Day before yesterday, I went to a woman. She wasn’t a decent woman. But then, was my own mother decent? I understood that day how my mother must have lived. How and where she met my father. This woman also had a son. Tiny. Just skin and bone. Given opium— to put him to sleep. Whose son he was, God only knows. But perhaps, that’s good. It’s better not to know your father. Your father, your brother. So cruel they’d put th& wolves to shame. (Stops and looks at her.) r a m a Drink it quickly, do. Someone’ll wake up. r a ja n in a t h I don’t want it. r a m a You’re grown-up now. But still you want to torment your sisterin-law. r a ja n in a t h (looking her over). You’ve grown up, too. r a m a (pulling her sari about her). Enough o f your nonsense! rajan inath (getting up abruptly, turning bis back on her, andputting the cup and saucer on the table). Don’t bring me any tea from tomorrow. r a m a You’ve left o ff eating; you’ve stopped your breakfast. . .


The Vultures (tu rn in g). Have I stopped it, or have you? (Abashed) I mean him. rama (hurt). There wasn’t any shortage o f beggars at our door. . . that I should bring it as alms to you! rajaninath T h en you should’ve brought it openly! In front o f everybody. In front o f him! rama I haven’t that courage. rajaninath That’s why I don’t want it. Don’t bring me tea, either. (He ca n ’t help adding) And don’t come here yourself. rama You are right. I shouldn't. BuM can't help myself. rajaninath Th ere is n o p oin t in it. l ‘m n o o n e to you. Rama Just saying it won’t make it true. rajaninath (tu rn in g suddenly). Your husband is not my brother! It humiliates me to call such low people my brothers! And such a corrupt man, my father. Rama (after a pause). Finished? And what did that achieve? ra Ja n in a th

He angrily gulps down the rest o f the tea, and hands her the cup and saucer. An innocent smile on herface. What’s there to laugh at? Rama Nothing. Rajaninath Then you won’t get back this cup and saucer. Rama Don’t d o that! Someone’ll wake up. Rajaninath So early? Day never dawns in this house before nine o’clock. Rama Give me the cup and saucer. Your uncle came yesterday. I must go and cook something sweet for him. Raj a n in a t h H e ’s Pappa’s brother, all right. The same type. A vulgar man! I saw him in the grounds yesterday. Looking like a beggar. It made m e feel good to see it. Rama The cup a n d saucer! rajaninath

Ra j a n in a th T e l l m e w h y y o u la u g h e d .

Rama Uh.. . huh. RAJa n in a t h T e l l m e , w h y , I say.

(She is silent.) S h a ll

1 s m a s h th is c u p

and s a u c e r ?

Rama What are you doing? . . . I laughed because. . . because you

drank that tea ... as if it were castor oil! (She laughs again as she remembers it.) Rajaninath (putting back the cup and saucer on the table). It’s my



fate to find everything without savour. Insipid. Tasteless. N o colour to anything. No beauty.

She has grown serious. She picks up the cup and saucer. ram a That’s all right for people like me. But how will it do for a

poet to feel like that9 How will you become great? How will you be well-known? ra ja n in a th I myself don’t know who I am. r a m a I must go. 1 *11 come again tomorrow. RAJANI NATH Don’t. r a m a And if 1 do? r a j a n in a t h I won't drink the tea. r a m a Will you speak to me, at least9 r a j a n in a t h Only because I have to. r a m a Nevertheless, I will come. (She exits hurriedly.) r a jan in a th (tormentedly, to her vanishedfigure). Why? ( There is no answer.) ( Fade-out)

SCENE V Fade-in. Evening. The drawing-room. A record o f Western1music is playing. Manik and Ramakant are dancing. Western style, with uncertain steps. Umakant is filling a glass fb r Pappa. The old man is enjoying himself r a m a k a n t (as the record ends, stops dancing and claps bis hands. Drunkenly). Splendid! Beautiful! Excellent! One can bear the needle scratching away on the record which has ended. Manik goes over, still unsteadily, and puts on another record. (to Umakant) Now you dance, brother! Your turn! The record starts. Umakant starts to dance with Manik. Suddenly thephone begins to ring. Ramakant goes over and takes the receiver off the hook and puts it down, muttering curses. (Coming towards Pappa) Dear, dear Pappa. How are you, by the way? Carrying on all right9Happy? Like to have some more?


The Vultures English stuff, y ’know! Not now? A'right. (Looks at Umakant, who is watching, and gives him a meaningful wink.) Not now. Later. Later, y ’know. Later. pappa (speaking with an effort). It was bloody fun today. It was fun. (Laughing in his throat) It’s amusing! Very, very amusing. Sakharam’s gone. Gone for good. (Trying to caress Ramakant) Ramya my ch ild... you worked wonders. You did a good day’s work today. One needs cleverness. Like yours. Bravo! r a m a k a n t As long as you’re happy, Pappa, everything’s fine! Filial debt. Must repay it. m a n ik (as she dances). Our Pappa’s ever so wonderful, isn’t he, Ramya? r a m a k a n t Pappa’s grateful for what’s bloody done for him. u m a k a n t (as he dances)* It gladdens my eyes to see Pappa smiling. m an ik Yes, indeed! For so many years now, Pappa hasn’t smiled at all! Has he, Ramya? Ra m a k a n t Dear, dear Pappa! (Salutes him unth joined hands.) pappa (to himself.) Sakharam’s cleared out o f the house!

He sits swaying. The record ends. Manik takes her glass and goes to f ill it. Umakant takes his glass and sits on the stool. What fun it was, Ramya, wasn’t it?As I came down this morning, 1 just peeped into the room upstairs. And my— our Uncle just wasn’t there! I looked again. Carefully. But I couldn’t see him. Not even his slippers! I hunted. Under the terrace room. All through the garden. Every single corner. But Uncle wasn’t there at all. ram akant Last night, for every bloody four we boozed, Uncle guzzled eight. And fell down drunk. Dead drunk! We had to lift him by his noggin. And his shanks. Just to get him to his room upstairs. Think it was a small weight? pappa (s w a y in g ).. .moon, o h !. . . crescent moon, oh!’ Ra m a k a n t Pappa’s in the seventh bloody heaven tonight. u m akant What else? Uncle’d worn him raw since yesterday. Put down my share o f the money! Put it down! Put down a thousand. Give me five hundred at least. (In Pappa’s manner) ‘What money shall I give? What money do I have!’ (winking at Ramakant) Our Pappa. (Imitating him ) ‘I kicked you out of the business quite legally, I did. W hy’d you lose all the court cases you

m anik


brought? Threw you out by law, I did. Won’t get a bloody paisa, you pimp! Asking for my money! Where is there any money now? I haven’t got any at all.’ ram akant ( looking vaguely at Pappa). Dear, dear Pappa. Poor Pappa. Poor rascal Pappa. p a p p a ‘Crescent moon, o h !. . (He is swaying J r a m a k a n t Inseparable brothers. Like Ram and Lakshman, Uncle and Pappa. Both absolute swindlers. (In Pappa’s manner) ‘Where is there any money? Where is it? Early this bloody morning, I took my airgun and stepped out to shoot birds. Day was dawning. I thought, let’s go and enquire after Uncle. He was tight last night, y’know. I went upstairs. The door was shut. So I went in. Uncle was lying flat on his back with his eyeballs turned up. I said, Let’s see what’s up. Yes! Or else Uncle could’ve hopped it in his sleep. We’d be left saying, why isn’t dear Uncle up yet? So I shook him. At that, Uncle woke up. He opened his eyes. And what a bloody yell he gave! God knows why! I thought, Pappa was bloody up all last night. And dear Manik probably has to get up early. To go again to that Hondur chap of hers. So 1just pushed dear Uncle’s mouth shut a bit... so! Like this, that’s all. I pressed it shut, Umya, I said Dear Uncle, don’t yell for nothing! At that, Umya, Uncle bounced out o f bed. Like a bloody rubber ball! He stumbled to the door and then. . . flight! Uncle Makes His Getaway! I tried to bloody prevent him. I rushed after him. With my rifle. But Uncle ran like a bloody deer. Gone! Uncle disappeared who knows where!

Manik laughs throughout. Great man, Uncle! Cheers to Pappa’s father! And mother, of course. r a m a k a n t O f course. Need a mother as well, brothers. um akant

They drink. Happy birthday to Uncle! u m a k a n t Happy birthday! (He laughs drunkenly.j r a m a k a n t Uncle’s bloody mannerless brute, brother. Not e v e n a simple bye-bye as he left. No bloody courtesy! u m a k a n t Y o u made him run, Ramya. r a m a k a n t No, no, no, brother. ‘Nonviolence be my creed.’ Your


The Vultures Uncle

m e a n s y o u r fa t h e r ’s b l o o d y b ro th e r. A lm o s t y o u r fa th e r

h im s e lf!

(s iv a y in g j. ‘Moon, oh!’ . . . ‘Fell down’ . . . right now, right now , w e n eed some dancing. . . chhunak chhun chhun . . . ch h in a k ch h u n chhun! r a m a k a n t S h ou ld’ve arranged it, Pappa. But didn’t have the bloody time. p a p p a It w a s here they all danced. That Hira Pandarpurkar. . . that l o v e l y Vitha Satarkar. Oh, the . . . coyness of her! Didn’t notice w h e n night ended. When morning flickered in ... On this knee. . . right h e r e !. .. ‘Crescent moon, oh! moon, oh!’ m a n i k (y a u m in g ). Ramya, Umya, how much longer is it going to be? I’m getting sleepy, I can tell you. Now what’re you waiting for? Eh, Umya? Finish it once and for all. Eh? pappa

She points to Pappa who is swaying. Ra m a k a n t

(to Umakant). Brother?

Umakant shrugs his shoulders. (Preparing himself and raising his voice) Enough! We’re going to have some dancing here, Umya. Folk dancing. The whole night. Chhunaka chhun chhurt. u m a k a n t (getting up off the stool and raising his voice). I won’t let you have it, Ramya! Manik goes and locks both the doors. She takes the phone receiver off the hook Ra m a k a n t What d’you bloody mean? Eh? Pappa’s word is bloody

law! Pappa’s and his father’s too! No tamashas in this house! I won’t let them take place. .. that’s flat! r a m a k a n t Why won’t you let them, el}? Drink.. . drink some more. Then you w on’t talk such nonsense... Drink. u m a k a n t (making a show o f drinking). Who’s talking nonsense? Me? Or you? r a m a k a n t Mark that, dammit! Does it himself. . . and makes me answer for it! u m a k an t Shut up! Not one word! I’m drunk, Ramya. pappa (drunkenly, from where he is sitting). ‘Crescent moon, oh!. .. King. . . Oh, a trump card!. . . I’m finished!’

um akant


(winking). Bloody swine, damn you! Saying no to Pappa’s bloody wishes, you bastard! Manik, one more glass. (Winks. Manikgoes through the motions o f pouring him a drink. Taking it) Ha! My head’s throbbing dammit! Who says no to Pappa’s wishes?

ram akant

Manik fills her glass. Picks up a tin opener. (putting her glass and the tin opener on the side-table as arranged). Umya... Ramya... stop, both of you! We’ve gathered here to celebrate Uncle’s departure. And just look at the two of you! What will Pappa think? u m a k a n t Manik, you stay quiet. Or I’ll tear out your guts. I’m drunk r a m a k a n t Bloody drunkard! Why d’you put on airs? m a n ik Qooking all around). Umya! Umya! I’m telling you, don’t!

m a n ik

She signals to Ramakant. (going to the sideboard, taking an empty soda bottle and smashing it, shouts). Umya! Come on . . . if you’ve got the bloody nerve! I’ll finish you! Saying no to Pappa’s bloody wishes! (Winks at him .) u m a k a n t (picking up the tin-openerfrom the side-table). Let go of me, Manik! Let go! (She is onlypretending to bold him back) I’ll knock the bastard’s block off! I’ll crack him open like a cockroach! Let go of me! Let me go! I’ll kill the pimp! Let go! r a m a k a n t Fine one you are to come and kill me! I’ll bash your bloody brains out' Filthy bloody bastard! Let him go, Manik. Let go of him! u m a k a n t Manik let me g o . .. ram akant

Umakant goes towards the chair on which Pappa is sitting. He catches hold o f Ramakant who is behind the chair. Putting Pappa between them, Ramakant makes his chair topple. Ramakant, Umakant, and Pappa, all three fa ll to the ground. Pappa becomes invisible. Some moments pass. (bellowing like a bull). Let go o f me! Help me! Help! Quickly! Murder! They’re murdering me! Run! Mother! Ah! Ah!

pa p pa

Ramakant and Umakant raise Pappa to hisfeet. There is a gash on Pappa’s head, from which blood is streaming. The old man is half-dead with fear. He is trembling violently.


The Vultures M anik sets the chair upright. The two men support Pappa to the sofa. (sea tin g Pappa on the sofa). Oh, dear, dear! You’re badly hurt, are yo u , Pappa! u m a k a n t S on y, Pappa. Look, make him lie down. r a m a k a n t Lie dow n, Pappa. (Holds Pappa’s throat). pappa (flin ch in g , he leaps up and stands on the sofa). No! Never! You’re devils, you pimps! You’re going to kill me! You’re going to murder me. .. murder! I don’t want to die! don’t want to! I’m not goin g to! I’ll become a ghost. I’ll sit on your chests! Murderers! Call the police! Police! (He runs to the phone and picks up the receiver.) ram ak an t Cgoing near him, in a wheedling tone). Pappa, Pappa. Softly! ram akant

He takes the receiver out o f Pappa's hand and puts it down. Pappa backs away. I didn’t mean to do this____ (to Ramakant) You’re a bastard! Ra m a k a n t (leaping at him). And you’re a double bastard!


Pappa once again tries topick up thephone. Manik snatches it away. Enough! (Slight anger) Don’t make such an unnecessary fuss, Pappa! It’s only a tiny cut. pappa You get away from me too, you she-devil! You’re like the rest of them! You’ve plotted this. You’re going to kill me! You’re going to take my life. Murder me! You’ll rob what little money I’ve got left. . . I know it. .v. (Pappa is shocked suddenly into silence. They are all startled into silence, too.) Ra m a k a n t (swiftly). What money’s that, Pappa? u m a k a n t You mean, there’s still some left? Ra m a k a n t Bravo, Pappa! You’re a crafty old swine, it seems! u m a k a n t He’s cunning, the old bastard! Hides money from his own children! Ra m a k a n t So? O f course he will. And what’ll you bloody do? What’ll you do? You bloody miser! (Picks up the broken soda-bottle and the tin-opener. Gives the opener to Umakant.) u m a k a n t Shut up, you bastard! (Points the tin-opener towards him.) Ra m a k a n t Mind your tongue, Umya. . .

m a n ik


Getting Pappa between them, tbeyJeign a fight. (screaming). Oh! Oh! Oh! No, no! Don’t kill m e!. . . Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me . . . don’t kill me. . . (On bis face, in bis body, there is immeasurable fear. He sits trembling violently.) Don’t kill me, all o f you. I beg you not to kill me . . . please don’t . . . r a m a k a n t (to Umakant). Get to one side there! (To Pappa) Well, how much money is there, dear Pappa? u m a k a n t (going near Pappa). Which money are we going to rob; did you say? r a m a k a n t (shouting at him). Shove off, or I’ll tear you lengthways' (To Pappa) Tell me, Pappa . . . CPappa runs towards the door.) m a n ik (obstructing Pappa, to Umakant and Ramakant). You’re devils, the two o f you! (To Pappa) Pappa, you tell me. Which money did you say we were going to rob? pappa (his trembling basn ’/abated yet). Money . . . in the bank . .. the bank! (He tries to go towards thefront door.) r a m a k a n t (catching him). Which bank? (Pappa is not willing to speak. He just trembles away.) In which bank, Pappa? Speak up. Or this bloody Umya here may murder you for nothing . . . the bloody bastard! Tell me. In which bank is the money, Pappa? u m a k a n t (shouting). Are you going to tell us or not, you old swine? pa p pa (hastily). Punjab . . . the Punjab Bank . . . don’t kill me, you pimps! u m a k a n t (shouting). What name’s the account in? r a m a k a n t In whose name is it? Pappa? Tell me quick. m a n ik Go on, Pappa. Tell it all. pappa You won’t get away with this, you pimps! You won’t get away! (He is still trembling.) ‘Pitale Plumbers.. r a m a k a n t ‘Pitale Plumbers.’ (7o Umakant) It seems an old account. (To Pappa) It is an old one, isn’t it, Pappa? That’s what Uncle Sakharam got wind of. He didn’t come here for nothing. pappa It’s o ld ... but don’t kill me! m a n ik How much is there in it? Money? (To Ramakant) Ask him. pa p pa (with an effort). Seven thousand. m a n ik (unconsciously). My word! pa p pa She-devil! You’ll die a whore! r a m a k a n t We don’t need you to tell us that Go o n ... tell us more. Where’s the cheque-book? pa p pa


The Vultures No! . . . it’s . . . w ith me. u m a k a n t (casually displaying the tin-opener). What other places do you have money at, Pappa? Just so’s you won’t have needless anxiety.


Rama comes and stands by the tulsi-vrindavan outside. (shouting). There’s no more, you devils! There isn’t! That’s all there is, really. Please don’t kill me! I’m your father, you pimps! Your father! r a m a k a n t A father. . . and hiding money from his children! p a p p a Don't kill m e .. . Let m e... Let me go, I beg o f you! Let me go!


Ramakant, Umakant and Manik make signals to each other. Pappa, w ill y o u just q u ietly transfer the account to me? The seven thousand. . .?

ram akant

PAPPA N O . . .

He gets up. Ramakant leaps onto the sofa. Hefrom the back, and Umakantfrom thefront, both catch bold o f Pappa. Yes, 1 w i l l . . . I w ill! m a n ik Let him go, you two.

The two move away. Manik holds up Pappa and helps him to sit down. Sit down, Pappa, do. Calm down yourself now. Just write a cheque, Pappa. (Brings him a pen).

Pappa, in the grip o f unbearable strain, and o f whatever in toxica tion still remains, starts crying loudly and monotonously. He takes out the cheque-book and writes. (snatching the cheque). Damn blood’s still flowing! r a m a k a n t Wait. I’ll bring some iodine. pappa (shouting). NO! You’re going to kill me. (He cries) Bahu\ Where are you, Bahu\ They’re killing me, they’re killing me! BahtA umakant

Ramu runsfrom the\rindavan to the back door. It is locked. She remains in constant turmoil, against the locked door. (after signalling to Ramakant and Umakant). Wait, Pappa. I’ll fetch her.

m a n ik





She first goes and puts the telephone receiver back on the hook. Then goes and opens the door. She sees Rama in the doorway. There is scorn on Manik’sface. But she keeps her voice soft. Listen, Pappa’s calling you.

Rama runs in. Seeing him, she is thunderstruck. Why’re you gaping like a fool? There’s been an accident. Get some iodine at once . . . go on . . . get it. . .

While this is going on, Pappa runs out o f the other door. Fade out. Light only on the passageway at the rear. Pappa runs along it, holding his dhoti clear, looking backwards. The harsh screeching o f vultures can be heard.

SCENE VI Fade-in. Light only on the garage. ( sitting on a rolled-up mattress, hugging his knees). This is the story of the venerable Father-vulture’s hallowed end. O f the epic song of Rama And her tortures, Just one part.

r a j a n in a t h

The oldest vulture, That stubborn ghost With death in his desires. Hiding his ugly maw, Trailing a wing, Departed from the hollow o f a tree Where he lived, Drawing tracks o f hopelessness Upon the dust, With the dragging Of his corpselike, Hideous, Dangling limbs. After him went his tears, 88

The Vultures Spilling u p on the ground lik e the disgusting Droppings o f a bat. The foul odour O f those lust-infested tears may still endure. It still pervades the air, Somewhere, perhaps. Here. Or maybe there. For vultures’ tears are never dry Though human tears dry up While still they fall, And leave behind them only shrivelled Sobs for a sign. Here. . . here there trailed My father’s crooked, Staggering, Dragging limbs. And 1 didn't stop them The oldest vulture’s own bom son! Instead, I prayed For one more kick, Just some more blood. I wishedand wished for A wound less shallow That it might swallow The inmost part Of that rotting brain. And in its train, might cool The burning issue. For once. For all. O f the five vultures, The father-vulture’s Story thus ended. Of the tormented Tale o f Rama’s sufferings, Just one part. ( Fade-out) CURTAIN



ACT TWO SCENE I Fade-in. It is day. The drawing-room. Ramakant, Umakant and Manik. I’ll finish o ff each bloody one of you. Pick up your cards, Manik. Pick up yours, Umya. My rummy this time! ( Picks up bis own cards. Discards one.) Play on! Pick one, Manik. You too, Umya— been putting on bloody airs for too long— pick one! And I’ll finish you! I’ll make you vomit out money! Umakant serenely picks up a card. Throws down another, and places his cards on the table. Game o f rummy. Manik quietly puts down her cards. Ramakant is shocked and crestfallen at this. Rummy? Let me see, dammit— show me your cards. (Looking at them) Huh! Tactical bloody blunder this Manik made. Doesn’t understand the game at all! These women— they just hold their cards in their hands, and throw them► !r. ^ r ic 'K'/::^, 'Á \zacrrxs iet m e sittrp . I arr, "rr» u;ed

ACT THREE A mal, Vtmal and Kamal are playing cards. Each line is followed hy the throw o f a card. After every third card, the cards are mixed and the game begins anew. On ) 5 August 1947 India became Independent. Wc escaped from the clutches o f the British Empire.

a m a i. v im a l kam al

N o w w e have to build a self-sufficient, self-su p p o rtin g society.

We have to dismantle the capitalist system. v im a i . Fascism is leading the world to destruction. k a m a i . Communism kills man’s sense o f himself and his freed om . a m a l The dem ocratic process is a g o n izin g ly slow . v im a l Dictatorship has always been proved an evil. k a m a l Most p e o p le h ave to su ffer u n d er any system . a m a l Our country has become the home of anarchy and corruption. v im a l Our government can’t be trusted to do anything. k a m a l Power corrupts . . . a m a l Politics is dirty. v im a l Just concern yourself w ith your own work. k a m a l If I am alive, all is well. a m a l There has b ee n n o prom otion. v im a l The living quarters are terrible. k a m a i . Business is bad. a m a l My family is ill. v im a l My son failed again. k a m a i . My lather has died. am al

am al v im a l

H k xxly shame.

Damned nuisance.

KAMAI Ugh! am al v im a l

Y in u l Kanul

KAMAI A u u l


Evam Indrajit Vimal. . . vimal Kamal. . . kamal Am al. . . voice [offstage.] And Indrajit.


Enter the Writer. How are you, Poet? vimal How are you, Poet? kamal How a re you, Poet? writer Received a letter from Indrajit yesterday. amal What does he say? vimal Hasn’t he gone abroad? kamal Hasn’t he returned yet? writer He has finished his course successfully. amal That’s g o o d n e w s . vimal He w on ’t have any difficulty finding a job. Engineers are in great demand. kamal Foreign degrees have great value in our country. writer D o you want to hear what he says? amal Yes, indeed. vimal Is it a very long letter? kamal Let it be-let it be.


The Writer reads the letter. The three go on playing cards silently. Calcutta, London. Everything goes round and round like a wheel. Still it’s not a proper wheel, it’s spiral. And that precisely is the tragedy-the tragedy of knowing. I catch something. And just when I understand it, it suddenly ends and I throw it away. Then again I grab at something else. Still the hope for a sudden, unexpected, wonderful happening doesn’t die. One continues to feel that this isn’t all. Some time something must happen to fill the world with a dazzling light, throwing the past into obscurity. What a silly dream. The sleep ends-but not the hangover o f the dream.


Indrajit comes in and stands by the Writer. Whatever I wished to have, I have got. But there is no sense of achievement in it-that is the bitter truth. It is stupid to hope that more will come and one will sprout more hands to




size it. It’s pathetic. Just a dream. The past and the present are two ends of a single rope. They are apart because the dream is alive. Otherwise the future could easily be broken down and thrown into the arms of the past. The past instead o f remaining a wait for the vague, smoky future could be turned into a welldefined point-Death! m anasi [Enter.] Death! in d r a jit Yes, death. Dying! That is the greatest happiness. Who knows how many became happy by dying. They have caught all the future in the mould of the past-that’s why they are happy. I shall have to die like that one day. Then why not now? m a n a si Don’t say that. . . . Live! Live long! in d r a jit One needs faith to live. Faith in God, faith in fortune, faith in man, faith in work, faith in revolution, faith in oneself—faith in love. Tell me-which of them is alive in me today? m a n a si Not faith in life? in d r a jit Life? Engaging oneself in petty trivialities when one can’t answer the only question that matters. What meaningless poses and lies for which there is no real need. No real need. Still, one must do it. There’s life. Man’s life. And I am one among a million. The lie in my life is the lie in the lives of millions. m a n a si What do you want to do? in d r a jit What shall I do? Shall I go to sleep? Or shall I laugh it off? Perhaps that’s better. Life is so farcical that it is no use hiding one’s laughter away . . .

Indrajit bursts into laughter, suddenly. The Writer and Manasi walk o ff in different directions. Amal, Vimal, suddenly start laughing. The Writer re-enters and walks doivnstage. Loud laugher which slowly dies away as . . . [To the audience, as though they have been laughing.]D o n t laugh. For God’s sake, don’t laugh. I beg of you, be quiet, please. True, I am not succeeding with the play. But don’t you see I’m trying my best. A Play-—a play about Amal, Vimal, Kamal? And Indrajit?

w r it e r

Auntie enters. a u n t ie w r it e r

Aren’t y o u eating? No.

Auntie departs. Manasi comes in.

Evam Indrajit Aren’t you eating? writer [Hides his fa ce in his hands.! Not you too. .. manasi Sorry— I forgot— Have you written anything? writer How can I? Indrajit isn’t coming back. He has written three letters in three years. Every time, the same old thing. manasi What? writer About going round and round and round and not dying. Those arrogant dreams going round in the head are not dying. Tell me-how can you write a play about someone who sees life realistically and dreams about it romantically? manasi I can’t think o f a better protagonist for a play. writer No. It is not possible. The more I tie him up in a plot the more he escapes; says it isn’t real. The more lines I write for him, the more he stands outside them. Says they are not real. Oh! He knows too much-altogether too much. manasi Still he dreams. writer That dream will collapse one day. manasi I know. writer And then? manasi Let it. writer And then what? manasi Then he won’t try to clutch at a dream. writer What then? Won’t he go under? manasi Let him. Then he may find firm earth at the bottom. Then he may start living again. writer How do you know that? manasi Me? What do I know? Nothing. I a m stupid. I know nothing. I only believe. .. manasi

Exit. * wter Belief? Belief in the firm earth at the bottom?

[Comes in reciting J Keeping afloat Clutching at a piece of straw, Life resting on a wretched faith Of a believer. The land is blurred In a grey mist of sighs, The bright realms beyond the clouds Are lost in lies




In this love sojourn. O f false consolations! Take away the blindfold of faith From the eyes! Get drowned! Go under and see How far is the bottom How deep! Man moves; Man is the strangest of creatures! He builds his house on the rocks In the depth of the seas. w r it e r Indrajit. .. in d r a jit Yes. w r it e r You are back. in d r a jit Yes. w r it e r When did you come? in d r a jit Some time ago. w r it e r Where are you now? in d r a jit In Calcutta. w r it e r What are you doing? in d r a jit Working. w r it e r Married? in d r a jit Yes. w r it e r Ah! So Manasi agreed . . . in d r a jit No. w r it e r Then? in d r a jit Married somebody else. w r it e r Somebody else? in d r a jit Yes. w r it e r Whom? in d r a jit A woman .. . w r it e r Name? in d r a jit Manasi. w r it e r But how is that p o s s ib le ? in d r a jit That's what usually happens. Manasis come and go. One can get married to only one of them. The others come and go. Manasi’s sister Manasi. Manasi’s friend Manasi. Manasi’s daughter Manasi. w r it e r Like AmaJ, Vimal and Kamal?


Evam Indrajit iNDRAjrr Yes, like Amal, Vimal, Kama! and Indrajit.

Enter Manasi as Indrajit's wife. Ah! Meet my w ife Manasi. A very old friend of mine-he’s a Writer. writer Namaskar. manasi Namaskar. What do you write? writer Whatever's possible. manasi You are writing anything now? writer I’m trying to write a play. manasi Could you read it out to me? writer Yes, indeed. When I finish it. manasi Oh! But is there a lot left? writer Not much. I’ll start in a day or two. manasi Y o u mean you haven’t started yet? writer How could I? manasi But you just said you would soon finish it. writer Well, you see, in this play there isn't much difference between the beginning and the end. It’s circular play. manasi I’m afraid I don’t quite understand. . . indrajit Of course you don’t Manasi. It’s not meant to be under­ stood. manasi But surely one says something to be understood. indrajit One used to. But now it’s a question of habit. manasi G o on . . . Don’t be silly . . . indrajit It is silly. Look there . . .

Amal, Vimal enter and stand chatting at the other end o f the stage. Who is that? writer They are Amal, Vimal, and Kamal. amal Plutocracy-monarchy-democracy. vimal Imperialism, fascism, marxism. kamal Economics, politics, sociology. amal Quotations, tender, statement. vimal Report, minutes, budget. kamal Meeting, committee, conference. amal Civilization, education, culture. vimal Literature, philosophy, history. kamal Brahma, nirvana, bhooma. manasi



Raj Kapoor, Mala Sinha Vishwajit. v im a l Umrigar, Krishnan, Milka Singh. kam al Hemant Kumar, S.D. Burman, Lata Mageshkar. am al Doctor, homoeopath, poet. vim al Tram, bus, train. kam al Heat, dirt, mosquitoes. am al Son, daughter, wife. vim a l Master, driver, chief. kam al Uncle, niece, mother-in-law. m anasi What are they saving? in d r a jit They are talking.

am al

Amal, Vimal, Kamal go out, gesticulating silently. About what? in d r a jit 1 don’t know. Ask the Writer. m a n a si [To the Writer.) Is there nothing besides that? w r it e r There should be-there must be!' [To the audience.]Don't you think there is anything to talk ?bout besides that? No? Then what should one write? A play with such stuff? Who will produce it? Who’ll see it? Indrajit and Manasi start to go out. Indrajit wait a bit.

m a n a si

Indrajit comes back. Exit Manasi. Tell me one thing before you go. in d r a jit What? w r it e r Where is Manasi? in d r a jit You saw her a moment ago. w r it e r Not this Manasi. But the Manasi o f Hazaribagh. in d r a jit She is in Hazaribagh. w r it e r Don’t you write to her? in d r a jit Sometimes. w r it e r Do you meet her? in d r a jit Occasionally. w r it e r Where? in d r a jit In that park. Under that tree. w r it e r D o you talk? in d r a jit Yes. w r it e r About what? in d r a jit The same things as usual. About m e and her.


Evam Indrajit As usual? The sort of things Amal, Vimal and Kamal were saying?

w r it e r

No answer. What Indrajit7

He enters the park. Manasi is sitting there under the same old tree. Say something. indrajit What? manasi Whatever you were going to say. indrajit What was that? manasi About yourself, about your family. indrajit Oh yes! My wife looks after the house. I work in the office. My wife goes to a film. I go with her. My wife goes to her parents’ house. I eat in a restaurant. She comes back. I go marketing. manasi What is all this, Indrajit? indrajit Life at home. You wanted to hear about it. manasi I don’t want to hear all this. indrajit Then what do you want to know? manasi About you. indrajit Me? I walk between the rails o f the railway line. It’s a straight line. I look back-the iron rails meet in a point far away. I look ahead-the same two iron rails meet in a point far away. The further 1move the more the points move too. What is behind is ahead. There is no distance between the past and the future. What’s there in the past is in the future as well. manasi Then? indrajit I used to hope for the arrival of the train. manasi What would happen then? indrajit I would jump off or at least fall under it. Do something. B u t nothing happens. Because no train runs on those rails. I have found that out. Sometimes I think . . . manasi

Pause. manasi



i think I must stop. Not walk any further. Sleep on the

track. manasi [Pause.) H o w is that possible, Indrajit?



A n d w h y not?

You have to walk the road. in d r a jit I have been walking all these years. m a n a si You have to go on walking. in d r a jit I’m tired. m a n a s i Y ou w ill have to go on. in d r a jit But why? Why? Why? The same old road . . . I walk and walk and walk. Keep on walking. And yet is there no escape? m a n a si No. There is no escape. w r it e r No, there's no’ scape And yet, There’s no ‘scape. Hungry mornings. Wakeful nights. Shattered days. Bitter hours. I am. Even today. Alive. Awake. And remembering. There’s more left, More o f this life. What I was, I still am, Will be, beyond, Far, far away, Being more and more and more It’s all me-it’s all I am. And yet, There’s no escape. 1 fly on the wings of fatigue In a stupor of winged rest My childhood flies, And rises and dips, And floats . . . Fragments of time past. I whirl in the wheel o f work( I blow up balloons With empty words. I fill the grottoes with heavy echoes And yet, There’s no escape. You know me well. You know all o f me, All the words of music,

m a n a si

Evam Indrajit Of crashing cymbals All the dazzling lights Sick with drunkenness You know the multicoloured shroud That covers the rotting corpse, You know all that’s there before Is only a garland Of flowers that have been You know I end here I’m dead. Within me. And yet why do I insist That I go on? For there is-Oh! Yet there is No escape! indrajit But why? manasi One has to carry on. indrajit Why does one have to carry on? What is there beyond the path? Why should I carry on? manasi Why does everyone carry on? INDRAJIT Everyone?

Amal enters. Sees the Writer. Hello! Amal. Where are you off to? amal I’ve to take an exam. whiter An exam? At your age? amal Well, it’s an exam arranged by the Institute o f Better-manship! I tried last year-but failed. Let’s see this time-one more chance. This time I’ve even taken a correspondence course! writer What use is the Diploma? amal Use? Brother, every use. If I get the Associate Membership o f the Institute, no one can stop my promotion. I may even become the Manager. Well. I must be off. I’m getting late.


Goes. Vimal comes in. Hello! Vimal. Where are you off to? vimal I am trying to get a cement permit. You know, if one does not grease the palms, the files just don’t move. writer What’s the cement for? vimal I'm building a house. I have taken some land under the C.l.T.




Scheme. The reserve price is six and a half thousand. In the auction it went up to nine thousand, eight hundred and fifty. That’s just for the land, mind you. After that how much would be for the house, do you think? Government loan, Insurance loan, Employment Credit loan-I took them all-but the house doesn’t rise beyond its second floor. w r it e r Then why do you have to build it right now? v im a l What else would you do? No one cares for the rupee any more. If one builds a house now, one will have a roof over one’s head in old age. Besides one has to think of one’s children. But I’m getting late . . . Goodbye.

Vimal goes off\Kamal comes in. Hello! Kamal. Where are you off to? k a m a l I’ve to see Shyamal at his office. He has got hold o f a financier. One must have a bash at persuading him.. . w r it e r Persuade him to do what? k a m a l Well, you see. We’ve got hold o f an excellent business scheme. Absolutely foolproof. There will be no difficulty about the import licence. Assembling will be easy. The demand is expanding. The goods won’t even reach the market— all booked in advance! The difficulty is about the capital, you see. Shyamal and I have collected a little, but it’s nowhere near enough. Even at fifteen per cent interest no money is forthcoming. w r it e r Then don’t go in for it! k a m a l But, my dear fellow, what will I eat? This is my work. By God’s grace I have six children. I spent a thousand on my daughter’s illness. The second boy failed in the exam-so that was a net loss of a year’s fees. How long can one go on like this? Anyway I can’t stay long here. Goodbye.

w r it e r

Kamal goes out, along with the writer. Everyone! This is everyone! Amal, Vimal and Kamal. m a n a s i Still they carry on . . . in d r a j it Manasi, they are happy. They have something to look forward to. A hope-an ambition-a dreamm a n a s i You don’t? in d r a jit

in d r a jit

No .

Didn't you ever have one? in d r a jit Oh yes, 1had. I was myself then. I had accepted that I had

m anasi

Evam Indrajit [o do something. Didn't know what, but something unusual, important, unprecedented. 1 used to dream then o f coming up like a shooting star shattering the sky into shivers-coming up filling the sky with light from one corner to another-coming up and up until the fire in one burnt down to ashes and only a momentary flame remained in the sky . . . manasi Are you burnt to ashes now? indrajit Oh no! The light never came. The sky didn’t burn. I could not leave the solid earth. manasi Why not? indrajit 1 didn’t have it in me to do that. Never did. 1 just dreamt that I could, that’s all. So long as I couldn’t accept my ordinariness 1dreamt. Now I accept it. manasi Indrajit. . . indrajit No, Manasi, don’t call me Indrajit, please don’t. I am N irm al. Amal, Vimal, Kamal and Nirmal. Amal, Vimal, Kamal and Nirmal

Walks downstage repeating this line. 'Pie Writer comes and stands behind him. Manasi remains seated. Indrajit. .. indrajit Y o u must be mistaken. I am Nirmal Kumar R ay . writer Don’t you recognize me, Indrajit? indrajit Who are you?. .. The Writer? w riter I can’t finish the play, Indrajit. .. indrajit What’s the point of finishing it? It won't ever get completed. Its end is its beginning .. . w riter Yet one has to write. indrajit It’s your job to write. So write away. What have I to do with it? I am Nirmal. w r iter But you are not looking for promotion— or building a house— or developing a business scheme. How can you b e Nirmal? indrajit But. . . but I’m just an ordinary man. writer That does not make you Nirmal. I am ordinary too— c o m m o n ! Yet I am not Nirmal. You and I can’t be Nirmals. indrajit Then how shall we live? w riter Walk! Be on the road! For us there is only the road. We shall walk. I know nothing to write about-still 1 shall have to write. You have nothing to say-still you will have to talk. Manasi has

w riter


nothing to live for-she will have to live. For us there is only the road-so walk on. We are the cursed spirits o f Sisyphus. We have to push the rock to the top-even if it just rolls down. in d r a jit Must we, even when we know? w r it e r Yes, we must, even when we know. We have no h o p e because we know the future. Our past is one with our future We know what’s behind us will also be ahead of us. in d r a jit Must we still live? w r it e r We must, we must, we must. We must live. We must walk. We know no sacred places. Yet w e must go on with the pilgrimage . . . There’s no respite.

Manasi comes and stands between the two. They look out in the distance at the horizon. The stage gets dark—except fo r a single ray of light which lights them up. They intone together. And hence There's no end. There’s no hope Of fulfilment By the holy shrine At journey’s end. Forget the questions Forget the grief. And have faith In the road— The endless road. No shrine for us No God for us But the road, The endless road.

PART II Little but w ell-k n ow n stories, narratives, Akhyanas have dom inated Indian art-forms. Puranas are full o f them. Story-telling comes easily to an Indian. In this section w e have plays which are perhaps the finest examples o f story-telling. Folk-stories, Puranic-stories, modern-stories, stories about self and identity are all there in contemporary Indian theatre. You will find here some o f the finest examples o f the akhyanas led by G irjsh K a r n a d and his retelling a story from the

Vetal Panchvinshi. These stories how ever probe our identities, o u r selves. Charles Taylor has characterized the modern notion o f self-understanding thus: For the m od ern I am a natural b ein g , I am characterised by a set o f inner drives, or goals, or desires and aspirations knowing what I am is re­ ally know ing about these. If I enquire after my identity, ask seriously w ho I am, it is here that I have to look for an answer. The horizon o f iden­ tity is an inner horizon. These plays tell a story each. But they are essen­ tially looking at the horizon o f identity as an inner h o­ rizon. As such this story-telling is not only intended for a Sahridaya spectator (a theatre goer w ho knows the story, and as such can relate to it) as the Natya Shastra would have it but also for a m odem whose search is mainly for the inner horizon o f his identity.


itç *rl i î :ii •«•


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* •« C') t il { s'I - .*• ::5

Hayavadana GIRISH KARNAD Translation: By the Author


The stage is empty exceptfo r a chair, kept centrestage, and a table on stage right—o r at the back— on which the Bhagavata and the musicians sit. At the beginning o f the performance, a mask o f Ganesha is brought on stage and kept on the chair. Pooja is done. The Bhagavata sings verses in praise o f Ganesha, accompanied by his musicians. Then the mask is taken away. O Elephant— headed Herambha whose flag is victory, and who shines like a thousand suns. 0 husband o f Riddhi and Siddhi, seated on a mouse and decorated with a snake. 0 single-tusked destroyer of incompleteness, we pay homage to you and start out play. Many Vighneshwara, the destroyer of obstacles, who removes all hurdles and crowns all endeavours with success, bless our performance now. How indeed can one hope to describe his glory in our poor, disabled words? An elephant’s head on a human body, a broken tusk and a cracked bellywhichever way you look at him he seems the embodiment of imperfection, o f incompleteness. How indeed can one fathom the mystery that this very Vakratunda-Mahakaya, with his crooked face and distorted body, is the Lord and Master of Success and Perfection? Could it be that this Image of Purity and Holiness, this Mangala-moorty, intends to signify by his very appearance that the completeness o f God is something no poor mortal can comprehend? Be that as it may. It is not for us to understand this Mystery or try to unravel it. Nor is it within our powers to do so. Our duty is merely to pay homage to the Elephant-headed god and get on with our play. This is the city o f Dharmapura, ruled by Kind Dharmasheela whose fame and empire have already reached the ends o f the eight directions. Two youths who dwell in this city are our heroes. One is Devadatta. Comely in appearance, fair in colour, unrivalled in intelligence, Devadatta is the only son o f the Revered Brahmin




Vidyasagara. Having felled the mightiest pundits of the kingdom in debates on logic and love, having blinded the greatest poets o f the world with his poetry and wit, Devadatta is as it were the apple of every eye in Dharmapura. The other youth is Kapila. He is the only son o f the ironsmith Lohita, who is to the King’s armoury as an axle to the chariot-wheel. He is dark and plain to look at, yet in deeds which require drive and daring, in dancing, in strength and in physical skills, he has no equal.

A scream o f terror is heard off-stage. The Bhagavata frowns, quickly looks in the direction o f the scream, then carries on. The world wonders at their friendship. The world sees these two young men wandering down the streets o f Dharmapura, hand in hand, and remembers Lava and Kusha, Rama and Lakshmana, Krishna and Balarama. [smgs] Two friends there were — one mind, one heart—

The scream is heard again. The Bhagavata cannot ignore it any more. Who could that be— creating a disturbance at the very outset of our performance? ( looks) Oh! It’s Nata, our Actor. And he is running. What could have happened, I wonder?

The Actor comes running in, trembling withfear. He rushes on to the stage, runs round the stage once, then sees the Bhagavata and grabs him. Sir, Bhagavata Sirb h a g a v a t a [trying to free himself] TutlTut! What’s this! What’s this? a c t o r Sir . . . oh my God! God! b h a g a v a t a Let me go! I tell you, let g o of me! [Freeing himself.I Now what's this! What .. . a c t o r I— I— I— Oh God! [Grabs him again.] b h a g a v a t a let me go! acto r

The Actor moves back. What nonsense is this? What do you mean by all this shouting

Hayavadana and screaming? In front o f our audience too! How dare you disturb . . . actor Please, please, I’m— sorry . . . But— bu t. . . bhagavata (more calmly. Now, now, calm down! There’s nothing to be afraid o f here. I am here. The musicians are here. And there is our laige-hearted audience. It may be that they fall asleep during a play sometimes. But they are very alert when someone is in trouble. Now, tell us, what’s the matter? actor {panting. Oh— Oh— My heart.. . It’s going to burst. . . bhagavata Sit down ! Sit. Right! Now tell me everything quietly, slowly. actor

I was on my way here . . . I was already late . . . didn’t want

to annoy you . . . So I was hurrying down when . . . Ohh!

Covers his face with his hands. Yes, Yes. you were hurrying down. Then? actor I’m shivering! On the way . . . you see . . . I had drunk a lot of water this morning . . . my stomach was fu ll. . . so to relieve myself. . . bhagavata Watch what you are saying! Remember you are on stage bhagavata

I didn’t do anything! I only wanted to . . . so I sat by the side of the road— and was about to pull up my dhoti when . . . bhagavata yes? actor A voice— a deep, thick voice . . . it said: ‘Hey, you there— don’t you know you are not s u p p o se d to commit nuisance on the main road?’ bhagavata Quite right too. You should have known that much. actor I half got up and looked around. Not a man in sight — no one! So I was about to sit down again when the same v o ic e said . . . bhagavata Yes? actor ‘you irresponsible fellow, can’t you understand you are not to commit nuisance on the main road?’ I looked up. And there — right in front o f me— across the fence . . . bhagavata Who was there? actor A horse! bhagavata What’ actor A horse! And it was talking. actor


W h a t d id yo u h ave to d r in k this m orn in g?



Nothing, I swear. Bhagavata Sir, I haven’t been near a toddyshop for a whole week. I didn’t even have milk today. b h ag a vata Perhaps you liver is sensitive to water. a c t o r \desperate). Please believe me. I saw it clearly— it was a horse— and it was talking. b h a g a vat a [resigned. It’s no use continuing this nonsense. So you saw a talking horse? Good. Now go and get made up . . . a c t o r Made up? I fall to your feet, Sir, I can’t . . . b h a g a v a t a N o w look here . . . a c t o r Please, Sir . . acto r

He holds up his hand. It’s trembling. You see, Sir? How can I hold up a sword with this? How can 1 fight? b h a g a v a t a [thinks1. Well then. There’s only one solution left. You go back . . . a c t o r Back? b h a g a v a t a . . . . back to that fence, have another look and make sure for yourself that whoever was talking, it couldn’t have been that horse. a c t o r No! BHAGAVATA Nata .. . a c t o r I can’t! b h a g a vat a It’s an order. a c t o r [pleading. Must I? b h a g a vat a Yes, you must. a c t o r Sir. . .

The Bhagavata turns to the audience and starts singing. bhagavata

T w o friends there w e r e

— o n e m ind, o n e heart—

Are you still here?

The Actor goes out looking at the Bhagavata, hoping fo r a last minute reprieve. It doesn'/come. Poor boy! God alone knows what he saw— and what he took it to be ! There’s Truth for you . .. Pure Illusion. Two friends there were —one mind, one heart—

A scream in the wings. The Actor comes rushing in. ICO

Hayavadana Now look here . . . actor It’s coming. Coming . . . bhagavata What’s coming? actor Him! He’s coming . . . [rushes out.] bhagavata Him! It? What’s coming? Whatever or whoever it is, the Actor has obviously been frightened by its sight. If even a hardened actor like him gets frightened, it’s more than likely that our gentle audience may get frightened too. It’s not proper to let such a sight walk on stage unchallenged. [To the wingd. Hold up the entry-curtain!

Two stagehands enter and hold up a half-curtain, above sixfeet in height—the sort o f curtain used in Yakshagana or Kathakali. The curtain masks the entry o f Hayavadana, who comes and stands behind it. Who’s that?

No reply. Only the sound o f someone sobbing behind the curtain. How strange! Someone’s sobbing behind the curtain. It looks as though the Terror which frightened our Actor is itself now crying! [To the stagehand Lower the curtain!

The cu rta in is lowered by about a fo o t. One sees Hayavadana’s head, which is covered by a veil. At a sign from the Bhagavata, one of the stagehands removes the veil, revealing a horse's head. Fora while the horse-head doesn't realize that it is exposed to the gaze o f the audience. The moment the realization dawns, the head ducks behind the curtain. bhagavata

A horse! No, it can’t be!

He makes a sign. The curtain is lowered a little more—just enough to show the head again. Again it ducks. Again the curtain is lowered. This goes on till the curtain is lowered right down to the floor. Hayavadana, who has a m an’s body but.a horse’s head, is sitting on thefloor hiding his head between his knees. Incredible! Unbelievable! At a signfrom the Bhagavata, the stagehand withdraw.



The Bhagavata goes and stands near Hayavadana. Ihen he grunts to himselfas though he has seen through the trick Who are you?

Hayavadana lifts his head, and wipes the tears away. The Bhagavata beckons to him to come centre-stage. Come here!

Hayavadana hesitates, then comes forward. First you go around scaring people with this stupid mask. And then you have the cheek to disturb our show with your clowning? Have you no sense of proportion?. .. Enough of this nonsense now. Take it off—I say, take off that stupid mask!

Hayavadana doesn't move. You won’t?—Then I’ll have to do it myself!

Holds Hayavadana’s head with both his hands and tries to pull it off Hayavadana doesn’t resist. It is tight. Nata—My dear Actor . . .

The Actor comes in, warily, and stands open-mouthed at the sight he sees. Why are you standing there? Don’t you see you were taken in by a silly mask? Come and help me take it off now.

The Actor comes and holds Hayavadana by his waist while the Bhagavata pulls at the head. Hayavadana offers no resistance, but can’t help moaning when thepain becomes unbearable. The tug-of-war continues fo r a while. Slowly, the truth dawns on the Bhagavata. Nata, this isn’t a mask! It’s his real head!

The Actor drops Hayavadana with a thud. Hayavadana gets up and sits as before, head between knees. Truly, surprises will never cease! If someone had told me only five minutes ago that there was a man with a horse’s head. I would have laughed out in his face. [7o Hayavadana.J Who are you?

Hayavadana Hayavadana gets up and starts to go out. The Actor hurriedly move out o f his way. Wait! Wait! That’s our green room there. It’s bad enough that you scared this actor. We have a play to perform today, you know.

Hayavadana stands, dejected. [Sojtl^ W ho are you? No reply. What brought you to this? Was it a curse of some rishi! Or was it some holy place of pilgrimage, a punyasthana, which you desecrated? Or could it be that you insulted a palivrata, dedicated to the service of her husband? Or did you . . hayavadana Hey . . . bhagavata [taken abacft. Eh? h ayavad ana What do you mean, Sir? Do you think just because you know the puranas you can go about showering your Sanskrit on everyone in sight? What temple did I desecrate? What women did I insult7W hat. . . bhagavata Don’t get annoyed .. . h a ya v a d a n a What else? What rishi! What sage? What? Who have I wronged? What have I done to anyone? Let anyone come forward and say that I’ve done him any wrong. I haven’t— I know I haven’t yet. . .

He is on the point o f beginning to sob again. Don’t take it to heart so much. What h a p p e n e d ? What s your grief? You are not alone here. I am here. The m u sicia n s are here. And there is our large-hearted audience. It may b e that they fall asleep during a play sometimes . . . h a ya va d a n a What can anyone d o? It’s my fate. bhagavata What’s your name? h a ya v a d a n a Hayavadana. bhagavata H o w did you get this horse s head? h a ya va d a n a I was born with it. bhagavata Then why didn’t you stop us when w e triedto take it off? Why did you put up with our torture? h ayavad ana Ali my life I’ve been trying to get rid of this head. I thought— you with all your goodness and punya . . . if at least you managed to pull it o ff... bhagavata



Oho! Poor man! But, Hayavadana, what can anyone do about a head one’s born with? Who knows what error committed in the last birth is responsi. . . h a y a v a d a n a Iannoyed. It has nothing to do with my last birth. It's this birth which I can’t shake off. b h a g a v a t a Tell us what happened. Don’t feel ashamed. h a y a v a d a n a [enraged. Ashamed? Me? Why should I . . . b h a g a v a t a Sorry. I beg your pardon. I should have said shy . h a y a v a d a n a [gloomy1. It’s a long story. b h a g a v a t a Carry on. h a y a v a d a n a My mother was the Princess of Karnataka. She was a very beautiful girl. When she came of age, her father decided that she should choose her own husband. So princes o f every kingdom in the world were invited— and they all came. From China, from Persia, from Africa. But she didn’t like any o f them. The last one to come was the Prince of Araby. My mother took one look at that handsome prince sitting on his great white stallion— and she fainted. ACTOR Ah! h a y a v a d a n a Her father at once decided that this was the man. All arrangements for the wedding were made. My mother woke up— and do you know what she said? a c t o r , b h a g a v a t a What? h a y a v a d a n a She said she would only marry that horse! a c t o r What! h a y a v a d a n a Yes. She wouldn’t listen to anyone. The Prince o f Araby burst a blood-vessel. a c t o r Naturally. h a y a v a d a n a No one could dissuade her. So ultimately she was married off to the white stallion. She lived with him for fifteen years. One morning she wakes up— and no horse! In its place stood a beautiful Celestial Being, a gandharva. Apparently this Celestial Being had been cursed by the god Kuvera to be bom a horse for some act o f misbehaviour. After fifteen years of human love he had become his original self again. b h a g a v a t a I must admit several such cases are on record. hayavad ana Released from his curse, he asked my mother to accompany him to his Heavenly Abode. But she wouldn't. She said she would come only if he became a horse again. So he cursed her . . .

bh ag avata

Hayavadana ACTOR


He cursed her to become a horse herself. So my mother became a horse and ran away happily. My father went back to his Heavenly Abode. Only I— the child of their marriage— was left behind. Bhagavata It’s a sad story. hayavadana

a c to r V e r y sad.

What should I do now, Bhagavata Sir? What can I d o to get rid o f this head? bh ag avata Hayavadana, what’s written on our foreheads can n ot be altered. hayavadana I slapping himself on the forehead. But what a forehead! What a forehead! If it was a forehead like yours, I would have accepted anything. But this! . . . I have tried to accept my fate. My personal life has naturally been blameless. So I took interest in the social life of the Nation— Civics, Politics, Patriotism, Nationalism, Indianization, the Socialist Pattern of Society . . . I have tried everything. But where’s my society? Where? You must help me to become a complete man, Bhagavata Sir. But how? What can I do? hayavadana

Long silence. They think bhagavata



W h a t’

If you go to Banaras and make a vow in front of the g o d there . . . hayavadana I’ve tried that. Didn’t work. actor Rameshwar. hayavadana Banaras, Rameshwar, Gokarn, Haridwar, Gaya, Kedamath— not only those but the Dargah o f Khwaja "Yusuf Baba, the Grotto o f Our Virgin Mary— I’ve tried them all. Magicians, mendicants, maharishis, fakirs, saints and sadhus—sadhus with short hair, sadhus with beards— sadhus in saffron, sadhus in the altogether— hanging, singing, routing, gyrating— on the spikes, in the air, under water, under the ground . • . I’ve covered them all. And what did I get out o f all this? Every-— where I went I had to cover my head with a veil— and I started going bald. [Pause. Shyly.] You know, I hate this head— but I just can’t help being fond o f this lovely, long mane. [Pause ) So— I had to give the miss to Tirupati. bhagavata



Long silence. Come to think of it, Hayavadana, why don’t you try the Kali of Mount Chitrakoot? h a y a v a d a n a Anything you say. b h a g a v a t a It’s a temple at the top o f Mount Chitrakoot. The goddess there is famous for being ever-awake to the call o f devotees. Thousands used to flock to her temple once. No one goes now, though. h a y a v a d a n a Why not? b h a g a v a t a She used to give anything anyone asked for. A s the people became aware of this they stopped going. h a y a v a d a n a Fools! b h a g a v a t a Why don’t you try her? h a y a v a d a n a [jumps up]. Why not’ I’ll start at once . . . b h a g a v a t a Good. But I don’t think you should go alone. It’s a wild road . . . You’ll have to ask a lot o f people, which won’t be easy for you. So . . . [To the Actor.] You’d better go with him. a c t o r Me? b h a g a v a t a Yes, that way you can make up for having insulted him h a y a v a d a n a But, Bhagavata Sir, may 1 point out that his roadside manners. . . . a c t o r There! He is insulting me now! Let him find his own way What do I care? B h a g a v a t a Come, come, don’t let’s start fighting now. [To Hayavadana.] Don’t worry. There’s no highway there, only cart-track at best. [To the Actor.) You’ve no reason to feel insulted— Actually you should admire him. Even in his dire need, he doesn’t lose his civic sense. Be off now. h a y a v a d a n a [7o the Actor). Please, don’t get upset. I won’t bother you, I promise. [To the Bhagavata.) I am most grateful . . . b h a g a v a t a [blessing him .1May you become successful in your search for completeness. The two go. Each one to his own fate. Each one to his own desire. Each one to his own luck. Let’s now turn to our story.


Hayavadana He starts singing. Thefollowing is a prose rendering o f the song. Ismgsi Tw o friends there were— one mind, one heart. They saw a girl and forgot themselves. But they could not understand the song she sang. female c h o r u s {si'wgsl. Why should love stick to the sap of a single body? When the stem is drunk with the thick yearning of the many-petalled, many-flowered lantana, why should it be tied down to the relation o f a single flower? bhagavata They forgot themselves and took off their bodies. And she took the laughing heads, and held them high so the pouring blood bathed her, coloured her red. then she danced around and sang. female c h o r u s (sm&sj. A head for each breast. A pupil for each eye. A side for each arm. I have neither regret nor shame. The blood pours into the earth and a song branches out in the sky.


Devadatta enters and sits on the chair. He is a slender, delicate-looking person and is wearing a pale-coloured mask. He is lost in thought. Kapila enter. He is powerfully built and wears a dark mask. [even as he is entering. Devadatta, why didn't you come to the gymnasium last evening? I’d asked you to. It was such fun... devadatta (preoccupied 1 . Some work . . . kapila Really, you should have come. The wrestler from Gandhara— he’s one o f India's greatest, you know— he came. Nanda and I were wrestling when he arrived. He watched us. When I caught Nanda in a crocodile-hold, he first burst into applause and said kapila

Notices that Devadatta isn’t listening and stops. Pause. [waking up). Then? kapila Then what? d evad atta [flustered^. I mean . . . what did Nanda do? kapila He played the flute. d e v a d a tta [more confused. No . . . I mean . . . you were saying something about the wrestler from Gandhara. Weren’t you? ka pila He wrestled with me for a few minutes, patted me on the back and said, *You’ll go far’.

d evad atta



That’s nice. k a p il a Yes, it is . . . Who’s it this time? d e v a d a t t a What’ do you mean? Ka p il a I mean— who— is— it— this— time? d e v a d a t t a What do you mean who? k a p il a I mean— who is the girl? d e v a d a t t a N o one. [Pause.] How did you guess? k a p il a My dear friend, I have seen you fall in love fifteen times in the last two years. How could I not guess? d e v a d a t t a Kapila, if you’ve come to make fun of me . . . k a p il a I am not making fun o f you. Every time, you have been the first to tell me about it. Why so shy this time? d e v a d a t t a How can you even talk o f them in the same breath as her? Before her, they’re as . . . k a p il a . . . as stars before the moon, as the glow-worms before a torch. Yes, yes, that’s been so fifteen times too. d e v a d a t t a [exploding. Why don’t you go home? You are becoming a bore. k a p il a Don’t get annoyed. d e v a d a tta You call yourself my friend. But you haven’t understood me at all. k a p il a And have you understood me? No, you haven’t. Or you wouldn't get angry like this. Don’t you know I would do anything for you? Jump into a well— or walk into fire. Even my parents aren’t as close to me as you are. I would leave them this minute if you asked me to. d e v a d a t t a [ irritated]. Don’t start on that now. You’ve said it fifty times already. k a p il a And I'll say it again. If it wasn’t for you I would have been no better than the ox in our yard. You showed me that there were such things as poetry and literature. You taught me . . . d e v a d a t t a Why don’t you go home? All I wanted was to be by myself for a day. Alone. And you had to come and start your chatter. What do you know o f poetry and literature? Go back to you smithy— that’s where you belong. k a p il a [hurt]. Do you really want me to go? d e v a d a t t a Yes. k a p il a All right. If that’s what you want. He starts to go. devad atta

d e v a d a tta

Sit dow n .

Hayavadana This is o f course exactly what Kapila wants. He sits down on thefloor. And don’t speak . . .

Devadatta gets down on thefloor to sit beside Kapila. Kapila at once leaps up and gestures to Devadatta shakes his head but Kapila insists, pulls him up by his arm. Devadatta gets up. You are a pest.

Sits on the chair. Kapila sits down on the ground happily. Along pause. Islowty. How can I describe her, Kapila? Her forelocks rival the bees, her face is . ..


All this is fam iliar to Kapila and he joins in, with gredt enjoyment. ... is a white lotus. Her beauty is as the magic lake. Her arms the lotus creepers. Her breasts are golden urns and her waist .


devadatta kapila

N o . N o!



I w a s b lin d all these days. I d e c e iv e d m y s e lf that I

u n d erstood p oetry. I d id n ’t. I u n d erstood nothing.

Tanvee shyama— . . . shikharidashana pakvabimbadharoshthi—Madhye kshama chakitaharineeprekshana nimnanabhih dev ad atta The Shyama Nayika— born o f Kalidasa’s magic description— as Vatsyayana had dreamt her. Kapila, in one appearance, she became my guru in the poetry o f love. Do you think she would even assent to becoming my disciple in love itself? kapila [aside). This is n ew ! devadatta (his eyes shining1. If only she would consent to be my Muse, I could outshine Kalidasa. I’d always wanted to do that— but I thought it was impossible . . . But now I see it isn't at all impossible. kapila Then go ahead. Write . .. devadatta But how can I without her in front o f me? How can I both



concentrate when my whole being is only thinking o f her, craving for her? k a p il a What’s her name? Will you at least tell me that? DEVADATTA Her name? She has no name. k a p il a But what do her parents call her? d e v a d a t t a [anguished. What’s the use? She isn’t meant for the likes of me . . . k a p il a You don’t really believe that, do you? With all your qualities— achievements— looks— family— grace . . . d e v a d a t t a Don’t try to console me with praise. k a p il a I’m not praising you. You know very well that every parent of every girl in the city is only waiting to catch you . . . d e v a d a t t a Don’t! Please. I know this girl is beyond my wildest dreams. But still— I can’t help wanting her— I can’t help it. I swear, Kapila, with you as my witness I swear, if I ever get her as my wife, I’ll sacrifice my two arms to the goddess Kali, I’ll sacrifice my head to Lord Rudra . .. k a p il a Ts! Ts! [Aside.] This is a serious situation. It does look as though this sixteenth girl has really caught our Devadatta in her net. Otherwise, he isn’t the type to talk with such violence. d e v a d a t t a I mean it! What’s the use o f these hands and this head if I ’m not to have her? My poetry w on ’t live without her. Shakuntalam will never be excelled. But how can 1 explain this to her ? 1 have no cloud for a messenger. No bee to show the way. Now the only future I have is to stand and do penance in Pavana Veethi. . . k a p il a Pavana Veethi? Why there? d e v a d a t t a She lives in that street. k a p il a H o w do you know? d e v a d a t t a 1 saw her in the market yesterday evening. I couldn t remove my eyes from her and followed her home. k a p il a Tut! Tut! What must people have thought. . . ? d e v a d a t t a She went into a house in Pavana Veethi. I waited outside all evening. She didn’t come out. k a p il a Now tell me. What sort o f a house was it? d e v a d a t t a I can’t remember. k a p il a What colour? d e v a d a t t a Don’t know. k a p il a H o w many storeys? d e v a d a t t a I didn’t notice.

Hayavadana You mean you didn’t notice anything about the house? devadatta The door-frame of the house had an engraving of a twoheaded bird at the top. I only saw that. She lifted her hand to knock and it touched the bird. For a minute, the bird came alive. kapila [jumps upJ. Then why didn’t you tell me before? You've been wasting all this precious time .. . devadatta I don’t understand .. . kapila My dear Devadatta, your cloud-messenger, your bee, your pigeon is sitting right in front of you and you don’t even know itf You wait here. I’ll go, find out her house, her name . . . devadatta [incredulous. Kapila— Kapila . . . kapila I’ll be back in a few minutes . . . devadatta I w on’t ever forget this, Kapila . . . kapiia Shut u p !. . . And forget all about your arms and head. This job doesn’t need either Rudra or Kali. I’m quite enough. [Goes out.] devadatta Kapila— Kapila. . . . He's gone. How fortunate I am to have a friend like him. Pure gold. [Pause. 1 But should I have trusted this to him? He means well— and he is a wizard in his smithy, in his farm, in his field. But here? No. He is too rough, too indelicate. He was the wrong man to send. He’s bound to ruin the whole thing. [Anguished.] Lord Rudra, I meant what I said. If I get her my head will be a gift to you. Mother Kali, I’ll sacrifice my arms to you. I swear . . . kapha

Goes out. The Bhagavata removes the chair. Kapila enters. This is Pavana Veethi— the street o f merchants. Well, well, well. What enormous houses! Each one a palace in itself. It’s wonder people don’t get lost in these houses.


Examines the doors one by one. Now. This is not a double-headed bird. It’s an eagle-This’s? A lotus. This is— er—a lion. Tiger. A wheel. And this? God alone knows what this is. And the next? [In disgust.) A horse!— a rhinoceros— another lion. Another lotus!—Where the hell is that stupid two-headed bird? [s/ops.) What was the design? 1couldn’t make out? [Goes back and stares at it. Shouts in triumph.] That's iti Almost gave me the slip! A proper two-headed bird. But it’s so tiny you can’t see it at all unless you are willing to tear your eyes staring at it. well now. Whose house could this be? [Looks



around.] No one in sight. Naturally. Why should anyone come here in this hot sun? Better ask the people in the house. Mimes knocking. Listens. Padmini enters humming a tune. p a d m in i

. . . Here comes the rider— from which land does he come?

(Gapes at her. Aside.] I give up, Devadatta. I surrender to your judgement. I hadn’t thought anyone could be more beautiful then the wench Ragini who acts Rambha in our village troupe. But this one! You’re right— she is Yakshini, Shakuntala Urvashi, Indumati— all rolled into one. p a d m in i You knocked, didn’t you? k a p il a Er—yes . . . p a d m in i Then why are you gaping at me? What do you want? k a p il a I— I just wanted to know whose house this was. p a d m in i Whose house do you want? k a p il a This one. p a d m in i I see. Then who do you want here? k a p il a The master. . . p a d m in i Do you know his name? k a p il a No. p a d m in i Have you met him? k a p il a

k a p il a


p a d m in i k a p il a

Have you seen him?


So. Y ou haven’t met him, seen him or known him. What do you want with him? k a p il a [ asideJ. She is quite right. What have I to do with him? 1 only want to find out his name . . . p a d m in i A re you sure you want this house? Or were you . . . k a p il a N o . I’m sure this is the one. p a d m in i [pointing to her headI. Are you all right here? k a p il a [taken abacft. Yes— I think so. p a d m in i How about your oyes? Do they work properly? k a p il a Yes. padmini [showing him fou r fingers]. How many? k a p ila Four. p a d m in i Correct. So there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. As for the other thing, I’ll have to take you on trust. Well then. If you are sure you wanted this house why were you peering at all p a d m in i


Hayavadana those doors? And what were you mumbling under your breath? kapila [startled]. How did you know? padmini I am quite sane . .. and I’ve got good eyes. kapila [looks up and chucklesi. Oh, I suppose you were watching from the terrace . . . padmini [in a low voice, mysteriouslyI. Listen, you’d better be careful. We have any number o f thefts in this street and people are suspicious. Last night there was a man standing there for nearly two hours without moving. And today you have turned up. It’s just as w ell 1 saw you. Anyone else would have taken you to the police— Beware! [Aloud] Now tell me. What are you doing here? kapila

I— I c a n ’t tell you.

Really! Who will you tell it to?

padmini kapila

Y ou r fa th e r . ..

Do you want my father or do you want the master of this house? kapila Aren’t they the same? padmini [as though explaining to a child. Listen, my father could be a servant in this house. Or the master of this house could be my father’s servant. My father could be the master’s father, brother, son-in-low, cousin, grandfather or uncle. Do you agree? kapila Er— Yes. padmini 'Right. Then w e’ll start again. Whom should 1 call?



Y o u r father.

And if he’s not in? [losfl. A n y o n e else.

padmini kapila

padmini kapila

Perhaps— your brother.

padmini kapila

D o y o u k n o w him?


padmini kapila

W h ic h anyone?

Have you met him?


Do you know his name? kapila [desperate. Please, please-—call your father or the master or both, or if they are the same, anyone . . . please call someone! padmini No. No. That won’t do. kapila [looking around; asidd. No one here. Still I have to fin d o u t her name. Devadatta must be in pain and . . . He will never forgive me if I go back now. [Aloud. 1 Madam, please. I have padmini



some very important work. I’ll touch your feet. . . [eager]. You will? Really? Do you know, I’ve touched everyone’s feet in this house some time or the other, but no one's ever touched mine? You will? k a p il a [slapping his forehead as he sinks to the ground 1. I’m finished— decimated— powdered to dust— powered into tiny specks of flour. [To Padmini.] My mother, can 1at least talk to a servant? p a d m in i I knew it. I knew you wouldn’t touch my feet. One can t even trust strangers any more. All right, my dear son! I opened the door. So consider me the door-keeper. What do you want? k a p il a (determined|. All right! [Gets up.J You have no doubt heard of the Revered Brahmin Vidyasagara. p a d m in i It’s possible. k a p il a In which case you’ll also know of Devadatta, his only son. A poet. A pundit. Knows the Vedas backwards. Writes the grandest poetry ever. Long, dark hair. Delicate, fair face. Age twenty. Height five feet seven inches. Weight.. . p a d m in i Wait a minute! What’s he to you? k a p il a Friend. Greatest in the world! But the main question now: What’s he going to be to you?

p a d m in i

Sudden silence. [blushing as the import o f the remark dawns on her\. Mother! Runs in. Kapila stands, staring after her. k a p il a Devadatta, my friend, I confess to you I’m feeling uneasy. You are a gentle soul. You can’t bear a bitter word or an evil thought. But this one is fast as lightning— and as sharp. She is not for the likes o f you. What she needs is a man o f steel. But what can one do? You’ll never listen to me. and I can't withdraw now. I’ll have to talk to her family . . . p a d m in i

Follows her in. Need one explain to our wise and knowing audience what followed next? Padmini is the daughter of the leading merchant in Dharmapura. In her house, the very floor is swept by the Goddess o f Wealth. In Devadatta’s house, they’ve the Goddess o f Learning for a maid. What could then possibly stand in the way o f bringing the families together? [Marriage music.) Padmini became the better half o f Devadatta and settled in his

b h a g a vat a

Hayavadana house. Nor did Devadana forget his debt to Kapila. The old friendship flourished as before. Devadatta— Padmini— Kapila! To the adm iring citizens o f Dharmapura, Rama— Sita— Lakshmana.

Enter Devadatta and Padmini. Why is he so late? He should have been here more than an hour ago . . .


Looks out o f a window. Have you packed your clothes properly? padmini The first thing in the morning. devadatta And the mattresses? We may have to sleep out in the open. It’s quite chilly . . . we'll need at least two rugs. padmini Don’t worry. The servant’s done all that. devadatta And your shawl? Also some warm clothes. . . padmini What’s happened to you today? At other times you are so full o f your books, you even forget to wash your hands after a meal. But today you’ve been going on and on all morning. devadatta Padmini, I’ve told you ten times already . . . I don’t like the idea o f this trip. You should rest— not face such hazards. The cart will probably shake like an earthquake. It’s dangerous in your condition. But you won’t listen . . . padmini My condition! What's happened to me? To listen to you, one would think I was the first woman in this world to become pregnant. I only have to stumble and you act as though it’s all finished and gone . . . devadatta For God’s sake . . . will you stop it? padmini [laughd. Sorry! [Bites her tongue in repentance.11won’t say such things again. devadatta You’ve no sense o f what not to say. So long as you can chatter and run around like a child . .. padmini [back at the windotdi. Where is Kapila? devadatta . . . and drool over Kapila all day. padmini [taken abacki. What do you mean? devadatta What else should 1 say? The other day I wanted to read out a play o f Bhasa’s to you and sure enough Kapila drops in. padmini Oh! That’s biting you still, is it?... But why are you blaming me? He was your friend even before you married me, wasn’t he? He used to drop in every day even then . . . devadatta


But shouldn’t he realize I’m married now? He just can t go on as before . . . p a d m in i Don’t blame him. It’s my fault. He learnt a bit about poetry from you and I thought he might enjoy Bhasa. So I asked him to come . . . He didn’t want to— but I insisted. d e v a d a t t a I know that. p a d m in i Had I realized you would get so upset, I wouldn’t have. d e v a d a t t a I’m not upset Padmini. Kapila isn’t merely a friend— he .s like my brother. One has to collect merit in seven lives to get a friend like him. But is it wrong for me to want to read to you alone— or to spend a couple of days with you without anyone else around? [Pause] O f course, once he came, there wasn’t the slightest chance of my reading any poetry. You had to hop around him twittering ‘Kapila! Kapila!’ every minute. p a d m in i Y o u aren’t jealous o f him, are you? d e v a d a t t a Me? Jealous o f Kapila? Why do you have to twist everything I say . . . p a d m in i [Laughs. Affectionatelyi Don’t sulk now. I was just trying to be funny. Really you have no sense o f humour. d e v a d a t t a It’s humour for you. But it burns my insides . . . p a d m in i A w , shut up. Don’t I know how liberal and large-hearted you are? You aren’t the sort to get jealous. If I fall into a w ell tomorrow, you won’t even miss me until my bloated corpse floats up . . . d e v a d a t t a [irritated!. Padmini! p a d m in i Sorry, I forgot. I apologize— I slap myself on the cheeks [Slaps herself on both cheeks with her right hand several times in punishment.) Is that all right? The trouble is I grew up saying these awful things and it’s become a habit now. But you are so fragile! I don’t know how you’re going to go through life wrapped in silk like this! You are still a baby . . . d e v a d a t t a I see. p a d m in i Look now. You got annoyed about Kapila. But why? You are my saffron, my marriage-thread, my deity. Why should you feel upset? I like making fun o f Kapila — he is such an innocent. Looks a proper devil, but the way he blushes and giggles ancl turns red, he might have been a bride. d e v a d a t t a [smiles). Well, this bride didn't blush. PADMINI N o one taught this bride to blush. But n o w I'm learn in g from that yokel. devadatta

Hayavadana They both laugh. She casually goes back to the ivindow and looks out. [aside]. Does she really not see? Or is she deliberately playing this game with him? Kapila was never the sort to blush. But now, he only has to see her and he begins to wag his tail. Sits up on his hind legs as though he were afraid to let her words fall to the ground. And that pleading in his eyes— can’t she really see that? [Aloud.] Padmini, Kapila isn’t used to women. The only woman he has known in his life is his mother . . . padmini You mean it’s dangerous to be with him? The way you talk one would never imagine he was your best friend. devadatta [incensed]. Why do you have to paint everything I say


Iconciliator >J. What did I say? Listen, if you really d o n ’t want to g o to Ujjain today, let’s not. When Kapila comes, tell him I’m ill. devadatta B u t. . . you will be disappointed. padmini Me? O f course not. We’ll do as you feel. You remember what the priest said— I’m your ‘half now. The better half! We can go to Ujjain some other time... In another couple of months, there’s the big Ujjain fair. We’ll go then— just the two of us. All right! We’ll cancel today’s trip. devadatta [trying to control his excitement1. Now— if you aren’t going to be disappointed— then— truly— that’s what I would like most. Not because I’m jealous of Kapila— No, I’m not, I know that. He has a heart of gold. But this is your first baby ... padmini What do you mean first? How many babies can one have in six months? devadatta You aren’t going to start again . . . padmini No, no, no, I won’t say a word. devadatta [pinching her cheeft. Bad u p b rin gin g — that’s what it is. 1 don’t like the idea o f your going so far in a cart in your present condition, that’s all. padmini Ordinarily I would have replied I had a womb o f steel, hut I won’t— in the present condition. padmini

Both laugh. All right. If you are happy, so am I. devadatta [happj]. Yes, w e’ll spend the whole day by ourselves. The servants are going home anyway- They can come back



tomorrow. But for today— only you and me. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been on our own. k a p il a [offstagd. Devadatta . .. p a d m in i There’s Kapila now. You tell him.

She pretends to go in, but goes and stands in a com er of the stage listening. Kapila enters excited. I’m late, ain’t I? What could I do? That cartman had kept the cart ready but the moment I looked at it, I knew one o f the oxen was no good. I asked him to change it. ‘We won’t reach Ujjain for another fortnight in this one,’ I said. He started . . . d e v a d a t t a Kapila . .. k a p il a . . . making a scene, but I stood my ground. So he had to fetch a new one. These cart-hirers are a menace. If ours hadn't gone to Chitrapur that day . . . . d e v a d a t t a Kapila, we have to call off today’s trip. k a p il a [suddenly silenced). Oh! d e v a d a tta (embarrassedI. You see, Padmini isn't well . . k a p il a Well, then o f course . . .

k a p il a

Silence. I’ll return the cart then . . . d e v a d a t t a Yes. k a p il a Or else he may charge us for the day. d e v a d a t t a Uhm. k a p il a [asideI So it’s off. What am I to do for the rest o f the day? What am I to do for the rest o f the week? Why should it feel as though the whole world has been wiped out for a whole week? Why this emptiness. . . Kapila, Kapila, get a tight hold on yourself. You are slipping, boy, control yourself. Don’t lose that hold. Go now— don’t come here again for a week— Devadatta’s bound to get angry with you for not coming. Sister-in-law will be annoyed. But don’t come back. Go, Go! [Aloud.] Well then— I’ll start. d e v a d a tta Why don’t you sit for a while? k a p il a No, no— we might upset sister-in-law more then with our noise. d e v a d a t t a That’s true. So— come again k a p il a Yes, I will.

Starts to go. Padmini comes out.

Hayavadana Why are you sitting here? When are we going to start? We are already late . . .


They look at her, surprised. But if you aren’t well, we won’t . . . padmini What’s wrong with me? I’m perfect. 1 had a headache this morning. But a layer of ginger-paste took care o f that. Why should w e cancel our trip for a little thing like that? kapila

Devadatta opens his mouth to say something but stays quiet. Ito KapilaI Why are you standing there like a statue? kapila No. really, if you have a headache . . . padm ini 1 don’t have a headache now! devadatta But, Padmini. . . padmini Kapila, put those bundles out there in the cart. The servant w ill bring the rest.

Kapila stands totally baffled. He looks at Devadatta fo r guidance. There's none. Be quick. Otherwise I’ll put them in myself. [Kapila goes out. Padmini goes to Devadatta. Pleading.) Please don’t get angry. Poor boy, he looked so lost and disappointed, I couldn’t bear to see it. He has been running around for us this whole week. d eva d a tta [turning his head away). Where’s the box in which I put the books? I’ll take i t . . . pa d m in i Y o u are an angel. I knew you wouldn’t mind . . I’ll bring it. It’s quite light.

Goes out. [to himselfl. And my disappointment? Does that mean nothing to you? [Aloud.] Don’t I’ll take it. You don't lift any thing.


Goes in after her. Why do you tremble, heart? W hy do you cringe like a touch-me-not bush through which a snake has passed? The sun rests his head on the Fortunate Lady’s flower. And the head is bidding goodbye to the heart.




Kapila, followed by Padmini andDevadatta, enter, miming a cart-ride. Kapila is driving the cart. How beautifully you drive the cart, Kapila. Your hands don’t even move, but the oxen seem to know exactly where to go.

p a d m in i

Kapila laughs happily. Shall we stop here for a while? We've been in this cart all day and my legs feel like bits o f wood. k a p il a Right! Ho— Ho . ..

Pulls the cart to a halt. They get down. She slips but Devadatta supports her. What a terrible road. Nothing but stones and rocks— but one didn’t feel a thing in the cart! You drove it so gently— almost made it float. I remember when Devadatta took me in a cart— that was soon after our marriage— I insisted on being shown the lake outside the city. So we started— only the two o f us and Devadatta driving— against my advice, I must say. And we didn't even cross the city-gates. The oxen took everything except the road. He only had to pull to the right, and off they would rush to the left! I’ve never laughed so much in my life. But o f course he got very angry, so we had to go back home straight!-

p a d m in i

Laughs. But Kapila and Devadatta don‘t join in. Kapila, what’s that glorious tree there? That one— covered with flowers? k a p il a Oh that! That’s called the Fortunate Lady’s flower— that means a married woman . .. p a d m in i I know! But why do they call it that’ k a p il a Wait. I’ll bring a flower. Then you’ll see.

Goes out. [ watching him, to herselfi. How he climbs— like an ape. Before I could even say ‘yes’, he had taken off his shirt, pulled his dhoti up and swung up the branch. And what an ethereal shape! Such a broad back— like an ocean with muscles rippling across it— and then that small, feminine waist which looks so helpless.

p a d m in i

Hayavadana [aside]. She had so much to talk about all day, she couldn’t wait for breath. Now— not a word. padmini \asid&. He is like a Celestial Being reborn as a hunter. . . . How his body sways, his limbs curve— it’s a dance almost. devadatta [asidd. And why should I blame her? It’s his strong body— his manly muscles. And to think I had never ever noticed them all these years . . . I was an innocent— an absolute baby. padmini [aside] N o women could resist him. devadatta [asidei. No woman could resist him— and what does it matter that she’s married? What a fool I’ve been. All these days 1only saw that pleading in his eyes stretching out its arms, begging for a favour. But never looked in her eyes. And when I did— took the whites of her eyes for their real depth. Only now— I see the depths— now 1 see these flames leaping up from those depths. Now! So late! Don’t turn away now, Devadatta, look at her. Look at those yellow, purple flames. Look how she’s pouring her soul in his mould. Look! Let your guts burn out— let your lungs turn to ash— but don’t turn away. Look— and don’t scream. Strangle your agony. But look deep into these eyes— look until those peacock flames burn out the blindness in you. Don’t be a coward now. padmini lasidej. How long can one go on like this? How long? How long? If Devadatta notices .. .


Looks at Devadatta. He is looking at her already and their eyes meet. Both look away. [aloud]. There he comes. All I wanted was one flo w e r and he’s brought a heap.


Kapila comes in, miming a whole load o f flow erf in his arms and hands. He pours them out in front o f her. Here you are. The Fortunate Lady’s flowers. padmini And why a ‘Fortunate Lady’, pray? kapila Because it has all the marks o f marriage a woman puts on. The yellow on the petals— then that red round patch at the bottom of the petals— like in the parting o f your hair— Then—uhm . . . oh yes— here near the stem a row o f black dots— like a npcklace of black beads— padmini What imagination! [To Devadatta.] You should put it in your poetry. It’s good for a simile. kapila



Shall we go? It's quite late. p a d m in i Let’s stay. I have been sitting in that cart for I don’t know how long. I didn't know the road to Ujjain was so enchanting

d e v a d a tta

The others take a longer route. This is a more wooded area— so very few come this way. But I like this better. Besides, it’s fifteen miles shorter. p a d m in i I wouldn’t have minded even if it were fifteen miles longer. It’s like a garden .. . k a p il a Isn’t it? Look there, do you see it? That’s the River Bhargavi. The poet Vyasa had a hermitage on its banks. There’s a temple of Rudra there now. d e v a d a t t a (suddenly awake], A temple o f Rudra? k a p il a Yes, it’s beautiful. And— there— beyond that hill is a temple of Kali. k a p il a

Two stagehands come and hold up a half-curtain in the com er to which he points. The curtain has a picture o f Goddess Kali on it. The Bhagavata puts a sword in fro n t of it. It was very prosperous once. But now it’s quite dilapidated d e v a d a tta [as though in a trancél. The temple of Rudra. k a p il a Yes, that’s old too. But not half as ruined as the Kali temple We can have a look if you like. p a d m in i Yes, let’s. d e v a d a t t a Why don’t you go and see the Kali temple first’ k a p il a No, that’s quite terrible . . . I've seen it once— bats, snakes, all sorts o f poisonous insects— and no proper road. We can go to the Rudra temple, though. It’s nearer. p a d m in i Come on. let’s go. d e v a d a t t a Y o u two go. I won’t come. p a d m in i [pausé. And you? d e v a d a t t a I’ll stay here and watch the cart. k a p il a But there’s no fear o f thieves here. . . (Sensing the tension1 Or else, I’ll stay here . . . d e v a d a t t a No. no. you two go. I’m also a little tired. p a d m in i [asidéi. He has started it again. Another tantrum. Let him What do I care? [Aloud. 1Come, Kapila, we'll go. k a p il a But— perhaps in your condition . . . p a d m in i [ exploding1 Why are you two hounding me w ith this

Hayavadana condition? If y o u d o n ’t w an t to com e, say so. D o n ’t m ake excuses

Devadatta, it’s not very far. You come too . . . devadatta I told you to go. Don’t force me . . . padmini Let’s not go. I don't want the two of you to suffer for my sake. devadatta [to Kapild. Go. kapila [he has no choice]. Come. We’ll be back soon.


Kapila and Padmini go out. Goodbye, Kapila. Goodbye, Padmini. May the Lord Rudra bless you. You are two pieces of my heart— live happily together. I shall find my happiness in that. [Agonized ] Give me strength, Lord Rudra. My father, give me courage. I’m already trembling. I’d never thought I would be so afraid. Give me courage, Father, strengthen me.


He walks to the temple o f Kali, It ’s a steep and difficult climb. He is exhausted by the time he beaches the temple. He prostrates himself before the goddess. Bhavani, Bhairavi, Kali, Durga, Mahamaya, Mother o f all Nature— I had forgotten my promise to you. Forgive me, Mother. You fulfilled the deepest craving o f my life— you gave me Padmini— and I forgot my word. Forgive me, for I’m here now to carry out my promise.

Picks up the sword Great indeed is your mercy. Even in this lonely place some devotee o f yours— a hunter, perhaps or a tribesman— has left this weapon. Who knows how many lives this weapon has sacrificed to you . . . [Screaming ] Here, Mother Kali, here’s another. My head. Take it, Mother, accept this little offering o f my head.

Cuts off his head. Not an easy thing to do— he struggles, groans, writhes. Ultimately succeeds in killing himself. The head—that is, the mash—rolls off and bloodflows. A long silence. Padmini and Kapila return to the cart. [enters talking . . . . he should have come. How thrilling it was! Heavenly! But o f course he has no enthusiasm for these




things. After a ll. . .

Notices Devadatta isn't there. Where’s Devadatta?

They look around. He said he’d stay here! k a p il a [calls). Devadatta— Devadatta . . . p a d m in i He’s probably somewhere around. Where will he go? He has the tenderest feet on earth. They manage to get blisters, corns, cuts, boils and wounds without any effort. So . . . k a p il a [calls). Devadatta . . . p a d m in i Why are you shouting? Sit down. He’ll come.

Kapila inspects the surrounding area. Gives a gasp o f surprise. What’s it? k a p il a His footprints. He has obviously gone in that direction. [Pause.J But— that’s where the Kali temple is! p a d m in i Y o u don’t mean he’s gone there! How absurd! k a p il a Y o u stay here. I’ll bring him back. p a d m in i But why do you have to go? There’s nothing to fear in this broad daylight! k a p il a [hurrying offi. It’s very thick wood there. If he gets lost, he'll have to spend the whole night in the jungle. You stay here I’ll come back soon.

Runs out. [exasperated. He’s gone! Really, he seems more worried about Devadatta than me.

p a d m in i

She sits down. Kapila goes to the Kali temple— but natu rally faster than Devadatta did. He sees the body and his mouth half opens in a scream. He runs to Devadatta and kneels beside him. Lifts his truncated head and moans. You’ve cut off your head! You’ve cut off your head! Oh my dear friend, my brother, what have you done? Were you so angry with me? Did you feel such contempt for me— such abhorrence? And in your anger you forgot that I was ready to die for you? If you had asked me to jump into fire, I would have done it. If

k a p il a

Hayavadana you had asked me to leave the country I would have done it. If you had asked me to go and drown in a river, I would have gladly done it. Did you despise me so much that you couldn’t even ask me that? I did wrong. But you know I don’t have the intelligence to know what else I should have done. I couldn't think— and so you’ve pushed me away? No, Devadatta, 1 can’t live without you. I can’t breathe without you. Devadatta, my brother, my father, my friend...

Picks up the sword. You spurned me in this world. Accept me as your brother at least in the next. Here, friend, here I come. As always, I follow in you path.

Cuts off his head. It’s an easier death this time. Padmini, who has been still till now, moves. Where are they? Now this Kapila’s disappeared too. He couldn't still be searching for him. That’s not possible. Devadatta’s too weak to have gone far. They must have met. Perhaps they’re sitting now, chatting as in the old days. For once no bother o f a wife around. . . . No, more likely Devadatta’s sulking. H e’s probably tearing poor Kapila to shreds by just being silent and grumpy. Yes, that would be more like him.


Pause. It’s almost dark. And they aren’t back. Shameless men—to leave me alone like this here! No, it’s no use sitting here any longer I had better go and look for them. If I die of a snakebite on the way, so much the better for them.

Walks to the temple, slowly. Rubs her eyes when she reaches there. H ow dark it is! Can’t see a thing. [Calls] Kapila— Kapila— Devadatta isn’t here either. What shall I do here? At this time o f night! Alone! [Listens] What’s that? Some wild beast. A wolf! It’s right outside— what shall I do if it comes in?. . . .Ah! It’s gone. Mother Kali, only you can protect me now.

Stumbles over the bodies.



What's this? What’s this?

Stares at the bodies and then lets out a terrified scream. Oh God! What’s this? Both! Both gone! And didn’t event think o f me before they went? What shall I do? What shall I do? Oh, Devadatta, what did I do that you left me alone in this state? Was that how much you loved me? And you, Kapila, who looked at me with dog’s eyes—you too? How selfish you are— how unkind! What shall I do now—where shall I go? How can I go home?

Pause. Home? And what shall I say when I get there? what shall I say happened? And who’ll believe me? they’ll all say the two fought and died for this whore. They’re bound to say it. then what’ll happen to me? No, Mother Kali, no,— it’s too horrible to think of. No! Kapila’s gone— Devadatta's gone. Let me go with them

Picks up the sword. I don’t have the strength to hack off my head. But what does it matter how I die, Mother? You don’t care. It’s the same to you— another offering! All right. Have it then— here’s another offering for you.

Lifts the stvord and puts its point on her breast when, from behind the curtain, the goddess's voice is heard. v o ic e Hey . . .

Put it down! Put down that sword!

Padminijumps up in fright and, throwing the sword aside, tries to run out o f the temple. Then stops. padmini Who’s that?

No reply. Who’s that?

A tremendous noise o f drums. Padmini shuts her eyes iti terror. Behind the curtain one sees the uplifted blood-red palms of the goddess. The curtain is lowered and taken au'ay and one sees a terrifying figure, her arms stretched out, her mouth wide open with the tongue lolling out. The drums

Hayavadana stopand as the goddess drops her arms and shuts her mouth, it becomes clear she has been yawning. kali

[completes the yawn). All right. Open your Don’t waste time.





Padmini opens her eyes and sees the goddess. She runs and falls at herfeet.) Mother— K a li. .. kali [sleepy. Yes, it’s me. there was a time— many many years ago— when at this hour they would have the mangalarati. The devotees used to make a deafening racket with drums and conch-shells and cymbals. So I used to be wide awake around now. I’ve lost the habit. ( Yawns.) Right. What do you want? Tell me. I’m pleased with you. padmini Save me, Mother . . . kali I know. I’ve done that already. padmini Do you call this saving, Mother o f all Nature? I can’t show my face to anyone in the world. I can’t . . . kali [a little testify. Yes, yes, you’ve said that once. No need to repeat yourself. Now do as I tell you. Put these heads back properly. Attach them to their bodies and then press that sword on their necks. They’ll come up alive. Is that enough? padmini Mother, you are out breath, you are our bread— and— water . . . kali Skip it! Do as I told you. And quickly. I’m collapsing w ith sleep. padmini [hesitating]. May I ask a question? kali If it’s not too long. padmini Can there ever be anything you already don’t know, Mother? The past and the future are mere specks in your palm. Then why didn’t you stop Devadatta when he came here? Why didn’t you stop Kapila? If you’d saved either o f them, I would have been spared all this terror, this agony. Why did you wait so long7 kali (surprised1 . Is that all you can think o f now? padmini Mother . . . kali I’ve never seen anyone like you. padmini How could one possibly hide anything from you, Mother? Kali That's true enough. p a d m in i



Then why didn’t you stop them? kali Actually if it hadn’t been that I was so sleepy, I would have thrown them out by the scruff of their necks . . . p a d m in i But w hy? kali The rascals! They were lying to their last breaths. That fellow Devadatta— he had once promised his head to Rudra and his arms to me! Think of it— head to him and arms to me! Then because you insisted on going to the Rudra temple, he comes here and offers his head. Nobly too— wants to keep his word, he says— no other reason! Then this Kapila. Died right in front o f me— but ‘for his friend’. Mind you! Didn’t even have the courtesy to refer to me. And what lies! Says he is dying for friendship. He must have known perfectly well he would be accused of killing Devadatta for you. Do you think he wouldn’t have grabbed you if it hadn't been for that fear? But till his last breath— ‘Oh my friend! My dear brother!’ Only you spoke the truth. pa d m in i It’s all your grace, Mother. .. kali Don’t drag me into it. I had nothing to do with it. You spoke the truth because you’re selfish— that’s all. Now don’t go on talking. Do what I told you and shut your eyes. pa d m in i Yes, Mother. .. pa d m in i

Eagerly, Padmini puts the heads—that is, the masks— back. But in her excitement she mixes them up so that Devadatta's mask goes to Kapila's body and vice versa. Then presses the sword on their necks, does namaskara to the goddess, walks downstage and stands with her back to the goddess, her eyes shut tight. I’m ready, Mother. k a li [in a resigned tonei My dear daughter, there should be a limit even to honesty. Anyway— So be it! p a d m in i

Again the drums. The curtain is held up again and the goddess disappears behind it. During the following scene the stagehands, the curtain as well as the goddess leave the stage. Padmini stands immobile with her eyes shut. The drums stop. A long silence follows. The dead bodies move. Their breathing become loud and laboured. They sit up, slowly, stiffly. Their movement is mechanical, as though 286

Hayavadana blood-circulation has not startedpropertyyet. Theyfeel their own arms, heads and bodies, and look around, bewildered. Henceforth the person wearing the mask o f Devadatta will be called Devadatta. Similarly with Kapila. They stand up. It’s not easy and they reel around a bit. Padmini is still. What— happened? . . . What happened?

devadatta kapila

Padmini opens her eyes, but she still doesn 7 dare to look at them. Devadatta’s voice! Kapila’s voice! [Screaming with joy] Kapila! Devadatta!

pad m ini

Turns and runs to them. Then suddenly stops and stands paralysed. W ho ...? devadatta Padmini? kapila What— happened? My head— Ooh! It feels so heavy! devadatta My body— seems to weigh— a ton. padmini [running around is confusion]. What have I done? What have I done? What have I done? Mother Kali, only you can save me now— only you can help me— What have 1done? What have I done? What should I do? Mother— Mother . . . devadatta [a little more alivei. Why are you— crying? kapila What’s— wrong? padmini What shall I tell you, Devadatta? H o w can I explain it. Kapila? You cut o ff your heads— but the goddess gave you life— but— 1—I— in the dark . . . Mother, only you can protect me now— Mother* I mixed up your heads— I mixed them up! Forgive me— I don’t deserve to live— forgive me . .. kapila (looking at Devadattdi. You mixed up . . . devadatta . . . . the heads?


Theystare at each other. Then burst into laughter. She doesn't know how to react. Watches them. Then starts laughing. Mixed-up heads! kapila Heads mixed-up! devadatta Exchanged heads! kapila Heads exchanged!



MODERN INDIAN DRAMA d e v a d a tta

H o w fantastic! AH these years we were only friends .. .

Now we are blood-relations! Body-relations! [Laughing.) What a gift! d e v a d a t t a Forgive you? We must thank you . . . k a p il a We’ll never be able to thank you— enough . . . d e v a d a t t a Exchanged heads! k a p il a

They roar with laughter. Then all three hold hands and run round in a circle, singing. all th r e e

[ together1.

What a good mix! No more tricks! Is this one that or that one this? Ho! Ho!

They sing this over and over again until they collapse on the floor. k a p il a

Ooh— I’m finished!

p a d m in i .

. . . D ead!

Nothing like this could have ever happened before. p a d m in i You know, seeing you two with your heads o ff was bad enough. But when you got up it was terrible! 1 almost died of fright. .. devad atta

They laugh. k a p il a

N o one will believe us if we tell them.

[Suddenly. We won’t tell anyone. d e v a d a t t a We’ll keep our secrets inside us. p a d m in i ‘Inside us’ is right. p a d m in i

Laughter. k a p il a

But how can we not tell? They’ll know soon .

devad atta

N o o n e ’ll know .

I’m sure they’l l . .. d e v a d a t t a I’ll take any bet. k a p il a But how’s that possible? d e v a d a t t a You'll see. Why worry now? p a d m in i Come. Let’s go .. . KAPILA It’s late. k a p il a

Hayavadana No. Ujjain now. We go back home! kapila Absolutely. p a d m in i This Ujjain will last us a lifetime. Come. devadatta

They get up. Every now and then someone laughs and then all burst out together. Devadatta, I really don’t know how we're going to keep this from your parents. They’ll guess as soon as they see you bare-bodied. devadatta They w on’t, I tell you. They take us too much for granted . . . kapila What do you mean? devadatta W ho ever looks hard at a person he sees every day? kapila I don’t mean that. . . padmini I’m not so sure. I’m afraid I’ll get the blame for it ulti­ mately . . . devadatta Stop worrying ! I tell you it. .. kapiia But what has she got to do with you now? devadatta l5fop si. What do you mean? kapiia I mean Padmini must come home with me, shouldn't she? She’s my wife, so she must.. . [Exclamations from Devadatta and Padmini.1 padmini What are you talking of, Kapila? k apila [explaining. 1 mean, you are Devadatta’s wife 1 have Devadatta's body now. So you have to be my wife . . . pad m ini Shut up .. . devadatta Don’t blather like an idiot! I am Devadatta . . . padmini Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? kapila But why, Padmini? I have Devadatta's body now . . . devadatta We know that. You don’t have to repeat yourself like a parrot. According to the Shastras, the head is the sign o f a man padmini

[angry nou\. That may be. But the question now is simply this: Whose wife is she? (Raising his right hand.] This is the hand that accepted her at the wedding. This the body she’s lived with all these months. And the child she’s carrying is the seed o f this body. padmini {frightened by the logid. No, no, no. it’s not possible. It’s not. [Running to Devadatta.] It’s not. Devadatta. devadatta O f course, it isn’t, my dear. He is ignorant... [To Kapila.] kapila


When one accepts a partner in marriage, with the holy fire as one’s witness, one accepts a person, not a body. She didn’t marry Devadatta’s body, she married Devadatta— the person. k a p il a If that’s your argument, I have Devadatta’s body, so I am Devadatta— the person. d e v a d a t t a Listen to me. Of all the human limbs the topmost—in position as well as in importance— is the head. I have Devadatta’s head and it follows that I am Devadatta. According to the Sacred Texts . . . k a p il a Don’t tell me about your Sacred Texts. You can always twist them to suit your need. She married Devadatta’s body with the holy fire as her witness and that’s enough for me. d e v a d a t t a [laughs.] Did you hear that, Padmini? He claims to be Devadatta and yet he condemns the Texts. You think Devadatta would ever do that7 k a p il a You can quote as many Texts as you like, I don’t give a nail Come on, Padmini . ..

Takes a step towards her. But Devadatta steps in betu>een. Take care! Come, Devadatta. It's no use arguing with this rascal. Let s

devad atta p a d m in i

goCome on . . . k a p il a [stepping between them]. Where are you taking my wife, friend’ d e v a d a t t a Will you get out o f our way or should . . . k a p il a It was you who got in my way. d e v a d a t t a [pushing Kapila asidd. Get away, you pig. k a p il a ItriumphantI. He’s using force! And what language! Padmini, think! Would Devadatta ever have acted like this? This is Kapila’s violence . . . d e v a d a t t a Come, Padmini. k a p il a Go. But do you think I’ll stay put while you run away with my wife? Where will you go? How far can you go? Only to the city, after all. I’ll follow you there. I’ll kick up a row in the streets. Let’s see what happens then. devad atta

Devadatta stops. Let him scream away. Don’t pay him any attention. d e v a d a t t a N o . he’s right. This has to be solved here. It’ll create a scandal in the city . . . p a d m in i


Hayavadana Padmini But who'll listen to him? Everyone will take you fo r Devadatta

by your face. kapila Ha! You think the people in Dharmapura don't know my body, do you? They’ve seen me a thousand times in the wresting pit. I’ve got I don’t know how many awards for body-building. Let’s see whom they believe. padmini [pleading. Why are you torturing us like this? For so many years you have been our friend, accepted our hospitality . . . kapila I know what you want, Padmini. Devadatta’s clever head and Kapila’s strong body . . . Pa d m in i Shut up, you brute. d evad atta Suppose she did. There’s nothing wrong in it. It’s natural for a woman to feel attracted to a fine figure of a man . . . kapila I know it is. But that doesn’t mean she can just go and live with a man who’s not her husband. That’s not right. pad m in i Icrying outj. How can we get rid o f this scoundrel? Let’s go— let’s go anywhere— to the w oods— to the desert— anywhere you like. kapila You’ll have to kill me before you’ll really escape me. You could. I don’t have the strength to resist Kapila. padmini [using a new argument. But I gave you life— kapila . . . That was no favour. If you hadn’t, you would have been a widow now. Actually he should be grateful to me because my wife saved his life. Instead, he’s trying to snatch you away.

Padmini moans in agony. This way we won’t get anywhere, Kapila . . . kapila Call me Devadatta . . . devadatta Whatever you are, this is no way to solve the problem. kapila O f course not. If marriage were contract it would be. But how can Padmini’s fancy be taken as the solution? devadatta Then what is the solution to this problem? devadatta

They allfreeze. What? What indeed is the solution to this problem, which holds the entire future o f these three unfortunate beings in a balance? Must their fate remain a mystery? And if so shall we not be insulting our audience by tying a question-mark round its neck and bidding it goodbye? We have to face the problem. But it’s a deep one and the answer must be sought with the greatest



caution. Haste would be disastrous. So there’s a break o f ten minutes now. Please have some tea, ponder over this situation and come back with your own solutions. We shall then continue with our enquiry.

The stagehands hold a white curtain in front o f thefrozen threesotre, while the Bhagavata and others relax and sip tea.

ACT TWO The white curtain is removed. What? What indeed is the solution to this problem, which holds the entire future of these three unfortunate beings in a balance? Way back in the ages, when King Vikrama was ruling the world, shining in glory like the earth’s challenge to the sun, he was asked the same question by the demon Vetala. And the king offered a solution even without, as it were, batting an eyelid. But will his rational, logical answer backed by the Sacred Texts appeal to our audience?


Sings. The future pointed out by the tongue safe inside the skull is not acceptable to us. We must read the forehead which Brahma has disconnected from the entrails. We must unravel the net on the palm disclaimed by the brain. We must plumb the hidden depths o f the rivers running under our veins. Yes, that would be the right thing to do. So our three unfortunate friends went to a great tishi in search of a solution to their problem. And the rishi— remembering perhaps what King Vikrama had said— gave the solution:

In a loud, sonorous voice. As the heavenly Kalpa Vriksha is supreme among trees, so is the head among human limbs. Therefore the man with •>09

Hayavadana Devadatta’s head is indeed Devadatta and he is the rightful husband o f Padmini.

The three spring to life. Devadatta and Padmini scream with joy and move to one com er o f the stage laughing and dancing. Kapila, brokenhearted, drags his feet to the other comer. devadatta

[embracing Padmini.] My Padmini... my lovely Padmini

My King— My Master. . . devadatta My little lightning .. . padm ini The light of my joy .. . devadatta The flower o f my palm . . . pad m ini My celestial-bodied Gandharva . . . My sun-faced Indra . . . devad atta My Queen on Indra’s Court. . . padm ini [caressing his shoulder,si. Come. Let’s go. Let’s go quickly. Where the earth is soft and the green grass plays the swing. d evad atta Let us. Where the banyan spreads a canopy and curtains off the skies . . . padmini What a wide chest. What other canopy do 1 need? devad atta My soft, swaying Padmini. What other swing do I want? pad m in i My Devadatta comes like a bridegroom with the ornament of a new body . .. devadatta [a manly laugh]. And who should wear the ornaments but the eager bride . . . padmini Let’s go. [Pause.] Wait. [She runs to Kapila.] Don’t be sad, Kapila. We shall meet again, shan't we? [in a low voice, so Devadatta can't hear.] It’s my duty to go with Devadatta. But remember I’m going with your body. Let that cheer you up. [Goes back to Devadatta.] Goodbye, Kapila. devadatta Goodbye. padmini

They go out, laughing, rubbing against each other. Kapila stands mutefo r a while. Then moves. Kapila— Kapila . . . (A/o reply. 1 Don't grieve. It’s fate, Kapila, and . . . kapila Kapila? What? Me? Why am I Kapila? bhagavata

Exit. bhagavata

So the roads diverged. Kapila w en t into the forest a n d




disappeared. He never saw Dharmapura again. In fact he never felt the wind of any city again. As for Devadatta and Padmini, they returned to Dharmapura and plunged into the joys o f married life.

Padmini enters and sits. She is stitching clothes, Devadatta comes. He is carrying in his hands two large dolls— which could be played by two children. The dolls are dressed in a way which makes it impossible to decide their sex. Devadatta comes in quietly and stands behind Padmini. Hey! p a d m in i [startled]. Oh! Really, Devadatta. You frightened me. The needle pricked me! Look, my finger's bleeding. d e v a d a t t a Tut-Tut! Is it really? Put it in my mouth— I’ll suck it. p a d m in i No, thanks. I'll suck it myself. [Sees the dolls.) How pretty! Whose are these? d e v a d a t t a Whose? Ours, of course! The guest is arriving soon— he must have playmates. p a d m in i But the guest won’t be coming for months yet, silly, and... d e v a d a t t a I know he isn't, but you can’t get dolls like these any time you like! These are special dolls from the Ujjain fair . . . p a d m in i They are lovely! [Hugs the dolls.1They look almost alive— such shining eyes— such delicate cheeks. . . [Xtssas them.] Now sit down and tell me everything that happened at the fair. You wouldn’t take me with you .. . d e v a d a t t a How could I— in your condition? I went only because you insisted you wanted to keep your word. But I’m glad I went. A very funny thing happened— there was a wrestling pit and a wrestler from Gandhara was challenging people to fight him. I don’t know what got into me— Before I’d even realized it, I had stripped, put on the pants given by his assistant and jumped into the pit. p a d m in i [fondling the dolls]. You didn’t! You’ve never wrestled before . . . d e v ad a tta Didn’t think of anything. 1 felt— ‘inspired’! Within a couple o f minutes, I had pinned him to the ground. p a d m in i [laughs out]. What would your father s a y if he heard o f this? d e v a d a t t a My few acquaintances there were q u ite amazed. p a d m in i [caressing his arm]. That day in the g y m n a s iu m you defeated d evad atta


Hayavadana the champion in a sword-fight. Now this! Don’t overdo it— people may start suspecting. devadatta O f course they won’t. 1 was standing there bare-bodied and not a soul suspected. A friend even asked me if I'd learnt it from Kapila. padmini You have, after all!

They laugh. You know, I'd always thought one had to use one’s brains while wrestling or fencing or swimming. But this body just doesn’t wait for thoughts— it acts! padmini Fabulous body— fabulous brain— fabulous Devadatta. devadatta I have been running around all these days without even proper sleep— and yet I don’t feel a bit tired. {Jumps upj Come on, we'll have a picnic by the lake. I feel like a good, long swim. padmini [mocking]. In my condition? devadatta I didn’t ask you to swim. You sit there and enjoy the scenery. Once our son’s born, I’ll teach you to swim too . . . padmini You go on about its being a son. What if it’s a daughter? devadatta If she's a daughter like you, I’ll teach the two o f you together. padmini Ready! devadatta

He pulls her to him. Now— now— what about the picnic? devadatta Quite right. First things first. padmini [Pause.) Devadatta . . . devadatta Yes? Padmini Why do you— have to apply that sandal oil' on your body? devadatta I like it. padmini I know, but. . . devadatta What? padmini [hesitating. Your body had that strong, male smell before— I liked it . . . devadatta But I've been using sandal oil since I was a child! Padmini I don’t mean that. But— when we came back from the temple of Kali— you used to smell so manly .. . Devadatta You mean that unwashed, sweaty smell Kapila had? IIncredulous.) You liked that?



[pause. Then lightty. It was just a suggestion. Come on, let’s start. We’ll be late.

p a d m in i

They go out. A long silence. Not a bad house, I would say. d o l l ii Could have been worse. I was a litde worried. d o l l i This is the least we deserved. Actually we should have got a palace. A real palace! d o l l ii And a prince to play with. A real prince! d o l l i How the children looked at us at the fair! How their eyes glowed! d o l l ii H o w their mothers stared at us! How their mouths watered! d o l l i Only those beastly men turned up their noses! ‘Expensive! Too Expensive!’ d o l l ii Presuming to judge us! WTio do they think they are! d o l l i Only a prince would be worthy of us. d o l l i We should be dusted every day . . . DOLL i . . . dressed in silk . . . d o l l ii . . . seated on a cushioned shelf. .. d o l l i ... given new clothes every week. d o l l ii If the doll-maker had any sense, he'd never have sold us. d o l l i If he had any brains, he should never have . . . given us to this man .. . d o l l ii ... with his rough labourer’s hands. d o l l i Palms like wood . . . d o l l ii A grip like a vice . . . d o l l i My arms are still aching . . . d o l l ii He doesn’t deserve us, the peasant.

d o ll i

Devadatta comes running, in tosses the dolls in the air, catches them and kisses them. My dolls, your prince has arrived! The prince has come! d o l l i [in a agonyi. Brute! An absolute brute! d o l l ii [in agony1 Beast! A complete beast! d e v a d a t t a [runs to the Bhagavata}. Here, Bhagavata Sir, take these sweets. You most come to the feast tomorrow at our house. bh a g a v a t a What’s it for? d e v a d a t t a Haven’t you heard? I’ve got a son like a gem— a son like a rose— Yippee . .. devad atta

Hayavadana He goes out dancing some Lezim steps. A long silence. Is that little satan asleep yet? doll ii Think so. God! It’s killing me . . . doll l .. crying, all day . . . doll ii .. .making a mess every fifteen minutes. doll i What have we come to! One should never trust God . . doll ii It’s our fault. We should have been wary from the moment we saw that child in her dreams . . . doll i We should have noticed she was bloating day by day. doll ii We should have suspected foul play then. doll i It wasn’t our fault. How could we know she was hiding this thing inside her? doll u How she was swelling! Day by day! Week by week ! As though someone were blowing air into her . . . doll i H ow ugly she looked . .. doll n .. . not to her husband, though! doll i When they were alone, he would place his hand on her belly and say, ‘Is he kicking now?’ doll n [seriously. We should have been on our guard. doll i [dispirited. We should. doll i [dispirited. We should. doll a And then comes this son o f a Satan . . . doll i ... this lump of flesh . .. doll ii He doesn’t even have proper eyes or ears . . . doll i . . . but he gets all the attention. doll ii [in disgust. Ugh . . . doll i U»c£). Awk . . . doll i

Devadatta and Padmini enter with the child—fo r which a wooden doll may be used. They walk across the stage, engrossed in talking to and about the child, and go out. doll i

A spider’s built its web on my shoulders. doll ii Yesterday a mouse nibbled at my toe. doll i The other day a cockroach ate my left eye. doll h Six months— and not a soul has come near us. doll i Six months— and not a hand has touched us. doll ii Six months and we reach this state. What’ll happen in a year’s time?

Padmini and Devadatta enter.



Listen . . . DEVADATTA Yes. p a d m in i You mustn’t say ‘no’— at least this time. DEVADATTA To what? p a d m in i We’ll take him to the lake. d e v a d a t t a In this cold? p a d m in i What if it’s cold? He’s older now. There’s no need to mollycoddle him. I grew up running around in heat and cold and rain— and nothing happened to me. I’m all right. . . d e v a d a t t a No, it’s unnecessary trouble for everyone. p a d m in i What do you mean trouble? What’s happened to you these days? You sit at home all day. Never go out. You’ve forgotten all your swimming and sports . . . d e v a d a t t a I’m a Brahmin, Padmini. My duty . . . p a d m in i I’ve heard all that! D e v a d a tta It was fun the first few days because it was new. All that muscle and strength. But how long can one go on like that? I have the family tradition to maintain— the daily reading, writing and studies. . . p a d m in i I don’t know. d e v a d a t t a [affectionate. Now look here, Padmini. . . p a d m in i

Puts his hand round her shoulder. She suddenly shudders. Why? What happened? p a d m in i Nothing— I don’t know why— I suddenly had goose flesh.

Pause. [withdrawing his handi. Do you know where I’ve kept the copy of Dharma Sindhu? I’ve been looking for it. p a d m in i I think I saw it on the shelf. Must be there . . . [Devadatta goes to Doll I, moves it aside and picks up the book. Doll 1 shudder.d. d o l l ii Why? What happened? DOLL i He touched me, and . . . DOLL II Yes? d o l l I His palms! They were so rough, when he first brought us here. Like a labourer’s. But now they are soft— sickly soft— like a young girl’s. d o l l ii I know. I ’v e noticed something too DOLL I What? devad atta

Hayavadana His stomach. It was so tight and muscular. Now . . . doll i I know. It’s loose . . . doll ii Do you think it’ll swell u p too? doll n

They laugh. [holding its hands in front o f its stomach to suggest a swollen bellyJ. It'll swell a little .. . doll ti [holding its hands a little farther in fronfi— then more . . doll 1 [even further 1— more and . . . doll II [even further]— and more until . . . doll i . . . if it’s a woman . . . doll ii . . .there’ll be a child . . ., doll i . . . and if it’s a man . . . dollu BANG! doll i

They roll with laughter. Padmini comes in with the child. She sings a lullaby. Here comes a rider! From what land does he come? On his bead a turban with a long pearly tail. Round his neck a garland of virgin-white jasmines. In his fist a sword with a diamond-studded hilt. The white-clad rider. Rider a white charger which spread its tossing mane against the western sky, spreads its mane like breakers against the western sky. Sleep now my baby and see smiling dreams. There he comes— here he is! From which land does he come? But why are the jasmines on his chest red O so red? What shine in his open eyes? Pebbles O pebbles. Why is his young body


cold O SO cold? The white horse gallops across hills, streams and fields. To what land does he gallop? Nowhere O nowhere.

Halfway through the lullaby, Devadatta comes in and sits by Padmini's side, reading. They don’t look at each other. At the end o f the lullaby, theyfa ll asleep. do ll do ll do ll do ll do ll do ll do ll do ll

i [in a hushed voicei. Hey . .. ii Yes . . . i Look . . . ii Where . . . i Behind her eyelids. She is dreaming. ii I don’t see anything. i It’s still hazy— hasn’t started yet. . . Do you see it now? n [eagerlyi. Yes, yes.

They stare at her. do ll

I A man . . .

But not her husband. d o l l I No, someone else. d o l l u Is this the one who came last night9 d o l l i Yes— the same. But I couldn’t see his face then. d o l l II You can now. Not very nice— rough. Like a labourer’s. But he’s got a nice body— looks soft. d o l l i Who do you think it is? d o l l ii I — It’s fading. [Urgently.] Remember the face! d o l l i It’s fading— Oh! It’s gone! d o l l ii And she won't even remember it tomorrow. d o l l ii

Padmini and Devadatta sit up. Are you ill? d e v a d a t t a Why? p a d m in i Y o u were moaning in your sleep last night. d e v a d a t t a Was I? p a d m in i Aren’t you feeling well? d e v a d a t t a Who? Me? I'm fine . . .

p a d m in i

Gets up energetically to show how well she feels. Suddenly grabs his shoulder with a groan.

Hayavadana What’s wrong? T e ll m e . . . devadatta [avoiding her eyed. Nothing. I went to the gymnasium yesterday morning. Then went swimming . . . padmini To the gymnasium? After all these years? But why? devadatta I just felt like it. That’s all. Don’t go on about it. padmini [without ironji. Are you going again today? devadatta [flares up]. No, I'm not. And there’s no need to laugh. I know I’ve made a fool of myself by going there. I won’t again.


Goes out. Long pause. What are you afraid of, Devadatta? What does it matter that you are going soft again, that you are losing your muscles? I’m not going to be stupid again. Kapila’s gone out of my life— forever. I won’t let him come back again, (pause] Kapila? What could he be doing now? Where could he be? Could his body be fair still, and his face dark? [Long pause.) Devadatta changes. Kapila changes. And me?


Closes her eyes. i There he is again. doll ii In the middle of the day? doll i [doubtful). I’m not sure this is the usual visitor. This one looks rougher and darker. doll u It’s him all right. Look at his fa c e . doll i He goes to her . . . doll ii .. . very near h er. . . doll i [in a whispet]. What’s he going to do now? doll ii [even more anxious]. What?


They ivatch. i [baffled). But he’s climbing a tree! doll u [almost a wail o f disappointmentj. He’s dived into a river! doll i Is that all he came for? doll ii It’s going . . . doll i . . . going . . . doll u Gone! Wretched dreams— They just tickle and fade away.


Padmini wakes up and mimes putting the crying child to sleep. p a d m in i

[suddenly vicious). Change! Change! Change! Change!



Change! The sand trickles. The water fills the pot. And the moon goes on swinging, swinging, swinging, from light to darkness to light.

Devadatta comes in. He is now completely changed to his original self— that is, the slender actor who came as Devadatta at the beginning o f the play comes back again with the Devadatta mask on. A pundit’s coming to see me. He wants me to explain some verses to him. Can you keep some sweets and lime-juice ready? p a d m in i Yes. [Pause.] Did you hear...? The maid was telling m e... d e v a d a t t a What? p a d m in i Kapila’s mother died this morning. [Pause.] Poor thing! She d been bed-redden all these years, ever since. . . d e v a d a t t a [snapping at her]. What did you expect me to do about it? [snapping at herI. Get the lime-juice ready soon. devad atta

They go out. i Each one to his fate! d o l l ii Each one to her problems! d o l l 1 As the doll-maker used to say, ‘What are things coming to!’ d o l l ii Especially last night— I mean— that dream .. . d o l l i Tut-tut— One shouldn’t talk about such things! d o l l ii It was so shameless . . . d o l l i It said be quiet. . . d o l l ii Honestly! The way they . . . d o l l i Look, if we must talk about it, let me. d o l l ii You didn’t want to talk about it. So ... d o l l i You don’t understand a thing. They . . . d o l l ii What do you know? Last night. . . d o l l I Let me! In dream . . . d o l l ii I’m . . . DOLL I Shut up! DOLL II You shut up! do ll

The start arguing, then fighting. They roll on the ground, on top o f each other, biting, scratching, hitting each other They shout, scream and giggle. As they fight, the giggles become louder and morefrantic. Their clothes get tom . At

Hayavadana last they lie side by sidepanting, bursting with little giggles. Then they sit up. Padmini enters, looks at them. Just look at the dolls! The baby’s really torn them t o pieces— How long can we go on with them! [Calls ] Listen . . . DEVADATTA [entering. Yes. padmini We must get new dolls for our baby. These are in tatters. devadatta You’re right. I hadn’t noticed. padmini . . . . The Ujjain fair is to be held in another four days. Why don’t you go and get new dolls there? If you start today you’ll be there in time for it. It’s unlucky to keep torn dolls at home . . . doll I [to D oll IA. Did you hear that? She wants to throw us o u t. .. doll ii She wants new dolls. doll I The whore. doll n The bitch. doll i May her house bum down. doll ii May her teeth fall out. p a d m in i

He picks them up by their collars. d o ll i See how he picks us up. Like stray puppies.

That ball o f flesh will remain here. But it’s the dung-heap for us . . . devadatta [to Padmint]. It’ll take me more than a week to go to Ujjain and come back. Shall I ask one o f the neighbours to get them for us? doll i [to Devadatta]. You wretch— before you throw us out watch out for yourself. doll ii Cover your wife before you start worrying about our rags. padmini [to Devadatta]. Who knows what sort of dolls they'll get for us? We must bring things ourselves for our baby . . . devadatta But. . . padmini If you don’t want to go, say so. Don’t . . . devadatta Shall I ask one o f the servants to come and sleep here at night9 padmini N o need. We are not in the middle o f a forest. doll i [to Devadattdi. Watch out, you fo o l. .. doll u Refuse, you id iot.. . Devadatta All right. I’ll start at once. Take care o f yourself. IHe drags the dolls out.) Dou. I Villain . . .

d o ll




I Swine . . .

do ll

II Bastard . . .

One can hear them screaming curses as he takes them out. Padmini stands watching him go. Then to the child in her arms. My poor child, you naven’t yet seen the ‘witching fair of the dark forest, have you? Let’s go and see it. How can I describe it to you? There’s so much. Long before the sun rises, the shadows o f twigs draw alpanas on the floor. The stars raise arati and go. Then the day dawns and the fun begins. The circus in the treetops and the cockfights in a shower o f feathers. And the dances! The tiger-dance, and the peacock-dance, and the dance of the sun’s little feet with silver anklets on the river. In the heart of the forest stands the stately chariot o f the shield-bearer. It's made of pure gold— rows of birds pull it down the street, and rows of flames of the forest salute it with torches. Then the night comes, and our poor baby is tired— so we blow gently and out goes the moon. But before we leave there’s one more thing to do. Right outside the fair, watching it from a distance, stands the tree of the Fortunate Lady. It’s an old tree, a close friend of ours. We have to say ‘hello’ to it. All right?

pa d m in i

She goes out with the child. A long silence. Kapila enters. He too is as he was at the beginning o f the play— tough and muscular. bhagavata k a p il a


bhagavata k a p il a

Who? Kapila? It’s such a long time since we met.


Where are you now? k a p il a Here. b h a g a v a t a Here? In this jungle? It’s difficult to believe any man could live here. k a p il a Beasts do. Why not men? b h a g a vat a What do you do? k a p il a Live. b h ag a vata Have you had any news from the city? k a p il a Long ago. Father sent word asking me to come back I said. b h a g a vat a

Hayavadana ! won’t come. No need for you to come here either!’ That’s all. bhagavata You mean— you don’t know your father died last year?— Also your mother . . . kapila [expressionless]. No. bhagavata And Padmini has a son. kapila I see. bhagavata Why this anger, Kapila? kapila What anger? bhagavata It shows in the way you stand, you move. kapila All that is your poetry.

Moves on. bhagavata

Kapila! Kapila!

Kapila goes round the stage once. He mimes picking up an axe and felling a tree. A long silence. Only the soundless image o f Kapila cutting the tree. Padmini enters, child in arms. She is scared and walks in rapidly. She sees Kapila and stands transfixed. Kapila doesn't see herfo r a while and when he does stands paralysed. A long silence. [slowty. You? padmini Yes. kapila Here? padmini My son had never laughed with the river or shivered in the wind or felt the thorn cut his feet. So I brought him out. I lost my way in the woods. kapila Y o u shouldn’t have lost it this far. padmini The wrong road stuck to my feet— wouldn’t let go. kapila Y o u shouldn't have lost it this far. Wild beasts— robbers— pathless paths— all sorts of danger. padmini I asked the villagers . . . And the pilgrims. And the hunters. And the tribesmen. When there wasn’t anyone any more, I asked myself. Everyone saw to it that I didn’t lose the wrong road.


Pause. Is that your son? p a d m in i Yes. And yours. kapila Mine? kapila


Your body g a v e h im to m e. ka pila Mine? [Erupting. Not mine. I’m Kapila, Padmini. I didn't accept it that day. But I accept it now, I'm Kapila. pa d m in i [softly^. And how’s Kapila?

p a d m in i

The Bhagavata sings. Thefollouing is a prose rendering of the song. I spread my wings, and kicked away the earth and flew up. I covered the seven continents, the ten shores and measured the sky. Now because you have a child at your breast, a husband on your thighs, the red o f rust on the lips o f your late-opening mouth, I pick a picture here, and there a card of fate and live for the grace o f a grain— an astrologer’s bird. ka pila Can I look at him? pa d m in i That’s why I brought him.


Kapila looks at the child. What’s wrong with me? You’ve come so far and I haven t even asked you to sit down. Why don't you go in and lake a little rest?

ka pila

She goes in with the child. He stands as in a daze. She comes out without the child. k a pila

W hy . . .

p a d m in i

I don’t need any rest.

Long silence. kapila

H o w a r e y ou ?

I’m well. No illness, problems or difficulties. k a pila Your son looks exactly like you. pa d m in i la slightpausdi. And you.

p a d m in i

Kapila doesn 7 reply. He has the same mole on his shoulder. ka pila What mole?

She comes to him and points out the mole on his shoulder. This one. Which other could it be? That’s the only one you have on your shoulder. k a pila Oh! I hadn't seen it. I don’t much look at this body

pa d m in i

Hayavadana padmini

[quiet1$. Do you despise it that much?

No reply. Why have you tortured it so?

Takes his hand in hers. When this went to you. It was so soft like a prince’s. These arms were so slender and fair. Look at them now. Why have you done this to yourself? kapila When this body came to me, it was like a corpse hanging by my head. It was a Brahmin’s body after all— not made for the woods. I couldn’t lift an axe without my elbows moaning. Couldn’t run a length without my knees howling. I had no use for it. The moment it came to me, a war started between us. padmini And who won? kapila I did. padmini The head always w ins, d o e s n ’t it? kapila Fortunately, yes. Now I can run ten miles and not stop for breath. I can swim through the monsoon floods and fell a banyan. The stomach used to rebel once— Now it digests what I give. If I don’t, it doesn’t complain. padmini Must the head always win? kapila That’s why I am Kapila now. Kapila! Kapila with a face which fits his b o d y . pad m ini What a g o o d mix— No more tricks— Is this one that Or that one this? Do you remember the song we sang in the Kali temple? kapila

So ?

Nothing. I often remember it. It’s almost my autobiography now, Kapila! Devadatta! Kapila with Devadatta’s body! Devadatta with Kapila’s body! Four men in one lifetime. kapila [suddenly). Why have you come away from him? padmini What do you want me to say?


Theyfreeze. How could I make you understand? I f Devadatta had changed overnight and had gone back to his original fo rm , I would have forgotten you completely. But that’s not how it



happened. He changed day by day. Inch by inch. Hair by hair. Like the trickling sand. Like the water filling the pot. And as I saw him change— I couldn't get rid o f you. That’s what Padmini must tell Kapila. She should say more, without concealing anything: ‘Kapila, if that rishi had given me to you, would I have gone back to Devadatta some day exactly like this?’ But she doesn’t say anything. She remains quiet. k a p il a [to Padmini]. Why have you come here? p a d m in i I had to see you. k a p il a Why? [No reply.1Why? Why did you have to come just when 1thought I'd won this long and weary battle? Why did you have to pursue me just when I had succeeded in uprooting these memories? I am Kapila now. The rough and violent Kapila. Kapila without a crack between his head and his shoulders What do you want now? Another head’ Another suicide?— Listen to me. Do me a favour. Go back. Back to Devadatta. He is your husband— the father o f this child. Devadatta and Padmini! Devadatta and Padmini! A pair coupled with the holy fire as the witness. I have no place there, no peace, no salvation— So go. I beg of you. Go.

A long silence. I will. If you want me to. k a p il a [almost a moan1. Oh God! p a d m in i Why? k a p il a Nothing. Another memory— when I too was asked to go— Yes, go back. Now. p a d m in i I will. But can I ask a little favour? My son’s tried. He's asleep. He has been on my arms for several days now. Let him rest a while. As soon as he gets up I’ll go. [Laughs.] Yes, you won, Kapila. Devadatta won too. But I— the better half o f two bodies— I neither win nor lose. No, don’t say anything. I know what you’ll say and I’ve told myself that a thousand times. It’s my fault. I mixed the heads up. I must suffer for it. 1 will. I’m sorry I came— I didn't think before I started— Couldn’t. But at least until my child wakes up, may I sit here and look at you? Have my fill for the rest of my life? I won’t speak a word p a d m in i

Long pause. ka pila

What does it matter now whether you stay or go? You've

Hayavadana done the damage. I had buried all those faceless m em ories in my skin. Now you’ve dug them up with your claws. padmini Why should one bury anything? kapila Why shouldn’t one? Why should one tolerate this mad dan ce of incompleteness? padmini Whose incompleteness? Yours? kapila Yes, mine. One beats the body into shape, but one can't beat away the memories in it. isn’t that surprising? That the body should have its own ghosts— its own memories? Memories of touch— memories of a touch— memories of a body swaying in these arms o f a warm skin against this palm— memories which one cannot recognize, cannot understand, cannot even' name because this head wasn’t there when they happened . . . padmini Kapila . . . kapila [without anger]. Why did you come? You came. You touched me. You held my hand— and my body recognized your touch. I have never touched you, but this body, this appendage, laughed and flowered out in a festival o f memories to which I’m an outcaste . . . padmini Poor Kapila! kapila Don’t pity me. padmini Be quiet, stupid. Your body bathed in a river, swam and danced in it. Shouldn’t your head know what river was, what swim? Your head too must submerge in that river— the flow must rumple your hair, run its tongue in your ears and press your head to its bosom. Until that’s done, you’ll continue to be incomplete.

Kapila raises his head and looks at her. She caresses his face, like blind person trying to imprint it on herfingertips. Then she rests her head on his chest. My Kapila! My poor, poor Kapila! How needlessly you’ve tortured yourself.

Kapila lifts her up and takes her in. You cannot engrave on w a te r nor wound it with a knife, which is why the river has no fear




¡-.3a.w a

or^ rr-V-^-j-Z ' hcs ^*? Thè rr*rf oc.y retris ^r.e p*— or :r.e x^rrrrx. See ir.d eric na^rics o r '_r.e r-ir.k.s r„rr^ a :oo oc ¿ry leaves m tr.e navel o f che w ru ripool. w e a v e s

a w ater*«ruike in cr.e net ot Silver scrancb in the green d ep erì. in ¿.-.tens the fro g o n the rug

of mo-vs. >ucits and b a m b o o leaves

iin g v tosses. leap* and sw eep s o n in a ru$h— bhaoavaTa 'fc'hile the scarecrow o n the bank has a face fading o n its m u dp ot head and a b o d y to m w ith m em ories

Deiadatta enters. He is hotding a suord in one hand, and tn the other, tuo dolls, made o f cloth. b h a g a vat a devad atta bh ag avata devadatta

\X’ho’ Devadatta? Where does Kapila live here? Uhm— well— Anyway, how are . . . you . . . If you don't want to tell me, don’t. I can find out for

myself. There, behind those trees. d e v a d a t t a H o w long has Padmini been here? b h ag a vata About four or five days. d e v a d a tta Amazing! Even a man like me found the road hard But how quickly she covered it— and with a child in her arms. b h a g a v a t a Devadatta . . . b h a g a vat a

Devadatta moves on. Devadatta moves on. There are only two words which make sense to him now— Kapila and Padmini! Kapila and Padmini! The words carry him along like a flood to the doorstep of Kapila's hut. But suddenly he stops. Until this moment he has been yearning to taste the blood of Kapila. But now he is still and calm.

Kapila comes out. 310

Hayavadana Come, Devadatta. I was waiting fo r you. I’ve been expecting you since yesterday. I have been coming out every half an hour to see if you’d arrived. Not from fear. Only eager.


Padmini comes out and stands watching them. [to Devadatta]. You look exactly the same. DEVADATTA [laughs]. YOU tOO. kapila [points to the sword]. What’s that? devadatta ( extending the hand which holds the dolls]. Dolls. For the child. I came home from the fair. There was no one there. So I came here. kapila

Padmini steps forward and takes the dolls. But neither speaks. Padmini goes back to herplace and stands clutching the dolls to her bosom. Come in a n d rest a while. There’ll always be time to talk later.


Devadatta shakes his head. Why? Are you angry? devadatta Not any more. [Pause. 1 Did my body bother you too much? kapila It wasn’t made for this life. It resisted. It also had its revenge. devadatta Did it? kapila D o you remember how I once used to envy you, your poetry, your ability to imagine things? For me the sky was sky, and the tree only a tree. Your body gave me new feelings, .new words— felt awake as I’d never before— even started—writing poems. Very bad ones, I’m afraid.

They laugh. There were times when I hated it for what it gave me devadatta I wanted your power but not your wildness. You lived in hate— I in fear. kapila No, I was the one who was afraid. devadatta What a good mix— No more tricks.

They laugh. Tell me one thing. Do you really love Padmini? kapila Yes.


I know.

Silence. Devadatta, couldn’t we all three live together— like the Pandavas and Draupadi? d e v a d a t t a What do you think?

Silence. Padmini looks at them but doesn’t say anything. [laughs. No, it can’t be done. d e v a d a t t a That’s why I brought this. [Shows the swordl. What won’t end has to be cut. k a p il a I got your body—but not your wisdom. d e v a d a t t a Where’s your sword then? k a p il a A moment. k a p il a

Goes in. Padmini stands looking at Devadatta. But he looks somewherefa r away After sharing with Indra his wine his food his jokes I returned to the earth and saw from far a crack had appeared in the earth’s face— exactly like Indra’s smile.


Kapila returns with his sword. They take up positions. Are you still in practice? d e v a d a t t a Of course not. But you’d learned well. And you? k a p il a I learnt again. But one's older now— slower at learning. d e v a d a t t a [pausd. You realize it’s immaterial who’s better with a sword now, don’t you? k a p il a Yes, I do. d e v a d a t t a There’s only one solution to this. k a p il a We must both die. d e v a d a tta We must both die. k a p il a With what confidence we chopped off our heads in that

k a p il a

Hayavadana temple! N o w w h o s e head— w h o se b o d y — suicide o r m urder— nothing’s clear.

No grounds for friendship now. No question of mercy. We must fight like lions and kill like cobras. kapila Let our heads roll to the very hands which cut them in th e temple o f Kali!


Music starts. Thefight is stylized like a dance. Their swords don’t touch. Even Padmini’s reaction is like a dance. Like cocks in a pit We dance— he and I . . . foot woven with foot eye soldered to eye. He knows and 1 know all there’s to be known the witch’s burning thirst burns for blood alone. Hence this frozen smile, which cracks and drips to earth, and claw-knives, digging flesh for piecemeal death. The rishi who said ‘Knowledge gives rise to forgiveness’ had no knowledge o f death. (Kapila wounds Devadatta who falls to his feet and fights. He stabs Kapila. Both fight on their knees, fa ll and die. A long silence. Padmini slowly comes and sits between the bodies.) padmini They burned, lived, fought, embraced and died. I stood silent. If I'd said, ‘Yes, I’ll live with you both’, perhaps they would have been alive yet. But I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say, ‘Yes’. No, Kapila, no, Devadatta— I know it in my blood you couldn’t have lived together. You would’ve had to share not only me but your bodies as well. Because you knew death you died in each other’s arms. You could only have lived ripping each other to pieces. I had to drive you to death. You forgave each other, but again— left me out. bh a g a v a ta ( Without leaving his seat.) What is this? It’s a sight to freeze the blood in one’s veins. What happened, child? Can we help you? padmini ( Without looking at him.) Yes, please. My son is sleeping in bhagavata

(¿m gs).


the hut. Take him under your care. Give him to the hunters who live in this forest and tell them it’s Kapila’s son. They loved Kapila and will bring the child up. Let the child grow up in the forest with the rivers and the trees. When he’s five take him to the Revered Brahmin Vidyasagara o f Dharmapura. Tell him it’s Devadatta’s son. b h a g a vat a And you? p a d m in i Make me a large funeral pyre. We are three. b h a g a v a t a You mean you are performing sati? But why, child? p a d m in i CPuts the dolls on the ground) Give these dolls to my son. I won’t see him . . . He may tempt me away from my path. CAt a sign from the Bhagavata, two stage-hands come and place a curtain in front o f Padmini.) Kali, Mother o f all Nature, you must have your joke even now. Other women can die praying that they should get the same husband in all the lives to come. You haven’t left me even that little consolation. (Does namaskara. The stage-hands lift the curtain, slowly, very slowly, very slowly, as the song goes on. The curtain has a blazing fire painted on it. And as it is lifted, theflames seem to leap up. The female musicians sing a song. The following is a prose rendering o f it.) female c h o r u s Our sister is leaving in a palanquin of sandal-wood. Her mattress is studded with rubies which bum and glow. She is decked in flowers which blossom on tinder-wood and whose petals are made o f molten gold. How the garlands leap and cover her, aflame with love. The Fortunate Lady's procession goes up the street o f laburnums, while the makarandas tie the pennants and the jacarandos hold the lights. Good-bye, dear Sister. Go you without fear. The Lord o f Death will be pleased with the offering o f three coconuts. bh a g a v a t a (Picks up the dolls and comes downstage.) Thus Padmini became a sati. India is known for its pativratas—wives who dedicated their whole existence to the service o f their husbands— but it would not be an exaggeration to say that no pativrata went in the way Padmini did. And yet no one knows the spot where she went sati. If you ask the hunting tribes who dwell in these forests, they only point to a full-blossomed tree of the Fortunate Lady. They say that even now on full moon and

Hayavadana on new moon nights a song rises from the roots of the tree and fills the whole forest like a fragrance. female c h o r u s ( Sings.) Why should love stick to the sap of a single body? When the stem is drunk with the thick yearning o f the many-petalled, many-flowered lantana, why should it be tied down to the relation of a single flower? A head for each breast. A pupil for each eye. A side for each arm. I have neither regret nor shame. The blood pours into the earth and song branches out in the sky.

When the song ends, the Bhagavata does namaskara to the audience. The audience should get a definite feeling that the play has ended when a scream is heard in the wings. bhagavata

What's that? Oh! Nata, our Actor!

Actor II comes rushing out. He doesn ’/even see the Bhagavata in his desperate hurry. Why is he running? Where’s the National Anthem?.

Actor II suddenly steps in his tracks. The National Anthem! bhagavata What’ actor n How did you know? bhagavata Know what’ actor n Please, Bhagavata Sir, how did you know . . . bhagavata Know what? actor 11 About the National Anthem. bhagavata What do you mean? a c to r i i Please, Sir, I beg of you. I implore you. Don’t make fun of me. How did you know it was the National Anthem . . . bhagavata Why? Haven’t you seen an audience . . . a c to r ( relieved . Phew! That Ram Ram! bhagavata Why? What happened? a c to r ii What happened? Sree Hari! Look . . .

actor ii

Lifts his hand. It’s trembling. bhagavata Why? W hat. . . .

I almost d ie d o f fright.. . bhagavata Really?

acto r ii

ac to r

n I w a s c o m in g d o w n t h e ro a d — w h e n I h e a r d s o m e o n e s in g in g


at a distance— at the top of his voice. He was singing, Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara (May our flag fly high!!. He started on SaareJahan seAcchha Hindostán Hamara (O ur India is better than the whole world). Then Rise, Rise myKannada Land, then Vande Mataram . . . b h a g a vat a Then? a c t o r ii I was baffled . . . A true patriot at this time o f night9 I had to find out who it was. A house— a big, thick fence around with not a gap in it— But I managed to find a hole to crawl through. I was just halfway in when I saw . . . b h a g a vat a What?

The Actor wipes his brow. Come on . . . what did you see? a c t o r II Ahorse! b h a g a v a t a leagerj. A horse? a c t o r if Yes. It turned to me and in a deep, sonorous voice said, ‘Friend, I’m now going to sing the National Anthem. So please do stand up to attention!’ b h a g a v a t a Listen, Nata, are you sure . . . a c t o r ii I swear. . . b h a g a v a t a No, no, what 1 mean is . . .

Commotion in the wings. What’s that now?

Actor I enters with a boy ofaboutfive. The boy is very seriouseven sulky. There's not a trace o f laughter on hisface. He is holding the two cloth dolls which we have already seen— but the dolls are dirtier now. The commotion comes from Actor I, who is so busy trying to make the child laugh— makingfaces at him, clowning, capering and shouting- he doesn't notice the Bhagavata. [delighted. Oh! Nata! You again! a c t o r i [turns round and sees the Bhagavatd. Oh, sir, it’s you! b h a g a v a t a Well well, you’ll live to be a hundred. a c t o r i Why? What have I done? b h a g a vat a I was just thinking o f you and you turned up. Just now this Nata [pointing to Actor IA was saying he saw a horse headed bhagavata

Hayavadana man and I wondered if it was Hayavadana. So I remembered you. ac to r u Bhagavata Sir. . . actor i [ignoring Actor Ili. There’s an actor’s fate in a nutshell for you. Always remembered for someone else . . . bhagavata Where’s Hayavadana now? Has he come back? actor i I don’t know, sir. He chased me away the moment we reached the Kali temple. Wouldn’t let me stay there a minute longer. . . bhagavata Oh! I very much hope the goddess granted him what he wanted. [Sees the child.] Who’s this child? actor i Him? Well? I To the child.] Go on, tell him.

The child remains silent. Doesn '/answer any questions. Who are you, child?— What’s your name?— Where are you parents? actor I You see? Not a word. Children of his age should be out­ talking a dictionary, but this one doesn’t speak a word. Doesn’t laugh, doesn’t cry, doesn’t even smile. The same long face all twenty-four hours. There’s obviously something wrong with h im . . . bhagavata

Bends before the child and clowns a bit. See? No response— no reactions. When he grows up he should make a good theatre critic. actor ii [ restless]. Bhagavata Sir . . . bhagavata I/o Actor /). Where did you find him? actor i In a tribal village of hunters. On my way back 1had to stay a night there and a tribal woman brought him to me. said, ‘This is not our child. It’s from the city. Take it back.’ bhagavata A child o f this city? [Actor 1 nods.] How strange! [Notices the dolls.] But— bui— these dolls . . .

Tries to touch the dolls. The child reacts violently and moves away angry, terrified. I was about to warn you! Whatever you do don’t touch his dolls! At other times he’ll starve and freeze to death rather than say a word. But touch the dolls and he’ll bare his fangs. He almost bit o ff my finger once .. .

actor i


[to Actor /I. Bui Nata— [Pause] Child, lei me see y o u r shoulder.. .


The child moves back No, no, 1won’t touch the dolls. I promise you. Just your shoulder . . . [Inspects his shoulder. Then with a cry o f triumph . . ] Nata. .. a c t o r u Bhagavata Sir... a c t o r i Yes... b h a g a vat a Look, the mole. It’s Padmini’s son. . . there’s no doubt about it... a c t o r I Padmini? Which... a c t o r II [shouting at the top o f his voicd. Bhagavata Sir!

Actor I and Bhagavata react. Yes? Why are you shouting? a c t o r ii I have been calling you for the last half-an-hour. . . b h a g a vat a Yes, yes. What’s it? a c t o r ii You said I’d seen a horse-headed man. I didn’t. What I saw was a complete, perfect, proper.. . b h a g a vat a

A voice is hard offstage singing the third stanza o f Jana Gatia Mana'. There it is!

All stare in the direction o f the song. A horse enters the stage singing. Tava Karunaruna Rage Nidrita Bharata Jage Tava Charane Nata Matha Jaya jaya jaya he jaya, Rajeshwara. . .

ho rse

Comes and stands in front o f them. Hohoo! What’s this? Mr Bhagavata Sir! My Actor Friend! Well, well, well! What a pleasant surprise! Delightful! How are you. Sir, how are you? b h a g a vat a It’s not— not Hayavadana, is it? h a y a v a d a n a Your most obedient servant, Sir.. . b h ag a vata But what... a c t o r II You mean you know this horse?

Hayavadana [bursts into a gujfau\. We’re old friends. actor i [laughing. Fellow-pilgrims! hayavadana But not fellow-travellers. What?


They roar with laughter. Suddenly the boy too starts laughing. Doubles up with laughter. The dolls fa ll out o f his hand as he claps his hands. (clapping his hands]. The horse is laughing! The horse is laughing! actor I [jumping with delight. The boy is laughing! hayavadana [goes to the botf. Why, my little friend, you m ay laugh— but I may not? the b o y

7he boy is in hysterics. That’s Padmini’s son, Hayavadana. . . hayavad ana Padmini? I am not aware of. . . bhagavata You don’t know her. But this poor child— he hadn't laughed, or cried, or talked in all these years. Now you have made him laugh... hayavadana Delighted. Delighted. bhagavata But tell me— you went to the goddess to become a complete man, didn’t you? What happened? h ayavadana Ah! That’s a long story. I went there, picked up a sword which was lying around— very unsafe, I tell you— put it on my neck and said: ‘Mother of all Nature, if you don’t help me I’ll chop o f my head!’ actor i Then? hayavadana The goddess appeared. Very prompt. But looked rather put out. She said— rather peevishly, I thought— ’Why don’t you people go somewhere else if you want to chop off your stupid heads? Why do you have to come to me?’ 1 fell at her feet and said, ‘Mother, make me complete’. She said ‘So be it’ and disappeared— even before I could say ‘Make me a complete man’! 1became a horse. actor i I am sorry to hear that.. . hayavadana Sony? Whatever for? The goddess knew what she was doing. I can tell you that. Ha Ha! Being a horse has its points. . . [Pause] I have only one sorrow... bhagavata Yes? hayavadana I have become a complete horse— but not a complete bhagavata



being! This human voice— this cursed human voice— it’s still there! How can I call myself complete? If I only could. What should I do, Bhagavata Sir? How can I get rid o f this human voice? b h a g a vat a I don’t know what to tell you. Hayavadana. h a y a v a d a n a That’s why I sing all these patriotic songs— and the National Anthem! That particularly! I have noticed that the people singing the National Anthem always seem to have ruined their voices— So I try. But— but— it— it doesn’t seem to w ork ... What should I do?

He starts to sob. Don’t cry, horse. Don’t cry. Stop it now. . . h a y a v a d a n a No, I won’t cry. The boy’s right.- What’s the point of shedding tears? t h e b o y Don’t cry— you look nice when you laugh. . . h a y a v a d a n a No, I won’t cry. I won’t give up trying either. Come, little friend, let’s sing the National Anthem together. t h e b o y What is that? b h a g a v a t a How could he? He has been brought up in a forest. . h a y a v a d a n a Then sing some other song. Look, if you sing a song. I'll take you round on my back. t h e b o y [excitedi. Yes— please... h a y a v a d a n a Well, then, what are we waiting for? Get on my back. Quick. the b o y

The Bhagavata seats the child on the horse’s back. Hiyah— Hiyah— h a y a v a d a n a No, no. You sing first. Then we start. b h a g a vat a Sing, son.

th e b o y

The boy sings and the horse goes around in a slow trot. Here comes a rider. From what land O, what land? On his head a turban. Sleep now, sleep now. Why his chest red O red? Why his eyes Pebbles O pebbles? Why his body ^20

Hayavadana cold O cold? Where goes the horse? Nowhere O nowhere.

As the song ends, the horse comes and stands in front o f the Bhagavata. Mr Bhagavata Sir .. . BHAGAVATA Yes. hayavadana It seems to me the rider described in the song is dead. I am right? bhagavata Er— I think so—yes. hayavadana Who could have taught this child such a tragic song? b o y Mother .. . bhagavata What’s there in a song, Hayavadana? The real beauty lies in the child’s laughter— in the innocent joy o f that laughter. No tragedy can touch it. h a ya v ad a n a To be honest, Mr Bhagavata Sir, I have my doubts about this theory. I believe— in fact I may go so far as to say I firmly believe— that it’s this sort o f sentimentality which has been the bane o f our literature and national life. It has kept us from accepting Reality and encouraged escapism. Still, if you say so, 1 won’t argue. Come, child, let’s have another song. boy I don’t know .. . hayavadana Then sing the same song again. boy You laugh first. hayavadana Laugh again?— Let me try [tries to laugh]. Ha Ha Ha! No, it’s not easy to laugh— just like that. .. boy [mimes whipping. Laugh— laugh . . . hayavadana All right. All right. I’ll try again. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!— Huhhuh ... Heahhh . .. hayavadana

His laughter ends up as a proper neigh. What’s that? bhagavata Hayavadana— Hayavadana . . . hayavadana Heahhh . . .


His human voice isgone now. He can only neigh and leaps around ivith great joy. bhagavata

Careful— careful. Don’t drop the child . . .

But the horse is too happy to listen. It prances around,


neighing gleefully. The boy is also enjoying himself Singing bits o f the song and urging the horse on. So at long last Hayavadana has become complete. [To the Actors.] You two go and tell the Revered Brahmin Vidyasagar that his grandson is returning home in triumph, ndin< a big, white charger. . . a c t o r h And the dolls? bh a g a vata Throw them away. There’s no further need for them .. bh a g a vata

The Actors go out with the dolls. Unfathomable indeed is the mercy o f the Elephant-headed Ganesa. He fulfils the desires of all— a grandson to a grandfather, a smile to a child, a neigh to a horse. How indeed can one descnbe his glory in our poor, disabled words? Come, Hayavadana, come. Enough of this dancing. Our play is over and it’s time we all prayed and thanked the Lord for having ensured the completion and success o f our play

Hayavadana comes and stands by the Bhagavata. The Bhagavata helps the child down. At this point the curtain, with the fire painted on it—which has been there all the time—is dropped and Padmini, Kapila and Devadatta step forward and p in the Bhagavata in prayer. Grant us, O Lord, good rains, good crop, Prosperity in poetry, science, industry and other affairs. Give the rulers o f our country success in all endeavours, and along with it, a little bit o f sense.

The Lone Tusker ( Ottayan) K.N. PANIKKAR Translation: K.S. Narayana P illa i

Chakyar enters. (The Chakyarsform a community o f artists who perform the Koothu and Koodiyattam plays in the Koothampala ms o f Kerala temples.) He carries a knapsack on his back. He appears to be on a long journey. My name is Parameswaran. Well-versed in the art of speech, and being incarnated in a family of Kusilavas or Sutas, 1took up acting as my profession. And today I propose to enact an extremely and entirely enjoyable story for the benefit of the audience. At the outset let me tell you that compared to my other plays this play is peculiar in more than one respect. You probably got that impression from the way I began. It is a purely Lokadharmi play; by this I simply mean that the story really took place. It is a tale of worldly affairs. I will certainly do my best to make it a Natyadharmi play; in other words, I shall try to add the necessary embellishments, clothe it in attractive costume and enact it in a suitable manner, nay in the most befitting and appropriate style. If you are to experience this Natyadharmi quality, a bare representation is not enough. Shouldn’t I render at least one verse? For that I have undergone voice training and am more or less ready. I shall recite the verse in due course. Just because I have to recite a verse I must not make it worse. Now, 1 don’t want to leave another peculiarity of the play unsaid. This is my own story, which means that it could be yours too. For, there reflects a different image o f the Sun in each o f the bowls filled with water; the sun is one and the same, the images many; let us all be one as we enter my story. Also let us see if, by elaboration, w e may make ambiguous what has already been said. Between you and me Do not differentiate, we are all one spirit with manifold forms. We might say that both you and I exist,

c h a k ya r



or it may be Chat neither you nor I exist. Now that I have stated a few simple maxims, 1shall start narrating the story in the Natyadharmi style of articulation in which I have trained myself. 1 do promise that later 1 shall move onto the enactment of the play in the proper manner. Let me start with the verse: One of bravado one day, the lone adventurer that I am, at the end of a performance sacred I picked up my knapsack and left the place, And while travelling thus alone, by the force of my sins of the past I was trapped in a jungle as dusk fell I was struck by the storm raging within.

Having recited the verse and enacted its meaning, he turns to one side and indicates having seen a forest. Oh! What shall I do now? Whither shall I go in this wild jungle? A dreadful forest without even the scent o f man! Oh! God, it is a pity that 1am trapped here at this untimely hour. (Looking into the distance with rapt attention) Is that not a herd o f grazing elephants that I see yonder? Or are these elephants but a cluster of hillocks hugging the darkness? There is also a towering tusker who has broken away from the herd. He is running along in rut. Had I been at home, how interestingly could I have described the odour o f the rutting and the swinging gait o f this elephant in rut! But now— alas the tusker is aiming at me and rushing forward. At this critical moment all my histrionic talents are benumbed Not only that, 1am also learning new lessons. But will this humble actor live long enough to re-enact them in a manner beneficial to the world at large? Come what may, let me try a bit o f acting in front o f this elephant. If I am blessed enough, the elephant may be frightened by my performance and go back. In that case 1 won’t have to give up my life; that would mean that the art of acting has triumphed.

He pretends to be an elephant and dances to the accompaniment o f drum beats. While the performance is going on, a woodsman appears on the stage. Even after his 326

The Lone Tusker arrival, the Chakyar continues dancing. The woodsman also acts as i f he sees a real elephant in front o f him. Are you an elephant, you wretched fellow? c h a k y a r Yes, I am a lone tusker in rut that has lost its way. I strayed away from a herd o f elephants grazing at a distance. I feel that I have become incapable o f staying with the herd. w o o d s m a n Aren’t you in rut? Let me see if I can put you in chains (acts as i f he is beating the Chakyar). c h a k y a r Oh my dear woodsman, don’t beat me. Please don’t. w o o d s m a n Don’t I have to chain you? ( Continues to ‘beat’ him.) c h a k y a r Oh no. You need not. My rut has subsided. I am now a lone tusker well-trained and disciplined. I don’t think 1 need to be tamed. I promise I shall adjust myself to any company. Why did you beat me like that? Please don't beat me. Did you beat me up in order to chain me? It is quite unnecessary. Night is approaching and the scene is a desolate forest. And I, a lone tusker; no shelter for me. And then I have the good luck to meet someone resembling a human being. Therefore you may chain me anywhere you like. w o o d s m a n ( looking at the knapsack o f the Chakyar). What is this, fellow? c h a k y a r A knapsack. w o o d s m a n What kind of knapsack? c h a k y a r The same as everyone has. w oodsm an There must be something in it. Pick it up yourself. (Chakyar puts it across his shoulder.) Now move along. Hm. Move on. w oodsm an

He ¿trikes the Chakyarfrom behind. The latter walks along in a circle, imitating the gait o f an elephant. (turning around). Where are you taking me? w o o d s m a n Aren’t you afraid? After all, I am a woodsman. c h a k y a r My beloved woodsman, I am really frightened. I am quite sure that within my mind 1am afraid. Don’t you get the impression that I am afraid? You should have got that impression. Or is it because I am not acting? (Turning to the audience.) In such a helpless condition, how can anyone act? w oodsm an Really? Then move on to our dwelling. (Both o f them resume walking in a circle) There you’ll find Mooppanar. c h a k y a r Mooppanar! What’s he? Animal or man? ch akyar


Neither. Just Mooppanar. c h a k y a r Will he eat me up, my dear woodsman? w o o d s m a n Why not? The sin o f killing will be washed o ff by the eating. c h a k y a r Then I’m going to be killed? My beloved friend, kindly free me here. It is better for me to be devoured by some wild animal than to go to your dwelling. w o o d s m a n No, you won’t be let free (grabs hold o f the Chakyar) chakyar I shall run away and escape without even my own knowledge (runs). w o o d s m a n Stop there! CHe seizes the Chakyar and brings him back) c h a k y a r (falling at the woodsman'sfeet). My beloved woodsbaby, save me, please save me. Pray let me off without doing me any harm! w oodsm an

Abruptly the Chakyar stops acting hispart, moves downstage and speaks to the audience as if he is discoursing. Uttering such words, I fell at the feet o f the woodsman and entreated him not to take me to his dwelling. At that time, just about an hour o f day time was left. It was in the middle of a forest. Hence it was impossible to tell the exact time. Still, had the light started fading away completely? No; but wasn’t there some dimness, here and there? Oh yes, there was. Or was the light fading within my mind? That was the truth. The inner light was completely gone. As to what happened afterwards— Both the characters enact their respective roles as indicated in thefollowing verse. In fear I walked on, the woodsman struck me hard; L paused in grief, he roared from behind in command. Thoughts of the guardian deity in mind, I gave myself up to such justice as the forest proffers. My fear and grief vanished.

Chakyarfalls down. A second woodsman, Mooppanar (The head o f the clan) more dreadful than the first one, enters with torch in hand. Both o f them stand behind the Chakyar, with raised swords. They laugh aloud jubilantly. But the chakyar is not frightened at all.

The Lone Tusker ( moving their swords in a ritualistic manner around the Chakyar’s head). For Kali, Kuli and Kalan, for the subject, for the king, for the blessed victim, for blood for vatha and kotha, ride on my sword and come. Oh Kali, Tirukali, Bhadrakali c h a k y a r Who are you? What are you doing? You must tell me the truth. Are you gods of death? If so, it is good that we have met. When do you return? I shall go with you. m o o p p a n a r Where? c h a k y a r To your country. w o o d s m a n Open your knapsack, let me see what’s in it. c h a k y a r There’s nothing in my knapsack; nothing suitable for you. m o o p p a n a r All the same, open the knapsack, you! (Brandishes his sword. Theypush the Chakyar about as if he is a plaything). c h a k y a r Ha, but why such flirting with me, beloved? If you think I won’t open the knapsack even after such humble entreaties from both o f you, you are indeed two pigheads. It is wrongly said that you are animals. You have no intelligence at all. w o o d s m a n (shouting). Remember, we can follow what you say! m oo ppanar (In a still louder voice). Your throat will be slit open, you dog. Open your knapsack, hm, open it. the w o o d s m e n

Chakyar opens his knapsack. In it there are two or three withered red garlands. Apartfrom these, there are bracelets and a head-dress. The woodsman examines these items one by one. At last he takes out a pair o f kuzithala or small cymbals. What is this, y o u lo n e r? c h a k y a r It is the kuzithala. How did it happen to be in my knapsack? This is the kuzithala on which' my Nagiyar, my beloved one, used to keep rhythm with her lotus hands (caresses the kuzithala). She made a mistake in the rhythm during the performance. So I quarrelled with her and came away. Still, there is her kuzithala in my knapsack. w o o d s m a n What is this for? chakyar (striking the kuzithala rhythmically)To give tala. Hearing w oodsm an


it, even people like you with all the darkness of the forest in their heads can dance. w o o d s m a n (snatches away the kuzithala from the Chakyar, beats a rhythm on it and dances) It is fine, very fine, you loner.

Chakyar takes back the kuzithala and plays on it fo r some time. The rhythm inspires the two woodsmen to dance in ecstasy. (extricating himselffrom the effects o f the rhythm) Stop this playing, stop it. ( To woodsman) Shouldn’t we do away with him? Take up the sword. Brandish it.

m oo ppanar

Together they make the Chakyar stand with his head bent. Woodsman is about to cut off his head. Wait a bit. You woodsmen, what are you doing? What have I done to deserve this? Beat the rhythm on the kuzithaU# m o o p p a n a r No. Mother Kali wants blood. She wants your crimson blood. Hm. Bend forward now. c h a k y a r (pretending to be afraid). This might be better than being swallowed by wild animals. (Diplomatically) Still, it is only a short while since we got acquainted. Shouldn’t we get to know each other? Shouldn’t we establish an intimacy? After that, you may beat me up, or kill me or do whatever you like. m o o p p a n a r Who are you? Tell me the truth. c h a k y a r I? You may consider me an animal from the country. Since you have decided to offer me as a sacrifice to Kali, I must certainly be an animal. (To the audience) If it becomes necessary to play the role of an animal, what can I do but play it? w o o d s m a n What’s your occupation? c h a k y a r Drama. m o o p p a n a r Drama? Then do some drama. c h a k y a r It is impossible to ‘do’ drama as and when you ask me to; do you understand me, wild cats? m o o p p a n a r What did you call us? Let me hear it again. c h a k y a r It’s a very respectable term— wild cats. w oodsm an Are you willing to do drama? If not, I will spill your blood (lifts the sword). chakyar Don't do that. I shall do drama. But it requires some preparation. m o o p p a n a r What do you require?


The Loiie Tusker Both o f you must at least be ready to see it. Are you ready? m o o p p a n a r I am ready. w o o d s m a n I am also ready. Chakyar Then half the work is over. The light of that torch will suffice. Look here friends, it is not enough on your part to be merely ready to see the play. Watch me closely, with your whole mind involved in the performance. (The woodsmen remain motionless, closely watching the Chakyar.) In this forest, you have only caves to dwell in, isn’t it so? I shall build a nice house for you. (The woodsmen look at each other approvingly.) w o o d s m a n A house? Very good. Build it, build it. m o o p p a n a r Oh yes, build the house; build it by all means. You are a clever guy. chakyar ( mentions one by one the various steps connected with the construction o f a house and simultaneously enacts it in time to drum beats). First of all the ground must be cut into and made ready. Then the foundation has to be built by piling up stones one by one. After that the walls have to be built up. Don’t we need some timber for the construction? Look, you have a bulky tree over there. That may be cut down. And now, work on the timber. Let me prepare the door frames. I shall fix the door myself. Now you have the really difficult work. The beam has to be lifted and put in position. That is indeed very hard work. How can I do it alone? I am only a loner. Please join in this task. Hm, hold it up. Elaiyya—lift it together Aaisa— not alone— aaisa Ele malim—aaisa c h a k ya r

Chakyar enacts lifting a log. In the background the drum beats becomefaster. Now the woodsmen seem to be carried away by the illusion. Theyjoin hands with the Chakyar in lifting the log, and start behaving as if they are bearing the entire weight. Then the Chakyar releases his hold and comes downstage. (to the audience). See the wild cats lifting the beam. T w o guys supporting such a weighty beam— you can guess at their strength. Are they two lizards perched on the ceiling? They seem to




bear the weight o f the entire ceiling. However, I have won, and they have lost; I don’t propose to make such a claim. For 1 am after all a loner. Let the two stand there like this, bearing the whole weight. Meanwhile I shall recite a verse, close this drama and then join them in bearing the weight. The audience may utilize that time to leave this theatre. Who has won and who has lost, I am not eager to learn: to wish all happiness to you, bharatavakya will be sung.

Chakyar and the woodsmen act as if they are carrying the logforward. Their movements are in rhythm with the drum beats. Chakyar plays the role o f an elephant carrying the log.


Siri Sampige CHANDRASEKHAR KAMBAR Translation: Bowena H ill with K.P. Vasudevan and N.S. Ramaswamy

SCENE I Bhagavata and the chorus bhagavata


Before we speak, a thousand salutations to you, great Lord Siva of Savalagi, split in your divine play into man and wife, dancing Nataraja Ardhanarishwara, body and mind, spirit and matter you are, split into two and beyond duality, hail Siva! On Earth shining Sivapura’s King Nagara Raya is dead. Queen Mayavati lives and rightfully rules.

Mayavati enters Hear me! I am Mayavati, rightful wife o f King Nagara Nayaka o f Sivapura, city whose virtue shines upon the earth. My revered husband, after a long and virtuous reign, was borne away by time into timelessness. Since then I, like my revered husband, have continued to look after the interests o f my subjects without the slightest flaw in my attention to them. And now to tell you of my household affairs, in brief. When my revered husband departed this life, our son Sivanaga was only one year old. As well as looking after my subjects, I took constant care in fondling and feeding him. 1 was happy watching his infant antics. From his fifth year onwards, my son received from the mouth of a teacher knowledge of all weapons and scriptures. Growing day by day like the waxing moon, he has now reached the age of sixteen, heir not only to'his father’s kingdom and treasury but also to his courage, daring and other virtues. Strong as a mountain, he is well fitted to be Lord of forest and field in this Kingdom. While 1 was looking forward to being relieved of my worries after his coronation, one day a strange incident occurred. Hear! b h a g a v a t a Our family god spoke through an oracle, and foretold his future. See! Two dangers threaten: When his voice breaks he may become a monk, When his brother dies, he also dies. m other H o w should it be that on a full moon day the milk to be m o th e r

3 35


offered to our family god was curdled, an inauspicious sign? While I was thinking with my head in my hands, ‘Oh Siva, why should this happen?’ Our family god spoke through an oracle in the palace to tell me why. What he said was this: ‘Daughter, there are two hindrances in the way of your son’s good fortune. When his voice breaks, he may become a monk, and if not he may die because of one who is heir to what he is heir to’. On hearing his words, 1 anxiously grasped the feet o f the god and said, ‘Lord God, I will offer you the taste of palm wine, I will perform the five-torch ritual for you, I will build you a temple at Siva’s right hand and place offerings at your holy feet. Let my son’s family be a family of milk and gold; let him be without troubles, oh Lord!’ Our family god blessed me with a small smile and said, 'When your son’s voice breaks, arrange without delay for his marriage. Make sure he does not see his own image in water. Beware!’ Thus saying, he vanished. Since I have borne no other child, my son’s life is not in danger. But if the Prince sees his own image in water or in a mirror, he may become disinterested in worldly pleasure and riches and his mind may turn towards the ascetic life. Thus I myself have looked after my son with care so that he should not see his own image in water. My son is of robust beauty and lively. He can neither stand still nor sit still, but like a fresh young bull is always active, and I have seen the young girls of the clan sighing as they watch him. Just a few days ago his voice broke, and now we cannot delay any longer After his marriage has been celebrated, he is to be crowned. To this the people have given their consent, but the Prince himself evades it each time with a new excuse. So many maidens have been shown to him, but still disappointed. I am worried now whether there exists anywhere on earth a maiden he can admire. The more he makes excuses and postpones the wedding, the more my worries and anxieties increase. The Prince has now to be called and forced into marriage. So be it. Listen, Bhagavata! b h a g a v a t a Speak, Lady! m o t h e r Send for the Prince immediately!

Enter the Prince Mother, I bow to your lotus feet. You sent word telling me to come immediately. For what reason, Mother? m o t h e r Soon— p r in c e

Siri Sampige The Mother said, ‘My Son, your voice has broken so this is the right time to marry. Hear me now— wed a woman and rule the world, please your mother and live long!’ m other Child, you have to be informed of a very important matter; that is why you have been called. I am only a woman and becoming old, and I can no longer bear the responsibility o f the kingdom, so I desire to celebrate your marriage in a way acceptable to you, witness your coronation and spend the rest of my life in peace. The Elders o f the family have therefore been sent to Sevantipura to see King Pushparaja’s daughter Siri Sampige, and have approved her as a bride for you. Now you must accept. prince Why do you want me to marry straightaway, tying a grinding stone round the neck of a child at play? Why should responsibility fall on me while there are elders living? Please don’t make me unhappy, Mother, by constantly telling me such cruel things. m o th e r D o not foster our anxieties, dear Son, by continuing to say no. Our lineage has been hurt with curses and sighs. You were raised with care and cunning, in order not to offend the pride of the family god or allow the eyes of the evil gods to fall on you. If some whirlwind sweeps away the plant raised by our sweat, then what will be the future of the lineage, my dear? Enough of the obstinacy you have shown lately! You don’t want your mother’s worries about your marriage to bum her to death with their pain, do you? prince Kindly do not speak such words, Mother! If you feel pain in your mind, please forgive me. Only because the maidens you chose all had some defect or other, I have refused to marry. For no other reason. m o th e r Which maiden is flawless? Son, if you want such a maiden, then you yourself must be your own wife. prince I have faith that a flawless one must exist, Mother. From the day my voice broke, I have felt that she is hiding somewhere, like butter in milk. She is also trying to come out o f her hiding place somewhere. Give me time to show her to you. m o th e r D o you need time to tell me the name o f the maiden you admire? Or is this just another excuse to postpone the marriage? That’s enough. You shall have one week's time to say who the bhagavata


maiden is. If you give me her name, well and good. If not, you will many Siri Sampige. Is that understood? p r in c e Yes, Mother.

SCENE TWO Enter Awali andJawali, dancing. and j a w a l i You and I are a great pair of twins, we two together play and sing, Awali Jawali, Jawali Awali. We smile, they all smile; we cry, they all cry. Those who never laugh will laugh with us, those who never cry will cry with us, the laughing pair, the laughing-stocks. a w a l i What sort of a Bhagavata is this? Doesn’t he talk to the people who come in? b h a g a v a t a H o w should you be addressed? j a w a l i Hail, brave warrior! b h a g a v a t a All right, that’s what w e’ll call you. What place are you from? p r in c e To whom does Sivapura belong, have you heard? b h a g a v a t a To the King’s mother, Mayavati Devi, so we have heard Are you she? j a w a l i No, no! we are. . . a w a l i Those who make the cosmic egg and all lives that come out of such eggs laugh, or make them cry; the emperors o f humour, the laughing-stock monarchs, the great twins Awali and Jawali. Do you know who we are? b h a g a v a t a N o notion. a w a u That’s who we are. b h a g a v a t a Oh, so you are the twins! Between you two who is the elder brother and who is the younger one? j a w a l i I am the elder brother and he is the younger one. a w a u No sir, I am the elder brother and he is the younger one. b h a g a v a t a I s there no agreement between you? b o t h I am the elder or the younger brother. b h a g a v a t a This is like a riddle. a w a l i Sir, I will ask you a riddle, will you solve it? aw ali

Siri Sampige BHAGAVATA




If th is is th e r e , th at is n o t th e r e ; i f that is th e re , th is is n o t th e re . What is this, say? bhagavata I don't get it. jawali So you give up? bhagavata 1 give up? awali When there is a bride, there is no groom, and when there is a groom, there is no bride. bhagavata What does that mean? awali You know the prince, our friend there are brides for him, yet if he is asked to marry, he refuses. And we men we want to marry but there are no brides for us. bhagavata There is a girl, will you marry her? both Oh, yes. b h a g a v a t a There’s only one girl, how can both o f you marry her? aw ali Oh, you are right. Elder one, Jawali, you get married. jawali Well, say I got married. Since you resemble me so much. My wife may go to bed with you mistaking you for me. What then? No, no, you marry. aw ali What did you say? jawali The same, as you just said. aw ali I said you must marry. Jawali And I said you must. aw ali (with anger) If I had a couple o f fangs, I would have sucked your blood. I have spared you because I don’t have them. jawali ( with anger) If I had a couple of horns, I would have run them through your belly. I have spared you because I don’t have them. aw ali

Meanwhile a woman enters dancing. Both forget about fighting and stand staring, looking dazed. Who are you lady? w o m a n Oh, Sir, am I not the one who asked you to look for a bridegroom? bhagavata Oh, o f course. Now, 1 remember but I’ve forgotten your name. What is your name? w o m a n Should I say it again? Well listen: Mire is her birth place. Water is the place of relations. Looking at the man o f light, she blooms. Say, what is it? Jawali Shall I say, sir? bhagavata


Go ahead, my boy. j a w a l i Mire is your birth place, Water of rains, your in-law’s place Man of light is your lamp. Blooming one, aren’t you? Your name is Big frog, Isn’t it? Your name is Big frog. bh ag avata

All exceptJawali laugh. Look, how enthusiastically he exhibits his foolishness. Sorry sir. Shall I say it? BHAGAVATA Yes. a w a l i She, who is bom in the mire, She, who floats on water She, who blooms in light Green moss, aren’t you? Hey, hey woman! Isn't Green Moss your name?

aw ali

All except Awali laugh. Can’t you guess this much? Her name is Kamala, the lotus. a w a l i I knew it sir, but she looks lovely when she laughs, so I said that to make her laugh. (Kneeling in front o f Kamala) Lady, to this much 1swear, 1will take the vow o f obedient husbandhood for ever, and will serve you according to your dictates. This is the aim of my life. Won’t you fulfil this wish? j a w a l i My sacrifice cannot be less than this. Awali, I will sacrifice my very determination for your sake. I will marry her myself, right’ Lady, won’t you fulfil my wish? {He too kneels in front o f Kamala) a w a l i Why do you repeat all that I say? j a w a l i That’s exactly what I am asking you. a w a l i You know how angry I am? j a w a l i How angry? a w a l i Very, that is, extraordinarily, that is, anger simply boils within me. j a w a u Boils? I will boil my grains in it. Please let me do it. a w a l i How? j a w a u Say what I say. Now let us see. {Slapping his chest) Kamala is mine. a w a l i (slapping his chest) Kamala is mine. j a w a l i (pointing Awali's fingers towards himself) Say, she is mine bh ag avata

Siri Sampige (pointing Jawali's fingers towards himself) Say, she is mine. jawali Will you stop this and bark out something else? a w a u Will you kindly baric out something else? jawali I knew sir, that he was neither my elder nor my younger brother, that he was a rat or a bandicoot. Look how soon he has snapped the cords of brotherhood between the two of us. a w a u I knew sir, that he is neither my elder brother nor younger one and that he is a wolf or a fox. Look how he devoured the bond between us. I had decided to see the greatest fraternal disloyalty on earth and then die. I have seen it. I must die now. See you later. b h a g a v a t a H o w will you come back to see me after dying? jawali He will somehow come back to kill me, sir. Hark, if there be any petty deities around, come and save me. b h a g a v a t a Look, what is this? Do you think Kamala is a lottery? Isn’t she the one to decide which o f you she wants? Kamala, choose your man. k a m a la How is it possible, sir? Both are alike. Let them fight a d u e l. The winner is my choice, agreed? a w a u Agreed. Look, 1 am ready for the fight. (To faw ali) Hey, you huge stray dog, pig. .. jawau Don’t reel out your titles in front o f me. Come fight, quick. Now take this. aw au

Slaps Awali. Awali begins to cry. Ah, ah... Oh my family god, save me. If you come here now, grant me this boon, that... jawau Let Kamala be my wife. k a m a la Amen (She claspsJawali’s hand.) b h a g a v a t a So, it is done. Kamala herself solved the problem. N o w , I guess you both can live in peace. a w a u H o w can there be peace now, sir? I will go to the forest, do penance and return a God to bestow the boon of death on both of them. Look, I am going to the forest. jawau Wait, wait. First see us getting married and go there burning with jealousy. Sir Bhagavata, please bless us. aw au

Jawali and Kamala bow to the Bhagavata. He blesses them. (in sorrow) Hey sir, one last word. b h a g a v a t a What is it, son?

aw au


We have both served the prince, our friend, till now N o w I am going to the forest. Ask him if he will cany on the work wholeheartedly. I say all this because when 1imagine the prince without me, helpless and crying out ‘Oh friend, Awali' 1feel overwhelmed with sorrow. jaw a li Tell him sir, that if he leaves the city immediately, I w ill serve the prince with total dedication. a w a l i It is the prince’s bedtime. Ask him to go and guard the prince Awali goes out weeping. ja w a li Go, elder or younger brother, the river is dry. Fill it up with your tears. Let us see if it will begin to flow. aw ali

SCENE THREE Bhagavata and the chorus. »

Thus the Prince in Indranivas Palace having lain down full of worries — how can I believe my eyes?— saw the carved lampstand come to life, saying 'Beloved’, beckoning, inviting intimacy? Was that the wonder? From the scabbard came the sword, Came alive between the thighs.


While the above song is being sung a statue o f a woman bearing a lamp comes to life and starts dancing. The Prince is awakened, and while he attempts to catch the ivoman she vanishes, dancing, inside him. The Prince is in a state of high rapture. Oh! What a marvel! Could it be some goddess under a curse, turned to stone all this time, who has now rid herself o f the curse and come to life again? Or some nymph who fell in love with me and hid in the stone waiting for me, and has now come out of her stone hiding place and blossomed into life? That creature who kept the burning lamp in her palm and leapt like flashing lightning has dissolved into my body! Is she suggesting that this is how I should get married? Yes, she must be the woman that satisfies all desires, who 1 have been longing for these many

p r in c e

Siri Sampige days. If that is so, I have found my bride. Friend, get up! I have found her! jawali (waking) You don’t even let me sleep, m a n ! prince

W a k e u p q u ic k ly !

How can I wake up any more than this? prince I’ve found the one. jawali Who have you found? I’m right here. prince Uff! You don’t understand me! jawali Then tell me, man, so I can understand, who is the one you have found? Where is she? Have you hidden her under the bed? prince Stop joking. Please listen. jawali Please speak. prjnce While I was fast asleep, it seemed that the wall of this palace cracked, and someone drew a sword from its scabbard and let my thighs feel its edge. I immediately woke and sat up, and dreams that were hidden in the corners seemed to spring up before my eyes. Wasn't there a figure of a woman bearing a lamp in that corner? Well, it suddenly filled with life, and its face bloomed with youth, and blossomed with a mysterious smile. While I went on watching it— no, her— she started to dance around me holding the holy flame in her palm. As she danced the sight o f her flooded my limbs with pleasure and the pleasure became a creeper winding tightly all round my body and blocking my breath so that I was stumbling and in this tight embrace she dissolved into me. jawali It sounds to me from what you say that it must have been the mischief o f some female ghost. Dear friend, it would be good for you to keep a metal pot full o f water beside your pillow. Do you know what for? So ghosts won’t linger near you. prince This was no ghost, fellow. How can I tell you? Look, in that comer there used to be a figure of a maiden with a lamp, do you remember? jawali

Jawali A h ! w h e r e has it g o n e ?

Didn’t I tell you? It came to life and dissolved into m e while dancing. I am still perspiring with wonder. Run straightaway to my mother. Tell her to arrange a meeting of the Elders in the morning.


Jawali A t le a s t le t th e m o r n in g c o m e , m a n . prince


C a n ’t


s e e th at it is d a w n ? M o t h e r is w o r r ie d . G o



immediately, and tell her that the Prince has agreed to marry', with some conditions. j a w a u What? You’ve finally agreed to marry? Who’s the beauty? p r in c e I’ll tell you. First go and tell my mother. Jawali exist.

SCENE FOUR In the Palace: the Queen Mother, Prince and Elders Elated as she heard the news, the Mother woke, circling hailed the family god; soon all were gathered together in the court, the Son arrived like the moon after an eclipse. m o t h e r Body and mind, mangled by horrid dreams, felt all the pleasure o f the seven worlds at the news that our son had agreed to marry. On the wave o f this pleasure, the Elders o f the clan were brought forth to the palace. Thus our royal summons was sent, and none refused to hear it. All have come and are honoured in their respective places. Honoured Elders, our son has agreed to marry. He says he has some conditions. Being a woman, how can we handle this matter? You are equal in our eyes to gods You, friends, must take care of this matter. is t e l d e r We are all happy at this pleasing news, Lady. Speak, oh Prince, make your desires known to all. p r in c e My Elders, to me, are not distinct from gods. Your desire is that I should be married, is it not? I agree to do as you desire. For the rest, you should agree to what I desire. 2ND e l d e r We also agree. p r in c e It is I who will say which girl is to be my queen. is t e l d e r We are agreed. p r in c e In whatever form she is, you will get her for me. 2ND e l d e r Wherever the maiden you desire may be, in whatever form she is, it is our responsibility to get her for you. p r in c e Do you swear by the family god you will get her? 3 RD e l d e r Yes, yes. We swear by the feet o f the family god we will get her. p r in c e Y o u have sworn. Your words are not different from the prophecies of gods. Do not ignore my words, thinking me only a boy, but listen carefully. b h a g a v a t a Split, split my body into equal halves. bh ag avata

Siri Sampige chop, chop it into even pieces. Place at once those pieces in two pots! Mother, comfort-giving Mother, after a fortnight with your own eyes— open, know and all rejoice. prince Listen, I’ll tell you. With this sword which you see before you, and with the family god as witness, I am to be split into two equal pieces. mother Siva, Siva! Do not utter such inauspicious words, my son! prince That is not all. After I have been cut' into two, each piece should be stuffed into a pot. Both pots should be buried among flowers. On the next full-moon day, when you open the two pots, you will see come out of one a Prince o f matchless charm, that is, myself. From the other will come the palace lamp-maiden, a woman o f statue-like beauty holding a light in her hand. Then you should get the two of us married. If this is agreed, there will be a marriage. If not, no. 2nd e ld e r We have seen many wonders and assimilated them. But of such an unlikely happening we have never heard. prince You have sworn before the family god, don’t forget. mother This is madness, my Son. Some spirit has entered you to make you act like this. prince What entered me was not a spirit, Mother, but a beautiful woman in the form o f a lamp-bearer. And this is the means by which she who has dissolved into me can be brought out. mother Can a human being who has been split in half come to life again? Can a woman be brought out of a dead body? prince It is possible, Mother. If you have the courage, and if you believe me, I will show you and you will see with your own eyes. mother Can we play childishly with such things? The Elders of the clan are not common men. Each of them knows a thousand wise sayings. You must act according to their experience. prince If the Elders act according to the word they have given, they are the equals o f god and the fates. If they do not, they are the equals o f human worms. If mother consents to this, she is the equal o f the goddess o f creation; if not she is the equal o f the black goddess. If you agree to what I say, there will be a marri­ age. If not, you will see me leave here as a wandering monk.

The Prince rushes off. 345


Is the curse coming true, is our family’s sin overflowing5 Is our acquired meric wasted, has this lineage begun to bum? m o t h e r Oh Siva, I never expected that the punishment o f fate would so soon leap upon me! Listening to my son’s words, my fears were aroused to haunt me. Oh Elders, you know the history of our lineage from beginning to end. It is your responsibility to protect it. ist elder We have heard from legends and histories how in the past one or two kings o f this lineage split themselves in two in this way. But now this situation has come about in truth and in our own lifetime! Console yourself, Lady! Now you are the one who must take heart and hearten others. We the Elders, not knowing the mind o f the Prince, promised in the presence o f god to do as he says. Or perhaps fate itself, unknown to us, made us utter those words. Anyhow, since the Prince has no brother to share his inheritance, there is no fear of his death. Whether your son is to become a monk will be a test of the strength o f the family god, will it not Lady? m o t h e r Oh Elders, I have placed the scion o f this family in your hands. Do whatever you will. b h ag a vata

SCENE FIVE Mother and Elders. In flowing light the Elders gathered, the feet of all the gods were worshipped, the Prince’s body split and buried then opened. See, what is this like the sun burning, a precious gem its hood adorning, lifting its hood like a big basket as it moves? Saying ‘Careful!’ tittering, scattering, Saying Hit it!’ ‘Kill it!' they attacked it. Alas! They saw it disappearing into the forest. Anxiously, the pot remaining they raised and opened, calling on Siva. The smiling Prince, the best of men came out. pr in c e Where is the Lamp-maiden? m o t h e r What is this madness, Son? Listening to the words of your youthful rashness, we have done many things that we ought not bhagavata


Siri Sampige to have done. All this comes from the curse on our lineage. Why else should it happen? By the blessings of the family god, you have come through to a new birth, at least. That is enough. prince Why? Did the Lamp-maiden not come out of the other pot? ist elder What came out was a hideous, horrible demon! 2nd e ld e r An evil creature. 1STELDER A ghost. prince Cheated! mother Who is cheated? We are. For having tested thus the family god we w ill have to pay a thousand penalties. And now we all must make new marriage arrangements.

SCENE SIX Kamala and Jawali in their house Husband, ever since our marriage, you have looked worried. Why? jawali Marriage? Whose marriage? Mine? The King’s? Or Awali’s? kamala Our marriage, that is, yours and mine. jawali Oh, is that so? My love, last night in my dream, I was comparing you to a bird. But the comparison did not seem right because Awali had, on the same night, in his dream composed a poem in which he compared you to a bird. Please don’t think o f him too much, because then he appears in your dream. kamala Husband, about your younger brother... why do y o u ... jawali Not younger, elder. kamala What is Awali to you? Jawali Elder or younger brother. kamala Well, your elder or younger brother is not here. Why do you hate him so much? jawali Do I hate him? Impossible! To tell you the truth you are the apple o f one eye and he of the other. I hold you both equal, you know? Because my elder or younger brother is not beside me, I am so afraid that I don’t know what to say. kamala Look into my eyes. (He does so) Don’t you know what to say now? Jawali I do. But today in one o f your eyes I see myself and in the other my brother has appeared. kamala (closing one eye) Now look, w h o do you see? kamala



(opening the eye she had closed and closing the other) Now? jawali Still Awali, even now. k a m a l a What is he doing? jawali He is looking at you and sighing. k a m a l a Awali has become a ghost to worry you. jawali Not a ghost, a wolf, a hungry wolf. k a m a l a Then imagine that I am a tiger, and the w olf runs away. jawali Oh, no, no, you be Kamala. I’m more afraid o f the tiger. k a m a l a Y o u keep talking about Awali, why did you let him go? jawali I wanted to finish him off. But what to do, the wretch is so much like me, you see, I thought, ‘let me respect myself, at least’ and let him go. k a m a l a O sir, this has gone too far. BHAGAVATA What? k a m a l a You got us married. But instead of making love, all he does is remember his elder or younger brother and pine away for him. bh ag a vata Hey Jawali, I got you married thinking that you were a gentleman. If you go on doing this, I will have to change my opinion of you. jawali What shall I do, sir? As soon as I look at Kamala with desire, my younger or elder brother appears in both her eyes. If I think of making love with the light off and our eyes closed, I get scared that he, who has hidden in her eyes, may rise up. That is why my eyes sting when I think of love. b h a g a vat a But you can’t ruin Kamala’s life! Today is a Monday. Both of you go and consult your family god. jawali Not today, the Queen has given me some urgent work to do. b h a g a v at a What work? jawali Y o u must have heard the rumour about how my friend the prince sneaks out o f the palace at odd hours? b h a g a v at a We have. jawali The Queen has asked me to trail the prince when he sneaks out and find out everything. After I come back, on some other day, we will go and consult the family god. Till then, I pray, keep your good opinion of me. b h ag a vata W ell... kam ala

Jawali and Kamala exit, on opposite sides o f the stage

Siri Sampige

SCENE SEVEN The Queen Mother and Elders in the palace. Siri Sampige he married but she could not satisfy him, everywhere he went searching only for the Lamp-maiden. The Prince’s ever growing madness made his ageing Mother worry, ‘What god, what angel can protect our family? Who’ll guard our lineage in the future? Lovely Queen Sampige Devi’s lotus face? How can I bear to look at?’ mother So much we possessed, Elders, and what has become o f it? I had hoped to spend the last days o f my life gazing on my son as King and head o f a family, playing with my grandchildren. How can Siva punish me so? They say that after marriage a son leaves the mother that bore him and falls under the spell o f his bedfellow. No such thing happened here. I have not seen husband and wife laughing together even once. From the first day o f their marriage, he would disappear at any time. Come back at any time. He goes off as if searching for something he has lost and returns as if hopeless at not finding what he seeks. He does not talk to anyone. When the family god was consulted, he sobbed and did not open his mouth to say anything. I cannot bear to see the face o f my daughter-in-law, who is weeping all the time. My son’s face I do not see. Tell me, Elders, what is to be done now? ist elder Does the Prince eat from time to time, Lady? mother He eats, he does not eat. When he looks at me he turns his face away like a guilty person. Is it the family god’s anger or the curse or possession by some ghost? I understand nothing. 2nd elder Where does he go, do you know, Lady? mother I don’t know, but he returns filthy, as if he had been rolling in mud. 3RD elder Did you consult the astrologers, Lady? mother They say he is haunted by a female spirit. It may be true, because the day before he was split in two he said that the Lampmaiden o f Indranivas Palace had come to life and danced before dissolving into him. What is surprising is that the statue has also vanished since that day. uhagavata

34 9


Has the Prince looked at least once at his goddess-like Queen, Lady? If he had seen her, this problem would surely not exist. m o t h e r The problem, Elders, is deeper than you have realized. bhagavata Once not being able to see the Lamp-maiden in Siri Sampige’s eyes he said you are not the bride I desire—Go away! m o t h e r Once, and only once it seems, he started to stare at Siri Sampige’s face. When she became shy and covered her face with her hands, apparently he rushed to her and pulled her hands away and caught her face in his palms, fixing his eyes on hers. But at once he said dejectedly, letting go of her face, ‘There is no Lamp-maiden in your eyes, Lady’, and left her. It is fortunate that the Lamp-maiden was not to be seen in her eyes. If he had seen her there, he might have plucked the girl’s eyes out. Jawali has been sent to follow him without his noticing, to find out where he goes and what he does. Look, he is coming now. is t eld er

Jawali enters andfalls at thefeet o f the Queen Mother. Come, son. You must have found out the secret which is still hidden even after many servants have been sent to see. Tell me, where is the prince now? Wliat is he doing? I am eager to hear, in detail. Were you able to follow him to the end? jawali 1 was able to follow him, Mother, but what I saw there w a s terrible. m o t h e r That is what I want to know. Tell me! bhagavata Weeping, seeking the Lamp-maiden, wandering over hill and mountain to a pond he came then, thirsty for water. Oh water, water, say who is she! Is she not Lamp-maiden? Saying ‘I have her’, he fell to the tempting reflection. jaw ali Last night I followed the Prince, according to your orders. It seemed the Prince was going on a journey without preparations and without saying farewell to anyone. He went in fear, looking behind him, not seeing the way, stumbling, hiding wherever hiding places were to be found. Anyone who had seen him then would have said he was some criminal or convict fleeing, running away. Becoming thirsty, he went to a pond near the forest. The moon was out, and the sky was shining in the pond. Clouds had m o th er

Siri Sampige come up there, and beyond them infinite depths could be seen. He didn't notice that I had stolen up behind him and was standing there, and he looked into the pond. At the touch of his breath, as if angered, the water in the pond trembled and waves rose and broke up the reflected clouds and the deep blue sky seemed to be sliced by cruel knives. But my friend and Prince did not draw back. Until the play of the water was finished he remained still, and then again he looked at himself in the water. His reflection came up there like a floating corpse. The moment he saw it his face shone. Tears of happiness came to his eyes. In his ecstasy no word came from his mouth. As if silently talking with that corpse, he sat there, still. mother Strange! And then! jawali He caught the reflection in his cupped hands and lo o k e d at it. The water spilled out between his fingers. Again he caught it and again it spilled. Then, as if the whole forest were crying, he raised his voice saying ‘Maiden, Maiden!' and weeping. mother Did he say ‘Maiden? JAWAU Yes. mother Did he weep? Jawau Yes, Mother. mother Listening to your tale has made me afraid, son. What should not have happened, what I was guarding against for sixteen years, has happened now out o f my sight. The only difference is that he, who should have become a monk on seeing his reflection, is now thinking o f the Lamp-maiden. 1st elder This is a strange madness, one never seen or heard of before. There is no doubt about it. 2nd elder Have people lived who have loved their reflection in the water like this? mother My daughter-in-law is a thousand times prettier than that reflection, is she not? 3RD elder Reason cannot give an answer to madness, Lady. The Prince, in the bloom o f youth, succumbed rapidly to the fascination o f woman. The right thing to do will be to wait and see, Lady. servant The Prince is coming, Madam. Mother Let him come. Jawali, you tw o are boyhood friends. You can open your minds to each other. Try to find out the reason for his madness. 351


Very well, Mother

All exit except Jawali. The Prince enters. On seeing Jau ah he is disturbed. What is it? Why are you looking at me like that? Jawali It's nothing. prin ce I’ve gone mad— that’s what you think, isn’t it? But I can tell you that this is definitely not madness. My difficulty is that I cannot prove that all of you are cheats. jawali Cheats? How have we cheated you? pr in c e You said there was no Lamp-maiden anywhere. jawali Yes. She wasn’t found. pr in ce So you say I was lying. jawali Not lying . . . but she’s nowhere to be seen. pr in ce Yet she exists. Do you know I go out every day and see her? jawali Do you really? Tell me all about it. p r in c e You won’t tease me? Jawali Do you doubt even your friend? b h ag a vata She came floating on the water, beauty in the waves swimming— could I cast a fishing line and pull her in? Slowly slowly in the play of ripples I saw the goal I was seeking. pr in c e In that case, listen. Today I was beside a pond. She was inside it. She was swimming in the waves and ripples, glittering like a fish, moving her tiny arms. ‘I must cast a line to catch her'. I thought. No’, I thought, ‘I can catch her in my hand’, and 1 stretched out my cupped hands. When my breath touched the water in my hands— do you know?— she trembled for love? Slowly she dripped down again between my fingers. Saying ‘Silly girl!’ 1 pinched her cheek. She laughed—do you know?— like lines running in the waves. Seeing her I laughed too, and I spoke. She also spoke as I did. Everything I did she did too, or everything she did I did too, there was so much harmony between the two of us that like two halves coming together we had become one. Gradually we became, both together, an indivisible zero, transcending form, becoming the Sivalinga, becoming God. Nor did the shadow of imperfect sorrow linger around this new god. Both o f us together became this new god— ah!— it was like air. it was like light, it was like the blue o f the sky, it was like empty pr in c e

Siri Sampige space— it seemed it was impossible for anything physical to touch him. After seeing that god, I realized what beauty is and what ugliness is. Suddenly 1felt that there is something lacking in this world w e live in. Ah, God! It is a puzzle how we go on living with so much lacking in this world. jawau Friend, is that god just sprouting a moustache? prince Yes. jawali And is there a dark mole on his right cheek? prince Yes. H ow did you know? jawali How could I not know? What you saw was your own reflection. prince Ay! Blast my foolishness in arguing with an ignorant person like you. Seeing one’s reflection and becoming one with it means seeing the shape o f the soul. But you can’t understand all this. You are stuck to the body. People who refuse to see any further rhan the body cannot understand such things. jawali T o me ‘body’ means an empty stomach, and ‘soul’ means a full stomach. What do you ay? prince What? Are you teasing me?

The Prince looks fo r sometime at Jawali, annoyed at his apparent teasing, then goes off dejectedly, fawali follows him.

SCENE EIGHT Ask not where he went— the Serpent ftas made its dwelling deep inside you, go not searching for your lost one living deep inside the anthill o f the mind (/o Kalinga) Bravo, sustainer o f the serpent lineage! Kaun ga W ho does the nether world belong to, do you k n o w ? bhagavata We have heard it is Lord Kalinga. kaunga We are that Lord. bhagavata For what reason do we suddenly see you here? kaunga Aahaaah! We the traveller and acclaimed great hero o f the eight directions and the fourteen worlds were resting once after our daily duties in our palace in the nether world, when a girl’s voice appeared to be calling us. While we were wondering how a woman’s voice could be making itself heard in a bachelor’s palace, as if descending to plunder our world she appeared bhagavata


before us. Losing all sense of ourselves, we knelt before her. Was it a dream or was it real? Such a thing might perhaps occur once in a while, but that was not the case here; every day we saw the same vision. Why should we be thinking about a woman who belongs to someone else? But that also did not seem to be the case. She seemed to be our rightful wife, known to us for a long time. From the day we saw her, the desire to possess her stirred in us. Very well. We decided to go in search o f her.

Sampige appears. Oho! Is this the lovely beauty, she who appeared to us in visions? If she won’t be mine my life is wasted; till my dying breath I cannot give her up. k a l in g a Aahaah! So where was she, the girl who seduced my mind? I went round searching every region of the earth, but she is to be found here in the backyard of Indranivas Palace in Sivapura. There she is, the girl over there. She’s the one who stole my mind away! Even at this distance the smell of ploughed earth that her body exhales makes me tingle. Aha! She is not an easy woman. She must be the prettiest in the province! All right. I will go up to her and make myself visible. bh a g a vata Who is this comes riding up my body, who is he that I don’t know, but yet upon my mind is printed? Wherever I go I see arise and stand by me his handsome shape and longings o f desire are born to trouble me. sa m pig e Who is he? As if the five elements came together and took shape, he came walking from the direction o f the anthill. For quite some time he has been chasing me; wherever he steps, sparks seem to fly. I do not know him, but he appears to be already etched on mind, and as I see his handsome form my desire rises. Longings I had not known before are now standing with their mouths open. Who is he? bh a g a vata Pleased as if he’s found a treasure Kalinga swollen proud and vain says whether she is maid or wife

b h ag a vata

Siri Sampige she must be mine, I’ll plunder all her joys. kalinga Aha! Her body is like a festival for my aroused senses. It seems to be beckoning. Big buttocks, big big breasts! Small waist, pool o f pleasure! Eyes trained in hunting. Whether she’s maid or wife, even if my life is lost in the attempt, it doesn’t matter. Unless I bed her, my life has been wasted. bhagavata One must not yield to base desires— it’s fitting to advise him so. He ran up, she stopped him, but she looked, and fell under the wizard’s spell. sampige I have become like a boat caught in a storm and overturned. Someone is opening the doors of my youthful breast, and shaking all my desires to awaken them. No, 1 must not sacrifice my judgement to such base desires. I will talk with that man who is coming to seduce a woman belonging to another, scold him and send him away..

She goes a little further forward and hides. Kalinga also goes running toward her. Sampige closes the door and stands at the door. Who are you that chooses a time when no one is near and comes to chase me wherever I go? It is the Queen o f this country herself who you are provoking! You must be a shameless rogue to dare as much! kalinga Aha, your voice is like honey, my lovely. Your angry words sound $weet. You make me want to catch and kiss the words as they are born from your mouth. sampige Answer the question I asked you. If you try any mischief I’ll tell the King, and he’ll have you chained and dragged through the streets. kalinga Y o u have already bound up my heart and mind with you long hair, girl. The only thing left is for you to put chains on my body with your smooth arms. And I am prepared for that. sampige The intoxication of youth has gone to your head. It seems you don’t understand civilized words. Wait. Mother! ( She shouts.') kalinga Y o u are a good actress. When I came you shut the door, and now you are pretending to call someone to protect you. Your kind o f woman finds force very attractive, I know. So here you are!



{from outside) Siri Sampige! s a m pig e The Queen Mother has come. If you want to live, hide! k a l in g a Don’t talk so proudly. I can protect myself. If you have any courage, open the door! s a m p ig e My virtue is in my own hands. Who should I fear? Look, I am opening the door. Guard yourself. m o th er

Sampige opens the door. The Queen Mother enters. Kalinga immediately changes shape, becoming the King. What a surprise. Husband and wife together and happy! Day and night I do penance to bring that about! Son, on my eyes dried up from joylessness, you have showered the rain o f a new joy. Wait, wait! I will straightaway make a sacrifice o f an eight­ legged animal to the family god. Son, Siri Sampige is very delicate. Do not make her shout again with your roughness, do you hear? k a l in g a ( resting his arm on Sampige's shoulders; she moves away from him) We’ll tame her. Don’t worry, Mother. Sampige only called you for fun, didn’t you my Goddess? sa m pig e Yes. No, no, I really called. (Aside) So much joy wells up in me at his touch. Who is this wizard who has come to plunder me? m o t h e r Son, stop your roughness. Siri Sampige is already trembling like a flowering creeper. k a l in g a What is an eight-legged animal, Mother? m o t h e r It means a pregnant animal. I will sacrifice so that our Siri Sampige will quickly give me a grandson. In the pools of her eyes I can already see suffused and shining the golden colour of tomorrow’s dream. If you stand here like this, my evil eye may fall on my dear daughter-in-law. Close the door. m o th er

Exit Mother. Before madness overcomes me, please tell me who you are. You were like a hissing snake, and now you are like the Prince. How many existences do you have? k a l in g a A s many as you want. Look into my eyes, girl. Am 1 like your Prince? sa m pig e True. The Prince is a little effeminate to look at. k a u n g a A little! Quite a lot. s a m p ig e It was to search for the woman inside him that he split himself, wasn’t it? sa m pig e

Siri Sampige In that case, now tell me— am I a stranger? While you were in bed with your husband, who was lying there like a piece of wood, was there not in the nether regions o f your mind a king kneeling before you, begging for your love? sampige Yes. kaunga That was me. Did you recognize me as King Kalinga, ruler of the nether world in the depths o f the Prince’s palace? sampige Yes. No, no. I don’t know who you are. kaunga But I know you. I can even tell you what dreams you dream. And I will teach you the dreams that you shall have from today on. Come on now, dreams, let us see. There is a forest, and in the forest there are flowers, tender leaves, trees full o f fruit. . . sampige Yes, there is a forest, there are fruit trees... kaun ga In fresh sunlight a golden river is flowing sampige A river is flowing. kaun ga You have come to fetch water sampige Yes, I have come to fetch water. Here in the ground there is an entrance like a burrow. kaun ga Descend. sampige Aah! How fine this world is. How many coffers o f gold there are in the nether regions. In every corner so many nameless joys are sleeping freely. Ay! a sevenhooded snake is standing like a lamp-stand aiming its raised hoods at me. What can I do? kalinga ( taking his true form ). Don’t be afraid, girl. I am yours. kaunga

SCENE NINE Jawali and Bhagavata Jawau Hey, Bhagavata!

What? jawau Shut one eye and look at me. bhagavata I looked. jawau How many people am I? bhagavata Only one. Jawau All right, now open both eyes and look at me. How many people am I, tell me. bhagavata Only one. Jawau What, Bhagavata, sir! You are making fun o f me. If with o n e eye we see one man, with both eyes we should see two men. bhagavata


Is that so? In that case how many people do I look like to your eyes? jawali Two. b h a g a vat a


You and I. You and your shadow. Awali and I. That’s why I sometimes feel as if I had four legs. Don’t you, Bhagavata? bh a g a v a t a You are lucky and I am unlucky. I have only two legs. jawali You are also lucky, Bhagavata, sir. Do you want to know why? In front of you let us assume that there are two paths. By keeping one leg on each you can walk down both paths. b h a g a v a t a Bravo, bravo! We did not know that at all. So you walk down four paths at the same time, do you? jawali I? No, Bhagavata, sir, but I have seen with my own eyes, Bhagavata, one man walking at the same time down two paths b h a g a v a t a Is that so? Who is that fortunate person? jawali Our Prince. He is to be found with the Queen in the women’s apartments, and at the same time he is to be found near the pond as before, looking at the god reflected in the water. b h a g a vat a H o w can that be? jawali Think o f my position! At times he recognizes me, and at other times he turns his face away like a stranger. If I see him in the women’s apartments, he becomes confused and asks me ‘who are you?’ If I go to the pond, he calls me ‘friend’ and embraces me. If I tell hi, ‘You didn’t recognize me in the palace, friend,’ he says I didn’t go to the palace at all!’ Let’s say that one hand may not know what the other hand is doing, but isn’t it strange that one leg doesn’t know the path that the other is walking? b h ag a vata It is strange. ja w a li When I told him, The Queen is going to have a child, you will soon be the father of a prince, you should give your p o o r friend a tasty dinner of game,’ his eyes widened and he looked at me as if he would tear me apart and devour me! bh agavata What joyful news you bring! The Queen has become pregnant! Couldn’t he at least have handed out sweets to me, the Bhagavata? jawali Of course, I have brought them sir, take this. Keep distributing them to all who pass by. 1will go and get the things for worship b h ag a vata Why things for worship? ja w a li Look, the very lotus o f my heart has bloom ed and is approaching us. Ask her.


Siri Sampige Jawali goes, Kamala comes. Awali who has entered from the back stands unseen. What is this Kamala? Are you on your way to offer worship? What is the matter? kamala Sir Bhagavata, though it is years since we married, my Lord, my husband does not love me. Without love how can there be its fruit, a son, the boon o f progeny? I leaned on the pillars of my house, a month on each, sighing and crying out to God. Just the day before yesterday, we were blessed with the grace of the family God. He appeared in my dream and instructed me in this manner— ’My daughter, on the anthill, under the banyan tree, outside the city, there is a creeper of blooming jasmines. If you first worship, then pluck the flowers, make a garland out of them and put it round your husband’s neck, he will transform himself into a serpent and unite with you. If you unite in this manner you shall have children, not otherwise. ’ So we are going there now. bhagavata Well, may your wish be fulfilled. bhagavata

As she leaves Awali steps in front o f her. Lady, I have a request. kamala What, you are still standing here! Did you get the bael leaf? awali But you n e v e r asked m e to. kamala Look, the old madness again . Now, will you get the leaf or not’ awali But there is no bael tree near by kamala Husband, isn’t there a bael tree near the east-side window of our house? awali Which is the east window of our house? awali

Hegoes off, searching. Jawali entersfrom the other side with the leaf in his hand. Now, where did it come from? Well, well, no need to explain, get the fruits and flowers. jawali Oh, sure. kamala

He goes out, Awali enters. Look, the bael leaf. kamala But you’ve brought that already, what I asked fo r w e re fruits and flowers.



Okay, I II get them.

As he leavesJawali entersfrom the opposite side. Seeing both o f them standing face to face, Kamala becomes alarmed. bo th

Hey, there is a mirror in front o f me.

Both act as the object and the image. Mirror, mirror have you an eye, too? Or, has my eye become a mirror now? jawali I s that you seeing me? Or, is this I seeing you? a w a l i Am I your image? A shade? Or are you my image? A shade? jawali Without me you are not there, is this true? Or, without you 1am not there, is this true? a w a li Apart we two may be, Yet, down below the tree’s root is one. jawali Between us is glass. when broken, the two ends and we are one. a w a l i If two ends, do you get one? Or, is it lonely we get? jawali Melting, in each other, Can we live, in the mind doesn’t the glass remain? a w a l i The words we have heard till n ow ... jawali Y o u tell me! A dialogue or a soliloquy? b o t h ( recognizing each other) Aren’t you my elder or younger brother? a w a li How are you, my elder younger brother? jawali Kamala, go in immediately. I will speak to him and come in. b h a g a v at a Oh, isn’t one of you two Awali? Are you here too, Awali? What were you doing all these days? jawali He has done the worst possible things. ( To Awali) Will you go away now or shall I have a go at all that fat in you? a w a l i I have as much o f a right as you have to both this house and Kamala. jawali (to Bhagavata) Tell him Bhagavata sir, that he is like a bear rushing into the shrine when worship in going on. a w a l i (to Bhagavata) Tell him Bhagavata sir, that he is the zenith of stupidity. b h a g a vat a But look, I am confused myself. I don’t know, which of aw ali

Siri Sampige you two is Awali and which Jawali? To whom shall I say anything? Lady, Kamala, you tell me, which is your husband? kamala 1am confused too. Suggest a means to find this out. bhagavata Well then, do this. Our elders used to say that the hearts of those in love beat faster. Hold your ear near both their hearts. The one whose heart beats faster is your husband.

Kamala does so. Both their hearts are beating like your drums, sir. jawali All right, let another duel decide this. You, you fox, who come slinking in to chew up the sugarcane in my garden, 1 am ready to hunt you. Take this, face it. awali ( stepping back in fear) Why should a duel always decide? jawali ( triumphant) My love, do you know how replete with virtues of valour and fearlessness I am? Or should I give you a taste of it, too? kamala

kamala jawali

1 k n o w n o w , m y lord.

Then come now for worship, towards the anthill.

Kamala and Jawali go out. bhagavata

Y o u went to perform penance, didn’t you?

I went. I performed the penance, too. After seeing God, I came back. bhagavata Really? How is God? Doing well? awali God means a huge, big fire-pit o f arrogance. He is arrogant because the atoms o f dust and blades o f grass, even the sun and moon are under his control. Devotees keep pouring the ghee o f devotion and the pit keeps glittering with fire. You know, sometimes there are contests between the emperors and God. I thought this very petty and came back here. bhagavata Lucky man. You had a great enlightenment. awali Sir, I want a buffalo. Is there one in your chorus? bhagavata There are many in the city. Why do you want a buffalo? awali I need a pot of milk. bhagavata Why milk?



T o g iv e m y broth er fo o d , m ake him eat a gu m m y plum a n d

drink up that milk.

He exits.



SCENE TEN The god who showed smiling in the water dripping from cupped hands has gone back to the depths. The Prince is stunned. When he came with empty hands, the body that was revealed he did not recognize, and asked ‘who are you, rogue?’

b h a g a vat a

Prince enters, desperate. Whatever I touch becomes foolishness; whatever I look at becomes deception. It has reached the point where even the clown is laughing at me. (Siri Sampige enters.) sa m pig e You look grief-stricken, my Lord. pr in c e Yes. Believing I was certain to see the god, I went out with a light burning in my eyes, but I have returned in darkness. 1 thought that God may give us pain enough to make us cry, but now all forces have joined in the mischief o f darkness so as not to allow any light to come near me. sa m pig e Y ou may have refused my love, but look, my arms are still wide open to receive you, leaving the past behind. pr in ce How innocent your face is, my Lady. It is a freshly blossoming lotus without a speck o f mire on it, your face. But look at my face. As I pictured the god in the water, the mire below was thrown up at it. The body is pure, my Lady, but the soul is dirty. Sins are visible to the soul. sa m pig e Y ou need rest, my Lord. If you sleep a little while, and have beautiful dreams... prin ce So I should still close my eyes, is that what you suggest? Well, you have dreams, you are fortunate. In reality you are a Queen and in dreams you are a lover. You can handle the selves o f two worlds. But I— the day I was deceived by the god, I lost my dreams too, Lady. s a m p ig e What does that mean, my Lord? pr in c e Rejecting my body, leaving it with you, I went to the pond to see the god. What came floating in the water was neither the Lamp-maiden nor a god. It was not even my reflection., Lady, it was my corpse. And that was what I held daily on my lap and ate of. The more I ate, the hungrier I felt. I ate more and more of

pr in c e

Siri Sampige it, and by the time I realized it was a corpse, it was too late. When I repented and came back, my body itself had vanished. In the meantime someone had entered it and gone off with it. Now I am almost air, Lady, 1 cannot even make your skin feel my touch; I don’t exist except as air that speaks. 1need a body to show myself in. My hunger for life is growing. Lady, I need a body. Please help me. sampige I am a slave at your feet, my Lord. prince I d o n ’t w a n t that. If y o u h elp m e sincerely, that is en ou gh . Can’t you co-operate with me? sampige O f course I will, my Lord. prince You must not break your word. sampige No, my Lord. prince Are you sure? sampige Yes. prince

W ill y o u sw ear on m y life?

I swear on your life. prince Then lo o k ! (Shouting) Hey! who is there? sampige All are sleeping, my Lord who will come? prince It is the King of this country himself calling. sampige It is midnight, my Lord. prince But a great truth has been revealed to the King of the country at this moment. Who is there? sampige If anyone hears, what will they say? Stop it, my Lord. prince Y o u are a partner in this truth. Be quiet. Who is there?


The Queen Mother and a servant enter. What are your orders, your Majesty? prince Come, Mother. Servant, go now without delay and beat the drums. I know it is midnight, but do not argue with me. Go and proclaim that tomorrow morning all the citizens and heads must assemble in the Nagalinga temple. The Queen Sampige Devi will undergo a trial.


Exit Servant. Trial? Why? prince To reveal the truth o f your illicit pregnancy. mother Prince, you are not in possession o f your senses. Before whom are you speaking thus? sampige


Before my Mother, who believes the Queen’s lies, and before Queen Sampige Devi herself. m o t h e r Siri Sampige has told no lies. pr in c e Please forgive my irreverence, Mother. That foetus in her womb is not mine. To whom does that poison belong? That is the truth that must come out. m o t h e r 1say that it is yours. pr in c e That is not true, Mother, It’s deception. m o t h e r How sure can I be o f the truth? If it is true that you are my son, then it is equally true that the child in that womb is yours. ? r in c e H o w many truths are you handling, Mother? I cannot manage even one truth. Since that foetus bears my name, I have the last word, Mother. m o t h e r Y o u are half mad. You are not fit to bear witness. pr in c e That is why I said it should be decided in public. m o t h e r Your madness is spreading beyond all limits. Now you are making a private affair into a public issue. pr in c e Before the law ail are equal, Mother. m o t h e r This is the height of insanity. (Painfully) My eyelids are heavy with the weight of life. Son, I can bear no more. p r in c e I too have grown old, Mother. It seems I was always two, and the one that I have lost somewhere must be my elder brother or my enemy. You have kept hidden from me the secret o f his existence, like this one, keeping her secret in her womb and wrapping her sari round it. Perhaps you did the same. m o t h e r Prince, no such great catastrophe has happened. Do not lose your judgement in unnecessary hatred. prin ce Even my hatred is split in two, Mother. I cannot wholly hate the Queen. And he who in my absence illicitly was joined with her, who brought a treasure without anyone knowing and hid it in her womb— I have no wholehearted hatred for him either. Mother. Admiration, and jealousy yes, but I need him. That is why tomorrow morning the Queen s deception must be exposed As King I have announced it. Tomorrow morning you too must graciously attend. pr in ce

Prince rushes off.

Siri Sampige

SCENE ELEVEN In the temple o f Nagalinga: Mother, Sampige, Prince and the Elders Honouring the great men who attended the King bowed and said thus: ‘Breaking palace laws Sampige’s womb has quickened. Say, is it right?’ prince To you, the great of the earth, my devout salutations and thanks for your attendance! 1ST eld e r We are flattered by your modesty, Lord! prince In my inexperience I am facing a dilemma regarding social duty. So I was obliged to call on you, the equals o f gods, to guide me. 1ST e ld e r Even the family god will be touched by the decisions that the King takes in the presence o f the Elders. We w ill conscientiously say what is true and right. Please speak, Lord. prince What should be the punishment for a woman who has abandoned her husband, has illicitly joined with another, and has become pregnant? Let the final word be said. 1ST elder First o f all it must be proved that the pregnancy is illicit, Lord. prince And what is the evidence to prove this? 1st elder The inmost conscience of husband and wife is the evidence. prince And if there are people who can deceive even this inmost conscience? 1ST eld er Then the final proof is a trial by ordeal, the form of which is to be decided before all. prince In that case, decide. The woman who has committed a crime here, and is illicitly pregnant, is the Queen o f the country, and the one who is asking for justice is the King. bhagavata

All are shocked. 1ST elder Oh Prince, we have heard you are not in good health. If

that is so, it is natural for your mind also to be disturbed. A problem o f family prestige such as this can be solved before the Queen Mother, who is like the family god to us all. This is not a public problem. This is our feeling. prince When citizens require justice, the King provides justice. When 365


justice for the King is needed, the Elders should provide justice. That is social duty. 2ND elder The King rules in two realms. One is the earth, the other is his wife. So the final authority with regard to justice or injustice in both is his. pr in ce Since in the eyes of justice all are equal, and the King himself is in need of justice, I am requesting you to decide. If you still hesitate, it is against your Elder status. 2 nd e ld e r Y ou should not force the disturbance of your body and mind upon the Elders, Lord. There is still time. You can consult with the Queen Mother and thus take a proper decision. This we humbly pray you to do. pr in ce What is the proof that my body and mind are disturbed? 2 n d e ld e r The unspeakable words you are saying— is that not enough? The soot you are throwing on the history o f our family— is that not enough? You are the owner o f the body and the mind of the Queen. Not being able to answer for both— is that not enough? pr in ce My words are the words o f sorrow of one who has suffered an injustice. Don’t you understand? 2n d elder Your intervention with your advice, Lady, is what will serve best here. Once, some time ago, becoming witnesses to the splitting of the Prince, we allowed our eyes and minds to be wounded. We are not prepared now, in witnessing this madness, to be wounded in our souls. Look, we depart. prin ce You are forbidden in the name o f the family god to take one step forward. 2n d elder For the misfortune o f being Elders, must we also become partners in all your sins? m o t h e r Keeping in mind the truth of the gods, I pray before all the clan for fortune to favour us. Great efforts must be made to protect the truth, Elders. If we neglect it even for one moment, the truth will fly out of our hands, and this thousand-year-old lineage will collapse. To the man who gives up his judgement for his pride— forgetting his proper destiny and his duty— to this kind o f man it is difficult to discern a woman’s truth. If everybody’s truth was to be at the level o f their own noses, what would happen? Fortunately it is not so. Elders like you are here to give a discerning judgement. That is our good fortune. Knowing that this is an insult to a woman, still I insist. The blessings of the

Siri Sampige family god will prove my daughter-in-law’s truthfulness. Please see the trial and give your judgement. Afterwards perhaps my son's madness will be cured. 1ST e l d e r We have no doubts in accepting the Queen Mother’s judgement. Let the Prince accept also that there is to be no second opinion about our judgement. prince I agree. 2nd e l d e r In that case, listen. Our words are the words o f gods. Let the Queen herself decide what the form of the trial should be. We have faith in the Queen’s wisdom. bhagavata The king cobra writhing in play on the linga I will take on my body. If I am pure it will go away, otherwise it will sting me. Do you agree? sampige Look, that snake which is crawling there on the Nagalinga— I will let it climb on my body. If I am a pure and virtuous wife, it will move over my body without stinging me and go away. Other­ wise it will use its poison and sting. By this trial the truth can be tested and punishment be given at the same time. Is it acceptable? elders We accept. mother Come, daughter. bhagavata With hands joined above her head she came before the snake linga bowed and trod devoutly round the idol. Abandoning fear she stretched out her arms; saying ‘Snake, protect the truth, come to me’, he took the snake upon her body. Were they friends, she and the snake? Did the dumb creature know the truth? Showering the Queen with kisses, charming, opening its hood it played on her, the light in its hood-jewels gleaming, happily twined with her plait, her womb caressing turned its hood-light to the front slipped down the slope of her thighs and seeking its linga master moved away. All the people stood like painted beings. 'A strange thing we saw’, they said, 'truth depicted by the Queen’s grace for us all.


Hail, oh hail, to our godlike Queen! Hail to a mother’s faithful womb! Hail to the lineage! All bowed to Sampige.

The Prince rushes up to the Nagalinga, but the snake is no longer there. He searchesfo r it, then stands amazed. By showing us this miracle, Siri Sampige has become an angel. 3 r d e l d e r What you have done. Lady, has spread the glory o f each up to the Heavens. Our country is blessed. 1ST e l d e r A hundred salutations to the Queen. A thousand victories to the Queen’s truth. Wherever the Queen’s feet step, may towns and temples rise.

m o th er

A ll join their hands in a salute and go up to the Mother, bowing. With the Mother, they go to salute Sampige. Then all exit. Only the Prince remains behind. p r in c e

This is cheating, cheating!

SCENE TWELVE Without the elder the younger brother died. ’Life has no meaning any more; from now on I cannot live’, Awali said and wept. awali ( crying> Alas! My younger or elder brother is dead! Now 1am all alo-o-one. I no longer have any near or dear ones. Oh God! p r in c e Who is that weeping so terribly? awali I, Awali, p r in c e Why are you weeping all alone? awali Because I am alone, that’s why. p r in c e Where did Jawali go? awali He went and died on me. p r in c e He died? When? What happened? aw ali You know that anthill under the banyan tree outside the city? Well, he had gone there with Kamala to worship. bhagavata Inspired by greed, this man too went there with a pot o f milk and lay in wait. awali Not that, I went to bathe the Sivalinga with milk. bhagavata

Siri Sampige And then? awali After worship Kamala took the jasmine garland on the linga and put it round Jawali's neck. As soon as she garlanded him, Jawali turned into a serpent. prince Don’t lie. awali I’m not lying. Ask this Bhagavata if you want. bhagavata It is true that Jawali turned into a serpent. The family God had instructed thus. awali As soon as he became a serpent, he began the love-play with Kamala. Later, he even proceeded to do things, which, out of shame, I can’t mention. Gradually, with accelerated pleasure, they both began to pant like flood water rushing down into a valley. To cater to the fatigued and hungry ones, I made a small fire and put the milk on to boil. The milk got heated and started to boil. The boiled milk began to overflow. The smell o f the overflowing milk reached the serpent inside Kamala. The serpent came out. Since he was hungry, he spread his hood and dipped his mouth right into the pot. His mouth was burnt and he died writhing badly. bhagavata Sheer lies my Lord. He killed Jawali. awali Maybe. But I did so because I felt that he would kill Kamala, lying speechless there. bhagavata A lie again. Blinded by jealousy and anger, seizing the opportunity, you chopped the writhing snake whose mouth was burnt with an axe. awali ( weeping) Alas, I killed my elder or younger brother with my own hands. prince Don’t cry. Tell me what happened after that. What did Sampige do? awali Not Sampige, Kamala. Though the horrors she lay still, her eyes closed in intoxicated pleasure. I filled the pots with the serpent bits-and threw it out. I cleaned up the blood, woke up Kamala and told her sweetly, ‘Come, let us go home*. She thought I was Jawali and began to walk with me. Slowly, she walked a few steps and then sat down saying she was tired. After a while she got up to walk. Gosh, what do I see! She had laid an egg where she had sat down. Angry, because it was the serpent progeny, I crushed it between my hands. bhagavata Y o u did that out o f your jealousy for Jawali. awali The one who has seen it seems to know better than the one prince


who has done it. Well, you describe everything, then. p r in c e Tell, sir. bhagavata He crushed the second egg too in the same manner. But when he crushed even the third, Kamala came to know. As soon as she knew, the contentment and pleasure in her eyes disappeared and she began to tremble with anger enough to fill the seven worlds. The pearl— ornament on her nose split into bits. Milk streamed down from her breasts like tears and her blouse became wet. Screaming in a terrible voice and shouting, ‘Wretch, you have destroyed my progeny’ she tore her loosened hair, threw it at him and disappeared into the forest. Even the sun set. aw au (weeping) Oh, alas, I have become lonely now. . . p r in c e Don’t cry. You also wanted him to be killed, didn’t you? aw au Yes. p r in c e He’s dead and gone. Isn’t it better for you? aw au As long as he was here, I wanted to kill him. He was always here or there, behind or in front of me, near or for from me. But now without him I have become half myself. That’s why I feel I too should die. I am alone. p r in c e Hey, Prince! awali Prince? p r in c e Don’t get frightened. 1thought you were 1. You are fortunate, at least you are alone. Look at me. Even when I am sitting alone, I feel there is someone like me sitting next to me, wandering around in my body, talking in my voice, stealing me. I thought it was not a man but a mirror, but he is not a mirror, because a mirror cannot talk, and he talks. A mirror will not move by itself, but he wanders all through the palace, not caring about me. I will tell you a secret, don’t tell anybody. He has stolen ray wife also, and slipped into her bed. Wait1Did you hear? His voice from the women’s apartments o f the palace? aw au Yes, I hear the voice o f some man in the women’s apartments. p r in c e Don’t make any noise. The Queen is bathing his face with the light o f her eyes, washing away the stains o f his sin, thinking that their last moments together should be pure. But 1suffer day and night remembering their sins, and roam longing and thirsting for his blood. awali Shall I bring servants to catch the enemy? p r in c e Go! But bring them without making a sound.

Siri Sampige

SCENE THIRTEEN Thepalace. Sampige nursing the child. Kalinga watching. Siri Sampige’s child I’ll go and see, talk to it and return, said the Snake King. He crossed the fence and was there. kaling a Won’t you speak, Sampige? sampige Why have you come? The Prince suspects me. He doesn’t go to the pond any more but guards me like a servant. Don’t you understand? kaling a I had to speak to you. sampige Well, you’ve spoken to me. kaling a I wanted to see the child’s face. sampige Look at the child’s face. Now you can go. k aling a Just one moment. Give me a chance to talk to you once more, Sampige. Look what has happened to me. My eyes have had no sleep. I do not know where the boundaries o f my kingdom are. I just sit around, forgetfully wondering ‘Will she look at me once at least?’ The walls o f the fortress you have built to keep me out are growing taller. sampige 1 also have my responsibilities and my honour, Kalinga. Please go away. kalinga Remember, my goddess. Remember the dark boy who played with your hair. Sometimes you would say, ‘Kalinga, dear snake!’ and sometimes you wanted me to become the Pjince. Using both o f us you set your womb alight. Wooing my mind with smooth talk you won your trial. Now, after using me, do you want to throw me away like a spent firebrand? sampige My body is not a commodity, Kalinga. For you that child may be an extension of your pride in yourself, but for me it is a wound you have given me. kalinga It is difficult to understand you, woman. sampige N o w I am worried for your life, and I am telling you, escape from here at once. kalinga I have come here for the last time to tell you something, then I’ll go. If I don’t tell you, I may not even be able to die. sampige Why do you talk like this? kalinga It is true, Sampige. Who else do I have but you? sampige Are you afraid, Kalinga? kaunga O f whom, o f the Prince? When I see h im I don’t feel angiy bhagavata


at all. I don’t know why. Maybe my own entrails continue in him. Maybe we were brothers in a previous birth. s a m p ig e Y o u wanted to tell me something. Tell me, I will listen. b h a g a v a t a A frightful shadow, dear, is haunting me; an eagle is stalking me, biding his time. k a l in g a Listen, Sampige. 1am surprised at how I have spent so many days with you. I started feeling that I was desiring some shadow beyond you, or that I had caused it some pain. Whenever I lay with you that shadow beyond came to tease me. All these days 1 forgot it only in the momentary happiness of the body.. I mean to embrace you in such a way that not even air can slip between us, but between us there remains a huge empty space. And in that space the dark shadow appears, beckoning to me. Before, 1 saw your body. Now I see nothing but the shadow. That shadow is the truth between us, I feel. p r in c e (from outside) Close everything. Let a soldier with a weapon stand at each window and passage way. Remember, the enemy is a wizard who can take on any form he wants. Lady, open the door? k a l in g a

N o w m y m ind is lighter. I w ill g o n o w , Lady. O p en the


I will open the door slowly, singing a lullaby. Escape by 'the gutter. No one is standing that side. b h a g a v a t a Cobra with his seven hoods, in every hood a diamond gem, snake entwined in a girl’s plait, in her plait adorned with jasmine, sleeping cobra, hushabye, hush, our cobra King, hushabye!" s a m p ig e

SCENE FOURTEEN Prince and Awali Open the door, you harlot! Who are you playing around with9 I’ll chop that rogue in pieces, roared the Prince. aw ali When the door was opened there was nobody inside. Even bhagavata

Siri Sampige when w e searched according to your orders, in every nook and cranny, nobody was caught. prince Did even a worm escape? awau Only a snake escaped by the gutter drain. We who were ready to hunt men thought that if we chased the snake the enemy might escape, so w e didn’t go after it. prince What was that snake like? awau When it got down into the garden it threaded its way like a stream flowing. Then, as if concerned that someone might see it, it looked all round, moving its hood. And the hood was really very impressive. prince Were there not memories of joys devoured in its eye? awau We could not see its eye, friend. prince When you saw it, did it not seem born in heaven? awau Yes. It moved with the poise o f a thousand kings. prince Did it shine in the sunlight, like a comet walking on the earth? awau It shimmered like wheat, and its head was like lightning. Moving like the emperor o f the forest, as if to show us the grandeur of the darkness, it disappeared inside a darkness-filled anthill. prince Was this not the same snake which the Queen took on her body that day at the trial? awau H o w can I tell, friend? I am not properly informed about animals. prince Fool! Just as you could detect Jawali’s secret pleasures, I also can detect the enthusiasm of that snake wherever it moves. Its royal poise proves that it is the same snake as the one which was there on the day of the trial. And if it is definitely the snake of the trial, then it is also definitely my enemy. He can take on any form he wills, and now, scared, he has run away as a snake. Go! If he enters an anthill, set fire to the anthill; if he enters the forest, set fire to that too. Even if you have to mix poison with the air we breathe, he must be caught and killed. awau I am going. {He exits.) bhagavata Aha, she came, Siri Sampige, lover inside and Queen outside, deceit in female form came out, came out. sampige What is this my Lord? You appear to be prepared for battle. prince Lady, do not cover up the truth with smooth talk. Tell me did not a snake escape from here just now? sampige Yes. 373


Is it the same snake that moved around on your body on the day o f the trial? s a m p ig e Yes. p r in c e Speak, then! Is not that snake your lover? s a m p ig e Yes. p r in c e In that case what you have been doing all this time is immoral. s a m p ig e At last you have come to know o f it. I am glad. I was wondering all the time how I could reveal it to you. p r in c e You cheated the Elders, you cheated everyone. You wounded them in their faith in you, didn’t you? Your name which has been that o f a goddess o f town and temple will become a term of abuse for the whole country, do you know that9 s a m p ig e That is your ill fortune. My immorality started, my Lord, when you forgot the body and began craving for the god, and slipped away from our bed. 1who was lying on the bed, counting the rafters in the roof and sighing, never noticed when you slipped away, ¿"searched for you, but wherever I searched, in the palace garden, or in the words you spoke, you were not to be found. In the end you saw the god by taking handfuls of water from the pond. I too took a handful o f water, and there was a god in my handful too, but if he turned out not to be the same god as yours is it my fault? p r in c e D o you know the punishment for immorality? s a m p ig e I am already half widow, my Lord. You can’t understand the grief of one who is always half a widow! When you split yourself you split me also. When you are before me, my body is widowed; when I am with him, lying with him, my mind is widowed. Thus I am always half widow. There is nothing to equal such a torture. My sorrow is that no one understands me. I am alone. Afraid o f loneliness, I search for a companion. But all the companions to be had are half men. Was 1 bom for half men? I was bom for and I am seeking the wholeness o f the linga o f the god Siva. But what fell to my lot was a child bom illicitly to an incomplete being. A child bom to a widow. You have come here to kill the woman who gave birth to an illegitimate child? Look, I am ready!

p r in c e

Enter Awali Friend, the trace o f the enemy has been found. He is hiding in an anthill. The soldiers are already digging up the anthill.


Siri Sampige Lady, I have better work for my weapons. After beheading my enemy I will come and dispose o f you. Do not hope that I will die in battle. Since I have no brother, I cannot die.


Exit Prince and Awali. sampige

Now I am a complete widow.

SCENE FIFTEEN A battlefield. Prince and Kalinga face each other. bhagavata

Y o u w h o lay w ith m y w om a n .

You who polluted my lineage, till I kill you I will not cease, roared the Prince. prince Are you not the one who came like a wizard and lay as an adulterer with my woman? Are you not the dog who has polluted my lineage? Until I have killed such an adulterous thief as you, how can my weapons rest quietly? Come and give battle, lowest of the low! bhagavata In the mirrors of eyes I have seen you You are like my other self; anger at you will not rise in me, brother perhaps in a previous birth. kalinga Keep away, Prince! I am not one who is afraid to fight. I remember seeing you many times in a mirror. Pity wells up in me whenever I see you. Give me time, Prince, before battle, so I can think why I feel so troubled. bhagavata Coiling up like a snake— I don't understand this disguise— I am your destiny’s eagle, resist, he said. prince You who cheat by taking on any form that suits you, you need more time? You are scared for your life, shrinking, and coiling up, but none o f your plots will succeed any longer. Look, the eagle o f your destiny is going to fall on you now. If you have courage, defend yourself! kaunga Prince, do not provoke my pride. You are delicate. You have only read about killing in poetry. Give me once, only once, a chance to look you in the eyes. prince To do that would be the same as to give you a rope to tie my


hands with. So what now? Are you going to fight or are you going to die like a coward? Lookout, fight! b h a g a v a t a Enraging each other, fighting, with roars their bravery flaunting both fought mightily their awful battle. At last, the Snake King’s entrails aching he opposed his foe less strongly; the Prince like thunder felled him stamping on his body. Gazing at the sky’s distance life flew from the Snake spirit; in his open eyes the Prince saw a wonder unforgettable. Looking there— ah ha— himself he felt his spine’s knot slipping; ‘My entrails have gone cold’ he said coming to the palace.

SCENE SIXTEEN The palace. The Queen Mother is waiting fo r the Prince. News o f victory can’t make her happy, she remembers all her nightmares; with eyes wet Mother was waiting at home. m o t h e r Even after hearing the news of the Prince’s victory, my mind is anxious. If I shut my eyes I see only bad dreams, and if I open them bad omens arouse the fears in the depths. The palace is reverberating in silence, like a thunderstruck tree. Look, the Prince has come. ( The Prince enters and offers his salutations to his Mother.) My child, may you be victorious over a thousand such enemies. pr in c e This is not such a great victory, Mother. (He feels pain and sits down.) bh a g a v a t a

m o th er

N o , m y son. I n e v e r thought t h e Q u ee n c o u ld cheat like


Where is Siri Sampige, Mother? m o th e r She must be hiding in some corner, covering her shameless face. Do such people not commit suicide, son? pr in c e

p rin ce

I feel that at this moment the Queen should be with me.

m other

What kind o f Queen is she now? She lost that position at the

Siri Sampige moment when she polluted the lineage. Should you look at her evil face at such a time of gladness like this, my child? prince There is something private I want to talk to her about. mother I, your mother, am with you. Is that not enough? prince Y o u stay with me. Let her come too. Who is there? servant (Enter) Lord, what is your command? prince Ask the Queen to come. And call Awali too. I must have a word with him. servant Awali died, my Lord. prince Awali died? When5 How? servant When you were fighting, Awali came running to us shouting, ‘Alas, 1 am tripping over her hair, free me, free me’. We, who were busy watching your war did not pay any attention. Moreover, his feet were not tangled with hair. He kept runnhig and went towards the lake which you visit every day. Meanwhile; as expected, you killed the enemy. I too ran towards the lake to tell him this joyful news. Awali had already begun to climb the tree on the bank that bends over the water. The tree’s reflection was in the water. Awali’s reflection had appeared too. Suddenly, he remembered Jawali and the quarrel and he thought that the one in the water was Jawali. Seeing Jawali, he grinned at him menacingly. In the water, Jawali too laughed to show that he was not afraid. He too laughed, and raised his arm, threatening to strike. The other did the same. He clenched his teeth and indicated that he would strangle the other. The other did the same. He became extremely angry and determined to kill, he jumped right into the lake. I watched all this, standing on the bank. I thought that he was probably miming your fight. But he drowned after having drunk so much water. He did not come up at all, my Lord. prince (agitated) Go at once and ask the Queen to come, quick. servant Very well, my Lord.

Exit Servant. How is my son the Prince, Mother? mother You are tired after the fight. Take some rest. It is already dark outside. Your mind will be lighter when you get up in the morning. If you want you carrsee Sampige tomorrow. prince Mother, are you saying that tomorrow will dawn* mother What kind of a question is that my child? Tomorrow will prince



dawn, but not as usual. Right and wrong will be in their proper places. The darkness o f doubt will have passed away. Do you know, there will not be a comer o f the palace where the light does not fall. Dawn has only awakened, and the buds of a new world will open out. All die old grief will blossom into smiles. I myself will show to you, King upon your throne, the new world pr in c e Mother. m o t h e r Son. pr in ce Do you have faith in me, Mother? m o t h e r From now onwards I will believe every word you say, my child. Because I did not believe your words on the day of trial, all these terrible things came about. A Mother who does not believe her son’s words is virtually a black goddess; but I will never forgive Siri Sampige for cheating like this. prince N o w there are no secrets between us, may I ask you a question, Mother? m o t h e r Ask, my child. pr in c e Listen calmly. My navel is growing cold. My spine is loosening. m o t h e r ( horrified) What? What did you say, son? Who is there? Servants! Someone come quickly! pr in ce Don’t shout, Mother. Please listen to me. m o t h e r Watching your face I am becoming scared, my son. I am a sinner not to have realized at once. I thought it was the fatigue of the fight. Did he wound you? pr in ce Listen, Mother. Even my death depends on the truth that you must tell me. You must reveal the hidden truth now. m o t h e r What is it7Ask me, my child. pr in c e I s it true that 1 have no brother to be heir to what 1 am heir to, Mother? m o t h e r Do you doubt your Mother’s word* Look, I swear on the family g o d ... pr in c e Oaths and vows are not required, Mother. You can simply tell me. Mother You have no brother, my son. pr in c e

1 am to d ie to g eth e r w ith m y brother, is that n o t so?

Yes. pr in c e Suppose I have no brother? m o t h e r TTien you will not die. b h a g a v a t a Splitting ourselves we became two body and mind became separate.

m other

Siri Sampige No other may have been bom from your womb, but when the one son who was born from you split himself in two, did not the other part which came to life become my brother and the sharer of my inheritance? Tell me, Mother, the other who came to life when I split myself, who was he? When I asked all o f you, you said it was a devil, an evil spirit. Was it not the Snake King Kalinga, Mother? mother {stricken): Yes. What came out o f the pot before you was a snake! prince Mother, think carefully. Was he not the same snake who was used for the trial? mother Perhaps... prince Certainly he was the same, Mother. He did not fight with me as he should have. He said, ‘Somehow I cannot get angry with you. Give me a chance to look into your eyes’. But 1refused his requesrand fought with him, and since his heart was not in the fight I easily killed him. He died opening his eyes and looking at the sky. I could not control my curiosity and looked into his eyes. mother What d id y o u see, son? prince In his eyes the lovely blue sky was reflected. I saw in the sky an eagle and a snake flying together. The snake, which had within it all the dark black secrets o f the nether world, was not in the claws o f the eagle but was wound around its neck and body in friendship. The duality o f the snake and the eagle had been erased and they had become one. The mercy of Siva’s divine eyes was falling on them in the form o f the sun’s golden rays. What I saw now was like a snake playing in the sky, opening his hood. Only the snake was visible, having completely taken over the eagle, and it looked as if the snake with its open hood had sprouted wings and was flying. Then that eagle, with its forehead set to the streaming sun, climbed fearlessly into the eternity of the sky. mother Son, w h a t d o you mean by this? prince The Queen would have understood all these things. Siri Sampige has not committed any wrong, mother. When I split myself, we got separated into body and mind. Kalinga became my body, I became his mind. Siri Sampige became pregnant by my body. mother Urt wonderand repentance) True, son. That is why whenever prince


he wanted he was able to take on your shape. Son, the Queen has done no wrong. Alas! sinner that I am, I forgot what I was doing. Now I am afraid for your life. Who is there? prin ce I have already killed myself, Mother. Look, the Queen has come. Come Siri Sampige.

Sampige approaches. Is no one coming? Siri Sampige, you stay at the Prince s side. I will go and bring the doctor. Exit Mother. pr in c e Y o u who were being burned in the fire o f misunderstanding . . . at last I feel I have understood. s a m p ig e Are you well, my Lord? pr in c e Queen, how is the Prince? s a m p ig e He is sleeping quiedy. How are you, my Lord? pr in c e Did you hear the news? s a m p ig e Yes, my Lord. You killed Kalinga. p r in c e Have our Prince perform the last rites for him. For me also. s a m pig e My Lord! p r in c e Listen. See to it that our son does not split himself. (He dies.) m o th er


From Sunset to Sunrise SURENDRA VERMA Translation: Jaya Krishnam achari

ACT ONE The Royal bed Chamber. There are two doors at thefa r side of the stage, one to the right and the other to the left; a wine cellar next to the right door and a dressing table with toilette articles and a stool in front o f it next to the left door. There isa large latticed window, covering the left side wall opposite, from almost its centre to the junction where both the walls meet. A chandelier is suspended. The royal bed chamber. There are two doors at the fa r side o f the stage, one to the right and the centre-stage. A bed is placed near the wall in front. Some chairs and low stools. A proclamation is heard faintly in the background. Gradually, the lights come on. Sound o f instrumental music in the background which slowly fades away. Enter Mahattarika and the chief Door-Keeper. She stops once or twice, straightening a thing here and there. Comes to the window and looks out. Enter the second Door-Keeper. Mahattarika!. . . . why have you come out here? mahattarika (Taking a deep breath) Couldn’t bear to watch that make-up . . . . that is why. door- k e e p e r Who will draw the diacritic marks on the cheeks?. . .

door-k e e p e r

N o o n e has such a practised hand as yours. m ahattarika

Y o u d ra w it.

Pause What has to be drawn . . . lotus or conch? . . . . I asked the Queen but got no reply. She seems to have become absolutely inert.. . . She hears nothing and reacts to nothing. mahattarika Oh! Make anything. . . . what difference does it make? door - k e e p e r (after a pause) I have just seen the Prime Minister, the Royal Priest and the Commander-in-Chief coming in. . . . Why don’t you take the King away from the garden! . . . . In his present state o f mind, he shouldn’t have to confront these gentlemen. mahattarika (smiling feebly) No one can do anything, you madcap . . . ! If it had been within anyone’s power to do something, why would such an untoward thing be happening in the first place! door- k e e p e r



Pause (In a secretive voice) Shall I ask you something? m a h a t t a r ik a (looking at the door-keeper) What? d o o r -keeper (after a short pause) You have known the Queen right from childhood, haven’t you?. . . . Is it true then . . . that before marrying the King she was betrothed to someone else? MAHATTARIKA Yes. d o o r -keeper Who was he? m a h a t t a r ik a An impoverished youth like herself.... named Pratosh . . . but he is no longer a pauper. He is a very big businessman now. d o o r -keeper Where does he live? m a h a t t a r ik a In nearby Avanti.. . . But he has a mansion here also. (Momentary pause) Why? What is the matter? d o o r keeper Kanchuki has told me that.. . . ! m a h a t t a r ik a (perking up) What? d o o r -keeper He was passing by that mansion this afternoon and found it being spruced up; on making inquiries, he was told that the house owner was arriving in town. m a h a t t a r ik a Oh . . . ! (She stands lost in thought. They look at each other. Sound o f footsteps at the left door.) d o o r -keeper (looking in that direction)The Prime Minister....! d o o r -keeper

The door-keeper bows slightly and exits. Enter the Prime Minister. Mahattarika! m a h a t t a r ik a Sir! pr im e m in is t e r (looking to the right and left) His Majesty... ? m a h a t t a r ik a He is in the garden. prim e m in is te r How is his health now? m a h a t t a r ik a He didn’t sleep the whole night. He kept pacing up and down looking worried. He hasn’t had a morsel of food since yesterday. prim e m in is t e r

Pause And the Queen? Ma h a t t a r ik a (with a sad smile) Like the last six nights, she spent yesterday night also tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep a wink. prim e m in iste r


From Sunset to Sunrise (after a pause) Has she been helped to get ready? mahattarika Anointment and bath are over. Make-up is in progress. prime m in is te r What is she going to wear? mahattarika The sam e dress that yo u o rd ered to b e laid out. prime m in is t e r I s the Jaimala ready? mahattarika Yes, sir! prime m in iste r

Pause You stay with His highness tonight; please don’t leave him alone least he . . . himself. He is mentally very disturbed. m ahattarika Yes sir! prime m in is t e r

Exit the Prim e Minister. Mahattarika comes to the window again. The sound o f instrum ental music, in the background. K ing Okkak enters silently. Looks at Mahattarika fo r a few moments. Mahattarika! m ah attar ik a (startled) Oh . . . Your Majesty . . . ! okkak (with a fa in t smile) What are you looking at so intently . . . Lost to your surroundings?... ( Mahattarika bows her head) Oh . . . .come tell me also. Speak up. (pause) Mahattarika! m ahattrika (taking a deep breath) I was looking at the scene down below. . . at the pavilion. okkak How does it look? m ahattarika Very imaginatively designed........! okkak

Pause Tell me some more . . . . ! m ahattarika (haltingly) Pillars studded with precious stones . . . interlaced with plantain tree arches . . . . They have been decorated with a lacy border o f Mallika bud garlands . . . suspended from these are clusters o f Sindhuvaf flower . . . festoons o f Lavangpallav . . . pots bearing swastik symbols . .. keeping in mind the suspiciousness o f the occasion. okkak

Her voice is choked. Okkak looks at Mahattarika. He then walks over to the wine cellar. Picks up the jug and is about tcTpour wine into the goblet; he suddenly stops. (with a smite) I see that those appointed by the Council of Ministers are being very imaginative in the execution o f their




duties. But, what I don't understand is ... what has happened to our Palace staff? m a h a t t a r ik a (clearing her throat) Has there been some mistake, Your Majesty? o k k a k In the garden, just now, I found thin layers o f moss on the upper edges o f the water tank; a number o f flower-beds have not been watered, weeding has not been done around many a delicate plant... and here, I find a fly in the wine and a layer of dust on this goblet... (with a smile he draws lines on the glass) so that I can practise some drawing. m a h a t t a r ik a Pray pardon me, Your Majesty! right away 111. . ..

She moves forward. Okkak raises his hand signalling her to stop. He pours winefrom anotherjug into another glass. Takes a couple o f sips. Mahattarika comes closer. She begins to wipe thefirst glass with a muslin cloth. (softly) Ever since the proclamation was made, the Palace staff are not in their senses . . . they know not what they do, nor how they do i t . . . !

m a h a t t a r ik a

Pause A whole week is over today, is it not? m a h a t t a r ik a Yes, your Majesty! o k k a k (a little to himself) on e... two three . . . fou r. . . five . . . six . . . (momentary pause. To Mahattarika) it is the seventh day today, isn’t it? m a h a t t a r ik a (stares at him ) Yes, Your Majesty! o k k a k (after a little while, smiling slightly) Can’t re m e m b e r a thing. . . . just now I was trying to figure out the year . .. but couldnl . .. instead o f the numerals of the year, came the names of the months... then came the dates. That train of thought disappeared and in its stead came... (slaps hisforehead with both hispalms, as though trying to knock at the doors o f his memory.) m a h a t t a r ik a ( with agitation) You are very tired, Your Majesty! What you need is complete rest. . . you need to sleep, to relax, to forget. . . O k k a k (irritatedly) How am I to get sleep? The forgetfulness — as long as this chamber exists, as long as this body exists . . . till therfe is life... (sound offootsteps at the left door, without turning) .. who is there? okkak

From Sunset to Sunrise Enter the Prim e Minister, the Royal Priest and the Commander-in-Chief. Exist Mahattarika. (with aversion) Oh! So it is you gentlemen . . . Okkak’s loyal trinity . . . tell me, what is your command for me now?


Pause prime m in is t e r

H o w are we to convince you o f our sincerity?

Whatever we are saying or doing is solely for the welfare o f the state. commander - in -c h ie f We have no motive other than this. okkak (sarcastically) Who can doubt it? prime m in is t e r (after a while) You are well aware o f the traditions o f the Malla Kingdom . . . that as soon as five years o f a King’s reign are completed, an announcement regarding a successor is made. But despite so much time having elapsed since your marriage and ascent to the throne, you have had no issues. royal p r ie s t And due to your continued illness for a month now, an apprehension has been created in the minds o f your subjects that.. .! okkak But that was just an ordinary fever and now I am completely well, and hale and hearty... looking at me can anyone say that I have but a few days to live? commander -in -c h ie f N o , no one can say that; but how are the fears of those people to be allayed if they cannot see you? mume m in is t e r Even if there was a way o f allaying such fears, how long can one depend on it? This problem will have to be faced some time or the other. okkak (avoiding looking at them; in a voicefilled with disgust and anger) What problem.. . . What kind o f problem . . . ? royal p r ie s t

Pause (with compassion) Your Majesty! Please don’t deceive yourself. . . the sooner the truth is confronted the easier it is to take a hold over oneself. okkak (forcefully) Nothing is impossible in this world. Royal pr ie st True, but some things can be difficult. commander- in -c h ie f And the Royal Physician has now a c c e p t e d defeat. royal p r ie s t


( stares) And it is giving you so much pleasure . . . to say this

Pause (with anguish) Your Majesty! r o y a l priest It is indeed sad that you don’t agree with us. o k k a k (angrily) How am I to agree with you . . . especially when you are bent on kicking my name around, like a football, all over the kingdom? prim e m in iste r More than you, we are worried about your reputation. Isn't this plan meant only to safeguard the reputation of this dynasty? o k k a k (getting irritated) But what is the manner in which this plan has been made? What form is it going to assume? (Movesforward a little. Raises both his arms heavenward and says in a hoarse voice) should all the misfortune of the world fall only to my lot7 c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f Y o u are unnecessarily getting worked up over this issue. r o y a l priest If a person who cannot see, is called blind by someone. does it mean that he has been insulted? prim e m in iste r He who caste aspersions is the one who should be castigated. To blame someone for some shortcoming over which he has no control is in no way relevant or right. . . o k k a k (Furiously) But this is not a shortcoming, which . . . (is unable to voice it. Turns his back on them and moves away and forward. Sighs deeply in helpless anger.) It has to do with the softest and the most vulnerable spot in a person . . . connected with that microcosmic breath of self respect, which enlivens a man's life . . . (looks accusingly at them.) But you won’t understand all this, because you are all men . . . wholly men. c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f You Majesty! This grief is not yours alone. r o y a l priest We too are parts o f the administrative machinery .. and hence . .. one with you. prim e m in is t e r We are your partners in these moments o f darkness too. o k k a k (annoyed) No . . . you are not, because if you were, you would not have been so crazy as to take such a revolutionary step. You have done this just for some cheap publicity... and in order to fulfil your ambition o f becoming leaders at the cost of other.. .! prim e m in iste r There is nothing very revolutionary about this step. prim e m in is te r

From Sunset to Sunrise as you seem to think. The custom o f Niyog is still prevalent. Heirs to the throne o f Kundanipur and Avanti were similarly begotten . . . two years ago in Kundanipur and three years ago in Avanti. c o m m a n d e r - i n -c h i e f The Queens o f both the Kingdoms had assumed the role o f Dharmanatis and gone out in order to conceive. okkak (shuts his ears with his hands and shouts) Please don’t utter these words in my presence___ 1hate this w ord ... dharmanati! royal p r ie s t (Unaffected by Okkak’s reaction) History is witness to the fact that from ancient times this method has been adopted in our country. Each of the Pandava Princes was bom through Niyog . .. not one o f them was born o f his father. prime m in is t e r (in a tone pregnant with meaning) And as long as a man is man, this custom will be alive. okkak What do you mean by that?

Pause What is the proof o f the fact that the four o f us present here, are indeed our fathers' sons?. . . .It is quite possible that my biological father is the teacher who used to come to teach Sanskrit to my mother. .. is it not possible that (indicating the Commander-in-Chief) the actual father o f the commander-inchief is the satrap o f Chakrapur, who, during his stay in the capital (uttering each word separately) was a ... close.. . friend .. o f .. his... mother’s ... husband? Is it inconceivable ( pointing to the Royal Priest) that the Royal Priest’s mother, in a fit o f uncontrollable passion could have surrendered herself of her lover, on the eve of her wedding? The reason for Niyog can differ, as also the form in which it is practised; in some case it is practised clandestinely while in some others it is accompanied by great pomp and show. okkak (greatly distressed) But I cannot accept it in any manner. I don’t want my dynasty to be held up as a shameful example forever. I do not wish that centuries from now, people should be repeatingwith despicable glee that Okkak, the ruler o f Malla kingdom was an impotent man . . . and hence his wife had to seek a man outside the palace in order to conceive. prime m in ist er (in a serious voice) Here, the question o f wanting or not wanting doesn’t come in, Your Majesty!. . . A simple query

prime m in is t e r


has been raised in the Anguttam Nikaya . . . that is, who is above the King? . . . the answer is also contained therein . . . duty! o k k a k (losing his temper) Will I now have to take lessons regarding my duties from you? c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f (firm ly) Please do not forget the oath contained in the Aitreya Brahman that was administered to you at the time o f your coronation.. . . r o y a l priest If I betray my subjects, . . . the name, fame, wealth, progeny and life-span that have been bestowed on me, from the moment o f my birth to the moment I d ie ... may all this be destroyed. o k k a k But, in what way have I betrayed my subjects? prim e m in is t e r Y o u are not willing to fulfil your obligations, you don’t want to justify your existence . . . .a true King is one who pleases his subjects. o k k a k (annoyed) Why are you haranguing me with these sayings’ . . . I too know what the definition o f a king is. prim e m in is t e r If you know it, why don’t you behave in a manner befitting that definition? r o y a l priest Why don’t you want to provide a successor for your subjects? o k k a k ( loses his self control and shouts) But what is the catastrophe that is about to befall us that you are harping on the same thing repeatedly? c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f That means you have been paying no heed to what the spies have been saying . . . did I not bring to your notice (raising his right hand) that the ruler o f Ketu on this hand and (raising his left hand) the ruler of Vallabh on that, have hatched a plot to mount an attack on the Malla Kingdom and rob us o f all wealth? o k k a k But this was so when I was ill; now that I have fully. .. prim e m in is t e r H o w many people outside the capital know that you have recovered fully? One after the other, continuously, aren't the spies bringing us the news that in every nook and comer of the Malla Kingdom it is being discussed that King Okkak is dead and that in his name (pointing by turns) the Prime Minister, the Royal Priest and the Commander-in-Chief are ruling the state? r o y a l priest Is it not possible that, intentionally or unintentionally, the two neighbouring states might attack us?

From Sunset to Sunrise (sm iling cruelly) In that event we shall face them bravely and be slain and . . . with me, you too. co m m and e r -i n -c h ie f And what will happen after that? prime m in is t e r Some surviving ambitious noble will ascend the throne . . . that is what will happen 1 suppose! o kkak And in case the State gets an heir, as you desire, what will happen? prime m inister It will boost the morale of the subjects as well as that of the army. c o m m a n d er - in -c h ie f And our enemies will find their evil intrigues thwarted. prime m in is t e r In actual terms, what does the announcement of a successor really mean? . . . it signifies permanence, the continuance o f a tradition that . . . while instilling confidence in the common man’s heart that life will continue normally for him, helps nipping in bud many doubts about a hazy future, and ambitions and seditious plans o f unscrupulous elements to usurp power. It will put the Malla Kingdom on the highway of progress. okkak (enraged) I am also worried about the development o f the kingdom o f Malla; the onus for it is not on you alone. prime m in is t e r But, fearing that his self respect may be hurt if the person in whom this responsibility is vested, chooses not to discharge his duty, what then are we supposed to do?.. . stand by silently and watch the State besieged with internal and external dangers? Look on while the lives of thousands o f its citizens has come to a halt at a dead end? A whole kingdom.. . the entire system . . . the struggle and toil o f innumerable generations, in building this state, going to seed... (pointing to Okkak) fearing (emphatically) the infamy that will befall just one man. okkak (comesforward. In a tone o f suppressedfury) the Council o f Ministers is described as courteous body, but I now feel that discourteous is the adjective to be applied to it. prime m in is t e r (with a subtle, sarcastic smile) You are not the only one to react thus, Your Majesty!... Priyadarshi Ashok must have felt like this when he was not allowed to give away large sums of money to the Buddhist Monastry at will. Rudradama, the great Satap Kshatrap must have had similar thoughts when he could not fritter away his wealth for the consecration o f the Sudarshan okkak



Lake. The ruler o f Shravasti must also have felt similarly, when he had wanted to .. . o k k a k (angrily) Why don’t you say that you want to exhibit the power that you and the Council of Ministers wield? . . . you want to set an example by making an example o f me . . . You want to sip the nectar o f immortality by ensuring that your names find a place in the pages o f history. . . (sarcastically) like Varshakar, the Prime Minister o f Ajatashatru... like Udayan, the Prime Minister o f Yaugandharayan .. . like Chandragupta's Prime Minister Chanakya . . . [three male voices heard, respectively, from fa r and near, announcing. The Sun setting.! prim e m in is te r (looks steadily at Okkak) In your present state of mind such doubts are quite natural. .. and there is no way in which I can prove my sincerity.

Pause Time is running out Prime Minister! c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f We must hurry up. prim e m in iste r (looks to the right and calls out) Mahattarika . ..! r o y a l priest

Enter Mahattarika. m a h a t t a r ik a

Sir! (puts the Jaimala, that she is carrying, on a low

stool.) The Queen . . . Is Her highness ready? yes, Sir!

prim e m iniste r m a h a t t a r ik a

Pause Please inform Her Highness that... Its now time for her to start [Exit Mahattarika. In the background, sound o f rising and falling notes o f instrumental music. After a few moments, enter Sheelvati, walking very slowly. She comes and stands.} prim e m in iste r (In a soft voice) Your Highness!. . . I am at a loss for words... don’t know what to say at this moment...! I do hope that you realise the compulsions o f the situation . . . and understand our helplessness in the matter... (looks at the Royal Priest andpoints towards theJaimala. The Royal Priest picks up theJaimala and comes and stands next to Okkak.) r o y a l priest (holding out theJaimala towards Okkak) Your Majesty! (Sheelvati is looking at the floor while Okkak has his eyesfixed on her.) prim e m in is te r

From Sunset to Sunrise ROYAL PRIEST Your Majesty!

The Prim e Minister comes and stands on the other side o f Okkak and the Commander-in-Chief behind Okkak. Please give the Jaimala to the Queen, Your Majesty! ok k ak (Takes thefaimala, holds it up looking at it thoughtfully fo r a moment. With a sad smile) Jai . . . Mala . . .! (Gives it to Sheelvati.) royal p r ie s t Your Majesty! ... now, please repeat what I say. (pause) Queen Sheelvati!. . . I. Okkak, the ruler o f Mall Kingdom and your husband, concur fully with the decision o f the Council o f Ministers about giving you three opportunities to try and conceive. You are being given your first opportunity today . .. Please say it, Your Majesty!

royal pr ie s t

Pause. The Prime Minister and the Commander-in-Chief move a little closer to Okkak. Your Majesty! (defiantly) Alright, alright. . . .

co m m and er -in -c h ie f okkak

The Royal Priest and the Commander-in-Chief look at the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister stares steadily at Okkak. (to the Royal Priest) Please proceed. royal pr ie s t (to Okkak) Please repeat . . . I (pointing towards Sheelvati) bestow on you the right to choose a paramour for tonight. . . from sunset to sunrise.

prime m in is t e r

Pause royal priest

Your Majesty! Please say it.

Pause commander -i n -c h ie f

(comes closer to Okkak) Say it, please.

Pause (coming very close, in a cold voice) Time is running out, Your Majesty! okkak (looks at all there; swallows) I bestow the right. royal priest Please repeat the sentence fully. okkak (bursts out suddenly) I have said it. (hastens towards the cellar, pours out wine into the glass and swallows it rapidly.)

prime m inister


M O D E R N I N D IA N D R A M A sheelvati

(to the trio) Will you please . . . for a while . . .

Exit the three gentlemen. Sheelvati puts down the Jaimala on the stool and approaches Okkak. Aiyaputra! o k k a k (turns; looks at Sheelvati and smiles pathetically.) Not for me this address now____This address belongs to somebody else tonight, (starts drinking again. The sound o f instrumental music in the background become louder and then grows fa in t.) Can you hear the sound o f these instruments?... these sound waves cany within them the hopes o f so many anxious hearts... I hear that candidates have come from very long distances to try their luck. . . I am told that very fast runners . . . capable o f covering fifty miles in a d a y . . . were employed to spread the message .. Not a single citizen was left, throughout the length and breadth o f the Malla Kingdom, to whose ears this proclamation had not reached, (looks at Sheelvati) you have also heard, haven’t you? sheelvati Why do you go on about this again and again. . . ? o k k a k (moves forward) Why wouldn’t you have heard?. . . in the last one week, in each and every lane, each and every street, each and every park, each and every stadium in the capital.. .! sheelvati (coming closer) Okkak . . . ! o k k a k On a voice fu ll o f anguish) Why don’t you let me speak!... that proclamation seems to have filled my ears . . . it has got dissolved in my breath . . . in my bloodstream . . . it has taken over my consciousness so completely that in all my waking moments and in my sleep, whether I am sitting or standing or walking about. .. (stops suddenly. With fear) Listen . .. listen . . . the same voice again . . . it is rising again. . . sheelvati

Sound o f drums in the background. Then the voice o f the announcer... 'every citizen o f Malla Kingdom ... is hereby inform ed. . . that in exactly a weekfrom now. . . . on the fu ll moon day.. .in the evening. .. Queen Sheelvati. . . will come out to thepalace courtyard. .a s Dharmanati.. .a ll the citizens o f Malla Kingdom are invited to attend. . . as prospective candidates. Queen Sheelvati . . . will choose anyone she wishes . . . as her param our . . . fo r one night . .from sunrise to sunset’ . . . Sound o f drums. Pause. okkak

(with some anger) Do you know who has drafted this

From Sunset to Sunrise proclamation?... I’ll suggest to the Council o f Ministers tomorrow that they should throw that person out immediately. (emphatically) he has committed a grave error . . . depending on her wish any citizen can be . . . bah! Citizen! Even Shikhandi was a citizen . . . It should have read . . . ‘will choose any man . . . ' (stopping abruptly) no, but I am a man too . . . (looking at Sheelvati, with suppressed anger) the correct wording would be . . . a complete man . . . a man possessing virility. sheelvati (comes close to Okkak) Okkak... please, control yourself. . .this is an hour of trial. okkak Y e s . . . the hour of my trial. . . a testing time for my patience >.. for my self respect? sheelvati (heatedly) You are not alone in this, I am also with you in this. okkak Yes, o f course! Perhaps that is why I have not had a glimpse of you for the past one week, exactly from the day that announcement o f the proclamation began. sheelvati (with pathos in her voice) How could I come to you?... I had to prepare myself mentally . . . had to muster all the will power at my command . . . to tear asunder the fine mesh of cultural ethos, values and traditions that have been ingrained in m e ... to be able to face this moment. . . Distance from you was necessary as well as compulsory for it. okkak (smiles faintly) So, you are prepared now? sheelvati . . . yes, I am! okkak (in a voice pregnant with mean togj What are you prepared for?

Pause . . . to fulfil my obligation. . . to become Dharmanati. okkak (coughing) Have you made up your mind about the kind o f man on whom you will bestow the good fortune o f sleeping with you? sheelvati (looks steadily at Okkak. After a pause) Why are you talking in this manner? okkak (feigning surprise) How am I talking? sheelvati I am not at fault for what is happening. okkak What have I said?... 1am just asking a simple, straightforward question... what will be your prime consideration for choosing the man . . . his health . . . his looks or the colour of his skin?



(a little agitatedly) You know quite well Okkak . . . that I had accepted. O k k a k (becomes serious) What? Sheelvati (in a similar manner) You . . . your . . . (at a loss fo r words) . . . whatever you are . . . However you are. o k k a k (coldly) Thank you! sheelvati (with annoyance) Now, I did not mean it the way you have chosen to understand . .. (tenderly) I just wanted to say that. . . I had accepted this fiacet o f life. . . (im m ediately). . . have accepted i t ... and I had never for a moment imagined that anything like this could ever happen___ Years passed... season after season came and w e n t.. . and my acceptance deepened further and further . . . and now, to destroy that framework completely in this manner . . . to start afresh.. . (tries to control herself.) Look, tonight we are both fighting the same battle... if there is anything it is just that our fields are different . . . the challenges before us are different. o k k a k (vehemently) No . . . there is a world o f difference between the two. sheelvati (emphatically) No, there is none... you will keep awake, here, the whole night and . . . 1 will keep awake, there, the whole night... the same sense if degradation, shame and loathing . . . the same anxiety, suffocation and nervousness . . . assailing both of us. o k k a k (with a faint sm ile). . . . Why? why . . . the nervousness? sheelvati H o w do you talk! . . . don’t you know the epithets that your poets use to describe a woman like me who is confined to the interior chambers o f the palace? They call me T h e one untouched by the rays Of the sun!.’ . . . And tonight, the same woman will walk into the Palace courtyard, with the Jaimala in her hands, . . . the centre of attraction o f thousands o f pairs of eyes . . . and will walk away with some man for this one night ... a man she has never seen before... a man about whom she knows naught . . . and to such a man she will surrender her body... her beauty, her youth and her virginity.. . ! o k k a k (hurt) I am as much distressed about your virginity as you are. Sheelvati (with annoyance) Oh . . . , what am I to do, where am to g o ... why do you always misinterpret whatever I say?... I was sheelvati

From Sunset to Sunrise only trying to say that. . . (softly) look, I had told you about my neighbours . . . an elderly couple. At that stage in their lives the body no longer played a role in their relationship. But they were content, they were happy why?... May be there was something else... something deeper and more meaningful... their mutual compatibility an understanding o f each other’s persona, their sweet natures, common interests ...! okkak (with a cruel smile) Who are you deceiving? . . . me or yourself? sheelvati (vehemently) Even talking to you is a sin. okkak (bursts out) O f course . . . o f course . . . everything is sinful . . . talking to me . . . being with me . . . sleeping with m e .. . !

Angrily he tries to go out through the right door. Through the left door the Prime Minister enters silently; neither o f them is able to see him. sheelvati

( emotionally) Should 1 take care o f you or of myself....?

Exit Okkak. Prime Minister movesforward a little. (quietly) Your Majesty! sheelvati (moves aside without heeding his presence) I just can’t comprehend. . . what should 1d o . . . or shouldn’t do ...? prime m in is t e r (sadly) Pray, stop worrying about His Highness. He does not want to understand, so there is nothing that anyone can do for him . . . not even if one wishes. sheelvati (sharply) And pray, what can anyone do for me? prime m in is t e r (startled) Your Majesty! sheelvati (pauses, then as if talking to herself). . . I keep thinking and a shiver runs up my spine. . . an unknown mansion. . . the bedroom in i t . . . the bed there . . . and on that b e d . . . (pause. With a pathetic smile) the morale o f the prostitutes is indeed commendable . . . No amount o f praise would suffice for that. prime m in is te r What are you saying, your Majesty! sheelvati (in the same vein) The most intimate relationship and that too in the very first meeting... the height o f ghastliness---- the final step towards destruction. prime m in is t e r

Pause prime m inister

Your Majesty! It will be easier for you to face the


situation if you just concentrate on your goal. ( with a slight smile) Arjun had said to Dronacharya that he could see only the right eye o f the fish. sheelvati I am afraid I don’t understand what you mean. prim e m in iste r In what does womanhood find its complete meaning? . . . (pause) doesn’t this deficiency trouble you? Doesn’t your heart ever long to see a child run around in your chamber shouting and laughing with joy? A child being mesmerised at seeing its reflection in the mirror-like clean floors . . . its laugh revealing tiny little teeth . . . its tears, rolling down, like pearl drops when it cries . . . Arousing your consciousness with the sweet music o f a lisping voice calling you ‘mother’ . . . this word that can be considered the genesis o f the entire human civilization and culture . . . ! sheelvati ( with agitation) Prime Minister...! (tries to control herself) prim e m in iste r Please pardon my audacity, Your Highness . . . at both ends of the emotional spectrum you stand alone. One shortcoming, o f course, is irreparable now, but as far as the second is concerned . . . you should, in fact, rejoice that . . . please pardon my audacity . . . fortunately a path has opened up before you, through which you can, without breaching any propriety, acquire the treasure o f motherhood. sheelvati (hesitating) But even then . . . it is very difficult that...! p r im e m in is t e r Please take heart from the thought that this is but a matter o f just one night. You are going out with the setting sun and will be back at sunrise. sheelvati You cannot see this from a woman’s standpoint... with an absolutely strange man ...! prim e m in iste r I can understand your uneasiness... but please think o f it as . . . it is just a matter of going through a process . . . a formality, a filling in o f empty spaces... for those few moments please forget yourself completely . . . close your eyes and ears . . . let your body absolutely loose . . . deaden your senses and your feelings... let your thoughts dwell only on the outcome of this . . . through your mind’s eye just visualise the innocent expression o f a child’s face, its curly hair, milk teeth . . . the fulfilment o f womanhood . . . contentment that comes with motherhood...!

Like one hypnotised Sheelvati looks at the Prime Minister. He bows slightly and points towards the door. Exit Sheelvati with

From Sunset to Sunrise the Prime Minister following her. The sound o f instrumental music. Enter Okkak. Looks here and there, goes to the wine cellar. Fills a glass; picks it up. Suddenly the sound o f music stops. Okkak stops in his tracks. He looks at the window, moves towards it but stops midway as if he was about to do somethingprohibited and shameful. Enter Mahattarika carrying a cup. Your Majesty! You were suffering from headache, . . . shall I massage your head? Shall I apply this balm? o k k a k I am alright now.

m a h a t t a r ik a

A slight commotion in the background. Mahattarika puts down the cup on a stool. Okkak takes a few sips fro m the glass. Looks at Mahattarika a couple o f times and looks sheepish when their eyes meet. (looking away) Go and see.... what is happening there. . .! m a h a t t a r ik a (goes up to the window, keeps looking out) The palace courtyard is overflowing with citizens . . . the soldiers are preventing them from moving forward . .. (pause). . . the flag of the Malla Kingdom is flying right in the centre o f the pavillion; the Prime Minister is standing close by; to his right is the Royal Priest and to the left the Commarider-in-Chief. The members o f the Council o f Ministers are behind them . . . around them are the high officials, of the state . . . and distinguished citizens . . . the candidates are seated in chairs placed in two rows . . . everyone’s eyes are riveted on the Queen (Pause) with the Jaimala in her hands the Queen is moving forward at a very sedate pace. . . when she stops in front o f someone for a moment, her attendant immediately whispers the identity o f the person in her ears. (Pause)The Queen is moving forward in a very disinterested fashion. . . leaving behind row after row of festoons and pillars behind . . . all eyes are on the Queen but it seems as though even while looking at them she sees no one. CPause) the left row is over... the Queen has turned, she is now coming towards the right row. (Pause) What a deep silence . . . the place seems like a cremation ground, not the palace courtyard (Pause). . . A chariot has come to a halt at the palace gate . . . a person has alighted. . . he is coming towards the pavilion. okkak (with a slight smile) Must be some hopeful. mahattarika (after a pause) Making his way through the teeming



crowds he is moving forward rapidly . . . there is some furore . . . the Prime Minister and other are staring in that direction. The Commander-in-Chief is moving forward in that direction to find out what the matter is . . . the Queen has also stopped in the middle of the right row . . . a soldier tried to stop that man but he has said something to the soldier and is moving forward. (Pause. Excitedly) There, he has come very close . . . between the two rows . . . (pause) the Queen is standing transfixed. He is also staring at her . . . (to Okkak) Oh! Please, please come here . . . ! o k k a k (agitated) No___ no... you tell m e ... yourself. . . what has happened thereafter? m a h a t t a r ik a The Queen . . . I (Falters) o k k a k (Moving a little forward) What happened thereafter? m a h a t t a r ik a ( very slowly) Now I am able to recognise this gentleman. o k k a k Who is it... who is he? m a h a t t a r ik a (Looks at Okkak) Arya Pratosh!

Rauccous noises in the background. (Impatiently) What happened? What has happened there? (Mahattarika's lips are seen moving but because o f the commotion nothing is audible.) o k k a k (In a loud voice) Speak up . . . what has happened? okkak

The noises cease abruptly. Mahattarika stares at Okkak. m a h a t t a r ik a

(Softly) The Queen has garlanded Arya Pratosh.

Lights dim gradually; darkness on the stage.

ACT TWO Chirping o f birds. Centre stage is lit, with hands locked behind him Okkak is seen pacing up and done slowly. The other parts o f the stage are lit up by turns gradually, with the bed coming into view last. Then there is light covering the entire stage. In the background can be heard three male voices, comingfrom fa r and near announcing.. .an . . . h ou r . . . and three quarters.. .o f the night. . . is over ' Enter Mahattarika.

From Sunset to Sunrise mahattarika

Your Majesty! an hour and three quarters o f the night is

over. okkak (turns round and sees her. Very slowly) One and three quarters? . . . only one and three quarters so far?. . . Was the pot filled only twice? Did it get emptied only twice?. . . (slightly sharply) no, no! there certainly has been a miscalculation somewhere . . . call the time keepers here immediately. m ahattarika ( after a pause, softly) No, Your Majesty! There has been no mistake anywhere . . . the night is still young! . . . (comes close to the window) You can see for yourself. . . there are still some streaks of red in the western sky. okkak (controlling himself) O h !. . . (very slowly) it feels as though ... in this short span o f time . . . . I have lived my life beginning from a new point.

Pause mahattarika (in a beseeching manner) Your Majesty! Please partake of some food . . . after all, the body needs to be taken care of. okkak (A trifle emotionally) Nothing is going to happen, Mahattarika, nothing whatsoever . . . life is pretty shameless . . . (moving forward, a little to himself) before something comes to pass, man thinks so much about it . . . how he agonises over i t . . . wonders as to how it can happen and why such a thing should hapj>en to him . . . tells himself that he won’t be able to bear it, that he will be a broken man, that he will go to pieces . . . (with a sad smile) but then he is up and about like a toy would by a key . . . (pause. Turns round). What are you looking at down there? m ahattarika (very slowly) Empty pavillion . . . the festoons and buntings swaying gently in the breeze . . . garlands hugging the pillars... broken at some places... one or two urns overturned. ... (pause) an all pervasive silence and quiet...! okkak (with a pathetic smile) The vaccum after the festivities.

Comes to the wine cellar. Fills a glass. Drinks. Enter the door­ keeper. Your Majesty! The spies have been waiting for a long time... d o they have your permission to come in for an a u d ie n c e with you? okkak Yes!. . . (exit the guard. With a sigh) tonight. . . nothing • ■•

door -keeper


(laughs perversely.) Nothing confidential any more. (Takes afew sips o f mine) Mahattarika! m a h a t t a r ik a Your Majesty! o k k a k Kautilya divided the night into eight parts for the King . . (coming towards the centre) the first part meant for talks with the spies . . . the second for bathing, eating and studying . . . third for retiring to the inner quarters . . . fourth and fifth for sleeping. . . the sixth for waking up . . . the seventh for holding talks with the spies once again. . . eighth for chanting from the scriptures along with the Royal Priest and others . . . (pause) have you noticed how clever Kautilya was! . . . either a very good astrologer, or a very far-sighted man . . . ? m a h a t t a r ik a (in an attempt to stop him ) Your Majesty . . . ! o k k a k (as if a trifle intoxicated) he has saved Okkak with such dexterity?... (counting out on hisfingers) entering the queen’s chamber? . . . Okkak does . . . sleep? Okkak does that! . . . renouncing sleep?. .. Okkak does that! (smiling) see?. . . .no one can find fault with me . .. (suddenly) I should express my gratitude towards Kautilya.. what should I do?. . . How should 1 do it? . . . Oh! Please tell me, won’t you? Shall I name some building after him? Or, shall 1 plant trees and create a garden in his name? Shall I have a magnificent statue o f his installed in the main junction o f the city? m a h a t t a r ik a (slightly agitated) Your Majesty! If you don’t feel like eating anything, at least try and take some rest. If sleep embraces you . . . then . . . ! o k k a k Sleep?... ( with a sad smile) Mahattarika! Tonight even death won't embrace me. (comes up to the wine cellar. Fills a glass; takes a few sips without turning) You go back home, to your husband . . . why should you forego his company for my sake? m a h a t t a r ik a He is not here today. Your Majesty! He has been sent to Shravasti on some official work. o k k a k Oh . . . ! (pause. Turning around) if he were here, tonight would you have had . . . ? m a h a t t a r ik a Your Majesty . . .! (bows her head). o k k a k Come, tell m e,. . . don’t feel shy. (Pause) Mahattarika! m a h a t t a r ik a ( with eyes downcast) Can’t say. o k k a k why? m a h a t t a r ik a (Quickly)X mean, nothing is fixed. o k k a k Why?

From Sunset to Sunrise mahattarika okkak

Depends on a number o f things.


Pause The state o f mind that my husband and I are i n... our work load,.. fatigue etc.. . .


Pause And, on w h a t else? Pause mahattarika My physical condition . . . . okkak And? mahattarika Our decision regarding children . . . . okkak Don’t you have any as yet’ okkak

mahattarika okkak

N o.


We are keeping to a plan. okkak And what is that’ m ahattarika We first want to save enough money to face any emergency. . . a comfortable, well equipped house o f our own ... our own chariot. . . and things like that. mahattarika

Pause Mahattarika! In a week how many such nights are there. . . and how many are not like this? mahattarika (In a distressed voice) Your Majesty!... Just think for a moment. . . ! okkak (After a pause) I know, Mahattarika! These are your personal matters and my asking you about these things is highly improper . . . but you have no idea how my heart yearns to know about these things . ..! I have no friends, no soulmate. The throne is like an invisible wall which I cannot scale in order to go to the other side and nor can anyone cross over and come here . . . I cannot learn from anyone’s experience, can’t share my secrets with anybody, cannot share my misery with anyone.


Pause There are no hard and fast rules about the number of times that physical intimacies should be or can be indulged in. These vary according to the inclinations of each couple . . . .As



far as we are concerned, soon after our marriage it was more often in the initial stages. Now it has come down to a steady pattern o f . . . twice or thrice a week. o k k a k Who makes the first move? m a h a t t a r ik a (blushing) The husband, naturally. o k k a k Why, haven’t you ever been the first to make a move? . . . (pause) tell me . . . m a h a t t a r ik a Very rarely... On the occasions that 1 did my husband teased me for months after words.

Pause This intimacy between a husband and wife . . . do you feel there is something special about it? m a h a t t a r ik a (after a pause) I haven’t understood the question. o k k a k Something entirely different from everything else . . . (Mahattarika still looks at him uncomprehending) suppose I put it this way . . . there are seven days in a week, . . . but Sunday somehow seems special, doesn’t it . . . even though a man may not stir out of his home on a Sunday, his routine on that day is different from that o f the other six days, isn’t i t ... or, like when after months o f monotonous sameness a festival comes around . . . there is some importance attached to i t . . . what I want to know is, is there something similar about this relationship. . . something special, something important? m a h a t t a r ik a Without a doubt. . . okkak


How ?

(after thinking fo r a moment) It’s the ultimate in intimate relations. o k k a k On the very first night after the wedding . . .? m a h a t t a r ik a (with a shysmile)Yes... but it seems like a celebration only for a few days; thereafter it is like any Sunday. o k k a k (A little to himself) But even then a Sunday is different from the other six days. (Pause) Now, suppose something untoward happens... like an accident or such thing... and as a result the physical relationship between you and Viraj ceases to be, then is there a possibility o f your gradually . . . . m a h a t t a r ik a (in a gentle manner) How is that possible? o k k a k (after a pause) I am not asking about any real situation___I am just asking you to imagine for a moment. . . that suppose such situation were to arise . . .

m a h a t t a r ik a


From Sunset to Sunrise It is very difficult to imagine... not even in my wildest dreams can I think that. . . okkak (in a cold voice) Nothing is impossible, Mahattarika . . .! (Pause. Even more softly) but please don’t read any other meaning into this conversation . . . You know quite well how fond I am o f both o f you . . . and also that I am always a well wisher o f yours. mahattarika I know it very well, Your Majesty! I am beholden to you for that. I too didn’t want to hurt you. . . . I just meant to say that all these things are so natural, such a normal part of daily routine that. . . to think o f some untoward thing all of a sudden . . . or even dwell on its possible repercussions. . . .


A bird call. What is that sound? m ahattarika It is the Chakravaak bird, Your Majesty!... It is restless because it hasn’t received the juice o f the lotus stem from Her Majesty’s hands today or heard her voice. okkak O h . . . ! (comes to the window. Very slowly) tonight all four of us will stay awake . . . all night the Chakravaak . . . I . . . the . . . the water lilies . . . and the moon. okkak

Stage lights dim and gradually fade o u t. . . there is a very hazy glow on the Window as though lit by the rays o f the moon. Pause. Gradually the stage is lit. Now, instead o f Okkak and Mahattarika,. Sheelvati and Pratosh are seen on the stage. (slowly) Long ago I had heard o f Vishkanya... how she is turned poisonous by giving small doses o f poison right from childhood. . . What was I? Such a large family... father’s limited income .. . w ant. . . deprivation . . . poverty . . . unhappiness ... (momentary pause) fretting at not getting what one wanted . . . bitterness about not having enough . . . .smarting because there was nothing to smile about. . . suffocation caused by the inability to laugh . . . resentment against others, anger against one’s own kith and kin, hatred directed against one’s own self ... I had been getting all these in regular doses right from the beginning . . . some in small doses, some others in larger ones ... suppose I had got these very things. . . mere four walls and a roof over my head and two inadequate meals a day, wouldn’t



the venom dissolved in my nature, have shown its effect . . . wouldn’t it have spewed forth? pr a t o s h (with slight sarcasm) S o ... by going to the palace has this venom . . . ? sheelvati (as if immersed in herself) Everything evaporated gradually ... like camphor... all those luxuries and comforts, the grandeur and extent o f pow er... acted as a soothing balm for the burning desires of my body and mind enveloping my consciousness in their sweet fragrance . . . desires could cease here but not the means; yearning could be limited but. The wealth had no limits.

Pause (In a voice pregnant tvith meaning) Before marriage, did you know that. . . your husband. . . ? SHEELVATI No. pratosh

Pause If you had known... was there a possibility of your decision being altered? sheelvati (after thinking a little) Hmmm . . . oh! Let us not talk about that. . . what is the point o f thinking unnecessarily about something that is over and done with! . . . (Looks at Pratosh. With a sight smile) tell me something about yourself too.... I have heard that you have become a very well-to-do businessman. pr ato sh

Pause (Very slowly) Well, yes!.. . with your marriage I came to realise that nothing can be believed nothing can be trusted in life; there are no values, no principles... if anything counts, it is money and money alone and the search for personal happiness . . . and that was it, I put my heart and soul into the task of amassing wealth . . . in all my waking hours, from morning to night, I had only one thought, just one obsession, one goa l... to earn and earn and earn. . . Nothing else seemed to matter... it was then that I found that earning wealth is not such a daunting task. . . all it demands is total surrender o f body and mind, that is all... (looks at Sheelvati and smiles.) And that is how 1became a wealth fiend.




From Sunset to Sunrise Are you happy? pratosh Are you happy? sheelvati ( movesforward to one side) I have asked that o f you. pratosh I am not unhappy either. Wealth gives a lot, and the things that it cannot give somehow do not seem to he important. sheelvati

Pause Why didn’t you get married? pratosh (Feigning surprise) And what is that supposed to be? sheelvati (looks sheepish. Taking hold o f herself) Doesn’t marriage play a part in the . . . search for personal happiness? pratosh Y o u tell me . . . does it? sheelvati That is what one hears. pratosh As a means, is it not?. . . I have no dearth o f them . . . And as far as bodily needs are concerned, there are other means of fulfilling them. (Looks at Sheelvati. With an expression o f great sarcasm and scrutiny).. . . I am talking only o f myself. sheelvati Why not o f me? pratosh That is your personal search. sheelvati (with an impudent smile) The search has already begun. pratosh Congratulations! sheelvati (Looks at him steadily) Why are you speaking like this? pratosh (W ith mock surprise) How am I talking? sheelvati (after a slight pause) I thought that you would be happy. pratosh With what? sheelvati

Pause With the things that are happening___Look, after marriage I. . . . I. . . . (stops. Momentary Pause) p rob a b ly y o u are n ot aware. . . . I am still a virgin.



Y o u thin k 1 am still interested in y o u r virginity?

Pause I have wronged y o u .. . . Can’t this be a redressal for it? pratosh (carelessly) It can be. . . but there is something which is even better. sheelvati (after a pause) And what is thaf?


Pause pratosh

Y o u return from here, just as you have come here.


MODERN INDIAN DRAMA sheelvati pratosh

(Frightened) Meaning? Meaning that you go back without my even touching you.

Momentary pause. (very agitated) No. . . you can’t give me such a cmei punishment, you cannot be so unjust to m e... (bends and kneels down in fron t o f him, hugging both hisfeet with her arms. She rests her head on his knees.) You cannot imagine how I have suffered. pr a t o s h (With a satisfied air looks at Sheelvatifo r a few moments. Bending) Get up.


He raises her; Sheelvati is a bit surprised. She looks at Pratosh, then at both his hands holding her underarms. Pratosh withdraws his hands slowly. ( Overwhelmed) Oh! Your touch seems so wonderful...! p r a t o s h (uncomprehending) What? sheelvati (gazing at her underarms) How warm . . . so alive ...! p r a t o s h (with a slight smile) What are you talking about9 sheelvati (with some excitement in her voice) Look, m y skin is still throbbing. . . ! (as one enchanted, with the experience, she rubs her cheeks on that spot, touches it with her lips. She raises her eyes after some moments. When their eyes meet Pratosh smiles in a manner o f having understood herfeelings and spreads his arms out. Sheelvati quietly comes into his arms and rests her head on his chest. After a while she raises her face, Pratosh bends towards it.) sheelvati

The stage grows dark gradually—there is just one arc o f light falling on the bed and little by little it changes into a fa in t glow. When the light brightens again instead o f the embracing couple a lonefigure is seen on the stage, standing. When an are o f light emerges Okkak is seen standing and staring at the bed. In the background, from a bitfar and near three male voices are heard respectively announcing— *an hour and three.. .quarters... of the night is over . . .' enter Mahattarika. The stage is now completely lit. Mahattarika puts down the winejug on the cellar table. Shefills a glass. Comes near Okkak. m a h a t t a r ik a

(in a quiet voice) Your Majesty!. . . (Okkak turns. He


From Sunset to Sunrise looks at her trying to recognise who it is ). .. You had asked for the very old wine? okkak O h .. yeah! (Takes the glass. Comes up to the window, takes a few sipsfrom theglass.)There is such a deep silence outside...! m ahattarika (taking a deep breath) Yes . . . very silent.. . . okkak (very slowly) During the day the city is so alive. . . with such a lot o f movement and flo w ... come night and the city becomes so silent . . . a few lights here and there . . . sound o f a lone chariot trudging along in the street... sound o f horses’ hooves. .. and that is about a ll. . . .! m ahattarika Everything goes to sleep . . . ambitions, and dreams, the struggles and the blind rush . . . ! okkak ( with a sad smile) There are also a lot of things that do not go to sleep... (pointing with some exhilaration) look at that house, there are lights burning in the upstairs room there. ( He moves away from the window.) Recently, two complaints had been filed in the court.. . . (takes a few sips o f the wine) Nagesh, the businessman had used his wife for procuring a large loan from the treasury. The complaint was against the President o f the Grants Commission, made by the vigilance committee . . . you must have heard about it. m ahattarika Yes, Your Majesty! okkak The second complaint was made by the wife o f a musician who wanted to be freed from the ties o f marriage. Her plaint was that her husband had illicit relations with the wife the rich man Uddalak . . . Later it transpired that all the wealth that Uddalak had, in fact, belonged to his wife and that he danced to her tune. (Pause)... .While delivering his judgement the Judge did not mention these husband’s names. He simply said that these gentlemen were not proper nouns— they were adjectives, only adjectives. . . . (Looks at Mahattarika.) Do you know which one?. . . (In a sharp tone) that which applies to me! . . . that whichl am! (Comes up to the cellar and fills his glass. He empties it in one swig. Resting his elbows on the counter he stands immobolised. In apathetic voice) My naming ceremony has been futile... the royal seal bearing my name is useless . . . even as my signatures on rock edicts, copper-plates and the royal orders are useless... all these are a waste... I am not a noun... just an adjective, an adjective!


(troubled) Your Majesty!... (a little to herself) how is your mind to be distracted... ( momentarypause) shall play the Veena?. . . Shall I present a song or a dance? o k k a k (stares at Mahattarika. Comes close to her. Holds her face in both his palms and lifts it.) (Very slowly) You are so beautiful! . . . these intoxicating eyes. . . (touching her lips with lingering fingers) . . . these luscious lips . . . (grips her by her a rm s ) . . . these scintillating parts o f your body that can reduce to ash, with their intense heat, the innermost fibres o f desire . . . and this heady youthfulness o f yours which defies control like an elephant gone mad . . . if any man were to catch you alone all the iron shackles of propriety will be blown to smithereens . . . (laughs in an insane manner. Withdrawing) but your husband has nothing to worry because you are with me— No young woman on this earth has anything to fear from me . . . the one who attracts me will also be as safe with me as the one I may take into my arms___ (Looking at the bed) A nd... safe, also, will be the woman who shares the bed with me___ ( moves towards the bed.)This is yet another singular phenomena of the worldly order that is unknown to m e... all that has been written on the subject . . . all that has been eloquently discussed . . . all the myriad taboos prescribed in the religious treatises . . . these rapes . . . surrendering o f the self . . . the disrobing o f a woman . . . all these perplex me no end . . . they are like unsolved puzzles for me . . . nothing but a puzzle . . . ! m a h a t t a r ik a (agitated) Your Majesty!. . . . Needlessly why are y o u ... ? o k k a k Oh! Let me talk . . . let me get it o u t. . . (Pause. In the next part o f the dialogue, after the first two or three sentences are spoken the left side o f the stage grows dark and Mahattarika disappearsfrom view.) . . . parents died in my childhood. ... I was in the Gurukul and the Council O f Ministers was ruling in my name. . . . 1 was brought back at the capital as soon as I became a major. . . . Then . . . the coronation.. .. preparations for my marriage began. . . and it was then that the astrologer said that the planetary configuration o f my horoscope was so strong that it was not matching with the horoscopes of any o f the princesses... the only horoscope that was tallying with mine was o f a girl who was from a very poor family___ The marriage was fixed... preparations began. The wedding day drew nearer m a h a t t a r ik a


From Sunset to Sunrise ... I could no longer conceal my problem.. . . I told the Royal physician that___ I ... that I ... (momentary pause) imagine a nude young woman and nothing happens to me___He examined m e . . Maybe it was a psychological problem. . . orphaned in childhpo . . . inability to mix freely with people . . . extreme loneliness . . . forever an introvert, always weak in making decisions, always wavering . . . extremely quiet, extremely sensitive, extremely timid... . taking every injustice and every insult lying dow n... lack of self-confidence, a cold temperament and to crown it all a very unstable mind... moreover right from my childhood I had been plagued with diseases, one after the other. . . so in his opinion, marriage was the panacea for all my problems. He told me that a wife would be the best medicine for me . . . nothing else could be better . . . a wife would be my friend, philosopher and guide . . . a friend who would banish my loneliness... help me in my w ork... she would give me all the love and affection that a mother and sister are capable of giving while at the same time loving me as a beloved is wont to. He assured me that all that I lack in life will be recompensated by h er. . . that I would regain my self confidence . . . that in the moment when we share the bed . . . that momentous second will com e in which womanhood, with all the warmth o f passionate desire, will welcome unto herself my manhood.. . . And in that psychological moment, automatically.. . . (stares at the bed. . . . The right side o f he stage darkens, lighting arrangement changes with the lightfalling in two circles—one on Okkak and the other on the bed).. . . I would take her in my arms . . . gaze at her kohl lined dark eyes. . . . I would shower her red lips, quivering at the comers, with kisses and blood would be rushing through my veins.. . . I would bare her bosom, removing the upper garment with nervous fingers ... breathing hard with growing excitement I would untie the garment knotted at her w aist. . . her young body, the naked body . . . with my hands trembling, I would caress her body . . . would kiss the tantalising prominences on her body with my hot impassioned Ups. . . . My pulse would be racing . . . my breathing would become heavy, sweat would break out on my forehead... every nerve in my body would be strained to breaking point and I would be wondering . . . what next. . . what happens after this point?. . . (bursts out) I would repeatedly ask my body what


happens hereafter? . . . I would ask this o f my nerves . . . every one of them . . . o f the hot blood coursing through my veins, of my youth, of my manliness... (pause) and all I got in reply was a vision of darkness... a deep, impenetrable darkness... nothing but darkness....!

Darkness on the stage. A long pause. Some sound effects in the background— breathing, light murmurs .. . rustling of clothes, tinkling o f ornaments, as though someone is turning from one side to another in sleep. There is a touch o f sleepiness and satisfaction in the voices o f Sheelvati and Pratosh. pratosh


Pause sheelvati

Hmmmm....... !

Pause pr a t o s h

Why are you silent?

.Pause sheelvati

N o . . . . o f cou rse n o t . . . . !

Laughter Please say something. sheelvati uh.. . . hmmm....... ! pr at o sh

Pause Shall I light the lamp .. . .? sheelvati N o ......... everything gets transformed with light. . . . pr ato sh

Pause. Sound o f wine being poured into the glass, Half the night is over.. . . sheelvati (with alacrity) O h .. . . how cruelly you do speak! pratpsh Why?. . . . What has happened? sheelvati (in the same manner) Please put it this w a y... that there is still half the night left.. . ! pr a t o s h

Laughter. Rustling o f clothes; tinkling o f ornaments. Pause. pr ato sh


From Sunset to Sunrise Pause Hmmm. .. ! pratosh Are you feeling sleepy.. . . ? sheelvati Sleep?. . . . (laughs) Tonight, even death won’t come to me... sheelvati

Pause Lovely fragrance.. ..! pratosh Water lilies are in bloom . .. down there.. . sheelvati (Taking a deep breath) It is the full moon night, isn’t it... listen, will you please remove this necklace of mine?. . . . It is hurting . . . pratosh Alright. . . turn over. . . . sheelvati

Rustling o f clothes; tinkling o f ornaments.

ACT THREE Darkness. A malefigure is seen, walking up and down, on the stage. In the background, first the chirping o f one birdfollowing by the chirping o f numerous birds heard. From fa r and near, three male voices heard, respectively, announcing . . . ‘thefirst rays o f the sun . . immediately, a morning raga is heard being played on the veena; along with it Mahattarika is seen scurrying in. (Excitedly)Fe\icilations to you, Your Majesty!... dawn has broken o u t.. . light. .. brightness. . . . (as she utters these words, in three instalments lights come on lighting to control herself.) okkak (In a deliberate tone) Y es.. . . the night is over! mahattarika (goes over to the left side o f the window. After a while) The Prime Minister. . . the Royal Priest... and the Commanderin-Chief... are all waiting at the main gate o f the Palace. (Pause. She then goes and stands in front o f the window.) The chariot is coming into view ... A soldier is running in front of it---- carrying a burning torch___ o k k a k (with a sad smile) Because the queen is 'untouched by the rays of the sun’. mahattarika


Pause. Gradually rising sound o f horses’ hooves drawing closer, then stopping. Mahattarika looks at Okkak; goes out through the left side door, with her head bowed. The music in the background rises to a crescendo. Okkak paces up and down, in an agitated manner, he looks at the left door. Sheelvati saunters in languidly. The manner o f her walk and her expression suggestive o f a state o f inebriation and somnambulence. Music grows faint and fades out. Their eyes lock in a steady stare. A long pause. (Gently) So . . . .? how did the night go? sheelvati (Restlessly, with a deep sigh) Before I realised that the night was over, dawn had broken out.......... and how was okkak


(waiting awhile, with a smile) These are witnesses.. .. this bed chamber... these four-walls and window... this chandellier here.. . . (looks searchingly at her) What has happened to you? (coming closer). . . you look dishevelled... .Your make up in ruins... your hair in a tangle... (momentarypausejwhat is this smell?... (Sheelvati laughs. In a high pitched voice) Oh! tell me, won’t you?. . . . what is this fragrance?. . . (she laughs again). . . . Angraag?. . . . Gorochan... Laksharas?. . . Surabhi?. . . (she shakes her head in a negative manner each time Okkak asks her to spell out the name o f the perfume he smells on her.) sheelvati (Maddeningly) N o ... .none of these . . . you can’t guess? o k k a k (Perturbed) Then what is it? sheelvati (Inhaling deeply) come on ... inhale . . . find out what it is. . . . o k k a k (sharply) Sheelvati! sheelvati (Looks steadily at him ) You cannot recognise this fragrance since you have never been introduced to it...... If you had, last night wouldn’t have come to pass. . . either for you or for me. o k k a k (Perplexed, he takes a semi circular turn o f the room. Suddenly, turning towards the right door.) Mahattarika!... Get the bath ready for Her Highness. sheelvati (In an equally loud voice) No. On normal voice) not just yet. . . . just as the black bee gets locked within the twirling petals of the lotus. .. so am I right now. .. intertwined with the memories of this fragrance. . . before it evaporates I want to absorb it into my being, to distil its essence such that it permeates my consciousness, I want each and every pore in my body to okkak

From Sunset to Sunrise tingle with its presence... .do you know what all is mixed up with this fragrance? okkak Sheelvati! sheelvati (As i f still immersed in that experience) Intimacy o f the embrace. . . The passionate heat o f the kisses. . . sizzling teethmarks. .. the trembling o f the flesh when nails dig in. . .. okkak (turning his face away) Oh! Enough... enough of that. . . stop! sheelvati (Smiles) Why?. . . . you are unable to bear hearing about iO okkak (Come to thewindow. After a while)\s h e... your paramour. .. still in the capital? sheelvati He is . . . and will be staying here for some more time. okkak (Turns round) What do you mean? sheelvati (very slowly) On the one hand while I gained a lot last night, on the other I also realised how much I have stood to lose all this while. . . . The thrill o f gaining something from losing something . . . and hidden in that gain . . . a rage at all that I have lost so far. . . . (pause). . . I had no idea o f the tremendous pleasure that this body can provide. . . Year . . . after year went by . . . my routine remained unchanged . . . getting up in the morning . . . bathing and prying . . . tending the flower beds in the garden . . . playing on the veena or indulging in drawing . . . feeding the birds . . . turning the pages o f some book . . . sleeping away the whole afternoon . . . attending some function in the evening, some music and dance . . . this drab routine o f my life never changed . . . because the saga o f my nights remained unchanged. . . no one ever kept me awake forcefully the whole night. . . . While my eyelids drooped with sleep, I never had to plead with anyone. .. I never talked to anyone with my face buried in the pillow, well into the night___(pause) when two bodies come together, a personal history of this union is created... this whole process leading to intimacy, o f getting to know the reactions of one another at each step . . . the excitement of giving o f oneself . . . the yearning to receive in equal measure . . . .life did not give me this kind of partnership.. .. The seasons changed. . . . all that it meant was that in summer I would smear my body with sandal paste.. . . come rains and I would clothe myself in white.. . . with autumn I would have the blue lotus tucked in


my ears. . . winter would see me clothed in thick cottons with kala agroo in my hair.. . . and back to red muslin in spring---but is that all there is to the change of seasons? Doesn’t it have any kind of effect on the relationship shared by a couple? Has it no bearing on the personal histories that their nocturnal meetings generate?...... Fans drenched in cold water, the rumbling thunder of rain laden clouds, rows of standing crops, the call o f cranes, frost, snow, or the pleasant breeze of spring. . . . don’t these have any effect on the bed chamber... on the moods generated therein, on the sleep patterns, in the manner o f lying on the bed, in the positioning of the bed, or.___ ( Okkak turns his head and starts moving towards the back Sheelvati confronts him angrily. In a sharp tone) Come o n ....... tell m e... or? o k k a k (Shoves her aside and comes to the front. In a trite voice) I don’t know. sheelvati (Looks at him steadily. Coldly, in a contemptuous tone) Even if you want, you will never get to know it. . . . but along with you, to deprive me also o f this knowledge?. . . .who?. . what for? o k k a k There are certain proprieties also, that are inherent in the institution of marriage. sh eelva ti I have followed them diligently— but let me tell you that following the norms of married life, for five long years, has not given me the kind of satisfaction that I have derived from this one night alone!. .. you tell me, which should I believe in ... which should 1 consider important? (She keeps looking at him, movesforward to one side, gradually) the molten lava, buried deep inside me for years now, burst into flames the moment he touched me. Earlier.. . .when I used to feel its heat within me. .. I would lose interest in everything around me. . . . 1 would be cross with Mahattarika for no rhyme or reason. . . . I would not feed the poor Chakravaak, I would tear to pieces the drawings that I had made, I would play the veena so fast that its strings would snap, I would toss and turn in bed restlessly (Stretches a palm towards Okkak'sface) and believe me, I would feel like scratching your face... ( while doing so when her bangles and ornaments make a tinkling sound she looks at her wrist. After a while she smiles as though she is reminded ofsomething. She starts laughing. With exhilaration ) Pratosh is very

From Sunset to Sunrise experienced. . . . he knows exactly when, where, and how. . . what should be done. okkak (In a choking voice) Sheelvati! sheelvati (Looks at him; bursts out laughing) Oh! What am I to d o !. . . . I am overflowing with emotions. . . such a lot o f pleasure, such a thrill, such titillation. . . (with a sob) last night has completely revolutionised my life. . . .it has transformed my very being, my body and mind (emotionally) I want to share my experience with someone... share my joy with someone.. what am I to d o?.. .to whom shall I narrate my story?___ (suddenly, facing the right side door, calls out in a very sweet voice) Mahattarika!.. .soulmate o f your Viraj!... kindly come here for a moment. . . you love soaked damsel! . . . (to Okkak, with a smile) see, a poem is created.

Enter Mahattarika The Prime Minister,.„The Royal Priest and the Commander-in-Chief are here.

m a h a t t a r ik a

Enter the three gentlemen; exit Mahattarika. (In a sugary voice) So, tell me Prime Minister how was the night for you? prime m in is t e r (Startled) Your Majesty! sheelvati Oh! Come on, don’t feel shy. . . .Your wife still has the desires o f youth writ large on her face. You are, of course, a hit demure, (sm iling) but I am sure you must be a transformed man as soon as you enter the bed room . . . .Am I correct? okxak (In a sharp voice) Sheelvati! You are not in your senses. PMME m in is t e r (Slightly agitated) You all have such a limited vocabulary....... Cliches all the time... (looks at the Royal Priest with a wicked smile) the Royal Priest is a widower, so it is pointless to ask him anything. (In a voice pregnant with meaning) but only recently a naughty bird had whispered in my ears that... with a maid of his.. .he has some pious liason. Royal priest (annoyed) Your Highness! You are maligning me. This is against righteous conduct. commander -in -c h ie f This is very shameful; it does not become you. sheelvati (comes close to the Commander-in-Chief with a playful smile.) What behoves the youth? (Momentary pause) You are sheelvati


still young. You are strong.. . . a soldier. On a secretive voice) how did the battle go last night9 c o m m a n d e r -i n -c h ie p (With sadness) Your Majesty! Please think of decorum, at least. sheelvati (In a defiant tone) I h a v e .......gentleman!. . . for full five years!. . .. (Counts on herfingers). . . .One. .. tw o .. . three.. four. . .five . . . (looks at all three) Why don’t you accept the situation even for a moment7 . . .The world is an ocean of sorrows. . . . There is so much running around in it. . . such deceitfulness. . . how much bloodshed. . . so in all this misery surrounding us, aren’t those hours of the night that a couple spends together, the only time when a man can forget himself and catch a few moments of happiness. . . What unholy things have I said that your faces have fallen? prim e m in is te r But in this world there are certain rules governing the manner of behaviour o f men. In the relationship between two individuals... there is a line of propriety, crossing which is in no way. . . . sheelvati (with aspersion) Prime Minister! The magic spell o f these empty words is broken now___ (She looks at the Prime Minister, the Royal Priest, the Commander-in-Chiefand Okkak by turns.) Propriety!. . . Duty! . . . Good conduct! . . . bonds o f marriage! . . . (Tpms her back on all of them and comes to the front) everything is false!. . . all a show!. . . everything bookish!. . . (haughtily) But, now, I no longer want to live my life according to books, . . . . Now, I want to live life as it really is. prim e m in is te r Are life and books such poles apart? sheelvati Maybe there are a few lucky ones for whom it is not so . . . like the Commander-in-chief’s from the books about excellence in warfare... like the Royal Priest s from the treatises on the principles governing religious conduct. . . like yours from the books on Economics and war policies. . . .(angrily) but look at me. . . . I am a married woman but how are books on sexual science relevant to my life? . . . For five years I have had not a clue about what it is that makes a man's touch have such a hypnotic effect, that. . . (Looks at the Prim e Minister. Sarcastically) what was the sage advice that you gave me yesterday? . . . .Along with that example about the eye of the fish? . . . . Kindly repeat it. (Pause. Vehemently) The Queen orders you to repeat it.

From Sunset to Sunrise (after a slight pause) I had said that. . . . sheelvati That... prime m inister Think only of your goal.

prime m inister

Momentary pause. When you sleep with your w ife ... ? okkak On a stifled voice) Sheelvati! sheelvati (Without stopping). . . What do you think about in those moments . . . about the elections to the Council o f Ministers . . . border security?. . . The deficit in the Royal Treasury?. . .. And pray, what does your wife think about9 . . . O f milky teeth and innocent faces? . . . (In a reviling tone) what a fool you are!. . . A bloody fo o l!. . . an emperor amongst fools! . . . this is your understanding of the bedroom?. .. Even if it is the object o f a woman to conceive, is that what she is thinking about when she is in that bed. . . On what are her thoughts centred in those moments? . . . At that point in time.. . . when excitement and passionate longing mixed with a heady feeling o f sensuality have produced an intoxicating effect on her... and every breath of hers is racing towards the final moments o f joy and fulfilment do you think a woman would be thinking of an unborn child. .. when the electrifying impact of that fusion hits her, filling her mind with happiness, do you really think she could be visualising her would be progeny. . . show me one such woman on this earth whose mind would be able to focus on a child, unborn, in that glorious moment? . . . the ultimate fulfilment o f womanhood is not in motherhood, Prime Minister! Her actual fulfilment is in this... the satisfaction that she derives from her physical union with man and motherhood is only a secondary by product o f this fusion. . . let me give you an example. . . butter is what you get when curd is churned, but you also get buttermilk as a residual, secondary product.. . . ( indicating all those present) we are all also like the butter— milk. . . .just residua] buttermilk... the butter that enriched our parent’s lives was something-else.. . (To Okkak?) What are you?. . . Only a symbol of that nocturnal partnership___a public announcement of those confidential and intimate moments shared by your parents. . . . a visible supplement of their personal, invisible history which later got added on to the original book— whether the creators wanted it or not. . . .



(Looking worried) Your Majesty! You are very tired. c o m m a n d e r -i n -c h ie f You are not in control o f yourself. r o y a l priest Please take some rest. sheelvati (Smiles) I have been awake the whole night, gentlemen! Now, 1 have the entire day for resting. prim e m in is te r

The Royal Priest and the Commander-in-Chief look at the Prime Minister. prime m in is te r

Your Majesty! Do we have your permission to leave

now? r o y a l priest

The Council Of Ministers will eagerly wait for good

news. The whole Kingdom O f Malla will be praying for the birth o f an heir to the throne.

c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f

Theyprepare to leave. Wait a moment, please! (All the three stop in their tracks. Smiling, she looks at each one o f them by turns.) Prime Minister! . . . Royal Priest!. . . Commander-in-Chief1 ... . . (slowly, trying to explain to them) You must all have experienced that. . . . uncertainty generates here is worse. . . really very frightening, because the uncertainty will be full o f expectations and the expectation will be full of uncertainty . . . You are all said to be loyal officers of the state. . . so it is my bounden duty to spare you such tension. prim e m in is te r I am afraid I don’t understand. sheelvati The Council O f Ministers has decided to give me three chances, is it not? prim e m in iste r Yes, three chances. sheelvati Alright, then please go and have it announced that exactly a week from now Queen Sheelvati will come out in the royal courtyard as a Dharmanati.


A small pause. Please wait and see for a few days. c o m m a n d e r -in -c h ie f Maybe the night would have some result in store.. . . sheelvati (With a gentle smile) 1 assure you that the.night has produced no results. . , My paramour gave me a contraceptive medicine. . . . and will give it next time around too. r o ya l priest

From Sunset to Sunrise Pause (With an expression o f having understood) O h .. . ! o k k a k (Looks steadily at Sheelvati. With a pathetic smile)The Queen had gone out as a Dharmanati and has returned as a Kgamnati. c o m m a n d e r -i n -c h i e f (A little angrily) But this is wanton deception on your part. sheelvati (sm iling) A lawful move to get out of a legal tangle. . . . (Pause. As though wrapped up in her own thoughts) but how am I going to get through this... this wait of one whole week? .. . Seven days and seven nights. .. (turns her back on all the four and starts moving forward to one side.) The sun will rise and set seven times. . . .The moon will come out and then disappear seven times. . . Seven times the love birds will meet to separate. . . . (The three officials bow slightly to Okkak and go ou t.) Without the moon the water lilies will wither seven times. (Turns round) okkak When this legal option closes, then what? sheelvati W hen the necessity arises, new options present themselves. okkak Meaning. . . .that you will no longer respect any propriety? sheelvati (Moves away, going forward) Do you know how many girls lose their virginity even before they get married. . . . and here I was... married and yet a virgin... .but for how long am I to be like that?___ I am an ordinary woman. When the body is my life-line, how can I ignore its demands? okkak ( With contempt) How can you fall so low in your selfishness? sheelvati (Looks at him steadily) O h .. . . ! And pray, how unselfish are you to have committed the despicable sin of getting married without being competent for it?... The royal physician assured you that in that psychological moment when your w ife welcom ed you with all the warmth o f passionate love, automatically... That is, for you I was merely a drug, is it not? Only a treatment’ . .. Did you ever wonder what effect this would have on this live remedy if this treatment came to naught?. . . (Looks around. The lighting arrangement on the stage gradually changes to three circles, with the light focussed on Sheelvati, Okkak and the bed.) This bed chamber is a witness to the agony I have suffered. . . these four walls and this window here. . . this chandelier... (a small pause) and this bed. . . You would begin the foreplay. .. trying to arouse your manliness through prime m in is t e r


the femininity of my naked body___embracing me, kissing me, touching me, digging into my flesh with your nails. . . .and all my senses would respond to your advances with alacrity... my breath caught in my throat and my pulse racing. . . .my whole body electrified... I would be fully ready... like a fully ripened fruit that is ready for plucking. . . like the tidal waves ready to bring the dam crashing down, like the rain-laden clouds waiting to empty themselves. . . .1 would be like the parched earth yearning to absorb each drop of water unto herself... with such feelings I would cross almost a fourth of the distance in this process o f love making, and then I would turn round and see that you would still be standing there... .at the same point.... frigid, limp.... and then I would have to return unsated.. .have you ever known the painfulness of coming away empty-handed? The futility of that excitement and the meaninglessness o f that passion?___ a chill taking over heat, in animation after a sizzling animation, normalcy after the tremors... without having achieved anything, without any returns, without being satisfied.... (stares at him ) Now tell m e... who is selfish... you or I? o k k a k (Turns his back. With his head bent) So, you have been hating me all this while. . . . in your heart of hearts? sheelvati Initially, yes... 1 hated you, but later on I did n ot... there are other facets o f your persona that I am fond of. I fully sympathise with you, but that doesn’t mean that. . . . (falters. Comes close to him .) When there is a blind race for attaining self-satisfaction . . . .to seek personal happiness. . . then life becomes very complicated, Okkak... and its demands are also equally complex . . . it needs more than one person to complement and fulfil all its requirements . . . someone to provide social status, someone to fulfil the material needs, someone else to satisfy the emotional needs... and yet another to provide sexual satisfaction. . . .

Looks at Okkak with a sad smile. She goes out through the right door. Okkak turns, looks at the door. The third arc of lightfades. Okkak turns again and looks at the bed. Sound o f drums in the background. Once again the voice o f the man reading out the proclamation. .. . ‘A ll the citizens of the Malla kingdom are hereby informed ___ that exactly a weekfrom now, on the evening o f thefu ll m oon... .Queen Sheelvati w ill enter the palace courtyard . . . as a


From Sunset to Sunrise Dbarmavati. Every citizen ofthe kingdom o f Malta is invited to attend the function as a prospective candidate. Queen Sheelvati tvill choose........ at will. . . any citizen. . . to be her. . . .paramour fo r one night. . . from sunset . . . to sunriseDarkness.

GLOSSARY Mallika-bud

a kind of jasmine


the name of a flower


shoots of the clove plant


the garland that the bride puts on the neck of her selected husband in swayamvar


a lady becoming an impresario in order to fulfil some righteous duty


The ancient Aryan practice (according to Manu) ac­ cording to which a childless woman could have sexual intercourse with her husband’s younger brother/any other man identified by the elders, in order to beget a child.


a women whose body is so impregnated with poi­ son that a man cohabiting with her dies at once


a jar/pot filled with water which is placed for wor­ ship on an auspicious occasion


a cosmetic of sandalwood, saffron, musk, etc. which is applied to the body and dress and ornaments


a yellow pigment vomited by a cow which is used in medicine


sweet-smelling things like sandalwood, basil, etc


lust-driven impresario

PART III Coming to terms with modernity takes different forms. The plays in this part are taking a look at the principle con cern s o f contem porary Indian society. In d ira

P a rth a sa ra th y ’s plays on Aurangzeb, the m ighty Mughal, is as much if not more about his brother Dara. Dara, a great translator and commentator o f the Hindu metaphysics, was a victim o f his brother’s fundamen­ talism. T o write a play about one historical figure to talk about the other is fairly well-known in modern Indian theatre. A Bangla play Roshanara, written in the early years o f the twentieth century was more about S h ivaji, A u r a n g z e b ’s c o n tem p o ra ry than abou t Roshanara. The other tw o plays raise some disturbing ques­ tions. T h e y represent Samvad is an age o f utter helplesness. But they also introduce new and fresh styles o f dramatic dialogue. Alekar's black humour underlines the utter collapse o f the upper-cast human­ ism. We are already in the political realm to which we turn in the next part.

Aurangzeb INDIRA PARTHASARATHI Translation: K. V. Ramanathan


As the curtain rises, the light is dull, indicating fading twilight. There is a platform in the rear centre o f the stage. On the right, the way from the zenana to the platform is visible through transparent curtains. At the centre o f the platform, to the back, a throne. Steps lead up thefron t and left o f the platform. These are the only access to the throne fo r people other than members o f the royal family. In the background runs theJamuna. Between it and the platform is open ground. A few moments after the curtain rises, two Mughal soldiers descend the steps on the left and proceed downstage. s o ld ie r

1 Did you hear what Dara was saying in the very presence

of the Shah-in-Shah? s o ld ie r 2 Yes, I did. What cheek, I tell you, to ask why a man cannot be a Christian, a Hindu and a Mussalman at the same time! And the father was listening, saying nothing! s o l l Know something else? He has written a book called Sir-ulAsrar. I mean his translation o f the religious books o f the Hindus. He is reading it out to at least a hundred people every day. s o l 2 He and the naked sanyasis whom he brings to the palace shout the place down. s o l l If he were a good Mussalman, would he ask what was wrong with idol worship? s o l 2 Would he go about wearing rings on which Sanskrit mantras are engraved? s o l l Would he ask why we should do namaz five times a day? s o l 2 He feasts during the month of Ramzan! s o l l He hobnobs with Sufis! so l 2 Mulhid! s o li Mushriq! s o l 2 But what does it matter what he does? See how p o p u la r he is with the people! s o l i Well, won’t he be popular when he gives away money right and left! s o l 2 The Shah-in-Shah dotes on him! s o l l The Rajputs are with him. SOL 2 He is the darling of the nation.

MODERN IN DI AN DRAMA s o l i But you mark my word. He thinks that all the Mussalman nobles

sol sol sol sol sol

of the Court are on his side. Wait and see what happens when the right opportunity comes. 2 What about the Rajputs? They will support the side that is stronger and will not hesitate to betray their friends. l Yes, yes. When it is a question of self-interest, there is no such thing as a Hindu or a Mussalman. 2 A Shia or a Sunni. l After all, they are all our countrymen. 2 Hindustan hamara!

They laugh. Silence fo r some time. May I ask you something? so l 2 May /ask you something? s o l i ( lowers his voice.) I am a man o f Aurangzeb, the Shah-in-Shah’s third son and Dara’s arch rival. And you? s o l 2 That is funny. That is the very question I wanted to ask you!

sol i

Both laugh. s o l i I suppose you know there are many others like us in the palace. s o l 2 I know, but they are not in touch with one another. s o l i One man to spy on another - a third to spy on the second -

and so on! Actually, ( lowers his voice) at the moment, 1 am keeping an eye on Khalilullah Khan. And you? s o l 2 ( Surprised) Khalilullah Khan? Don’t tell me! Dara trusts him implicitly. s o l i (winks) And why not9 That’s what Aurangzeb wants. Never mind that, whom are you keeping a watch on? so l 2 AsgharKhan. s o l i Good God!

Both laugh. Soldier 2 puts hisfinger to his lip. l Who is it9 so l 2 The Shah-in-Shah.


They move away. After afew moments, enterfrom the right Dara Shikoh, Shahjahan and fahanara. Shahjahan is old and obviously ill. Dara’s bearing is regal and haughty. He has gold rudraksha mala round his neck. He looks like a hippie, fahanara is strikingly beautiful. There are small

Aurangzeb patches, relics o f a fire accident, on her skin. Shahjahan sits on his throne and is immediately immersed in thought. You know what sort.of a man Aurangzeb is, Your Majesty. He won’t trust his own hand!


Silencefo r some time. If he continues to harass the Hindus and the Shias in the Deccan, the Rajput and the Shia nobles will turn against us. jahanara Perhaps that is what Aurangzeb wants!

Dara advances to thefront o f the platform. I can’t understand why he hates me so. What have I done to him? jahan Do you remember, Dara? When you built your new palace, you took the Shah-in-Shah and your brothers to see it. All of you went in. Aurangzeb did not but sat at the entrance. I happened to pass that way then. Seeing him there, I asked him why he had not gone in with the others. Do you know what he told me? dara What did he tell you? Jahan He said, 'Do you want Dara to take me also inside and kill me?’ So suspicious was he of you! dara Now even Shuja and Murad dislike me. Aurangzeb has drawn Murad to his side. He has assured Murad that he will kill me and make him King. And that fool Murad believes him. I hear that Aurangzeb already addresses him as ‘Badshah’. jahan All that Murad wants is wine and women. dara Shuja is better. Ja h a n There is a rumour that he is preparing for battle. dara I shall send Sulaiman to teach him a lesson. Ja h a n Sulaiman! Can your son cope with Shuja? Dara Why not? Shuja calls himself Alexander. Sulaiman can tackle even the real Alexander. Jahan Aurangzeb is going about saying that you are an enemy o f Islam. This propaganda is gaining ground. What do you propose to do about it? dara


I am an e n e m y o f no religion . I b e lo n g to A k b a r’s line. I d o n o t

b e lie ve in theocracy. Jahan You are different from Akbar. Don’t foiget that! dara

What is the difference?



When Akbar propagated his beliefs about religion, he was the emperor. It is your misfortune that you are trying to be an Akbar even before becoming king!

ja h a n

Shahjahan gets up. He stands staring at the open space beyond The people adore me. When I go out on the streets of Agra or ride on my elephant in Chandni Chowk— how many garlands and what shouts of praise! The people will not let me down. j a h a n D o you really believe that the voice of the people will have any effect when men in positions of power, claiming to work for the people, clash with each other? dara

Shahjahan still immersed in thought. Dara and Jahanara have all along been trying to attract his attention to what they are saying. Shahjahan mutters to himself. Dara turns and looks at him. Jahanara moves to herfather’s side. (to Jahanara) What is he saying? j a h a n (to Shahjahan) What did you say, father? sh a h ja h a n Look there. (His gaze isfixed on the distance.) d a r a ( looks in the direction indicated by his father) What is going on there? s h a h There... . (He is dreaming.) Look at the Taj Mahal bathed in the rays of the setting sun. It looks like a flower that has just opened. Don’t you see it? Look there. My Mumtaz is looking out from the flower and smiling.. How did the sun’s red get transferred to your cheeks, Mumtaz? Why are you so shy? dara

Dara andJahanara look at each other. There is silence fo r a few moments. How white is the Taj Mahal! Like frozen milk. Mumtaz, you must rest in the white flower on this bank. I shall move into a black flower on the other bank. Yes, in a house of black marble that will be my resting place. You will be looking at me from here and I will be looking at you from there. We shall continue thus eternally to gaze at each other. d a r a ( surprised) A black marble palace? ( moves down left, stops and turns) s h a h Yes, I am going to build one. Mumtaz dreamed o f a white flower. My dream is of a black flower. I shall shape Taj Mahal's shadow in stone.

Aurangzeb Another mahal. . . . ( mutters under her breath) shah Yes - another mahal - mahals and gardens, all over Hindustan! Why should one hate death, if one builds tombs like this? Death tells man, ‘Make a poem of me.’ Look at that elegy in stone, the Taj Mahal! Another poem, another poem! jahan Have you thought of the cost of this poem, Your Highness? shah Women and shopkeeper can think only of the price. 1 did not know that there was a price to beauty! jahan Do the people have to buy your dreams at such high cost? shah I do not care about the people. My dream is my own. No one can interfere with it. jahan Where else will you get the money to build all those tombs, except from the people? I agree it is human nature to cling to life desperately. But is it proper, Your Majesty, to sacrifice the well being of your subjects in order to satisfy your desire that history should not forget you - in fact, in order only to satisfy your self-esteem? shah (moves down platform .) It is the dreams of individuals that ensure the continuity o f human civilization. Those who will see these two mahals three hundred years from today will not bother about how many people died o f hunger now. All that will be impressed on their minds will be that Shahjahan composed two elegies in stone. Look— I can even now see the crowds of people coming to see both these mahals. jahan What kind of political wisdom is it that demands sacrifices from the people of today in order that somebody in the future might have something to enjoy? What is the difference between this and the philosophy of the Hindus that asks people to make a hell o f this life in order to live in heaven in the next? daka Hinduism does not say anywhere that one should make a hell of this life, sister. It says only that everyone should realize the full limits o f his potential. To progress towards this comprehension is to discern the divinity in oneself. Jahan Never mind your philosophical dissertation. What do you think of the Shah-in-Shah’s plan? dara The Shah-in-Shah’s plan is the dream of a man at the end of his life. My sense of beauty is not so blunted as to try to spoil his dream with the unsympathetic logic that governs man’s daily life. shah (suddenly, with feeling, takes Dara by his shoulder) Dara jahan


you must fulfil my dream. You are my true heir. j a h a n Aurangzeb is already heaping abuse on the emperor that he is a spendthrift. If he knows that some more crores are to be spent, it will strengthen his propaganda. Dara, you are not standing at the end of your life - you are going to be king. You should have the common sense to be practical. d a r a ( moves down centre o f platform) When 1 have the people’s love on my side, what can Aurangzeb do? shah ( with feeling) Aurangzeb. You know why I hate him? He has made a religion o f his hatred of beauty. He is a lump— utterly without aesthetic sense. Would he be an enemy o f music otherwise? Why should anybody live if he cannot appreciate music? I listened to Tansen when I was a boy. It was the feast that my ears and heart enjoyed then that shaped my life thereafter. My heart is still full o f Tansen’s music. It is that music that built the Taj Mahal. Noble music that can melt the flesh and the mind and can impart meaning to life? The world is all music, all beauty! O Allah who made me a human being and gave me eyes, ears and body to appreciate beauty, how can I ever repay you? ( closes his eyes) d a r a (to fahanara) The only repayment we can make to him is to make his dream come true. sh ah ( moves down centre o f platform) Swear to me by Allah. Will you fulfil my dream? d a r a I swear to you by Allah. 1 shall make your dream come true. You will feast your eyes on a mahal of black marble while you live. sh ah ( moves up centre, hisface lighting up) Mumtaz, let history say that there never was such a magnificent couple as you and I ... Daughter, take me inside. I am going to sleep. ( Moves up right) Mumtaz will come to me in dream... ( with feeling) Shouldn't I tell you, my Mumtaz, of my plans for the black marble mahal?

Shahjahan goes in. Dara andJahanara watch him go. They themselves go in a little later. Darknessfo ra few moments. When lights comes up, a Moulvi isseen coming rapidly down the steps on the left. A soldier, standing in fro n t o f the platform, salutes him. m o u lv i

1 must see Prince Dara at once.

( The soldier bows and goes

Aurangzeb in, right. A few moments later, Dara enters. He bows to the Moulvi.') dara What important matter is it which brings you here at this time? moulvi The Imam is furious with you. I came to tell you that. dara Why? moulvi What did you tell Mohammad Rashid four or five days ago? dara ( thinks) About what9 moulvi Did you claims that you were God? Dara laughs. (irritated) This is not a joke, prince. dara Will you agree, Moulvi Saheb, that to say that we are all embodiments o f God is not the same thing as to claim that I am God. moulvi Yes, that is precisely what I am asking you. dara Do you know what is meant by ‘aham Brahm asmi? moulvi ( not heeding) The Kafirs have corrupted you, prince. dara No one can corrupt another easily. No one comes to grief o r good because of others. Listen to me in full. It is a more honest philosophy to say that God is myself than that I am 'a slave of God. moulvi Is this what our religion says? How arrogant must a man b e to claim that he is God! dara It is arrogant to talk o f God and man as separate entities, which is what you imply when you say that you are a slave of God. To say ‘I am God’s is to imply that man has no existence without God. That is real humility. moulvi This is polemics. It is only the Hindus who use logic and polemics in matters relating to God. dara ( laughs) I was quoting from Jalauddin Rumi - not from Hindu scriptures. moulvi There is no difference between Sufis and Kafirs. dara ( banteringly) Did you come posthaste to tell me this? moulvi My prince, I cannot accept your religious theories. But my affection for you makes me warn you. dara About what’ moulvi Our religious leaders are furious with what you have been saying and doing and have sent secret information to Aurangzeb. I think that a conspiracy is brewing against you. I am afraid that the Emperor and you might come to harm. I think it will be wiser


for you not to talk about anything till you are crowned king. d a r a I know how to deal with Aurangzeb and the religious leaders. m o u lv i May I say that you do not understand politics half as well as you understand philosophy. d a r a I do not consider philosophy and politics to be different. m o u lv i All politics is based on power. All that I want is that you should understand this.

Dara is immersed in thought fo r some time. He recalls Jahanara’s words. When Akbar propagated his beliefs about religion, he was the emperor. It is your misfortune that you are trying to be an Akbar even before becoming king. d a r a ( abstracted) Yes, it is true that only power can lend weight to any doctrine. I understand now the connection between religion and politics. Only power can ensure that my doctrine ascend the throne with me.

j a h a n a r a s v o ic e

Silence fo r some time. Dara walks about thoughtfully. (to Moulvi) You are right. Aurangzeb will do anything to capture power. I wonder how he will utilize the emperor’s new plan for his propaganda. May Allah save this country. m ou lvi (s u rp ris e d ) New plan? d a r a Yes. The Shah-in-Shah is going to build another mausoleum like the Taj - in black marble. This mausoleum is for him. Husband and wife will be gazing at each for all time from either side o f the Jamuna. m o u l v i More crores o f rupees down the drain? My Prince, if you do not stop this, Aurangzeb’s job will become much easier. d a r a The Shah-in-Shah’s is an obstinate dream. I am jiot so devoid o f feeling yet as to shatter it rudely. (Silence fo r some time. Suddenly, angrily) I can tackle Aurangzeb. I am not worried about how big an army he will have on his side. Khalilullah Khan, Diler Khan, Asghar Khan, Chhatrasal, Jaswant Singh, Kumar Ram Sigh - all these mighty warriors are on my side . . . m o u lv i (interrupting) I pray to Allah that these friends o f yours, whom you trust so much, may help you . . . 1 take your leave, my Prince, (makes to go away) d a r a (surprised) Do you doubt it? d a ra

Aurangzeb Don’t force me to reply to this question. Everything will happen as Allah ordains it. No one can prevent that. I have no doubt about that.


He goes. Dara stands looking at his retreating figure. The light fades. (.abstracted) Can’t 1tackle Aurangzeb? No doubt he has Shuja and Murad on his side... They are idiots. Why don’t they realize that he is egging them on only to enjoy the fruits himself. Aurangzeb must be nipped in the bud. He might have performed wonders on the battlefield at the age of seventeen. But his individual bravery can do nothing against a huge empire. ( Silence fo r some time.) He must not come to power. If he does, all my sweet dreams will be dashed to the ground. Only the destruction of Aurangzeb can ensure the establishment of a secular state in Hindustan. Fate has chosen me for this purpose. But am I strong enough for this?


He stands with his eyes closedfo r a few moments and then goes in. Darkness fo r some time. Lights come up on a silent, empty stage. Shahjahan enters. He walks slowly to the edge o f theplatform and steps, immersed in thought. Then walks about, fahanara enters and stands near the throne looking at her father. Shahjahan looks up suddenly and sees her. Do you think that Dara can deal with Aurangzeb? jahan Aurangzeb is not only a great warrior, he is also extremely tricky. I do not doubt Dara’s valour, but... shah Is a battle inevitable? Can we not stop it? J ahan There is a rumour that Murad and Aurangzeb are preparing for battle. shah Let Aurangzeb rule the Deccan. We will give Shuja and Murad the areas they govern now. jahan ( startled) Do you think it right to partition Hindustan like this, father? shah That is the only thing to do if we a r e to prevent a war. If Dara is to get Agra, there is no other way. And only if Dara is in Agra will my dream become a reality. Jahan Does it not occur to you that it would be not fair to Dara or to Hindustan to do this in order that your obstinate dream is fulfilled? shah


I do not care about anything else. My dream must be fulfilled. And that will be possible only if Dara succeeds me in Agra. j a h a n What is the guarantee that Shuja, Murad and Aurangzeb will not get together and attack Agra? s h a h Why should they, if they are crowned kings o f their respective areas? j a h a n If you want a black marble mahal, you will need a great deal of money. If you partition the country, where will you get it from? Did you think about that, father? s h a h What is wrong in collecting more taxes from the people? Coming generations in Hindustan will sing their praises for the sacrifices they are going to make now. Don’t talk to me of affairs o f state hereafter. Look! Mumtaz is bathing in the moonlight. (.Music.) Look at the tricks played by the moon on her milk-white skin. Mumtaz is complaining to me about this with her head slightly inclined, her tresses trailing like waves, and with her look voicing eloquent poetry! Why, oh moon, are you so fond o f beautiful women? When the elegy in black marble is written with me as the basic pitch of its mournful music - then, oh moon, you can no longer play with Mumtaz. She will have no time to play with you. The world is all beauty, all sadness. Why are beauty and sadness basically one? shah

Shahjahan is overcome with emotion. He asksJahanara to sit on the throne and lays his head on her lap. He closes his eyes. She strokes him gently, like a motherfondling her baby. Soft music. Roshanara enters from right. She watches fo r some time. Herface hardens. ( sarcastically) And then a mausoleum for you and one for Dara. I did not know there were such easy ways ctf beautifying Hindustan.


Jahanara does not reply. She continues to run her fingers through Shahjahan’s hair. (with sarcasm) Aurangzeb does not know how to worship beauty, the fool! He recites the Holy Quran every day, does namaz five times, does not touch drink, doesn’t look at women, hates luxury, has given up wearing jewellery, the idiot. And he is a

Aurangzeb worshipper o f the Prophet. The idiot just cannot appreciate beauty. jahan ( smiles) What do you want to say, Roshanara? roshan I am saying it. Can’t you follow me? jahan ( smiles) You want to say something more than what those words mean. roshan The affection between the three of you— father, daughter and son— overwhelms me, my sister. jahan You are also his daughter. Why do you forget it? roshan I have not forgotten it. But he has. He has also forgotten that he has three other sons. ( lowering her voice, but firm ly) And you know who are responsible for his forgetting it? You and your dear brother Dara! jahan ( smiles) 1 am tired o f hearing you say this day after day, Roshanara. roshan I shall continue to say it, till /am tired of it - but I shall not tire. How badly have the emperor and Dara treated Aurangzeb! jahan ( surprised) What are you saying? roshan ( sarcastic) Ah, of course, you don’t know anything. I am sick of you and those fluttering eyelids and that cultivated angelic pose o f yours! Didn’t the Shah-in-Shah, at the instigation o f Dara, brand Aurangzeb a spendthrift? Aurangzeb, who does not touch government money for his personal needs! Is it not funny that a father who throws away crores in constructing fabulous buildings all over the place should ask a son, who is the embodiment of simplicity, why he is wasting money? ( Laughs) jahan N o one accused Aurangzeb of using government money for his personal needs. Dara condemned him only for using the state’s money for strengthening his political position. roshan So if he does not strengthen his position and watches while Dara becomes king, he is a noble brother. Isn’t that so? Jahan What is wrong in the eldest son becoming king, Roshanara? roshan (with a mocking smile) Ask him. (points to Shahjahari) You may not know. But /ie cannot have forgotten history. Ask him if he was his father’s first son. jahan Why does Aurangzeb hate Dara so? Roshan Why does the Shah-in-Shah hate Aurangzeb so? Perhaps, if you and Dara had not been there, the emperor might have been able to understand Aurangzeb’s affection.


Jahanara laughs. Why do you laugh? j a h a n How can I resist laughing when you talk of Aurangzeb and affection— a contradiction in terms? r o s h a n He does not know how to pander to his (points to herfather) self-esteem in the name of affection,

Shahjahan gets up abruptly, fahanara also gets up startled. (angrily) Who panders to my self-esteem? r o s h a n She (points to Jahanara) and Dara. There is a conspiracy between you and Dara. It is a mutual pandering to self-esteem. And she nurtures the self-esteem of both of you. And her reward the dictatorship o f the zenana! s h a h That is enough, stop it! r o s h a n Truth will hurt, sir. But it requires courage to face it Aurangzeb is ruling the Deccan. Tell me if he has done anything without consulting you. And yet you issued an order that he should do nothing without consulting Agra. Is that how a father should treat his son? Agra means you, she and Dara! You have named Dara as your successor. Why haven’t you informed your other sons of it?


Exit Shahjahan in a rage. What do you gain by torturing him? You don’t understand how he is suffering, (comes down to Roshanara) r o s h a n His suffering? Why should 1 bother about it’ He is father only to you and Dara, not to me or Aurangzeb, or to Shuja or Murad. When you were involved in the fire accident, because of your carelessness, did he not neglect his kingly duties and sit by you, nursing you day and night. Do you remember? j a h a n (smiles) It was not my carelessness, my dear! (touches her) r o s h a n (angrily shaking her off) All right! It was I who laid a torch to you. But I can tell you now what he would have done if I had been injured similarly. j a h a n What would he have done? jahan

Roshanara comes down to fron t ofplatform. Csmiles) It is an interesting question what kind o f a tomb he would have built for me. Perhaps, in order to go down in history as the father who built a magnificent tomb for his daughter, he

r o sh an

Aurangzeb might have built the crazy black marble mausoleum for me! ( laughs) jahan The black marble mausoleum is his private dream; do not laugh at it. roshan ( turning back and looking at her) Is the right to dream his monopoly because he happens to be the emperor? Don’t others have it? jahan Who said others don’t have it? roshan Aurangzeb also has dreams; do you know that? jahan ( surprised) Aurangzeb? I thought he was a practical man, a realist. roshan One country, one language, one religion. This is his dream of Hindustan. He will not hesitate to do anything to make this dream a reality. His belief is that there is no room for politics without religion. jahan Just because you like him you think of Aurangzeb as the projection o f your own imagination. He has no principles, no beliefs. His only principle is— Aurangzeb! roshan ( angrily) If that is so, what principle does Dara have other than rooting Islam out o f Hindustan? If he really has a sense of responsibility to the country, he should be prepared to put an end to the Shah-in-Shah’s foolish dream by talking him out o f it. He will not do so. Do you know why? He is afraid of incurring the emperor’s wrath. jahan This dream is the only thing that lends meaning to our father's existence. Should we spoil it9 Roshan Let it remain a dream. AH that I say is that we should not try to make it a reality. It is when the rulers attempt to convert all their private dreams into reality that even the daily needs of the ruled are in turn converted into mere dreams. When the people are still groaning under the burden o f the taxes levied for building the Taj Mahal, how foolish to think of another one! There must be a limit to the dreams o f foolish kings. Only Aurangzeb can stop this. jahan The Shah-in-Shah is agreeable to each of his four sons being crowned king of the area he is governing now. Will this satisfy Aurangzeb? Roshan ( startled) Partition the country? Never! Aurangzeb will never agree to this. Jahan In th at c a s e , if th e e m p e r o r a c c e p ts A u ra n g z e b as h is s u c c e s s o r ,


will he be prepared to make his dream come true?

Roshanara laughs. ( irritated) Why are you laughing? r o s h a n Dara must listen to this arrangement o f his dear sister. Why are you so keen on making the emperor’s dream a reality, my dear? j a h a n I think this is the only way in which I can save Dara. Don’t you want the emperor to spend his last days in peace? r o sh an Aurangzeb will never welcome such wasteful spending. Don’t forget that his responsibilities will be much greater when he becomes king. j a h a n Why are you so obstinate? The Shah-in-Shah’s dream— r o s h a n ( interrupting) Do you know who the Shah-in-Shah’s real enemy is? j a h a n Who? You? r o s h a n N o . His own dream. ( Exit angrily on this line. Jahanara watches her go. As she stands there the stage become dark.) jahan

SCENE 2 The curtain goes up to revealJahanara walking about on theplatform. She is obviously on edge. After a short while, a soldier entersfrom right and descends the steps at a run. He bows to Jahanara. Enter Roshanara with measured steps, form right. ( in an excited voice) What happened? ( The soldier does not reply. Roshanara comes up to him, with obvious satisfaction) r o s h a n a r a Don’t be afraid. Tell us, Aurangzeb has won, hasn’t he?


The Soldier nods in affirmation. ( mockingly) Poor Dara! j a h a n Both Dara and Aurangzeb are brothers to you and me Whichever of them wins or loses we must be equally happy or sorry. r o s h a n ( mimicking) Both Dara and Aurangzeb are brothers to you and me. ( loudly) How beautifully you put it! Why didn’t thus occur to you when Dara took a large army to destroy Aurangzeb? Who stopped you from lecturing Dara on brotherly love then? It

Aurangzeb is Aurangzeb’s victory that has kindled you affection for him. Isn’t that so? jahan I am not worried about the victory or defeat of one or the other. Politics is strictly for men. That is what I think. roshan Why should you worry about who wins or who loses? All that you want is that you should rule the zenana. ( laughs) Perhaps if Aurangzeb had lost the battle you might have felt like talking politics. Why should you do it now? ( angrily) Dara’s pride is humbled today. He should now take sanctuary in some muth along with his Sanyasi crowd. jahan (to the soldier) I hope Dara wasn’t injured in the battle? soldier Not physically, Your Highness. jahan What do you mean? sol All those whom he considered his closest friends went over to your other brother. It was Khalilullah Khan’s treachery that was the principal cause of his defeat. roshan (com ing close to him) What a fool you are to refer to it as Khalilullah Khan’s treachery, when Aurangzeb is on his victory march to Agra! If Dara had won, what Khalilullah did would not have been treachery; how can it be treachery when Aurangzeb has won? You must learn the first lesson of politics— that victory validates everything— if you want to get on in life, (laughs. Jahanara gestures to the soldier to be off. He leaves.) jahan Must you discuss political and family affairs in his presence? roshan Political and family affairs can go up to the battlefield but we shouldn’t discuss them in his presence, (laughs) How keen you are to protect the honour of Timur’s dynasty!

Shahjahan enters with a stumbling gait and stops. There is a meaningful silence. (with feeling and to no one in particular) Look at the black flower of my dreams trodden underfoot and destroyed by Aurangzeb! Dara has lost and is retreating to Agra like a coward! (suddenly sees Roshanara) Go and make arrangements for the celebration of Aurangzeb’s victory. Are you happy now? roshan Is it wrong for anyone to try to make a reality of his or her dream, sir? shah (angrily) To kill his brothers, his father, his brothers’ friends, his father’s friends, and to wade to the throne through their blood - isn’t this the wonderful dream of your dear brother Aurangzeb?



You have not understood Aurangzeb. sh a h Tell me— have I understood anyone properly? This Daia who is running helter skelter from the battlefield— have I understood him property? These Rajput scoundrels who I thought would stand by him— have I understood them property? ( Silence fo ra few moments. He mounts the throne.) Those who Dara thought were his closest friends— they have betrayed him. A competition between Hindus and Muslims to stab him in the back! The Dharma o f the people of Hindustan is to be with the winning side. Religion is just a false veneer, a cloak o f principles to hide the rottenness o f the reality. It was my mistake to have depended on this lame horse of a Dara who does not know even the ABC of politics. Shameless fellow to run away from the battlefield like this! My faith in him is destroyed! (with feeling) Let him die, let him die. He should not enter the fort again. I swear in the name of Allah, I shall not look at his face again. Let him go to Delhi. If I look at him, it will be the face of Aurangzeb with a victory smile on his lips that I will see, and he will ask me with a mischievous smile, ‘Has your dream been destroyed sir? I do not know how many more trials I will have to endue in this old age! roshan

Silencefo r a while Aurangzeb will not harm you in any way. I can assure you of that. j a h a n (smiles) What more harm is there for him to do now? r o s h a n The true Mussalman that he was, he did not want a mulhid to become king. That is why he took to arms. And, moreover . . . (stops suddenly) j a h a n Why have you stopped? Go on. r o s h an He took to arms to stop another Taj Mahal coming up - to prevent crores of public money from being squandered. r o s h an

Shahjahan gets up and comes near her. Is that the reason? r o s h a n Yes. s h a h He took to the battlefield in order to bury his father and his dreams deep in the ground? r o s h a n He may bury your dreams. There will be no harm done to you. s h a h You cannot separate me from my dreams. If you take away his sh ah


Aurangzeb dreams from a man, what is the difference between him and a beast7 roshan ( laughs) Beasts do not dream mad dreams. When they have the permanent problem of food for their survival, how can they afford the luxury of dreaming? shah So, according to you, Aurangzeb is a beast, isn't that so? If it is Hindustan's fate to be ruled by a beast, a fellow without any kind of noble ideals, what can I do about it? roshan Aurangzeb does have ideals, sir. shah What ideals? roshan One country, one language, one religion. shah This will be possible only if the ruled are a flock of sheep in perpetual terror of the ruler. ja h a n Are ideals intended for the people or are the people for ideals, my dear sister? roshan Has our rule been based on the principle of ideals being for the people so far? If that had been so, why should hunger and starvation be rife everywhere in Hindustan except for a few cities? Is it good government when kings do not bother about the people but are worried only about the fulfilment of their private, personal dreams? jahan What else is Aurangzeb’s ideal but a dream? roshan It is not a private, personal dream. It is a political dream— related to the people. jahan History has shown that the people pay even more for the political dreams of their rulers than for their private, personal dreams. Don’t you know that? roshan The people must be prepared to pay any price for the fulfilment o f a noble ideal. Jahan Is this your reply to the question whether ideals are for the people or the people for the ideals? shah (following his own train o f thought) Roshanara!

She turns to him. 1am prepared to welcome Aurangzeb. Will he make my dream a reality? jahan (shocked) What are you saying father? roshan The emperor is prepared now to trust the iron horse rather than the mud one. shah Tell me, my daughter, tell me— will he fulfil my dream?


( smites) I am grateful to you, sir, for calling me daughter for

the first time. s h ah Will Aurangzeb cany out my dream? r o s h a n I can give no assurance. Whether he will be prepared to fulfil your dream or not, I can tell you this much - he will not harm you in any way. I can assure you o f that sh ah Let him kill me, but let him bury me in the black marble tomb that I dream of. That is all I want. j a h a n 1suggested to you that the only way o f averting a war was to make Aurangzeb king but Dara and you were not prepared to accept it then. Now, after so much blood has been spilt, if you welcome Aurangzeb what will happen to Dara, father? r o s h an No one can save Dara now. In whatever comer o f Hindustan he may hide, Aurangzeb will hunt him out and kill him. There is no doubt about it. sh ah Why should he kill Dara when I am prepared to give up my life? r o s h a n ( after a pausé) He might even build the black marble tomb that you are asking for. But he has to wreak vengeance on Dara. If he gives up his hatred of Dara, he will cease to be Aurangzeb. sh ah If he will not fulfil my dream and is also sure to kill Dara, I shall not allow Aurangzeb to enter Agra fort. I shall fight him till my last breath.

He claps his hands. Enter a soldierfrom left. Bring the commander of the fort to me.

Exit soldier. Would you sacrifice everyone in the fort for the sake of your dream and the life o f a mulhid? sh ah You will also be one of the ‘everyone’, won’t you? What happy news! r o s h a n Why, you can kill me now! sh ah I cannot kill you. r o s h an ( mockingly) Affection for a daughter? sh ah No— but because you are Mumtaz's daughter. r o s h a n Isn’t Aurangzeb also my mother’s son? shah That is why I have not killed him so far. The weed I did not pluck has destroyed the crop. How much better it would have been if Shuja had not saved him that day! r o s h an

Aurangzeb {puzzled) Shuja saved Aurangzeb? jahan Have you forgotten, Roshanara, when the elephant Sudhakar attacked Aurangzeb and Shuja fought it and rescued him? That is what the emperor is referring to. roshan ( remembering) What splendid affection! Here is a father who, instead o f recalling with pride the valour of his own son, the fifteen-old year Aurangzeb who fought a mad elephant without fear, wishes that the son had died then! roshan

Enter the commander o f the fo rt from left. He bows to Shahjahan and stands to attention. Bar the fort gates. If Aurangzeb’s troops attack, you must fight to the finish. No surrender. Let him kill everybody in this fort before he ascends the throne. I am not bothered about that.


The commander looks atJahanara. ( with anger) Why do you look at her? Carry out my orders at once. c o m m a n d e r More than half the people in the fort are waiting to welcome Aurangzeb, Your Majesty. Shahjahan gets up angrily. (growls) You too? com It will not be an easy job to survive the siege without the cooperation of those inside the fort, Shah-in-Shah. shah (shouts) In that case, go, open the gate, welcome Aurangzeb, go down on your knees to him when he sits on the throne, and kiss his feet. Ungrateful wretches! Let there be nothing left in Hindustan that will remind people of me. Raze the Red Fort to the ground. Set fire to the Peacock Throne. Let the Taj Mahal be blasted to pieces by cannon. Pour molten lead down the throats o f such music masters asJagannath, Ramdas and Lalkhan. Tear up all books of poetry. Turn rose gardens into graveyards. shah

He is gaspingfo r breath. Jahanara rubs his chest. He closes his eyes. Roshanara looks at him blankly. The commander is stunned. Go and bar the fort gates as the emperor ordered. We shall have trust in Allah. Let whatever is to happen happen.


Roshanra smiles at her and goes in.


As things stand at present, we cannot hold out against a siege for more than a week, princess.

She places her finger on her lips to warn him to be silent and gestures to him to go away. He goes, fahanara leads Shahjahan away. After some time, enter Dara from left. A soldier comes up to him and bars his way. ( angrily trying to brush him aside) Who are you to stop me? soldier Shah-in-Shah’s orders. d a r a What? dara

He shakes the soldier and pushes him down. EnterJahanara. jah anara

Dara, why do you hit that poor fellow? He is speaking the

truth. d a r a The Shah-in-Shah does not want to see me? j a h a n No, he does not. d a r a Is the emperor angry with me? ja h a n Not angry but disappointed, which is worse. d a r a It is only when one goes into the battlefield that one realizes who are his friends and who his enemies. Does the emperor know how terribly I was betrayed? jah an More than the disappointment caused by your defeat is his anguish that his dream is shattered. d a r a I shall fulfil the promise I gave the Shah-in-Shah. The battle is not over yet. It has just begun. It is certain that the people will rise in my support if Aurangzeb is crowned king. ja h a n Haven’t you stopped dreaming yet, Dara? d a r a Dreaming? j a h a n Yes, you are dreaming. What else is it if you think that the dumb will raise their voices on your behalf? d a r a The dumb? ja h a n Yes. The people of Hindustan are philosophers who will accept whoever may win in battle, however he may rule. How are they different from dumb people?

Dara appears to think over what she has said. Silencefo ra short while. Let me see the emperor for a few moments at least. Please go and ask him.


Aurangzeb His grief will increase if he sees you. ( lowering her voice) He has ordered you to go to Delhi. You will get assistance there. Try to Marshal your troops and attack Aurangzeb. The people’s support is a pipedream. dara Why should I run to Delhi? jahan Aurangzeb is advancing on Agra. The forces o f his son Sultan Muhammad are approaching from another direction. Do you think that they are coming here to put you on the throne? dara Let them come. I shall die fighting them from inside the fort. I am not afraid of death. jahan Suicide is not valour, Dara. Listen to me. (.lowering her void ) Go to Delhi. You will get help there. The emperor has made arrangements for it. He will tackle Aurangzeb here. dara Do you think Aurangzeb is going to spare the emperor? jahan We will take care o f that. You go away. Please go away. jahan

Dara does not move. Silencefo ra short while. I must fight Aurangzeb. If that visionless mediocrity, whose thinking is cramped within narrow walls, ascends the throne, the Hindustan o f my dreams will not be built. Moghul rule will come to an end with him. jahan The world is only for mediocrities, Dara. It is they who decide the conventions and rules o f life. Your dreams have been lost in the battle o f life. Why do you refuse to accept this? dara You cannot evaluate basic ideals by defeat or victory. Ideals are eternal. Defeat and victory know only the language of the ephemeral. jahan The present makes no sense without defeat or victory. Should we make a hell of life today because of the thought that we will find a place in history? dara It is because o f the greatness o f Hindustan's traditional philosophy that it has charted the path to an ideal life in the name of spiritual ecstasy without bothering about temporal pleasures. jahan (with a derisive smile) Don’t forget that your philosophical learning did not help you on the field of Samugarh. Leave for Delhi at once. I do not think Aurangzeb is preparing for philosophical debate with you. dara Who will protect Agra if I go away to Delhi? dara


No one can save Agra now. If there is any way out, it will depend on your efforts in Delhi.

ja h a n

Dara is silentfo r a while. All right, I shall go. If my efforts fail, I shall not see you or the emperor again. So, (with feeling) I bid you goodbye now. All I ask is, remember that you had a brother who loved you dearly. I go now.


He goes, fahanara stands looking at his retreating figure. Enter Shahjahan. He mounts the throne. shah

(in a low voice) Has Dara gone?

Jahanara is silent. What is he going to do in Delhi, this chap who cannot manage to win even with a big army under his command? Do you believe he can do anything at all? j a h a n What reply do you expect from me, father? Should I cause you further agony by saying that I have no such hope? s h a h Does that mean you have no hope? (angrily) Have you also been praying for Dara’s defeat? You do not want my dream to be fulfilled, do you? j a h a n What are you saying, father? s h a h ( getting up) You are all conspiring together - you, Roshanara and Aurangzeb. I understand why you are so angry with me. You are irritated by this old man’s foolish habit o f seeing Mumtaz in you. You spoke against my dream even that day. You are afraid that Dara will make my dream a reality, aren’t you? That is why you say you have no hope of Dara’s getting together an army and bringing it from Delhi to Agra. You do not want that he should do so. That is your aim. Why do you hesitate to tell me so?

He shakes her. (releasing herself) Don’t be carried away by your anger, father. Your accusations do not even merit a refutation. Nor am I under any compulsion to prove my love for you. My feeling towards you and Dara is affection tinged with sympathy. For you who are ruminating about the past that has been, and for Dara who dreams that he is a second Akbar charged with the mighty


Aurangzeb responsibility o f shaping the future that is to be. But I admire Aurangzeb’s practical preoccupation with the present. And yet, I desire his fall. I am not saying this to please you. I swear it in the name o f Allah. shah If you bear me any love, if you want my dream to become a reality, tell me that Dara will come with an army from Delhi and defeat Aurangzeb - tell me, my daughter, tell me. jahan It is my desire that your hope should not be in vain.

Enter a soldier running in from the left. He comes up to Shahjahan and bows. The troops of your grandson Muhammad from one side and those o f your third son Prince Aurangzeb from the other are approaching the fort entrance, Shah-in-Shah.


Sound o f cannon. shah

(calmly) I must see the Taj Mahal.

The soldier looks atJahanara uncomprehendingly. You may go. (Exit soldier.) shah I must see the Taj Mahal. If Agra Fort falls to Aurangzeb, I shall not be able to see the Taj Mahal ever again. If I go to the Taj now and wander around there to my heart's content, I shall not worry even if I am not able to see it again. . . Mumtaz, here I come. I want to talk to you. Your son has come to fight with me. I told you that I shall be looking at you from a black marble palace across the river, didn’t I? It will not be possible now. Mumtaz, how did you produce such a son?. . . What was it we quarrelled about that day?


The commander o f thefort enters and bows to Shahjahan, who does not see him. I have sealed all the doors of the fort, Your Majesty. shah (immersed in his thoughts) Yes, I remember now, Mumtaz. It was a holy day. You did not want to come to me. But I was not myself that day. When have 1ever been myself in your presence, Mumtaz? ( The commander looks at Jahanara.) jahan Resist them as far as possible without too much loss o f life, Commander. shah If this is m y condition when four of our children are alive,

com m ander


what if all sixteen had survived? Mumtaz, it was I who killed you by subjecting you to too frequent childbirth. Did you, in your anger, curse me to this kind of old age? No, I am sure you wouldn't do that. Perhaps some other woman in the harem, jealous of you, did. Some other woman. ( thinks) Whom did I know other than you, Mumtaz? Mumtaz! j a h a n You may go, Commander. c o m Princess Roshanara has gone away from the palace.

Shahjahan turns on him angrily. Where? c o m To her brother Aurangzeb. s h a h ( shouts) Go, go all of you! 1shall stand alone against Aurangzeb on the battlefield. Mumtaz! Is your son going to kill me or am I going to kill your son91don't know! Which do you want, Mumtaz? (laughs) shah

Jahanara signals to the Commander to leave. After he has left, she sits on the throne and takes the laughing Shahjahan's head on her lap. He buries hisface in her lap and appears as though asleep. Loud cannon fire. Jahanara raises her head and listens. The firin g continues. Clamour o f troops. The siege has started. Shahjahan does not move. The lightsfade.

SCENE 3 Some moments later, the lights come on. It is evening Aurangzeb, Khalilullah Khan, Sultan Muhammad, Najafat Khan, Zulflqar Khan, Islam Khan, Bahadur Khan etc. are on their knees. They are at namaz. They rise after some time. Agra Fort. Aurangzeb mounts the throne. He is about 40years old. su ltan Unde Murad’s story has come to an end. ( Aurangzeb sms nothing. He is deep in thought.) k h a lilu lla h ( smiling) So easily, prince? su ltan They gave him plenty o f wine and women, which are all he wants. When he was drunk, they arrested him, charged him and

Aurangzeb finished him of. najafat What was his crime? aurangzeb What was his crime? ( repeats the question angrily) Aren’t you ashamed to ask, Najafat? A drunkard, womaniser, did you want him to come to the throne? islam I do not think this charge is enough to satisfy the people, sire! aur It was in the interest of the people that I decided that Murad should not become king. If he had become king, only wine shops and brothels would have flourished. slam These are sufficient reasons to satisfy you why Murad should not have become king. But the people aur ( angrily) The people, the people! Does a flock of sheep know what is good for it? Only a government based on religion, laying down right and wrong, can lead them as a shepherd leads his flock. zulfiqar The responsibilities of government will become easy, sire, if you pander to the weakness of the people. aur ( moves doum centre) I have not shed all this blood to establish such a rule, Zulfiqar. I am going to close all wines hops and brothels in Hindustan at once. It will no longer be possible to trade in flesh in this country in the name of art. The singers of this country must take to the plough for a living. The dancing girls can marry my soldiers and become housewives. There is no room in Hindustan for music and dance. We must bury deep these arts which make lazy profligates of human beings. khalil Please do not think me impertinent. It might be dangerous to interfere with the personal likes and dislikes of the people. aur ( angrily) That is what you can be expected to think, Khalilullah Khan. After all, your have led a profligate life for years in that den o f iniquity called Agra. You have trained yourself to live under my father’s rule. Now you must train yourself to live under mine. Do you understand? By the way, how many women are there in your harem?

Khalilulla Khan is silent. Why are you silent? Can’t you count beyond thousand? khaul Not as many as all that, sire. aur Send away all except those whom you have married. This is my command! Understand? This goes for everyone here.

A soldier enters from left, bows to Aurangzeb and hands


over a letter to him. Aurangzeb reads it. Having finished reading, he is silent. The Shah-in-Shah has invited me to come and meet him he says he has no objection whatever to my becoming king.

Bahadur Khan says something under his breath. What are you saying, Bahadur Khan? Ba h a d u r I do not understand what the Shah-in-Shah’s plan is a u r Do you think this is a conspiracy? islam That is what I think, sire. a u r Dara has run away to Delhi. Everyone in the fort has surrendered. What conspiracy do you think the Shah-in-Shah can hatch in these circumstances? The old tiger has lost all its valour and is huddling in the cave. ( to the soldier) Go and say I am coming.

Silencefo r some time after the soldier has gone. Aurangzeb walks about. Perhaps he has called me to ask me to put up the black marble mausoleum that is his crazy dream. That I shall never do. I shall not be a party to any scheme to waste crores of* money. I must be firm on this in talking to him. Allah give me the resoluteness for this. k h a lil ( surprised) You o f all people do not have to beg Allah for firmness of mind, sire. a u r Only Allah and I know of the love I bear my father the emperor. I have locked it up in the innermost recesses o f my heart. I am afraid that, when I see this man who ruled as a Kings o f Kings banished to a corner as a mere irian, I might break down and become merely his son. ( Silencefor some time. Hisface hardens.) My father sent me. ( in a louder voice) Do you know why? I was his unwanted son! k h a lil Was it wrong then, what I heard, Your Highness, that he sent not only you but your brother Dara? a u r (angrily) When? Only when my grandfather sent word to say, ‘Dara is your favourite. I shall trust you only if you send him.’ My grandfather was not willing to welcome me. My father tossed me back and forth. What an experience to have at the age of eight! If my father had had any affection for me, would he have done this? (He is silentfo r some time.) Should not this experience

Aurangzeb at the age o f eight have made me hate him, you might ask. How then can there be any love? Love and hate are basically the same. 1am not able to explain this wonderful chemistry by which one changes frequently into the other.

He walks about in silence fo r some time. He looks to his right. Princess Roshanara Begum is coming to see me. You may all go.

All except Aurangzeb leave. Roshanara enters. Aurangzeb hands her the letter he received. She reads it and laughs. Why do you laugh? roshanara What did you think when you read this letter? aur I thought that the emperor had decided that, Dara having run away, he could not do better than make peace with me so that he could have his black marble mausoleum. Don’t you think so? roshan Peace. You expect the emperor to make peace with you? aur What else can the old tiger do, bereft of its valour and huddling in its cave? roshan The plan is to get you into the cave and spring a trap. Don’t you understand this?

Aurangzeb laughs. Why do you laugh? aur Do you think that, if he bolts the door o f the cave, my commanders and soldiers will be quiet? rosh an ( with a derisive smile) Don’t talk to me about your commanders and soldiers. When did they become y ou r commanders and your soldiers? If they had the slightest feelings of loyalty, would your victory have been possible? Let there be news that you have been murdered. Then you will see how loyal they are. aur Do you think then that there is a plan to kill me? roshan I-came only to warn you against that. Don’t ask me how I came to know what the Shah-in-Shah’s plan is. What 1say is the truth. Don’t go to meet the old tiger in the cave. Danger lurks there. aur ( angrily) Is this true? roshan I swear in the name o f Allah. aur Can’t he accept the fact of my victory even now? roshan He will never accept you. I can assure you o f this. You have


spoilt his sweet dream. You have dnven his dear son out of Agra. What more does he need? a u r (in anger) Dear son! Why from Agra? Wherever he may go, I shall hunt him out and kill him. It is he who is responsible for the hatred that my father and I bear each other. My father has now come down to doing away with me! I cannot stand it any more. I must arrest him. I thought he had called me to make peace with me. What treachery! What have I done to you, Shahin-Shah? Why this partiality? r o s h a n If the Shah-in-Shah had finished you off here and Dara had then come from Delhi with an army, your commanders and soldiers would have forgotten that there ever was such a man as Aurangzeb. The political leaders of Hindustan know very well that nothing succeeds like success. a u r A huge army has gone to Delhi to arrest Dara and bring him here. I have issued a warning that those who help Dara will be treated as traitors to the country. Dara cannot expect any help in Delhi.

Silencefo r a while. (iangrily) But you say that the emperor has planned to kill me! r o s h a n Moreover Shuja will never accept you as emperor. You have to be prepared for that. Dara may seek Shuja’s help. a u r Dara cannot move east of Delhi, my sister. My troops under Syed Mohammed Khan are marching against him. Shuja has just been defeated by Dara’s son. It will take him at least a year to recover from this defeat. I shall take care of him later. Murad has been eliminated. r o s h a n I think you should not have killed Murad. If the people don t forgive you.. . . a u r When a man who thinks that there are no pleasures in life except wine and women develops political ambitions, one owes it to society to eliminate him, my sister. r o s h a n You are a king. You shouldn't have such strong likes and dislikes. a u r It is because of my strong likes and dislikes that I decided that 1 must be king at all costs. I realize that the duty o f reforming this Hindustan that has sunk to the lowest of low levels is mine and mine alone. My dream is to make of Hindustan a great nation

Aurangzeb that speaks one language follows one religion. 1can realize this dream only if I become emperor. roshan 1can understand your dream. But if it is to become fact... aur (.interrupts) I shall make it a fact. Don’t ask me how. It is the end that matters. It is foolish to worry about the means. Now, I must arrest the Shah-in-Shah.

He claps his hands. A soldier enters and salutes. Tell Khalilullah Khan and Islam Khan that I want them both here.

The soldier bows and leaves. Where will you keep the Shah-in-Shah after his arrest? aur In Agra, o f course. I am going to Delhi. We cannot both be in the same place. roshan Why not send him to Delhi? aur He would like to meditate on the happy days he spent with our mother. That will be possible only if he is in Agra. It will be a great cruelty to separate him from his memories in his last days. roshan

Enter Khalilullah Khan and Islam Khan. Arrest the Shah-in-Shah at once. He should not be allowed to communicate with anyone. No one, without my permission, should go to the place where he is kept. There should be no diminution in the privileges and honours due to him. Whoever transgresses these orders will be sentenced to death. khalil As you desire, Your Highness, (bows) (Khalilullah Khan and Islam Khan turn to go.) aur Another thing. (They stop.) If the Shah-in-Shah insists that Jahanara should be with him, she can be allowed to stay.

They bow again and leave. (getting up) Roshanara Begun will be the first lady o f this Islamic empire. roshan (laughs) Don’t say anything on impulse. If your wives hear this, they will not spare you. aur The accusation against me is that I do not easily yield to impulse. I have come to this decision after long thought, sister. The position Jahanara occupied on our mother’s death is now yours. I shall not take any decision without consulting you. I swear this by Allah.



My heart is full today. This is the best news o f all that I have heard, that Jahanara’s dominance is at an end.


SCENE 4 As the curtain rises, Dara is gloomily walking about downstage. Muhammad, his aide-de-camp, is standing still and emotionless. It is evening. ( with a despairing smile) I do not know why I should continue to live, Muhammad.


Muhammad does not answer. Silencefo ra while. Nadira Banu is also dead. She who should have been crowned queen o f an empire lies dead and abandoned here in this wilderness because she had the misfortune to marry me. She was never away from me for a minute since we were married. She accompanied me to all my battles so that she could look after me. Nadira! Did I deserve such love? He walks about. Silencefo ra while. Her tomb should not be here, on the frontier o f Hindustan. It should be in Hindustan. I shall rest content only if she rests near the tomb of Mian Mir in Lahore. Can you take her body to Lahore? m u h a m m a d I’ll have no difficulty in doing so. But who will look after you, my lord? d a r a ( laughs dryly) Why should I need looking after now? My struggle is over. Bury my dreams and ideals in her grave. I am now an ordinary man. In the game of chess that destiny played with me, I have lost everything. I am now waiting for it to checkmate me It can happen any time now, Muhammad. m u h a m m a d Please do not think that I presume to give you advice. But I should like to tell you something. d a r a What? m u h a m m a d You know what hardships your grandfather's grandfather Humayun underwent. But in the end he was able to recapture his kingdom. How? It was because he did not despair but went on trying. d a r a ( interrupting him) It was Humayun’s good fortune that Sher Shah Suri died young. But Aurangzeb is not dead, Muhammad. I

Aumngzeb have realized after all these battle that I am not his equal in skill either in battle or in politics. What is the use o f defeats if it does not teach you humility? m uham mad Why do you devalue yourself like this, sir? You are greater than Aurangzeb in all respects butdara ( interrupting) But! It is a very big ‘but’, Muhammad! A very big ‘but’. There is no one equal to Aurangzeb in political skill. I have to accept it. Look at the achievements be has to his credit. muhammad Are you referring to his trying to deceive you about Shah Nawaz Khan as political skill? He calls himself a true Mussalman. Was what he did a thing for a true Mussalman to do? He forged a letter that seemed to show that Shah Nawaz Khan, who had dedicated himself to your service, was trying to betray you and let it fall into your hands. Would you call this despicable trick an act of political skill? You believed that letter, but you told Shah Nawaz, i f you want to join Aurangzeb, you are free to do so.' Can anything equal that in magnanimity, sir? No, a thousand times no. What if Aurangzeb had been in your place? Just think. Shah Nawaz would have been finished. dara Nowadays the fairness of an action is judged only by its success. In that light, it must be conceded that I am not fit to rule a kingdom, Muhammad. This is the bitter truth. We have to swallow it. Look at what has happened to all those who loved me dearly. The emperor and my dear sister Jahanara are in prison. Shah Nawaz Khan has lost his life in battle. They have killed my guru Sarmod. ( is silentfor some time) Muhammad, will you listen to me? m u h am m ad Tell me, my emperor. dara Don’t address me as emperor. In my present position, it sounds like a joke to me. m u ham m ad You will surely defeat Aurangzeb and become king. I have no doubt of it. The p e o p le will accept Aurangzeb’s rule. The people— dara ( interrupts) The people. Popularity with the masses is just an illusion. It is like saying that a prostitute is in a love with her client. The people o f this country are a flock of sheep. They accept mere slogans as ideals and are constantly looking forward to an illusory golden age. I thought these dummy horses were my support, fool that 1 was. When intellectuals turn out to be selfish creatures, willing to sell their conscience for some crumbs from those that rule, why blame the illiterate masses? I can’t



understand what I should live in Hindustan for. What can I hope for? I shall not return to Hindustan. The people o f this country have killed truth and buried it on the banks o f the Jamuna and what they deserve are a few Aurangzebs. Who can change the destiny of Hindustan? muhammad If you who loved Hinduism and Hindustan so dearly should turn so bitter. d a ra ( interrupts) Don’t say that I am bitter against Hinduism or Hindustan. My words are bom of anguish, that the p e o p le of this country are not worthy heirs to their great heritage. History says that the Rajputs are renowned for bravery and sacrifice. But what do we see now? Only the Jaswant Singhs and the Jai Singhs. Jaswant Singh has so far changed sides four times. The leaders of this country will not hesitate even to sell this country to foreigners for small gains. I shall not be surprised if the European merchants who are asking today for facilities to trade, even buy up this country later. ( Walks about in silence fo r a short while.) I wanted to ask you something, but you have changed the subject. muhammad You told me not to call you emperor. d a ra That’s not what I wanted ta say. It was something else. Yes. after you have paid your last respects to Nadira in Lahore, go and join Aurangzeb. muhammad ( agitated) What are you saying my king? Me join Aurangzeb? Never! d a ra Why do you persist in foolish loyalty, Muhammad? Listen to me. No one should stay behind with me. Take the others also All of you go and join Aurangzeb. muhammad And you, alone?.. . d a r a ( interrupts) Don’t argue. Listen to me. This is an order. 1do not want the list o f those who suffered because o f their association with me to grow longer. m u h a m m a d Where will you go? d a r a To Malik Jeevan. m u h a m m a d Malik Jeevan? Who is he? d a r a Malik Jeevan was sentenced to death for some offence. I was sorry for him. I interceded with the Shah-in-Shah and got him released. He is somewhere near here. He has always wanted me to spend a few days with him. He is coming here to take me After staying with him for some time. . . .(thinks) Let me see then what I should do.

Aurangzeb Must ail of us go away? My emperor, dara ( smiling) Everyone must leave the emperor. I am an emperor hereafter only of six feet of earth. ( With feeling) Take Nadira’s body to Lahore. I who stand here bereft of all my rights, an uncrowned king... .(laughs) Uncrowned king! (Laughs again) Should I be so utterly poor as to lack even tears at the death of my queen? Uncrowned king! (laughs loudly)


Muhammad keeps looking at him fo r some time. Then he goes away. Dara stops laughing and walks about, deep in thought. The sound o f horse hooves which retreats andfades away. Dara locks his arms together and stands staring into the distance. Everyone has left. I am alone now. Where am I going? Where did I come from? Does the running stream know wither it is flowing? Does the cool breeze know whither it is blowing? A curtain that I cannot see, a door to which I can find no key. I do not comprehend anything. The Hindus are right. All that is not eternal is illusion. Never blows the rose so red as in the place where Caesar bled. 'It is all a chequer-board of nights and days, Where destiny with man for pieces plays, Hither and thither moves and mates and slays And one by one back in the closet lays,’ (Malik Jeevan enters. He is very tall, well-built like all Pathans. He bows to Dara.) dara Malik Jeevan! (Malik nods his head and Dara embraces him.) I have nothing to give you now. The fact that you have come to see me now gives me hope that gratitude has not yet disappeared from the world. malik You have given me my life, What more do I want, Shah-inShah? dara Shah-in-Shah. The real Shah-in-Shah languishes in jail. Don't mock me by using that title. malik Forgive me. I did not intend to mock you. You are the King o f Kings, as far as I am concerned. I shall not accept anyone else as emperor. dara (smiling) I am emperor only o f the kingdom of my mind. Do you want to be its citizen? malik I am your slave. You can give me any order you want.

dara s vo ice



Then I want to ask two things o f you. One, do not call me Shah-in-Shah. Two, arrange for my getting out o f Hindustan. m a l ik ( startled) You want to leave Hindustan? Never. The countless thousands o f this country will want you to become king, sir. Do you think we will accept Aurangzeb as our king so easily? d a r a What cannot be cured must be endured. If you rebel against Aurangzeb he will not hesitate to have you hanged. There will be no Dara to save you from the gallows then. You cannot expea Aurangzeb to have the forgiving nature o f his father. m a l ik I am prepared to offer to you the life that you rescued, my lord. d a r a My life is not as valuable as all that, Malik. Listen to me. I shall stay a few days with you and then leave Hindustan. U is enough if you help me to do this. m a l ik Who said your life was not valuable? d a r a What value can a man have who has failed in the test o f political strength? m a l ik ( a little loudly) What value? Just watch. (H e claps his hands. Two soldiers emerge quickly and bind Dam in chains. Dara blinks. He is stunned.) Do you realize your value now. Just think o f the rewards Aurangzeb will give me when 1hand you over to him. Who said your life was worthless? d a r a (with a dry smile) I thought, when I saw you a little while ago, that I had been hasty in concluding that Hindustan was full of ingrates. I realize now that it was not a hasty conclusion. I realize also why God made me the instrument of saving your life, Malik. m a l ik Do not think I agreed to betray you for money or for gaining Aurangzeb’s favour. As Aurangzeb says, you are a traitor to Islam. I am proud that it fell to my lot to arrest you. This is the greatest service I could have done to Islam. d a r a (with a smile) If you had said you had betrayed me for money, I would have praised you for an honest man. Why do you try to clothe your action with ideology? Who taught you this political wisdom, you who are a roughneck of the frontier? m alik Was it not your plan to leave Hindustan and seek help from the king of Persia? Thank God you fell into my hands. Indeed. Allah has saved Hindustan today. d a r a I think even Allah cannot save Hindustan. What are you waiting for? Take me to Delhi. I am ready. malik I have sent word to Jai Singh. He was in hot pursuit o f you and dara

Aurangzeb is somewhere near. Let us wait for him. Why are you in such a hurry to see your dear brother? dara My heart cannot stand the shock o f seeing all o f you treacherous ingrates together. I might then die of shock even before reaching Aurangzeb’s court. So it seems to me that it is better for you that I see you one after the other. After all, you will get your reward only if you take me alive to Aurangzeb. MAJLiK If you were not the Shah-in-Shah’s brother, I would . . . Be careful what you say. dara It is only now I realize how great a man Aurangzeb is. Malik What d o y o u mean? dara You, Jaswant Singh, Jai Singh, Khalilullah Khan between you, make Aurangzeb look like a saint. He at least didn’t stab me in the back. It is to his credit that he openly proclaimed himself my enemy. malik D o you think Aurangzeb will let you off if you sing his praises like this? dara ( snaps at him ) Damn you! I am not worried about my life. I am worried about Hindustan. The word o f p e o p le like you will be law hereafter. Pigs who think that their momentary pleasures constitute paradise.

MalikJeevan spits on him and kicks him in the stomach. malik You call me a pig? Shame on me that I addressed you with


( holding his stomach in pain) There are many other things you should be ashamed of, Malik. malik Shut up. If you say anything more, I shall kill you here and now. ( catches his gown and shakes him) dara Do that. Take my life now in return for my saving your life that day. I will then be spared the discovery o f more ungrateful men in Aurangzeb’s court. malik There are many more like me, willing to sacrifice their lives for Islam. Would you call all of them ungrateful? dara Why do you drag religion into this? Religion and ideology are convenient slogans for opportunists. Are Jaswant Singh and Jai Singh going to sacrifice their lives for Islam? ( laughs) malik There! I think that is Jai Singh. Drag this cur along. dara

Dara is dragged forward in chains. Darkness. When the light comes on again, Aurangzeb is discovered on his throne,


which is close to the backdrop. The scene is the Red Fort in Delhi. Roshanara is standing. Dara is dragged in chains. Silencefo r a short while. We meet after many years. You have lost a little weight, that is all. ( Dara does no speak) We did not meet even on the Samugarh battlefield. Not even when, in the thick o f the fighting, you dismounted from your elephant and took to a horse. Do you know that was an important reason for your defeat? How stupid to change mounts in mid-battle! I was doing namaz then. You might ask if it is not stupid to do namaz five times a day. True. Try as I might, I cannot become a wise man like you. roshanara ( mockingly) You know only the tenets o f Islam. Dara has drunk deep of all religious doctrines. How can you call yourself a wise man? aur Have you read the Sir-ul-Asra, sister? roshan ( still mockingly) You mean our dear brother’s translation of the Upanishads? aur What does the Upanishad talk about? roshan I have heard Dara say it often. ‘Aham Brahmasmi. I am God.' aur So Dara is God? How fortunate I am to have God as my older brother? But why does the all-power-full stand helpless and bound before a mere man? aurangzeb

Roshanara laughs. (gets up angrily) I am speaking to you, Dara. What did you find in the Upanishads which you translated that was so superior to the thoughts of the Holy Quran? (Dara does not speak. Aurangzeb comes near him.) ( in measured tones) Didn’t you hear my question? dara I did. aur I want an answer. dara I never said that the Upanishads were superior to the Holy Quran. All religions are like blind men seeing an elephant. aur Meaning? dara One blind man touches the trunk and says, This is the elephant' Another touches a leg and says, ‘This is the elephant. Each is right as far as he goes. My view is that all those w ho follow only one particular religion are blind men. aur Is this also a story from the Vedas of the Kafirs?

Aurangzeb It is not only the Hindus who have said so. Jalaluddin Rumi also says so. aur What is the difference between Sufis and Kafirs? dara What does it matter whether those who have realized truth are Sufis or Kafirs? I do not worry about it. aur What cheek to say that only the Kafirs have realized truth! Roshanara, don’t forget this. This is sufficient evidence to brand him a Mulhid. dara

Dara laughs. Why do you laugh? dara Do you have to prove charges in order to kill me, who stand orphaned and defenceless before you? How did you kill Sarmad? How did you kill Murad? Kill me also the same way without bothering about your conscience. Don’t hesitate. Why have the farce o f an enquiry? aur I shall not kill you so quickly as all that, Dara. Do you know how many sleepless nights I have spent thinking of how to debate with you? dara Is this a compliment7If it is, I can’t understand if it is to you or to me. aur I did not mean it as a compliment. The words come from the depths of my soul. Do you know for how many years I have hated you? Remember when we were both our father’s sureties for good conduct with our grandfather. Everyone was charmed by your looks. No one would even look at me. You call yourself an orphan. Do you know I have always been an orphan? dara I did not realize that the wound in your heart was so deep. aur Do you know how fond I am of our father, even though he cast me off like a used slipper? dara I did not know that one shows one’s affection for one’s father by putting him in prison. aur I have sufficient reasons to kill our father. But I have not done so yet. Why does he hate me so, even though I am the son of the wife he loves beyond words?This is something I can’t understand. dara Shall I tell you why? aur Why? Dara He sees in you the direct enemy of his aesthetic sense. That is why. aur So it is aesthetic sense to empty the coffers of the kingdom in



the name of love o f beauty! If aesthetic sense means misappro­ priating the people’s money to satisfy one’s selfish whims without bothering about the people, 1 am proud that I have been the enemy of my father’s aesthetic sense. d a r a I do not want to sit in judgement as to what is right aesthetic sense and what is wrong aesthetic sense. I merely gave you the reason for his hatred of you. But what surprises me is your saying that, despite his hatred, you love him. a u r I cannot distinguish between my love and my hatred for him. When the hatred welled up in me, willing me to kill him, 1 would still wonder at the love I have for him. Whenever I felt like falling at his feet and praying for his forgiveness and placing him on the peacock throne as emperor, I would suddenly find myself remembering how much I hated him. It is because of this conflict between my love and my hatred that he is still alive. d a r a If you had killed him in the flush o f your victory, he would have thanked you. But now you are killing him by slow torture. Is it your love or hatred that makes you do this? a u r Who said I was torturing him? He is in a golden cage. He has all the privileges due to an emperor, with his dear daughter to wait upon him. r o s h a n Jahanara, Dara’s dear sister. d a r a I s it n ot torture that, after h avin g b rok en his dream , y o u have left him alive? a u r You m ean the black m arble mausoleum? D o y o u w a n t t o build another m ausoleum w ith the b on es o f the cou n tless thousands o f p e o p le d y in g o f h u n ger in this country? d a r a So yo u think g iv in g the p e o p le tw o squ are m eals a d a y is g o o d governm ent?

Is it good government not to provide even the minimum needs of food? Can one appreciate the beauty of the Taj on an empty stomach? My view is that it is enough to give the people food and clothing. They not need to think nor do they need any aesthetic sense. d a r a What then is the difference between man and beast, if man has no right to think and cannot appreciate beauty? r o s h a n The people do not need to think. When the govern m en t takes up that responsibility, why should they bother to think7 d a r a So you say that the people should barter their right to think for


Aurangzeb the food and clothing that their king gives them? aur The people must be prepared to pay any price to wipe out poverty from the country. If you give the dog the bone that it wants, why should it learn to bark? dara I.was right in thinking that what Hindustan deserves is a few Aurangzebs. roshan Only the Aurangzebs can save Hindustan. Not perverse theorists like you who cannot distinguish illusion from reality. aur Did you not say that you would establish a secular state? Was it not your intention to root out Islam from this country? roshan ( mocks) The Quran must be read out in the temples. Mosques should resound to the words of the Vedas. The Bible is common to all people. Did you not say all this? Was it not your plan to make atheists o f everyone in this country? aur You have supported even the nihilism of the Buddhists. This is sufficient to prove that you are an atheist. roshan Tell us, do you do your daily duties in the manner a pure Mussalman should? dara I shall never accept that only he who blindly observes mere ritual is a true Mussalman. aur ( shouts angrily) That means you do not accept the way of the Prophet, the messenger of God! dara Do not we hail the Prophet as the messenger of God for the very reason that he did not follow the ways of his forebears? roshan Do you claim to be a messenger o f God, then? dara Why should we conceive of God as being far away from us and in need o f a messenger to us when w e are all but embodiments o f God and when God is a manifestation of the limits o f our potential? aur ( angrily) Are you saying that the Prophet was not the messenger of God? dara All that 1 said was that there was no need to think of God as a being apart form us when it is in everyone of us to become God. The Prophet was not God’s messenger. He was God. You and I have the opportunity to become God ourselves like the Prophet. aur The opportunity to become God ourselves! Ha, ha! Cut this Mulhid into pieces, throw him to the vultures! What would have happened if he had come to power? It is Allah who has saved Hindustan from a great calamity. dara It remains to be seen if Hindustan has been saved or not.


You are not going to be alive to see it. d a k a (smiling) I should thank God for that. Or should I thank you? a u r (rages) Drag him away. Kill him and bring me his head. We shall hang it in a public place. Let everyone know what fate awaits Mulhids. r o s h a n You have condemned him without trial? Did we not decidea u r (cooling dowri) I am sorry, sister. I forgot it in my anger. Right Let a court o f enquiry consisting of Shaista Khan, Muhammad, Ameer Khan, Bahadur Khan and Khalilullah Khan go into his crimes. d a r a (interrupts) The way to dispense justice was to examine first whether what 1 did was a crime. When you, the king, have yourself named them ‘crimes’, what is the need for a court of enquiry? a u r This court o f enquiry is competent only to award punishment and not to find out if what you did was a crime or not. 1have no doubt whatever that you are a traitor to Islam. r o s h a n I shall not be on the court of enquiry. But I shall tell you what my verdict is. The minimum punishment we can give Dara is to hang him. d a r a (smiling) My sister, recommendation of the minimum sentence is proof o f the softness o f your heart. I have a doubt. Why have you spared your dear enemy Jahanara so far? a u r I am responsible for that. I bear Jahanara no ill will. r o s h a n The greatest punishment for Jahanara is that she is in the prison of your imprisoned father’s affection. d a r a (with a smile o f despair, to Aurangzeb) I have one request to make of you. It is certain now that I am going to die. But I beg of you not to turn down my request. I say this for the good of our dynasty. a u r What is your request7 d a r a Don’t destroy what Akbar built. a u r What Akbar built, (laughs) What Akbar made was the sound of the clinking of wine glasses and the tinkling o f dancing girls anklets. Jaswant Singh and Jai Singh, who betrayed you, they are the direct results o f Akbar's policies. There must be something seriously wrong about Hindu religious philosophy. Otherw ise, why should there be such a wide gap or even conflict between precept and practice? Why, century after century, have they aur

Aurangzeb betrayed each other to foreigners from outside and become slaves as a result? Why can’t you see the truth even after the Hindus have stabbed you in the back? I mustn’t destroy what Akbar built. Aren't you ashamed to say this? dara It was not only the Hindus who stabbed me in the back. aur All right. The Mussalmans also did so. Do you know why? You are a mulhid, mushriq, traitor to Islam. Their betrayal of you was the greatest service they could do to Islam. I shall start a new Mughal era. There will be no room in this country for anyone who runs after the fine arts or wine or women. The feasts and follies that the rich indulge in to establish their false prestige will not take place. I shall myself set an example of the new style of life. This is the path of Islam. The code of the Prophet. He who transgresses this, whoever he may be dara ( interrupts smiling) The minimum punishment for him will be hanging. aur Do you make fun of me? dara Oh no! Merely took the words out of your mouth. What made you think I was making fun o f you? If so, that means your sense of humour is not yet gone. If you retain your sense of humour still, I have not lost all hope for the future of Hindustan. aur I shall give you one last opportunity. If you will admit that all that you said and did was wrong and apologise publicly, I shall not kill you but shall let you off with imprisonment. roshan ( startled) What are you saying, Aurangzeb? If he agrees to what you say—

A loud noise is heard at a distance. It grows louder. aur

(in a rage) What is this noise? Enter Malik Jeevan, his clothes tom and in a terrible state. He falls at Aurangzeb’sfeet. What happened, Malik9

Malik is not able to speak. His head is downcast and he is silent. Enter two soldiers. (bows) A big crowd was chasing this gentleman. We tackled the crowd and chased it outside the fort. Your Highness. AUR Were you sleeping till the crowd entered the fort?




MODERN IN D IAN DRAMA s o ld ie r 2 We are told that when this gentleman went to the bazaar

the people suddenly attacked him. He lost his horse and started running. m a l ik (gets up) It is that traitor to Islam, that rascal standing there, that Dara who is responsible for this. The fools in the bazaar were angry that I had betrayed him. (Aurangzeb slaps him hard on the cheek. Malik is startled.) a u r (shouts at him) Don’t you dare talk disrespectfully o f members of the royal family in my presence! And 1 gave you the title of commander of a thousand horses! You couldn’t control even one horse! Get out o f my sight! Get out!

Silence fo r some time. Exeunt Malik and the soldiers. If this man (pointing to Dara) admits that all that he said was wrong, are you going to pardon him? d a r a You need have no such fear, sister. I regret nothing. Nor will I ask for pardon. But let me tell you this. A time will come when Aurangzeb will rue everything that he is doing now. a u r (angrily) What impudence! You curse me? d a r a It’s no curse, Aurangzeb. I have read history. a u r (howls) Drag this man away. I shall have no peace as long as he lives. d a r a (smiles) You have pronounced the sentence. roshan

The scene dissolves in darkness. After a few moments, light comes on again. Agra. Shahjahan is discovered seated, leaning on cushions on a diwan in the centre o f the stage. Jahanara is sitting near him. The light is dull. Is the construction of the black marble mausoleum over? Dara said that he would send word as soon as it was over. Why hasn’t he done so? j a h a n It is not finished yet. s h a h Why doesn’t Dara come and see me? Is he very busy with the affairs of the kingdom9 (Jahanara is silent.) Mumtaz keeps on calling to me. I must see the mahal before I go to her. (turns) Where is the Taj Mahal? Who has stolen it’ (Jahanara is silent.) Why are you silent? Are you tired of replying to my questions? j a h a n I Shall tell Dara. He will catch the people who stole the Taj Mahal. He will also finish the new one quickly. s h a h So you say that I should die! What wonderful children I have shah


Aurangzeb begot! One declares war against me. One tells me, ‘You will die.’ jahan I never said you will die! shah No. But the one who declares war against me was Aurangzeb, isn’t that so? Jahan Yes. shah If so, it was Aurangzeb who won. How is it Dara is building the black marble mausoleum? Didn’t he run away to Delhi? Why do you lie to me? jahan I never said that Dara was building the black marble mausoleum. You made yourself believe it. I did not contradict you only because I did not want to shatter your illusions. shah S o no one is building the mausoleum. Where are you going to bury me? You are going to throw my body into the Jamuna as the Hindus throw their dead into the Ganga? Do so right now. 1 shall go happily. jahan Aurangzeb is strong in his religious beliefs. He will do no such thing. shah Is Aurangzeb the emperor now? JAHAN Yes. shah Then what about me? jahan You are a prisoner. All the deference shown to you is that due to the emperor’s father, not to the emperor. shah Who is the emperor? jahan Aurangzeb. shah Who is older? Dara or Aurangzeb? Jah an Dara. shah Then he should have become the emperor. How did Aurangzeb become emperor? Tell Aurangzeb to hand over the kingdom to Dara.

Jahanara is silent. Why don’t you open your mouth? Will you or will you not tell Aurangzeb? J ahan All right, I shall tell him. shah Let Murad be in Gujarat. Shuja can govern Bengal. Aurangzeb can take the Deccan. Dare will have Delhi, Agra and Punjab. After all, he is my eldest son. What do you think o f my settlement’ Jahan It is wonderful. (,Silencefo r some time.) shah Has Dara started to build the black mausoleum?

fahanara is silent.


Why are you silent9 j a h a n If you keep on repeating the same question, what can I say? sh ah You must give the same reply. But you are giving me different answers every time. Tell me now, has Dara started! j a h a n ( Irritated) Why do you take my life out like this? Dara has been arrested. They are going to behead him. sh a h Who is going to behead Dara? ja h a n Aurangzeb. shah Why? j a h a n Aurangzeb has ascended the throne. He has hunted down Dara. He has accused him o f being a traitor to Islam and is going to behead him. sh a h If that is so, who is going to build the mausoleum o f my dreams’ ja h a n No one.

Shahjahanjumps up in anger. He claps his hands. No one comes. Take all my sons away and behead them. I am going to give the kingdom to you, my daughter. Why, wasn’t Razia queea? It is not new for women to rule in Hindustan. What do you say? Are you willing to be the ruler? ja h a n ( a little loudly) Dara is going to be killed. Doesn’t this news affect you in any way? sh ah Who is going to kill Dara? (Jahanara’sface shows her agony. She is silent.) Tell me, who is going to kill Dara? j a h a n You. sh ah Me? j a h a n Yes. You killed all of us as soon as we were bom. sh ah Then, then I have no children? I have killed all o f them? j a h a n ( getting up) Yes. You did kill all o f us. If you had been a normal father, would the four sons have grown up each in his own way? What have you done except Mumtaz’s name all day long? What interest have you had in us, except that we were born to your dear wife? It is because. I look like your wife that you show affection towards me, not because I am your daughter. It is this that came between Roshanara and me. The affection you showed to Dara because of your selfish motives came between Aurangzeb and him. You know why you were selfish? Your belief was that only he would carry out all your crazy schemes. But, nothing has turned out as you planned. When I sh a h

Aurangzeb tell you that Dara is going to be killed you just repeat, Which Dara? Why are they going to kill him? If you really loved him, would you merely be questioning me? You are not shamming now. This is your true self.

Shahjahan has understood nothing. He gazes blankly at her. I don’t understand a word o f what you say. ( He buries hisface in her lap. She runs herfingers through his hair.)



Thepeacock throne. Aurangzeb is discovered seated on the ground near it in very dull light. He is old. He looks tired. Silencefo r a while. The strains o f a flute are heard. Aurangzeb gets up startled. The music stops. He looks around. Then sits down. Lies down. Again the music. He gets up in a rage. The music does not stop. Aurangzeb puts his hand on his sword and snarls. a u r a n g z eb

Who in that? Come before me! I shall bury you and th e


The music stops. Aurangzeb gets up andivalks about. Again the music. It continues fo r a minute. Aurangzeb looks up. Sound offeminine laughter. Aurangzeb ispuzzled. Abul Musafir Mohieddin Mohammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir Badshah Kazi, ha, ha, ha, ha! ( the sound o f laughter)

fe m in in e v o ic e

Aurangzeb claps his hands to call his guards. ( laughing) No one will come, Your Highness. These is no use calling them. aur Who are you? You cannot be a ghost. 1 am a true Mussalman who does namaz five times a day. I do not believe in spirits. fem v o ic e (mockingly) Why are you frightened? O f course, you have cause to be afraid. How many people have you murdered? Shall I list the names? Dara, Murad, Shuja, Sulaiman, Shah Nawas Khan, Sultan Muhammad. aur (interrupting) Stop! Stop! Stop! fem v o ic e Abul Musafir Mohieddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur fem . v o ic e


Alamgir Badshah Kazi. How many people were sacrificed to this 1-o-n-g title? a u r Somebody is playing tricks. This cannot be a ghost. 1 do not believe in ghosts. fem v o ic e Oh, true Mussalman who does namaz five times a day, all those who oppose you are traitors to Islam, aren’t they? When the rulers who create a myth based on religion or ideology for the people to cling to start believing the myth themselves, it is then that a country’s misfortunes begin. a u r What myth? fem v o ic e Y o u are the religion and religion is you. Isn't it a myth to make people believe this? a u r You are talking politics. You can’t be a ghost. fem v o ic e Where do ghosts live? Not in the outside world. They are inside you. Ask your conscience. a u r There is no need to ask my conscience. (.Sits on the throne. Silence fo r a while.) I have been the subject o f nature’s discrimination. (A little loudly) But something has been cheating me from the beginning. (In a lower tone) I do not know what love is. No one taught me what it means. fem v o ic e It is indeed funny, sir, that you, who recite every day the Quran which teaches that God is full of love, complain that no one has taught you what love is!

Aurangzeb gets up. aur

Who are you? Don’t torment me.

Music. He looks round. The music stops. I am also one of those murdered by you, Badshah. a u r (agitated) It cannot be! fem v o ic e (laughs) I cannot be killed. You merely tried to kill me. but I did not die. a u r (looking all round him) Where are you? fem v o ic e Every where. I am the life breath of nature, o f the universe. I am the cascading music of the celestial spheres that shows every man individually the meaning of life. Sound came into being at the beginning o f the universe. It took shape then as the rhythm o f living beings. If you try to take out o f human life its rhythm and the music of its soul, what remains is a mere shell. See where your attempt to kill me has taken you. Why hasn’t the red stain fem v o ic e

Aurangzeb on your hands been washed off? auk ( murmurs) Music! Where are you? fem v o ic e In front of you. I used to be able to get through to your ears when you were young. But you drove me away. I am now alone and bemoaning my fate. ( Music fo r two minutes. Aurangzeb . silent and is obviously moved by the music.) aur Take shape before me, you formless voice, 1 would converse with you.

The dull light brightens at right. The sound o f anklets. A veiledfem ale form appears. Aurangzeb goes up to her and moves her veil aside with his sword. A beautiful girl. She laughs. Why do you laugh? girl When you came up to me with your sword, I thought you would try to kill me again. Do you need a sword to remove my veil? How can I help laughing at your savage habits? aur Who are you? Tell me the truth. girl ( laughing) You are still sceptical that there could be any music left in the recesses of your soul. Why were you carried away by the music just a little while ago? You cannot hereafter stop your ears against my voice. If you want to kill m e... .(she stops) aur Go on. Why have you stopped? girl You must kill yourself. aur ( barks at her) You dare suggest suicide to a true Mussalman? girl Why do you keep on repeating that you are a true Mussalman? Are you starting to have doubts about it, Badshah? aur 1have no doubt whatever about it. ( sits down) I have lived my life as the Quran lays down a true Mussalman should. ( a little more loudly) I am a true Mussalman. I have no doubt whatsoever about it. I have killed all the Mulhids who claimed to be Mussalmans but were insulting Islam. Dara! The apple of his father’s eye! How hard my father tried to give Dara the throne and me the gallows! But Dara’s head rolled and was hoisted up in the bazaar. Fool, he refused till the end to own that what he had said and done was wrong. (Silence.) I do not know what love is. Nobody taught it to me. girl You have been repeating this mantra ad nauseam. What is the result9You are alone with your sorrow, with no one to share it in this wide empire of yours.


Alone? True. I have no companion. I trust no one. My son is my first enemy. My daughter is in league with him. g ir l (smiling) Isn’t this what Shahjahan must also have said? a u r I didn’t hate my son, as my father hated me. Why then has he taken arms against me? I dreamed of one country, one language and one religion. My dream lies shattered. You are right. 1 am alone, a solitary. I stand at the top of the Himalayas and look all round me. What do I see but canyons everywhere?


She laughs. He turns on her angrily. You laugh at what I say? g ir l I stand at the top of the Himalayas and look all round me What do I see but canyons everywhere! What lovely poetry' Poetry was another of your enemies, like music. But apparently she is also coming back to you now.

She comes up behind him and uinds her arms round his neck. Aurangzeb shakes her off. aur

Why do you confuse me? Please g o away. Go away.

She goes. He walks slowly to thefront o f the stage. The light fades. The sound o f theflute is heard. He listens to it with a peaceful expression on his face. The music stops. He turns towards the west and goes doum on his knees. He closes his eyes. Oh, kind and compassionate Allah! All praise to you who rule the universe. Oh Lord who will dispense justice on the Day of Judgement. Show us the path o f rectitude. I came empty-handed into this world. I go carrying a heavy burden of sin. All the waters o f the Jamuna will not be enough to cleanse my hands of its bloodstains, (with feeling Certainly not enough. Who is responsible for this? Am I a religious fanatic7Or an orphan who yearned for love? I do not know. I have no near and dear other than You. What was it that induced me to kill so many people? (Silence.) It is not my responsibility to reason why. Only history can answer. The events o f my life flash before my eye. I am old, old, on the verge of extinction. I have myself become a part of history.

a u k a n g z e b 's v o ic e

His eyes remain closed. Darkness.

Mahapoor (The Deluge) SATISH ALEKAR Translation: Urmila Bhirdikar

ACT ONE As the curtain goes up, a ordinary house o f two or three rooms is seen. The usual decor. A cot with a huge pile o f mattresses. In the background, a door beside a window. Parallel to it, on the cyclorama, a veranda. Beyond that is the next house. On the wall some photographs o f deceased family members, also one o f Gandhi and one o f Sane Guruji,1with cotton garlands on them. Graffiti on the wall, something like Shyam’s Mother3 and Sa. Gu. On a peg, a skipping rope is hung. On another, a khadi-coat and a Gandhi-cap. A table, a new chair. It is early morning. The building is .slowly waking up. The sound o f the transistor increases. A young man o f20/22 enters banging the door open. Moves around with a lock in his hands. He is surprised tofind no one at home. A box containing marbles is on the table. He counts the marbles. Looks straight ahead. Sees the skipping rope. Takes it. Suddenly starts to jump rope. A middle aged man comes out o f the house infront. Theyoung man sees him and calls out "Neighbour, hey, neighbour The man starts. Comes near the window. The window does not have bars. The man peeps through the window and looks at the young man indignantly. (angrily) That’s right! Gondya, I have been living beside you since your birth and you still call out to me as neighbour! g o vin d a No offence. Your name, Balavantrao Chidgupkar is too long and I haven’t even uttered your father’s name. ch idgupkar Will you lose your tongue if you call me uncle? go vin d a Ok...Neighbour.. I mean Chidgupkar Uncle why is our house empty? chidgupkar H o w should I know? You are such a strange one. When did you arrive? govinda Just this minute. man


W h e r e w e r e y o u fo r th e last tw o days?

comes into the house, as he talks I am asking about my parents. chidgupkar Who else do you want to know about? govinda Who else lives here besides the three of us?



And you remember them now! g o v in d a That’s why I call you neighbour c h id g u p k a r Meaning? g o v in d a See, there is jaggery. c h id g u f k a r (confused) What the hell are you talking aboci; g o v in d a Why? What happened? c h id g u p k a r What do you mean? You ask me about your you call me neighbour, and now jaggery .... what do yoc mc-ir. jaggery? g o v in d a Let me finish, please. Say whatever you want later >: there is jaggery. c h id g u p k a r So there is. g o v in d a There is a lump o f it. c h id g u p k a r So there is. g o v in d a An ant sits on it. c h id g u p k a r Several do. g o v in d a Break the lump. c h id g u p k a r I did, I did. g o v in d a Take a bit of jaggery. T h e size o f a kidney stone. c h id g u p k a r (Shamefacedly) Take up my kidney stone early in the morning. g o v in d a I did not take it up. It is because you don’t take it out that it is troubling you. Why do you take a quack’s treatment instead of getting it operated? You might die one day. Surgery is easy. Even I can do it. c h id g u p k a r How impudent you are. Someone else would have slapped you. But 1 am m erely your bachelor neighbour Moreover, 1 have grown quite attached to you. g o v in d a Sure. I often feel that you have a daughter called Maya who also wants to attach herself to me. Says she wants to marry me. But I refuse. I say your father has a kidney stone. 1don’t want such a father-in-law. What will people say? Such a nice girl and look at the father! Excuses himself every two minutes c h jd g u pk a r

laughs What behaviour! g o v in d a What big kidney stone! c h id g u p k a r See! This is how you go on all the time. g o v in d a But I like your Maya. How she walks! How she talks! Slays me with her eyes! Why do you call her Maya? You should call

c h id g u p k a r

Mahapoor her Adi-Maya. I often feel that she is standing in the window, calling out to me. “Govinda, hey Govinda!”

Chidgupkar becomes uncomfortable. Has tears in his eyes. Hey, hey, what is this? What is this? Father-in-law, tears in your eyes? That's not good. If you have conjunctivitis, you must wear dark glasses! c h id g u p k a r If I had a daughter, I’d have made you my son-in-law. I’d have told your father. But I am a bachelor you. know. g o v in d a That’s great! You would give your Maya to me, and tell my father! What a crack-pot you are! c h id g u p k a r Leave it! I will always be alone. One should not build castles in the air! g o v in d a That’s right! My mother says that too! c h id g u p k a r So now you remember your mother! g o v in d a Really, Uncle! Where have the two gone? c h id g u p k a r On a honey-moon. g o v in d a Don’t be funny, Uncle. c h id g u p k a r What behaviour! You aren't home for two days, what should your parents do? g o v in d a (furious) I don’t want your sermon. I want the parents! c h id g u p k a r Sure you want your parents. You can buy them from the market. g o v in d a Black or white market7 c h id g u p k a r No, you find them in the cemetery. g o v in d a Y o u have hidden them somewhere, haven’t you? c h id g u p k a r Don’t be funny! g o v in d a Haven’t they left a note or something? c h id g u p k a r No ... I mean I don’t know.

Govinda rummages here and there fo r the note, finds it. Here it is! Reads Hmm... They have gone on a pilgrimage. They write that they will be back soon. c h id g u p k a r Had you behaved well, your parents would not have had to go on a pilgrimage so soon! g o v in d a I... What have I done? c h id g u p k a r Y o u should respect them. Or, at least, behave as i f you respect them. You are the only child. Because o f you r g o v in d a



churlishness your mother has got blood pressure. g o v in d a I don’t., behave churlishly. In fact I don’t behave with them in any way. I am always lost in my own thoughts. Because I am not a child anymore. I comb my hair, I wear my socks. 1am even ready to marry your Maya. She calls me all thé time. “Hey, Govinda!” (laughs) To tell you frankly, Uncle, I’m, sick of them. Still, I talk to them. I eat what they give, I study on their money. But then your Maya goes up to them and says, “Can I come and play in your house?” My parents are waiting for this. They dip her in the mango jam and send her to me. I can never see the real Maya under the jam. And you don’t like to see the real one. Now, if I stay away from home, who is to blame? Do please let her venture out of the house, so that I can come home. But no, you won’t let her grow up. c h id g u p k a r I don't quite understand what all you are saying! But I feel, just the same, that you should at least behave well on the face of it! Does it bother you so much? It’s OK, even if you are not convinced of it. g o v in d a H o w the hell would I be convinced? To be convinced I must understand what they say! I don't understand what my parents say. c h id g u p k a r Why, do they speak in a foreign language? g o v in d a N o , they speak like us, but I don’t understand them! It's as if I am caught in the film Koshish. c h id g u p k a r You are too het up! Think about it calmly. And wait for them, I’m going out. If you feel hungry, there’s something to eat in my house. In the usual place. g o v in d a Sure, I will eat with Maya when we feel hungry. c h id g u p k a r Which Maya? Look here 1 am not married and I don't have an illegitimate child. g o v in d a H o w can you say that, uncle? We have been neighbours for so many years and you say you don’t have Maya? That’s not right you know. Balvantrao you can go now. Both o f us will eat together. And I shan’t do anything to create another Maya or else the house will turn into a Maya bazaar.

Laughs. Chidgupkar goes off. Govinda moves about. Takes out the letterfrom hispocket. Reads it, andputs it back. Listens to the transistor. Finds a banana. Starts to eat it. Suddenly a Well Dressed Man enters and stands in front o f him.

Mahapoor Who are you? Do you want something? wdm You are Govind Raghunath Kavathekar. Age between 20 and 22. Studying in collage. Moderate progress in studies. You don’t get along with your parents. You like to take a walk in the morning. Correct? g o v in d a Yes, but who are you? wdm You will find out. I’ve come. g o v in d a I can see that. But why? wdm I’ve been sent. g o v in d a By whom? wdm You’ll find out soon. g o v in d a What for? wdm I’ve come to investigate. g o v in d a What? wdm No-one seems to be home. g o v in d a What d o yo u mean? wdm I mean you are alone at home. g o v in d a No, we are.. wdm I mean you are alone at the moment. g o v in d a One is always alone, sir. wdm Are you doing B.A. with Philosophy? g o v in d a Yes but. .sir... wdm I’m not ‘sir’. g o v in d a Then who are you? wdm You’ll find out. But 1 a m not a ch a rla ta n . g o v in d a Still... wdm

S o y o u a re a lo n e .

Yes. I am alone. wdm Any friends? g o vin d a None. wdm Girlfriends? g o vin d a None. wdm Wrong! Absolutely wrong! g o vinda I really don’t have girlfriends! vdm So this is your table. You’ve got quite a few things. You seem to be a collector. Marbles, pencils, this eraser coated with hair-oil, a slate, the number of marbles is exactly thirteen... go vinda In short, I keep my childhood safe in this drawer, Mr Magician.

g o v in d a


I’m not a magician! g o v in d a Why not? You’re elegantly dressed, you entered my house. Rattled off everything about myself. But did not introduce yourself. You say you are not a charlatan, what should 1 call you thep? Randhir Kapoor? w d m Look here.. g o v in d a What to eat? Offers a banana. want to eat9 This banana with spotted skin? w d m No I don’t want it. g o v in d a I would have offered you a banana milk-shake, but the milk’s over. And.. w d m And you can’t even get it from Chidgupkar because he isn’t home. Isn’t that so? g o v in d a Who are you? What business do you have with me? Look here, I like to be alone. w d m And you also like idlis and jumping rope. And of course early morning walks. g o v in d a Who gave you this information? Are you a C id or what? w d m For a moment think that I’m a C id . In fact I’ve come tp know what’s going on in your mind. All the information you give will be kept confidential. So, speak frankly and truly. In fact your mind is churning. The waves of thought are swelling. And that’s why there are deep whirlpools in the flow of thoughts! You arc getting more and more restless. You are nervous. Something awful has happened. So, tell me now... g o v in d a You describe it so colourfully and vividly, I feel as if Sane Guruji is here! Like "Ram has come, Rahim has come, Kasim has come, Dagadu’s mother’s ill so he hasn’t." So you have come to me. Why? My restlessness is my Own, whatever is going to happen is mine alone. What have you got to do with it? w d m Attempts to avoid the impending accident. g o v in d a That accident is inevitable. Or it might have already taken place. I don’t know. w d m I’ve come to make inquiries precisely about that. That’s why I'm asking questions. g o v in d a I’ll eat a banana. Would you like one? w d m N o . Think well before answering. I am not in a hurry. Only Tell the truth. For that will relieve you and the impending accident will be avoided. wdm

Mahapoor What accident7 Who’s going to avoid it7 1 don’t drive a vehicle. I don’t have even a bicycle. wdm O.K. We will come to know about the accident only after it has Taken place. Now, Question 1: Where were you for the last two days? question 2: Where are your parents? g o v in d a I'll answer your second question first. My parents have gone on a pilgrimage. wdm What pilgrimage? g o v in d a 1 don’t know. They have left a note which says that. wdm For the moment, we will assume that your parents have gone on a pilgrimage. Now the first question. Where were you... g o v in d a Last two days I was wandering about. wdm Did you come home? g o v in d a At some odd hours. wdm Were your parents here then? g o v in d a Maybe, 1 have no idea. I returned at odd hours. Mostly in the night. They might have been sleeping. wdm When did you last see them? g o v in d a Two days ago. wdm Did they go on the pilgrimage two days ago, or sometime between then and now? g o v in d a Don’t know. I just found this note. wdm What time were you going out7 g o v in d a Early mornings. wdm What for? g o v in d a To take a walk. wdm When would you finish your walk? g o vin d a Late nights. wdm Bunking from college? g o vin d a It’s not you who pays my fees. wdm It’s not the question o f fees. It’s the question o f your whereabouts. What did you do when you were out o f the house? go vinda I ate ice-cream. wdm Did you eat ice-cream continuously for two days? govinda My throat is not an ice-factory. First 1 ate an ice-cream. wdm And later? govinda Bhel-puri. g o vin d a


S o y o u w e r e h o g g in g a ll th e tim e .


Y o u asked m e a b o u t later. T h e ea rlier a n sw er w a s about

eatables. S o I thought p e rh a p s y o u w e r e a nutritionist.


I’m asking what did you do rest of the day? g o v in d a I studied. w d m Studied the whole day? Had you studied regularly, you wouldn’t have flunked in some papers in your B.A. Those letters from college wouldn’t have been so frequent. g o v in d a Y o u know that too? That's the limit! What do you know about our Chidgupkar? w d m He is your neighbour and has a kidney stone. g o v in d a Hell! This kidney-stone of our Chidgupkar had turned into the Rock of Gibraltar! You know this too! w d m So tell me what you did? g o v in d a I left home early in the morning, whistled, went back to the front road. On the way... w d m You came across your girlfriend’s house. g o v in d a Correct. w d m But earlier you said you didn’t have any girlfriends! g o v in d a Yes, that’s right, I call the relation between her and me ‘girl-friendship’ so that you would understand. w d m Meaning? I don’t understand. g o v in d a Look here, what is this?


Holds up the banana. It’s a banana. g o v in d a On what basis? w d m Because it’s called a banana. g o v in d a Wrong! When the word banana is uttered, a vivid picture— I say vivid— comes to mind. This picture is one and the same in everyone’s mind. And, this thing that I am holding uncannily resembles that mental picture. So this a banana. wdm I understand. Because you studied Logic in Junior BA. g o v in d a Yes, but it got carried forward to T Y B A. That’s why I uttered the word ‘girlfriend’, so that you would understand it Because the image o f the girlfriend in your mind might be different but it would still be similar to the image o f the girlfriend in common people’s mind. I do not have the same image in my mind, still I used the word in order to avoid confusion. Actually speaking I don’t have anyone. I am restless If we decide to speak in idiomatic language, I am a dollop o f butter or a layer of oil in water. In modem language I am a test-tube baby. Or in wdm

Mahapoor the rural language I am an Austalian bull in the artificial insemination centre. w d m Your father Raghunath Datto Kavathekar and mother Anasuya, who you say have gone on a pilgrimage, are freedom fighters. They participated in Gandhi’s Quit India Movement in 1942. They went to jail. Tell me was it a love marriage? g o v in d a Sorry sir. I was not present at that wedding or I would have told you about it. When I say I was not present, actually 1 was. But in two searate parts. My parent’s summit meeting on whether the world should own me or not had not taken place yet. But there must have been a mess up on the wedding night. Adam and Eve reached Dada’s ashram, beating the drum. They insisted that they must beget me....

While he is saying this the stage darkens. Music suitable to the 1940's begins. Lights change Well Dressed Man disappears. Govinda puts on the Gandhi cap and the khadi coat. A young woman enters. She is wearing a khadi saree, a puffed sleeves’ blouse, a mangalsutra, a large bindi and a garland made o f cotton thread around her neck. She carries a glass fu ll o f milk. She is humming the tune o f a 1940’sfilm-song. Govinda listens to the song intently, then starts speaking. Spot on them. Anasuya it is not good to sing such vulgar songs at such an auspicious and noble moment. y o u n g w o m a n Oh you are here Raghunath. I didn’t notice. g o v in d a Y o u look tired. Because of the day’s work. We observed the cleanliness day on occasion of our wedding. y o u n g w o m a n I feel scared, Raghunath. g o v in d a Silly girl. young w o m a n Say what you will, Raghunath, but dada should have been her today, Dada should have been here. g o vin d a We couldn’t help it. I have only one regret today, that in spite o f our efforts Dada could not come. It was very important to have got his blessings, Anasuya, very important. It is because of his inspiration that w e are tied together with the sacred threads o f matrimony. young w o m a n We tried everything. The secretary of the ashram went to see the jailor so many times. He pleaded with him to

g o v in d a


release Dada at least for the auspicious moment o f the wedding. His only daughter was getting married today. But in vain. My mother died in the plague and the upright father remained behind bars. 1... I have been orphaned, Raghunath, I’ve been orphaned. g o v i n d a Orphaned? Silly girl, what will Dada say? The daughter of an upright Idealist Renouncer cries? We have to look after the ashram now. We might even have to endure imprisonment. But in our non-violent way. The responsibility o f the whole ashram lies on us, Anu. y o u n g w o m a n ( delighted) Did you call me Anu, Raghunath? g o v i n d a Yes, Anu, my Anu...

both sigh heavily Do you remember when I first called you Raghunath? g o v i n d a Yes I remember everything. A path goes up the hill from the bakula garden behind the ashram. We met there for the first time. And when I expressed my feelings about you, then, I heard you call my name. Anu, your face was flushed with a shy happiness, your eyes were filled with tears of delight. I wiped those tears with my own hand, Anu, with this finger. How could I forget that incident, Anu, how could I forget that? y o u n g w o m a n We took two vows at that time, one of our eternal love, and the other o f service to our nation. g o v i n d a And how you got flustered at the time o f spinning, do you remember? y o u n g w o m a n How could I forget? I was so restless from the moment we took the vows. In the evening, the thread kept snapping. Silly me, I couldn’t concentrate, my eyes kept wandering. They were looking for you. At that very moment, you entered the ashram, riding a bicycle after distributing the bulletins. With utmost happiness I whispered, “Raghunath!” Suddenly noticed Dada, he was looking at me, smiling softly. As if he had realised everything. g o v i n d a And the next day, he called both o f us. He fixed our marriage. He taught us his new ideas along with the thought of patriotism. The idea of a small family. He put this very modem idea before us, with great determination. y o u n g w o m a n In the ashram the news spread like fire. I felt so shy. Once I was sitting along in the hut, when Girija came. I said. “Girija, what is it?" She said, someone has sent the bobbins. You voung w om an

Mahapoor know, the sisiers in the asnram called you bobbin. g o v in d a And my brothers in the ashram called you spindle, “Hey spindle!" yo u n g w o m a n Hey, bobbin...

Both laugh a little. The moment for which we waited with bated breath is here at last. Anu, the perfect harmony of our minds will be applauded by our bodies. Anu, the melody of our married life will reach its climax. y o u n g w o m a n H o w silly o f me, please drink this milk. The milk of Dada’s pet goat. g o v in d a That won’t do. We must both drink it together. g o v in d a

both drink the milk I tell you one thing Anu, I won’t tolerate you talking to Jadhav. y o u n g w o m a n Why? He’s your childhood friend. g o v in d a True. But he belongs to the extremist group. That is not our path. What if Dada comes to know of it? y o u n g w o m a n Alright, as you wish. g o v in d a I wish only one thing before we begin. I feel that we must pray to Mother India, who brought us together. The moment when our Mother is freed from the British chains will be the happiest moment. So, sing, Anu, sing Dada’s favourite song. Let us sing it together.

Both sing a patriotic song together, something like 'Let us free India’. March-like music begins. The Young Woman disappears. The Well Dressed Man is smiling mischievously. Govinda returns the coat and the cap to thepeg, and begins to speak In this way there was a mess-up on the wedding-night o f my freedom-fighter father, Raghunath Datto Kavathekar, and my mother, Mrs. Anasuya Raghunath Kavathekar. The drums started to beat, Adam and Eve began to claim me, otherwise the marriage would be liquidated. An heir is no small matter, he must be gotten. The lamp must be lit. Thus my parents began vent onto each other their anger against the British. They celebrated their first night by first saying 'Chale Jao!’ to each other, and then saying together, ‘Chalo Dilli!’ To get a son in the first attempt is like

g o v in d a


getting an ownership flat free. In this way I became the torch of my parents’ Union. w d m Hmm... So your parents were freedom fighters. g o v in d a They still are. w d m Where? g o v in d a I told you they have gone on a pilgrimage. w d m So, two day’s back you left home. Went on walking ahead without thinking o f your parents. You crossed a block and went straight ahead without stumbling because you were used to it. The sky was clear. Early morning chill in the air. A long winding creeper and beside it, a lamp-post. Spot on two o f them. g o v in d a No Sir, it was a tubelight. Gives too much light. Totally unnecessary. w d m And then? g o v in d a And then... The creeper... The small house. The fragrance of jasmine. That.. . That house . . . so familiar . .. w d m Then. . . Knock on the door. g o v in d a I went up the creeper. I went in from the window.

As he speaks, Govinda goes near the window in the verandah. The Well Dressed Man goes out o f sight. They whisper in dark. And then Govinda starts to pretend that his house is his girl-friend’s house. Then... Then what happened? g o v in d a She was asleep. w d m Where? g o v in d a In this b ed ... like this. w d m Whose house is this? g o v in d a Mine. w d m Parents? g o v in d a Pilgrimage. w d m This house? g o v in d a Mine w d m Who’s sleeping there? g o v in d a She is sleeping . . . w d m Your friend? g o v in d a Yes, she is sleeping. It’s early morning. It’s quite cold outside. w d m You say this is your house. How can she be sleeping here? wdm

Mahapoor This house is mine, and hers too. Shh. . . She's asleep. I come in from the window.


Govinda enters from the window. On the bed, the same young woman is sleeping. Govinda suddenly jumps and tickles her. She’s about to scream. Govinda holds her hand. She is shocked to see him. She takes away her hand coyly. You? How you scared me! Everyone is home. What if my father had woken up? Is this any way to come in? Why are you here? go vin da Me? Where have I come? young w o m a n Is this your ghost, then? g o v in d a Knock! Knock! Who’s there? Gondya! Gondya who? Wont’ya talk to me? young w o m a n Enough, Gondya! My parents will wake up. Why have you come so early in the morning like a ghost? What do you want’ go vinda My dear, it’s been said "The donor gives with thousand hands, it’s me who can’t receive"! What can I ask from you? I wanted to look at you for the last time, before going away. So I came. young w o m a n Don’t be funny. govinda Why did someone come to my house when I was away? And went away without leaving a message? I came to find that out. So I came early in the morning. young w o m a n Yes, I had been to your house. I wanted to give you an invitation. govinda Invitation for what? young w o m a n ( laughs) As if you don’t know! govinda I don’t really, I swear! If you would allow me, I am ready to put my hand on your head and swear. young w o m a n Hey, what are you doing? Coming here like a thief, so early in the morning? Go away. What will my father say if he sees you? govinda Your father will say, ‘The mare is spoilt before she ran the race'. Who’s wedding invitation? young w o m a n (steadily) I brought.. .My friend’s wedding invitation. govinda What does ‘he* do? young w o m a n Who’s ‘he’? govinda The one in whose name you will apply sindur? young w o m a n


(mischievously) I don’t know. It’s my friend who’s getting married. g o v in d a Friend, friend, a friend... Then why didn’t the bitch go to my house herself?

young w om an

laughs like a villain . young w om an

Don’t be naughty. She couldn’t come because she is

ill. ( laughs) She’s ill, and still is getting married? Silly. If she is marrying at all, why not when healthy? Why marry like a corpse? One o f my friends married when he had jaundice. His wife looked yellow all the time, sometimes less yellow, sometimes more yellow, but always yellow. One couldn’t, even ask her to apply turmeric and become fair and lovely! Tell your friend, it won’t do. The husband will get into trouble. y o u n g w o m a n Don’t talk rot. We are friends. g o v in d a Who are? She and you or she and I? y o u n g w o m a n H o w should I know? g o v in d a Why shouldn’t you? You know everything. You’ve studied Geography in school, History and Ardhamagadhi for BA*. . y o u n g w o m a n Oh yes, I am a Who’s Who! Don’t speak so loudly, Gondya, they’ll wake up. g o v in d a All well, all well! Now they won’t wake up. They'll think it’s the gurkha on the beat Hey, but I can’t knit like him. Will you teach me? y o u n g w o m a n First, tell me why you are here. Look here, the marriage is fixed, and there’s no going back on it. What do you say? g o v in d a Why didn’t she come to my house? y o u n g w o m a n Who? g o v in d a She, who’s getting married. y o u n g w o m a n She didn’t have time. g o v in d a Oh, she didn't have time, did she? That can’t be. Didn't she have time because she fell ill, or didn’t she have time to fall ill, and so she couldn’t give the invitations herself? Or it might be, that the invitations were so anaemic that she didn’t have time. But go and tell her, her—that one who’s getting married— that there’s a curse on her wedding. A bachelor’s curse. This wedding will not take place without problems. Never, never. YOUNG WOMAN Don’t talk rot, Gondya! g o v in d a


Mahapoor Oh damn it' yo u ng w o m a n Don’t feel so bad. g o v in d a Shut up! You are not getting married, are you? yo u n g w o m a n Why are you so furious? I know your problem. You love my friend. g o v in d a Did ants swallow the mountain Meru? Did the sea-fire drink up the water? When everyone drinks what they want to drink, what should I do? Die o f thirst? You are a trivial young man, Govinda. Dependent on parents. You talk of sex, when, in the auspicious time of the morning, you should be exercising to build up the body. You sit on a woman’s bed, when you should be bathing and praying to God. Oh perish, perish! Beware, child, you will live a cursed life . . . Beware, time is calling you. And if you are too tired, drink some water. g o vin d a

Suddenly the Well Dressed Man’s hand appears, holding a glassful o f water. Govinda takes it, drinks the water and returns the glass. The Well Dressed Man disappears. g o v in d a

N o w th ere’s n oth ing else that I can do.

gets up and paces up and down. What is this? What madness is this? g o v in d a Do ‘not interrupt me. I have to get down to work. Now that there is the invitation, I must get it done quickly.

young w o m a n

Govinda mimes preparing fo r a surgery. Horrifying music begins. Come on. y o u n g w o m a n Where? Don’t look at me like that. g o v in d a Get onto the table. y o u n g w o m a n Why? g o v in d a I want to look. g o v in d a

young w o m a n

A t w h at’

Your belly. y o u n g w o m a n What nonsense, Gondya? g o v in d a Really, I want to look at your belly. y o u n g w o m a n Don’t be silly. g o v in d a You are getting married, you told me that your friend was my beloved. Now I must look at your belly. I must run the razor on your fair skin and compose a new invitation with the blood. g o v in d a


In the freedom struggle o f 1942, my parents wrote slogans with their blood. And they got independence. I am going to start the bloody revolution o f 1975, Sulu. We must get our independence. The alien rule o f our friendship must be overthrown. Get ready, Sulabha, people are waiting. The invitation must be composed. s u la b h a Are you out o f your mind, Gondya? It's my friend who’s getting married, not me. She is your beloved, not me. g o v in d a Y o u brought the invitation, she didn’t have tune. See nothing but your belly. Dronacharya asked Arjun, “Partha, what do you see on the tree?" Arjun said, “The eye of the parrot." Dronacharya said, “Come on then, shoot it" Arjun saw the eye o f the parrot, and I see the belly. 1must cut it open so that I can tell her husband, young man, I have seen the much desired body o f your wife. Not only from outside, but also from the inside. So I am more qualified than you! Still, you get the first chance, because you are the husband. So I say, even if I cut open the belly, you may cremate her. Ultimately, “Ram naam satya hai!”5 s u la b h a Y o u . . . have gone crazy . . . g o v in d a Hey, why should I be crazy, umm? Why am I crazy? You give an invitation, but refuse get your belly cut open, how can that be? Look everything if for the sake of the belly. Still, the belly must be cut open before it recedes. I must take the intestines out and fill my eyes with the female system. s u la b h a Don’t talk crazy. g o v in d a Don’t give invitations like crazy. Don’t sulk, don’t laugh, don’t sit in a comer. Don’t raise your hands. Don’t do anything that will reveal your belly. Because the time has come to break our non-existent, or maybe a very indistinct tie. For that the small strip o f your belly revealed under your blouse is enough for me. The indistinct tie passes through the womb, the sword must reach there. s u la b h a Yes are cruel, Gondya. g o v in d a Y o u are Karmaikar ma’am. su la b h a Hey!

Laughs, the tension is somewhat released. Why did you suddenly remember Karmaikar ma’am? How she used to beat us up! How she flared up when w e sat on the same bench in the ninth standard! Boys and girls shouldn’t sit

Mahapoor on the same bench, it seems. And she herself remained an old maid. g o v i n d a There isn’t a bench here, Sulu. Or we would have sat on it. There is this bed here, but you won’t like sitting on it, for, I haven’t come to sit.

Sulabha is trying to divert his attention. There were so many tamarind trees in our school! Next door, a bakery. In the afternoons, the smell of baking used to fill the school. And there were two herons, do you remember? g o v in d a Rabbits too, black and white. s u la b h a They always sent us to collect tamarinds from under the tree. And Sri used to take them all away. g o v in d a Y o u shouldn’t talk of tamarinds, Sulu! s u la b h a Why not? g o v in d a If a tamarind falls into your belly, while talking o f it, won’t it bum? su labh a Look here, why are you so angry? What are you talking about9Do you understand it yourself? Or is it last night’s hangover? g o v in d a I will not promise to give up drinking, for it is not your right. s u ia b h a Listen, who’s getting married? g o v in d a My beloved. s u ia b h a That’s right Is your friend getting married? s u lab h a

Govinda is silent. Say something, why are you quiet9 Your beloved is getting married, why are you angry with me? Listen to me, be a good boy, aren’t you my old friend? Aren’t our fathers friends? g o v in d a Aren’t you and I friends? sulabha We are friends since childhood. g o v in d a Who ate the bit o f tamarind? sulabha A boy’s teeth soured. g o v in d a A girl kept a caterpillar in a matchbox. sulabha And Gondya, the grass-blades for Ganesha? A bunch o f twenty one, and if there are less, you’ll get a punch. g o vin d a Ever-beating Karmalkar ma’am. suiabha The river near the school flooded in the monsoons. g o vin d a Sulu, Sulu, there's so much water in the river, want to come and look?



Wait, Gondya, I’ll tell mother and come with you. g o v in d a What do you mean tell? Stupid, will she let you come? Come, quickly, run. Both on the river bank, lots o f water in the river.

s u la b h a

The sound o f roaring water. Sulu, Sulu, shall 1 jump in? s u la b h a Gondya.. . Her scream echoes. g o v in d a My Sulu is flustered. My Sulu’s eyes brim with water. Locks of hair on salty cheeks. A red ribbon on one plait, on the other a string o f wool, Sulu’s frock is on her eyes, the lace o f her knickers on her knees.

Both come to. Silence. Suddenly Govinda jumps up and starts to do sit-ups. ( laughs) What are you doing now? Is this a gym? Slow down or mud will fall on the floor below. What exactly are you doing? g o v in d a I am warming up. I’ve to perform such a major surgery. s u ia b h a Don’t be silly. It won’t do to think in this way, Gondya. Isn’t your beloved getting married? g o v in d a Yes. s u la b h a Then why are you angry with me? g o v in d a Why? According to the latest news bulletin she and you are the same persons. You witch, do you think I don’t know you? Silly wench. su la b h a False, utterly false. I have nothing to do with this, i jusi brought her message. g o v in d a Cheating me? Wait, I’ll go and bring my beloved here. s u ia b h a Don’t. Don’t bring her here. g o v in d a Why not? su la b h a What do mean why not’ Let her be happy. She is getting married in a week. g o v in d a Not possible. Since you are not letting me go, you and she must be the same person. su la b h a N o . really. Even if she is getting married, I am still here. I like you. We grew up together. How can I forget you? g o v in d a (sings) “You’ll forget me when I go away". s u la b h a



Mahapoor You like me, don’t you? Then do one thing. You’ll have to marry me, now. Now, this minute. s u l a b h a I can’t marry. How shall I tell you? I have leucoderma. g o v in d a It’ll do. You’ll give birth to giraffes and the house will turn into Africa. Silly girl, your children will be called Patrice Lumumba or Sonyo Kenyata. s u l a b h a There is a suspicion of cancer. g o vin d a Why only cancer? You’ll do dead. I am only interested in your belly. sulabha How shall I tell you? You know . . . marriage... go v in d a Did you take marriage seriously? It's only an excuse to cut open your belly. Wife or beloved, the surgery has to be performed. Because otherwise there won’t be a intense body contact, and without it the Ue passing through the womb will not break. Our bodies must come in contact, for I am a dog; and then it must break too, for you are a bitch. So come. Do not waste Ume. Before getting up on anything, get up on the table. This radiant razor, my dear, is waiting for your belly. sulabha ( crying) Don’t do it. My father will wake up. I beg of you. Our friendship is intact. Isn’t friendship acceptable to you? At least keep our friendship in mind. govinda No, I shan’t. Because I can’t keep anything. My dear, this radiant razor is waiting for your belly. It will make a red incision on the belly. On both sides of the incision the flesh is visible. Sometimes the fountain of blood flowers up or sometimes your scream is heard. But the razor goes on.

The young woman’s scream is heard. Hey, hey, what’s this, why is the razor stuck? Why doesn’t it move? Something’s wrong with the surgery. sulabha The razor’s stuck in my intestine. govinda Come, come, pull the intestine out. Draw all the 36 feet of it, and fly it like a kite. Who’s there? Come here, tell them not to discriminate between big and small intestine. Draw it out before the kite is entangled. This is great fun. The bride’s intestine has come out before she is married. Must be God’s miracle. She’s getting married in a week, and what do you see in the morning, the bride standing with her intestines in her hands. My beloved stands girdled with all 36 feet o f intestine, like a meditating penitent. Now, in place o f the garland, she will put her intestine


around the groom’s neck. And the groom will beat the earth thinking it a snake. Tell him to learn to play pipe and perform the Indian rope trick with the intestine. He’ll mint money.

Govinda laughs. Suddenly, the sound o f siren is heard. The sound grows. A bell rings, lights dim. Alas, it’s a mess. What’s this in the middle o f a surgery? The voltage is going down. How I can put the intestine back now? 1 still have to reach the womb. I’m caught, like Abhimanyu4 Someone’s here . . .

The sound reaches its loudest. Sulabha disappears dancing. Lights come back. The WellDressed Man is clapping. Govinda looksfrightened. Great, Govinda, you described it so vividly! g o v i n d a Described? I told you what happened. w d m So, In short, you murdered a girl in the morning. The girl who was your dearest friend and beloved. g o v i n d a Wrong! I only drew her intestine out. Then the siren sounded, I thought it was the police. w d m Do you mean to say, that the girl called Sulabha is still alive, in such a condition? g o v i n d a Yes. She’s getting married next week. w d m That’s impossible. It’s only your mind’s trick. g o v i n d a How can I convince you? I’m telling you earnestly, she’s not dead. I’ve not murdered her. w d m Then? What happened next? g o v i n d a The siren started wailing. I thought the police had come. Sulu screamed, and then her father came in. 1 hid under the bed, and then quickly slipped through the window. Her father was saying . .. wdm

The stage darkens. Govinda and the Well Dressed Man disappear. Sulu's aged father is pacing up and down restlessly. Sulu is lying on the bed, pale and tired. I had told you not to meet him. If you are friends with grown up boys.... This is only to be expected. s u l a b h a I didn’t go meet him. He came here. Early in the morning. f a t h e r And were you snoring? When he drew this out? s u l a b h a I thought it was fun fath er

Mahapoor Fun? He drew out the whole digestive system and you call it fun? We had fun and had you! Now what shall I tell the groom’s family? That our daughter's intestine has come out? Invitations have been sent out. You are to be married next week. After this .. ,.this happened... mother’s refusing to eat. She won’t have food she says. Go tell her. Tell her to eat something. Tell her not to make foolish vows, or hers will come out too. su labh a I’ll tell her, but I don’t think she will listen. She’s a proud woman. father Then go to hell. father

Sulabha goes in. What all do we have to face now? This means prayers, worships and fasting.

Suddenly a neighbour enters. How’s the preparation going? The building is full of delicious smells. father (scared) Smell? What smell? n e ig h b o u r The feast is being prepared, isn’t it? father Oh yes... yes... All those fried things... n e ig h b o u r Where’s Sulabha? father She’s a little ill. Stomach upset. So many bridal showers.... n e ig h b o u r Good you reminded me! When will you come to our house? Cdme in the morning for tea, we’ll fix up then. father No! I mean my God! I’ll ask her. Hey, look who’s here! ne ig h b o u r

Sulabha enters. She has covered up her belly with her saree. Who? Oh. .. Daji Kaka! When did you come? father . He’s asking when we would go to his house for tea. sulabha I don’t think it’s possible. I have so many invitations. But I can send my intestine. Will it do? sulabha

Daji Kaka is quite shocked. Daji I . . . I don’t quite understand what she’s saying.

Get in, will you? sulabha Really, Daji Kaka. It’s quite long. 36 feet. But it won't go inside. How many feet I should send? daji Oh God . . . Is it really the intestine? Pinch me! sulabha It really has come out. You can touch it, it won’t bite. father


She goes near him, he runs. Father tries to stop them. daji

How can I touch it, I’m a vegetarian!

Daji runs away. Sulu, you idiot, get inside! And draw your saree over it. How many times should 1 tell you not to show it? People get frightened. We have got used to it now . . .

f a th e r

There is a knock on the door. Oh god, who is it now, our son-in-law? s u la b h a It must be him. He’d said he’d come by today. I forgot to tell you. father (Abjectly) Come in, come in please, Vasanta Raje. We were waiting for your arrival.

Govinda dressed up as Vasanta Raje comes in. He's dressed in a long coat and headgear. He behaves like a prince. We had said we would arrive at this hour. We intend to visit our family temple. The buggy is waiting. Please come. You look pale today . . . We hope we have not been amiss. Why this estrangement? You may shift the saree from your belly.

v a s a n t a raje

Father goes in. Raje, I feel shy . . . v a s a n t a raje Hmm. . . You are a picture o f modesty. This will not do. We are going to the temple. It’s quite dark inside. You may reveal your belly and come. s u l a b h a I say I’m not feeling very well today. v a s a n t a raje Should we send for our doctor? s u l a b h a No, it’s not very serious. But will you keep it a secret v a s a n t a raje You are so naughty! So absent-minded. And how would I tell anyone? Every word you speak will be cherished in the heart of hearts. s u la b h a Then please listen. You know what has happened? My intestine has come out. v a s a n t a raje Y o u are only mocking us eh, naughty. s u la b h a No. really, it has come out. Like the tongue comes out See, it won’t go in. It is a good thirty six feet long. I got up this morning and stumbled on it. I was so scared. I thought it was a snake. But I’ll get used to it gradually.

sulabh a

Mahapoor We are telling you clearly. Nothing like this has ever happened in our family. No woman in our family has had anything out like this, except her belly. We are telling you finally and firmly, we can not accept a girl with her intestine out: sulabha (falling at hisfeet) Please do not do this Raje, I beg o f you. I will make you happy. I plead you accept me, O accept me. vasanta raje (Twitching his leg like a villain.) No. Never, never. Alas what have we done? Why did you deceive us in this way? sulabha 1 have not deceived you, Raje. My belly was alright at the time o f engagement. Please give me some time. But do not break our engagement. vasan t raje Y o u want time? Alright. I f your intestine does not go in by sunrise tomorrow, our engagement stands broken. sulabha Raje vasanta raje

Falls at his feet. Vasanta Raje goes away in the manner of a mighty villain. Father comes in. What happened? What did he say? sulabha You heard. father Yes . . . but. . . s u la b h a Why do you want me to repeat it? Did mother eat something? father She won’t even drink water. sulabha Oh hell. father That one had come. sulabha Who? father Umakant Khandekar. He wanted to see you. But I told him our son-in-law is here, she won’t see anyone. sulabha Why had he come here? Does his school have a holiday today?



N o its not a holiday. But he is teach ing the n e w syllabus in


What should I do then? father He had to teach the digestive system today. SULABHA So? father He said... now that it’s out, would Sulu come to our class. I could show it to my students. sulabha Who told him? father Daji kaka has told everyone in the building. I left a bucket on a rope to draw some water, immediately a crowd gathered saying sulabha


“It’s here, the intestine is here”. Umakant stood there with a ruler in his hand, measuring its length. He began explaining the digestive system to the crowd. I tried to tell them it was only a rope, but no one would listen. Mrs Nadkami even said “Sulabha sure is a girl with hidden secrets". It is the limit, Sulabha. We can’t live here anymore.

happily. He’s here! s u l a b h a Who’s here? I can't bear it. What is mother doing? father She has gone crazy. She is sitting with her eyes shut, praying . . . and .. s u l a b h a And what7 fath e r She has put on my dark glasses so she won’t see the intestine. I asked her why she was wearing the dark glasses. She said she couldn’t bear to see the red colour, and she couldn’t shut her eyes for long.

Someone calling o u tnSalem misri, Safed misri". The sound goes on becoming louder. Here he is! s u l a b h a Who is it? I feel tired. father The medicine man is here. s u l a b h a What medicine man. father The one who comes to our building often. I’ll call him. s u l a b h a N o . Don’t call him first. If he can’t do anything w e have to call a doctor anyway. This one will not cost that much.

The sound is much louder. Father goes out and comes back with the Medicine man. It is o f course Govinda: in the guise o f a Medicine Man. Come in, come in please. m m No time, what’s it? f ath e r (Quite confused. Can’t speakfluently.) You know our belly. m m Gas trouble? fath e r N o , no. Some other trouble. You know the int.e..stine... m m Skin? Did you say skin? Do you have gonorrhoea? fath e r No, no. you know my daughter. .. her intestine has come out... m m What do you mean? fath e r

Mahapoor (Going near Sulabha and pointing) Sec this has happened. mm Why didn’t you say so? father I’ve got a bit of language trouble. Can you put it in? mm (moving forward a step) I’m already in. father N o this one ( Pointing at it) Can you put this in? Meaning can you bring the situation back to normal? mm Why not7 1 can do everything. father Money? father


Y ou g o in. Let the girl stay here.

Father goes in. Come, girl, come here. I’ll play on the pipe. The Indian rope trick will begin and the intestine will disappear into the sky.

MM tabes the stance fo r playing on the pipe. Sulabha cries “No, no I can’t bear it”. Govinda takes away the beard and says recognise me? sulabha Gondya, you? I’ll call father. Fa. . .

Govinda puts his hand on her mouth Did you think it was really the Medicine Man? Wfaen I was performing the surgery earlier your father got the police. Come on now. Draw it out. Where will you go now. sulabha Please don’t do it. My marriage is almost broken. But don’t do this. I beg o f you. g o vin d a ( laughs) But the surgery must be completed.

g o v in d a

He advances upon her. Again the siren is heard. Sulabha collects the beard etc. and disappears rhythmically. Well Dressed Man comes back. Govinda is standing in a comer, tired Do not fool me, Govind Kavathekar! Don’t talk rot. From your behaviour I can only conclude that you have murdered Sulabha because she got engaged to someone else against your wish. So, you made the bit o f tamarind disappear from this world. Two days ago, early in the morning, you entered your friend’s house. Sulabha was asleep. You tickled her and woke her up. You slashed up her belly with a sharp razor and killed your eternal friendship. From that moment, you’ve been avoiding coming



home. You’ve been wandering aimlessly. You are very restless. The police will come here any moment. So, confess, that you murdered Sulabha. This will give you peace o f mind. Your restlessness will end, and your feet will touch the ground. Once you stand on firm ground, do not ever leave it again. If you leave the earth, the sky does not come any closer. You only hang suspended. Honour my request and confess. g o v in d a No. I only drew the intestine ou t. . . and the police came w d m Kavathekar, a person with her intestine out cannot be alive. Don’t be incoherent. A fire engine passed by at the time of the murder, and you thought it was the police. But that is the real problem. Even now Sulabha’s father won't name you, and 1 can’t see why. But even if he’s scared to name you, the police are no fools. They will come here sooner or later. What surprises me is that you murdered a girl in cold blood. A girl who was your childhood friend, with whom you watched the flooded river, shared bits of tamarind, and sat on the same bench. Now I assume that I’ve got the answer for my first question. What about the second question? g o v in d a What question? w d m Where are your parents? g o v in d a They’ve gone on a pilgrimage. w d m False. Utterly false. What is there on that side of your house5 g o v in d a (.looks in that direction, scared) There is a window. w d m What’s on the top? g o v in d a Roof. w d m What's on the roof? g o v in d a Terrace. w d m Look out of the window. g o v in d a (looks) Oh god, what a crowd! Thousands o f people have gathered. w d m What are all those people looking at? g o v in d a Something up there. w d m What's up there? g o v in d a Terrace. w d m What’s in the left hand comer o f the terrace? g o v in d a Red tank. A water tank. w d m What's the colour of the tank? g o v in d a Crimson.

Mahapoor wdm

And the colour of the water?

Govinda is silent. What’s the colour o f the water in the tank? Something has fallen into the water-tank. That’s why it's overflowing. The whole terrace is filled with water. And its colour is red. It will start seeping through the roof any moment. Look, look, one drop fell on you. Another! Red drops are falling all over. That’s because the water tank is overflowing. Something has fallen into the tank. A subtle stink is spreading in the building. Everyone is staring at the water tank. And your parents are nowhere to be seen. So then, Govind Raghunath Kavathekar, after murdering Sulabha, what did you do with your parents?

w dm

Govinda is sitting in a comer. Totally scared. He’s opened hisfather’s umbrella against the imaginary rain. Suitable music begins. Noise o f the crowd is heard. The curtain drops.

ACT II Act Two begins where thefirst ended. All the characters are in the same position. The scene and the time and the situation is the same. Music fades out. g o vin d a

N o , no, no. I have not murdered anybody. My parents

have gone on a pilgrimage. And I have proof. The note which they wrote when the left. wdm Let me see it. g o vin d a ( Giving . . . Suddenly draws back) I don’t trust you. wdm If one can pull out the intestine without killing, one can write a note too. g o vin d a (furious) Why don’t you believe me when I’m telling you so earnestly. The intestine has really come out. Look, look, how worn she looks. Her marriage is off, Sir. Her husband had warned her that the engagement would be off if her belly did not come back to normal before sunrise. wdm Oh I see. And then, what happened next? govinda (spot on him) Then . . . the medicine man came. He said he would put it back. Her father agreed. But probably he couldn’t


manage it. Sulu got tired. She was exhausted. Sulu this, Sulu that. One Sulu, beloved Sulu, two Sulu, friend Sulu, silly Sulu, crazy Sulu, a piece o f tamarind, Sulu.

Govinda and WDM disappear. Sulu appears. Tired. Her father is speaking distractedly. A mischievous neighbour is heard repeating a line from a song. Water... Give me some water. . . f ath e r (Giving) Here, drink! s u l a b h a ( Moans.) Did mother eat anything? f a th e r No, she had a little sugar and water. But she’s still praying, with the dark glasses on. s u l a b h a It is sunrise. Over. It’s over, father. The marriage is off. My life is wasted. Father, please give me some poison. Let me at least end my earthly life. fath e r Don’t say that! s u l a b h a Why not? fath e r I’m your father. I should be reassuring you. s u l a b h a Reassure me? fath e r What else can I do? You idiot, you broke your marriage, now go to hell. s u l a b h a Father. .. I’ve an idea. Every cloud has a silver lining. And a cow a hump, father, a hump. fath er Hump? s u l a b h a T w o humps. It costs money to watch a cow with two humps. We have 36 feet. How much money will it make! I think we should charge five paise per foot. If you pay for 10 feet, you’ll get to watch the next five free! The show will be houseful. fath e r You shouldn’t think like this Sulu, I don’t like the idea of making money by dragging a lengthened chain. You must take up a job. s u l a b h a Will I be able to do it7 f a t h e r It’s much better than this public exhibition. Take this newspaper and write an application. su labh a

Father goes out. sulabh a

Careful. I’m still not used to it. I get a spasm sometimes.

The sound o f telephotie and typewriters. Spot on Govinda:. Now he’s the boss in an office.


( Like a 'boss'.) Hello, it’s the boss speaking. You do it immediately. Buy some shares in Bombay, and sell them in Madras. And buy some in Madras and sell in Bombay. After that, clap. Then I’ll give you further orders. And look here, I’m the boss, so do not ring up again and again. In short, do everything for the prosperity o f the business. And go on clapping. Hello, yes, with both the hands. Can you ever clap with one hand? Mad.

g o v in d a

Mimes pressing a bell. Send the woman in. Sulabha comes in, stands awkwardly. s u ia b h a Good morning Sir! g o v in d a Stupid! Fold your hands.

Sulabha folds her hands. Now bend down and touch my feet. I’m your boss, am I not? Bend down.

Sulabha touches his feet. May you have eight sons.

Sulabha starts crying. Do not cry. Only saying it doesn’t matter. This is the earth. The bodies must come in contact in order to have children. You seem to be quite ignorant. You apply for a job, and you don’t know anything about this? Though I’m the boss, I can’t do everything. So, you have applied for the post o f a typist. suiabha Yes Sir. govinda The company's doctor says, there’s something wrong with your belly. suiabha Yes Sir. Look a t . . . govinda It’s O K., show me only when I ask you. I’m the boss. You must not show anything until I ask you, and certainly not something like this. What is your speed? suubha 36 feet. govinda 36 feet91 asked about your typing speed. Not your walking speed. *JIabha Sony Sir! It’s length is so fixed in my mind. My speed is quite good . . . but. . .


This comes in the way.

Sulabha begins to cry. Do not cry. Think practically. However you may deny, it will come in the way. That means the company’s work will be hampered. And the possibility of decrease in profit will arise. The directors of the company will object. I can’t give you the job, sorry.

Govinda walks out. Lights come back. The WDM appears. Govinda enters. While this has happened you still say I murdered her? You want to know the whereabouts o f my parents, don’t you? I’ll tell you even that Sir, and end your perverse curiosity. Today my parents will come back. The Vithoba and Rakhumai of Pandharpur* will appear in this house. Our house will turn into Pandharpur. I shall bathe in the river Chandrabhaga. Sir...

g o v in d a

Sings a bhajan. But Sir our Vithoba is quite smart. Whenever I go to visit his temple, he gives me the brick on which he stands. I said no, no Vithu, this won’t do. This brick belongs to Pundalika'’. If I stand on it the public will think I am Pundalika, and, Vithuraya, your market will go down. But He wouldn't listen. So I stood on it and a parallel Pandharpur was created in our house. The palkhi started to pass via our house. Vithoba’s market went down. So he came in from the backdoor and took the brick away. The pilgrimage to Pandharpur continued uninterrupted My parents kept on going to Pandharpur. But their pilgrimage started from the jail in 1942. So they are a special category. They do not visit the temple in the month o f Ashadh. Today is the auspicious day o f their visit. Today is the fifteenth August. India's Independence Day. How could my parents not arrive today?

A military band is heard. Spot on Govinda. Someone takes away the Gandhi cap and the coat. Sir, tl)e band is playing. Look, the morning march has begun Its time for the arrival o f my Vithoba and Rakhumai. ( shouts) Vithoba, come. Your devotee is calling out to you. These rascal priests are saying I am a murderer. They are accusing me of

Mahapoor having killed you and thrown your bodies into the water tank. Vithoba, come quickly, do not try me so. Do not smile softly, do not walk slowly, do not throw me to the priests. Here, the morning march is approaching.

The sound o f the band gets louder. Here they are, all, volunteers, mayors, patriots. Vithoba come. If you come quickly, I’ll take you to an English movie. Vithoba, come.

The rhythm o f the band reaches its peak. Govinda’sfather comes in through the window. He is an aged man. He is wearing the Gandhi cap and the khadi coat and spectacles. He has luggage in his hands. Before he comes in Govinda says the following paragraph. Sir, this is my father, Raghunath Datto Kavathekar. In 1975, he still lives in 1942. His hands move as if he is turning the charkha. A simple man but there is no dearth of tales and anecdotes of 1942. You only have to say ‘Chale Jao’ and he starts to spin the yam. Come in Raghunath Datto, come in.

Raghunath Datto comes in. Hangs the coat and the cap on the peg. Where have you been, Raghunath Datto? Rag h u na th On a pilgrimage. govinda Where? Rag hunath On a pilgrimage.

Takes the luggage inside Sir please note, my father has been on a pilgrimage. He has not fallen into the water tank. The WDM disappears. Raghunath comes in. Where is mother, Raghunath Datto? Raghunath I am back from the pilgrimage. I told your mother that I would go with the morning march, and she could do the shopping. govinda Shopping? Raghunath Isn’t today the fifteenth August? We will have the Satyanarayana pooja7. She should be back soon. govinda Yo u are back from the pilgrimage? I thought you had just



been released from the jail. r a g h u n a t h Look Govinda, you are quite young, still. g o v i n d a So I'll be eternally. r a g h u n a t h Do not interrupt me. Do not talk of the jail. Those days the conditions were different. A hurricane had formed against the British rule and I am proud of having participated in it. g o v i n d a Raghunath Datto, you are quite mistaken. You were here on this earth, and so was the British government. The hurricane came towards you and you were drawn into it. You trailed after it. When the hurricane got over, there was the jail. You had left your education half way. Your family was poor. So there was crisis at home. After the first imprisonment, Dada’s ashram. Then again the jail. You had to leave your family. In the jail there were political prisoners as well as robbers. The robbers felt remorse for being in the jail, you felt pride. r a g h u n a t h Yes, we were proud, certainly. I’m proud of it even today We were inspired by a specific g o a l. . . g o v i n d a Ha! Inspiration! You didn’t even realise anything until you were inside the jail. Suddenly you found bars around you and you said, hey, this is the jail. Look, here is robber Mansingh. and there Sumersingh. And there is Jadhav from the extremist group. Oh ho! What big chains! You were overawed. r a g h u n a t h Was that wrong? g o v in d a It was absolutely correct. The only difference is thai everyone who gets pulled towards the magnate knows that he is being pulled. The power which pulls is invisible. You didn’t even belong to such people. Because you never felt the pull, you only found yourself in the jail. Then you realised that it was the Quit India movement. Now you were caught in it. If you quit it you would face only censure. From here the only way is to Dada’s ashram. Independence was sure to come. Then a delicate halo would be created around you. “Raghunath Datto, the freedom fighter”. Keeps saying he’d free India. r a g h u n a t h 1shall not accept this. I say only that I did what I could earnestly, sincerely and selflessly, inspired by a definite goal g o v i n d a You, inspired? Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an inspired man. So was Pandit Nehru. You were merely Raghunath Datto, only Raghunath Datto. Had you been an inspired man you wouldn’t have remained a headclerk all your life. Dadas ashram w ou ldn’t have gon e to dogs in this way after

Mahapoor independence. Dada would’ve got his heart attack much later. But the ashram went to the dogs and you became a headclerk. r a g h u n a t h Whatever may be the reasons, the ashram did go to the dogs and I accept that it is the truth. Dada is already dead and there is no need to talk about him. Whatever we want to say let it be about the two of us. What would a little educated and averagely intelligent man do after leaving the ashram, than became a clerk? g o v in d a No, no. I can understand being a clerk. Not everyone can escape the lunch time. But when I look at you I feel as if the inward outward files are circulating in your blood. If 1 pricked you with a pin GRs will ooze out of your body, not things like ashram, bulletins, meetings, morchas or chale jao. You are immersed in outward-inward, gratuity, pension, optional and causal leaves. The ultimate state o f being is getting the D.A. difference. That is all. r a g h u n a t h What else could I do, Gondya? g o v in d a You can’t do anything, and nobody can help it. But what 1 can’t understand is how can you enjoy all that you do, knowing that doing it is doing nothing. And then if you went into the water tank, who is to blame? r a g h u n a t h Went into the water tank? g o v in d a I mean on a pilgrimage. r a g u n a t h I’m assuming you understand what I’m saying. Those days, the atmosphere in our college was quite different. It was filled with hatred o f the British. A rage against the British had been created. Only, the ways o f expressing it were different. g o v in d a Wait a minute. Everyone felt the rage. r a g h u n a t h Yes, but their paths were different. g o v in d a Then why did Sulabha’s father not feel the rage? After all he is your close friend. r a g h u n a t h (Angrily) He and rage? He is a Hinduist. g o v in d a Do you not believe in religion? Do you not go on pilgrimages? r a g h u n a t h I do. g o v in d a Then what exactly is the difference between your rage and his rage? r a g h u n a t h His was never authentic. Even though he did not oppose our movement, he never supported it with his heart... Did you meet Sulabha recently? Did you have a talk with her?



Her father’s rage o f 1942. We are talking o f that. Do not evade the issue. ra g h u n a th Evading the issue! Actually we are both trying to evade each others’ issues. My anger against the British and your estrangement from Sulabha. But there’s fun in it too. We went through the same thing. We too had a love marriage. g o v in d a I wonder, Ragunath Datto, how all your friends who were with you in the jail in 1942, had love marriages! But o f course what else could you do in jail? You couldn't keep saying to yourselves, “We shall free India!" After all a man has to obey his body, “Turn mujhe dil do. Main tumhe shaadi doongcF*

g o v in d a

Laughs I asked about Sulabha because she hasn’t come by lately. g o v in d a Why don’t you write an essay, “From Alien Rule to Sulabha: An Arduous Journey” Laughs ra g h u n a th I asked you because you looked disturbed. It always happens this way. ra g h u n a th

Spot on the two. I think it was the year ’43. The town was agog with meetings Your mother was in the ashram and I was cycling, distributing bulletins. We’d decided to meet in the bakula garden behind the ashram, after the evening prayers. I had such a hard time! Somehow I managed to get that done, in a great hurry, and started cycling back to the ashram. Suddenly, Jadhav stood before me, coming from some other lane. He asked me go with him to a meeting. I refused. He said he would force me. I wouldn’t budge. I said, “Jadhav, I will not come to your meeting. Your ways are extremist. I shan’t have anything to do with the likes of you. Come what may. Shame, Jadhav. 1 am ashamed to be your friend." Still he wouldn’t go. Ac last I threatened that I would go on a fast. Then he went away. Again, I began to pedal back to the ashram. It was filled with people for the evening prayer.

Sound o f the prayer is heard. After the prayer, everyone turned to go inside. I stole to the bakula garden, there was no one there. The bakula tree was

Mahapoor standing alone. I said, let me get some flowers, so I started to pick them from under the tree. Suddenly, someone threw a seed at me. I could see no one. I was worried it was Jadhav again. Another seed hit me. They were date-seeds. I turned angrily, suddenly I heard your mother’s voice.

"Kadam kadam badhayejaa Khuseeke geet gayejaa Ye zindagi hai qaum ki Tu qaum pe lutaye ja a " I too joined in with "ChaJo Delhi pukarhe Qaumi nishan samahalke Lai Kile pe goad he Leharaye Jat leharaye jo!** Then I said, why are you so late? And what mischief is this? Why do you hit me with seeds? I sulked. She came forward and held out a bowl, and said, “Please accept this, My Lord”. They were dates soaked in goat milk. Then I remembered that it was a self-restraint day in the ashram. You only could eat dates. I still remember the taste o f the dates soaked in goat-milk which I ate that day in the bakula garden.

Lights come back. You are the limit! I’m greatly pleased by your behaviour. Your life is like a simple meal of dal and rice, never a trace of garlic. “Brave soldier march ahead!” Hey, where would you go man! And what would you do then?. . . So you had her in the bakula garden, didn’t you? ra gh unath What did you say? g o v in d a

g o v in d a

N o , I said, w h at h a p p en ed to the flo w e rs y o u w e r e h o ld in g

in y o u r hand9

I gave those withered flowers, to your mother and said, even if the flowers wither, preserve the fragrance.

ragh unath

Govinda claps. What a clap-worthy sentence! I’m glad to know that even when you behaved like this, you still felt anger against the British. But Raghunath Datto, you at least had dates soaked in goat-milk in the bakula garden. I, on the other hand, got a

g o v in d a


wedding invitation after sitting on the same bench throughout school. r a g h u n a t h What do you mean? g o v in d a Sulu’s getting married to someone else. r a g h u n a t h When did this happen? Her father didn’t mention anything. g o v in d a She’s getting married to someone else. I only got an invitation. I did not meet her father, your Hinduist. The groom must be someone from a princely family. r a g h u n a t h Sulu’s father won’t dare to come here. Timid fellow, always arguing. He used to say, “Is independence bhelpuri or chaat? If you go and lose all the salt by marching and agitating, you’ll have to eat a saltless meal. g o v in d a He is timid. You are brave. He is a Hinduist, you are a freedom-fighter. He eats bhelpuri you eat dates. Raghunath Datto, it’s tough. I think one cannot compare and contrast because you are not competitors. If we subtract the Hinduism and the jail, you can even be put in the same bracket square. The equation is solved quickly, but the sum remains zero. Would you like to try and tally? r a g h u n a t h So what if the sum is zero? Don’t forget the subtraction. In a movement, everyone is not a thinker. Most o f them are lost sheep. They learn when they enter a flock. But w e too had our own independent flock. Those were the night-less days. They are the ground on which we stand. Otherwise, even in those days, there were queues for the ration, as today. We don’t feel happy to see how things are going today. g o v in d a Even then, you don’t mind the Delhi rice sold in the black market. r a g h u n a t h No, I don’t mind it. I frankly admit that w e’ve changed that much. We don't mind the good rice from the ashram own liquor-shops today. g o v in d a If you ask the liquor-shop owner he’ll say the same thing. Not lost the sense of shame completely. When I was given free* ship in school as a freedom-fighter’s son, your values were violated. Money? Oh no, we didn't go to jail for that. 1often feel that someone hit you and pushed you into jail. You didn’t go there on your own volition. You can’t even order a meal looking at the menu in a hotel, that gives a taste of what you are. r a g h u n a t h Had you been present in 1942, you would’ve understood

Mahapoor Had I been present in 1942, you would have talked of 1857. Today you say “Let us free India*, then, it would have been a tale of horse-riding and battle. raghunath It takes courage to ride a horse. You couldn't even manage Sulabha. g o v i n d a No need to talk about that. r a g h u n a t h Yes, talk about jail, not Sulabha. Talk about spinning the yarn, not your education. g o v i n d a Look here, I’ve told you, I’m telling you, that I’m d u m b . I’m good at nothing. I’ve faith in myself, and in heredity, in genetics. See, when there is no water in the well, you can’t draw it out in a bucket. How will I learn anything, when you didn’t7 When mother didn’t7 r a g h u n a t h Should the son of a labourer also become a labourer then? g o v i n d a Look here, I’m trying all I can to study. But it requires something innate. It’s given by the parents. What have I got? r a g h u n a t h True, we couldn’t give you anything. We are unlucky. We went into the movement. We gave up education in a fit of excitement. But even at this moment, I’m proud o f that. g o v i n d a Your pride is alright. But it won’t change my abilities. I go crazy trying. The only bad thing about this is I myself realise why it is so. I can’t study hard like a good boy. These thoughts disturb me. I get a headache. And on top of it. . . Sulabha. r a g h u n a t h Did you talk to her? What did you tell her?

g o v in d a

The sentence echoes. Raghunath disappears. Sulabha appears. g o v in d a


Hmm... g o v in d a Seeing yo u after a lo n g time. su iabha Hmm. g o vin d a Y o u OK? suiabha Sure, nothing’s wrong. su iabha

Both silent fo r some time. sulabha

A movie . . . . No . . .


I s it true, w hat I heard?



W h at did y o u hear?


Your marriage . . . s u la b h a It’s bound to happen some time. How could I live like this all my life? g o v in d a I heard it from someone else. You didn’t let it on. So I was the fool. We sat on the same bench in school. s u lab h X Even then, I don't feel we should marry each other. g o v in d a Why do you feel so? s u l a b h a I feel that our friendship is more intimate than marriage. I wouldn’t like to break it. g o v in d a But why should marriage make a difference? s u l a b h a I really don’t understand why things happen this way. When I think o f marriage you seem to be so far away. I remember our childhood. I remember the grass-blades we used to collect. I feel your presence all the time. Gondya, I let you kiss me. I gave you the first embrace. . . But marriage . .. g o v in d a If we go on like this, w e’ll eventually be married. s u la b h a It will be a union, but it won’t be a marriage. And I don’t feel that that should happen without marriage. g o v in d a Hinduist thoughts. s u l a b h a If you say so. But what will you get out o f it? Everything can’t be expressed in words. g o v in d a I’m not convinced. You never said anything earlier. s u l a b h a I kissed you, but it didn't mean marriage. If you felt encouraged, I can’t help it What I feel about you is very delicate. Very fond. But still, very abstract. I really can’t say it in words. g o v in d a Then say it in a song. “You are the kite, I the string.. s u l a b h a Don’t mock. . . But I’m telling all this without deceiving myself. g o v in d a An eternal question. Any relation between marriage and my financial position? s u la b h a Do you think so ? g o v in d a No, but I felt like asking... Were you forced to marry? s u l a b h a I’m not a burden for my father, Gondya. g o v in d a What is your husband like? s u la b h a Do you want me to compare him to you? GOVINDA I don’t insist... s u l a b h a Y ou will see him at the wedding. g o v in d a Suppose he doesn’t appear at the wedding? s u la b h a Meaning? g o v in d a Suppose you do not appear at the wedding? g o v in d a

Mahapoor sulabh a

D o n ’t talk lik e a m adm an.

Shall we run away? Let’s not marry, just live together. s u l a b h a Yes, and come back at lunch-time. g o v i n d a Look here,. . . I'll take up a job. s u l a b h a It’s not that. But why do you think like this? Look here, look at me. You must not think like this. Be a good boy. g o v i n d a Pray to god, do not steal, do not lit, give a kiss but do not marry. s u l a b h a Hey, Gondya, don’t be so angry. g o v in d a

g o v in d a

N o , w h y shou ld I b e angry. I ’m happy, qu ite pleased.

Shall I g o then? g o v i n d a Going? s u l a b h a Yes, I’ve to do some shopping. I’ll come and give you the invitation. g o v i n d a Suppose you are not able to give invitations? s u ia b h a Hey. .. marriage is supposed to be auspicious. g o v in d a Your father’s Hinduist thought. s u l a b h a Let it be. g o v in d a But suppose, really, you are not able to give invitations. I’ve got an idea! Your belly . . . s u ia b h a Belly? What? g o v in d a N o , not belly. Silly, silly me. s u ia b h a I’m going. Don’t feel bad. su labh a

Sulabha goes away. I won’t feel bad. I’ll swallow everything I wont fe e l bad. I’ll swallow it up. Even if I’m not hungry, I’ll swallow all the food. My belly is a storehouse of food. Whatever I s e e I gobble up. If everything is for the sake o f the belly anyway, then at least let us see it from inside, so that the curiosity gets over and the belly recedes. But if I swallow everything, what shall 1 do with my eyes? With my brain? The belly drains out within nine months. How should I drain my brain? The word Sulabha must become meaningless. The school-bench on which we sat together must be hacked down. Sulabha’s filings must be burnt. But they say if you bum wet filings they give smoke. The smoke will bring tears. The fire must be lit but there should be no smoke. Govind Raghunath Kavathekar must walk on the tight rope like a trapeze artist.

g o v in d a

Lights come back. Raghunath enters. Govinda is silent.


Did you talk to her? What did you tell her? g o v in d a Tell her? Yes I did. I told her, dear sister Sulabha your father is a Hinduist. He has never been to jail. A girl from such a family is not acceptable to us. So, sister, o sister, its good that you are getting married to someone else. Good riddance. Now . our family remains unbroken and I’m free to study civics. r a g h u n a t h I don't insist that you should tell me. g o v in d a Y ou don’t have to. You can’t find the reason why you went to jail, and can’t understand what went wrong with Sulabha. I keep feeling, this Sulabha must have been queen Elizabeth in her last birth. And her father George V. Sulu is dead. Long live Sulabha. rag hunath

Suddenly someone is heard calling Govinda. Govinda gets up and runs to and fro . Suddenly the WDM appears. Govinda goes near him. Spot on Govinda. Here she is. Sir you had a taste o f my father all this while. And after that if you too felt like throwing him into the water tank I won’t blame you. You said I’ve murdered my parents. But here she is. She, who is the symbol o f the good, bundle of good wishes, image of youth, love o f patriotism, the mistress o f this house, my father’s wife and this Govinda’s mother, Anasuya. No, not my mother, she is Shyam’s mother.

g o v in d a

Lights come back. WDM has disappeared. Raghunath has come in. Anasuya enters. She is aged, has grey hair, and is fu ll o f enthusiasm. In her hands she carries plantain leaves fo r the satyanarayan pooja. Gondya, are you there? Where is he? r a g h u n a t h Here. I ’m going for my bath. Finished shopping? a n a s u y a Haven’t you had a bath yet? This is not the jail you know. anasuya

Raghunath goes in. Here, hold this Gondya. Govinda takes things from her. I’ll wash my feet and be back. g o v in d a Yes, yes, Mother, Anasuyabai, my Mother o f Shyam.

Mother comes back Mother, just as you are careful not to dirty your feet, be careful

Mahapoor not to dirty your mind too. Shyam's Mother, p. 29. a n a s u y a Go on, mock everyone. g o v in d a If you keep me pickled in Sane Guruji, what else can I do? a n a s u y a Had you seen him, youd’ve understood. What stories he used to narrate! The listeners would be spellbound. g o v in d a You’ll remember only his stories, nothing else. a n a s u y a You know . . . Once all the political prisoners decided to celebrate Mother’s Day in the jail. Your father read aloud from Shyam’s Mother. That part about.. . g o v in d a “Let us live and love’ I know it. I can narrate any o f them— "Mori the Cow”, “The Hut”, “The Sweets", “Grandmother", “Samba-Sadashiv, Send Us Rain” . . . I can begin right now. “Ram was present, Rahim was present, Sadanand was also present, Jagdale was sitting in a comer. Suman and Girija too had come. Shyam came in and everyone fell silent. Shyam asked, ‘Is Ismail from the Dargah ill, Sada? Then why didn’t you go and see him7Go right now,’ How can I forget Shyam’s mother? So what happened next7 a n a s u y a Y o u may mock it as much you like, but that book is immortal. Your father was reading aloud, he couldn’t read through the description of the mother’s final illness. He wept. The whole room became solemn. g o v in d a And that solemnity crept into our house. My non-violent father began saying— Gondya did you learn the prayer? No? Then take this. So the cane struck, again and again. Why can’t you learn the prayer? Again the cane. No, no, please don’t hit me, I’ll leam it, I will.

Govinda recites something like: om pum at pumam idam . .. weeping0. It’s because you obeyed him then that you are what you are today. go vin d a Yes, flunking in exams. anasuya That’s our destiny. It’s not as if we didn’t try. go vin d a Your going into the jail was yet another act o f destiny. anasuya No, the situation was different then. govinda Y o u couldn't possibly refuse to go. Your father was the founder o f the ashram. anasuya No need to talk o f the ashram. There’s no point in talking to you. Get inside and tie these plantain-leaves up.


MODERN IN DIA N DRAMA g o v in d a

Shall 1 lie them with twine, or with the thread you have

spun. a n a s u y a Don’t talk nonsense. g o v in d a They didn't talk like this in the ashram. a n a s u y a Really they didn’t we didn’t behave like this either. Once 1 missed the morning prayer. g o v in d a What are you saying, Shyam’s Mother? You missed a prayer? a n a s u y a What else could I do? 1 used to sweep the front-yard everyday. Once while I was sweeping, I heard a whistle. Who could it be I thought... what if Dada hears it71 looked up, and saw your father sitting in a tree, chewing a neem-twig. I said, “what’s this? Get down at once. Someone might see you * Without realising we walked towards the hill at the back of the ashram. It was quite cold. The hill was covered in green. Your father said, “I haven’t slept at all.” That extremist, Jadhav, had sidled into your father’s room and asked him to go with him. Your father refused to go. But Jadhav said, he'd make a ruckus So your father and a few others went out with him. They went out of the town. There was a huge electric pole outside the town. It’s called a pylon. Jadhav had planned to bring it down, so that the supply would be shut down. The pole had four legs. Jadhav told them that three o f them had been sawed. Now they would tie a rope to the fourth one and pull it to bring it down. These four or five men pulled for the whole night. The rope kept snapping. At last, in the morning, Jadhav said, alas, Parchure has messed up the whole thing. He foigot to saw through the three legs. I told your father that if Dada ever came to know o f it, he would take the vow of silence. Then your father took a vow. He would never again go with Jadhav. He’d merely keep up the acquaintance. In all this talk, the prayer got over. When w e came back, Dada merely said, it’s quite cold out on the hill. That’s all. g o v in d a And to expiate, you both fasted. You only drank lemonwater. When you felt hungry, Raghunath Datto squeezed the lemon and Shyam’s Mother brought the water. Again when you were hungry, Shyam’s Mother squeezed the lemon, and Raghunath Datto brought the water. And then both drank the liquid. The inmates o f the ashram said, we are running short of lemons, Anasuya. Ha! Ha! Ha! Laughter. a n a s u y a (furious) I’m warning you Gondya, I can’t tolerate such mockery!

Mahapoor g o v in d a

1 am not mocking. Shyam’s Mother runs through my veins.

Look at the chronology o f events. Your father was the founder of the ashram. So you went to jail. And you became a freedomfighter, therefore my mother is Shyam’s Mother. The book of books is, Shayam’s Mother, andJagrutfs the best film. It’s always de di hame azadi bitia khadga bina dhal / Sabarmati ke sant tune kardiya kamal. That’s why I had do learn Shyam's Mother by heart. The bars o f your jail trapped me and it became a natural jail. You kept me pickled in 1942. You, I and Raghunath Datto got inextricably entangled. Do not lie and do not steal. All this while I at least had Sulabha with me. But now her rigorous imprisonment is over. Now it is only Raghunath Datto, you and I left to play rummy in this jail. Damn it! What a mess! an asu ya Gondya, where is Sulabha? The neighbours are whispering. Did you say something to her?

Govinda is silent. They were saying she’s nowhere to be found. g o v in d a They’ll say anything. Do you know what they were saying when you were away? They said I’d murdered you and thrown your bodies into the water-tank. a n a s u y a How horrible! But Sulu’s also quite strange. g o v in d a Good that she’s getting married. I’d have refused to marry her anyway. an a s u ya What do you mean? g o v in d a I mean I’ve got engaged.

Raghunath Datto comes in wiping his back with a towel and reciting from the Gita. Did you hear what he’s saying? He’s got engaged he says. r a g h u n a t h Any message from Sulabha? an a s u ya No, he’s engaged to someone else it seems. r a g h u n t h Who’s the girl? g o v in d a Maya. Maya Chidgupkar. Chidgupkar Uncle’s daughter.


Raghunath begins to recite again. What nonsense! What mischief is this? g o v in d a Don’t you know anything about it? So what if he is a bachelor? Can’t he have a daughter?



Recitation continues. He’s having an affair. a n a s u y a With whom? GOViNbA Our maidservant Chandra. She’s got a daughter from him She lives with Chandra, but Uncle looks after her. a n a s u y a How can that be? And Chandri never said anything. g o v in d a Did Chidgupkar say anything? a n a s u y a But she’s been doing our washing for so many years! g o v in d a You can’t have a daughter only by washing clothes. For that you need Chidgupkar. a n a s u y a That’s why she washes his clothes first, that one. r a g h u n a h Don’t jump to conclusions. I sincerely think our son should think less of marriage and more o f the exams he has to appear for in October. a n a s u y a But a girl who washes clothes. . . g o v in d a And how she washes! Give her anything, a carpet, a shirt, she washes everything clean. a n a s u y a What did you do to Sulabha? g o v in d a What would I do? a n a s u y a People are saying such horrid things about you. I am feeling giddy. I’ll call Uncle.

Calls. Chidgupkar. . . . Balwantrao. . . Govinda takes the plantain leaves inside. Sulabha’s Father enters. father Balwantrao’s house is locked. But I am here, Sulabha’s father

Looking at Raghunath. The Hinduist father. Where’s Gondya? a n a s u y a He . . . he’s gone out. father Raghunath, where is Gondya?

Govinda enters. Here I am, still alive. I’d gone in to prepare for the pooja r a g h u n a t h N o w stay till the pooja is over. Today is fifteenth August. fath e r What have you done to Sulabha? g o v in d a I didn't do anything. father I’ll give you a tight slap if you lie.

g o v in d a

Mahapoor Who’re you threatening, you bastard? If I whistle once, the boys will come and beat you to pulp. Go back home. anasuya Govinda, take back your words. govinda This is not your ashram, Shyam’s Mother! And I’m n o t a compositor to reverse my words. father Gondya! govinda

Getsfurious, suddenly breaks down. Sits down and weeps uncontrollably. Listen, why don’t you tell me everything. . ..calmly. father Over, Raghunath, it’s over. I would have been only too happy if Sulabha had got married to your son. But she didn’t say a word about it. Meanwhile there was a proposal from Sulabha’s mother’s side. They liked Sulabha. Hearing this, your son went into Sulabha’s room early in the morning and. . . r a g h u n a h Rape? Gondya, you? father Much worse than that. He slashed open my daughter’s belly with a razor and drew her intestine out. I would have been relieved if she had died. But she lived. And now the intestine wouldn’t go in. All efforts are in vain. Must be God’s miracle. r a g h u n a t h But how’s that possible? anasuya ( weeping) Impossible, it can’t b e .. . How’s Sulu’s mother? father She’s praying to God. She won’t eat or drink. She’s praying with her eyes shut. So 1 gave her my dark glasses. Now she’s praying with the glasses on. Ra g h u n a t h Its all so mysterious, I can’t believe it. father Ask your son. I can’t even go to the police because of our friendship. And moreover it seems that Sulabha and your son had an affair. How can I patch the situation. Now either put the intestine back or marry her. You have broken her marriage anyway. govinda Listen! Everyone listen with attention I haven’t done anything. This old man is accusing me without any reason. father I’ll drag you to court. govinda Ok, drag me to court. I’m not afraid. Go, tell the police. I’m not afraid. For, I never even thought of Sulu. I’m going to marry Maya. That’s why I say drag me to the lower court, or to the high court. You can even drag me to the tennis court. I’ll play tennis. You can be the ball-boy and supply the balls. Here is a lawyer. Ask him. Ask the judge. Ask the bailiff. raghunath



The call "Govinda Raghunath Kavathekar H azir H o*1. Lights keep changing. Raghunath, Sulabha’s father and Anasuya stand at the back, awe-struck. Music suggesting suspense begins. A lawyer and an oldjudge enter. TheJudge is dressed in pyjamas and vest and has a huge wig on his head. The latvyer looks at Govinda and shouts. So, accused Kavathekar, when did you come to Sulabha? g o v i n d a Hey, go home! Don’t bore me. l a w y e r Your Honour, the accused is arrogant. Warn him. j u d g e (yawning) Who should I warn you say? l a w y e r Him. law yer


fudge looks Govinda over. Why don’t you warn him? I don’t think he’ll listen to me. g o v i n d a Your father would. j u d g e Didn’t I tell you? The accused takes up my father. l a w y e r You are the limit. Who should warn him if not you? j u d g e Why don’t you do it? l a w y e r Why should I? What are you here for? j u d g e I won’t trouble myself. I haven’t even got an extension. Let it be. Let it go to hell. l a w y e r Your Honour, the accused took up your father. g o v i n d a Wrong, Your Honour! I didn’t take up your father, you were fathered by him. l a w y e r (shouting) Your Honour! j u d g e Don’t shout. Calm down. Calm down. Say “peace, peace’ l a w y e r Peace . . . peace... pea. . . j u d g e Twice is enough. l a w y e r (again shouting.) Your Honour! j u d g e I know I am Your Honour. Now go on. l a w y e r Your . . . sorry. Admonish the accused. Quickly, or 1 will j u d g e I haven’t even got an extension, and still I should admonish? I won’t. l a w y e r Then what will you do? j u d g e I’ll hear both the sides and judge. Haven’t you seen the statue of Justice? And I forgot to bring the scale, in a hurry. l a w y e r Oh, Your Honour, is this th e bazaar? g o v i n d a Hey, you, madman! ju d g e


The lawyer quickly turns and looks at him. See, You Honour, I called a madman, and he turned and looked at me. I am not mad. And if I am proved mad, I will be acquitted. So think well, and judge. judge What should I judge? What is the charge? lawyer The chaige is horrid. So horrid that you must judge it without hearing. Since you insist, I’ll tell you. Your Honour, the accused Kavathekar is cruel. He’s the quintessence o f cruelty. Your Honour, his closest friend, Sulabha, with whom he spent his childhood, ate bits o f tamarind and sat on the same bench through school, got engaged to be married to someone else. But the accused loved her. Unfortunately, Your Honour, Sulabha did not love the accused. He got furious. Because she decided according to her own wishes. One early morning, he entered her room through the window, took out a razor, and in utter cruelty, slashed up her belly . . . Nay, I’ll say, the accused bloodied his childhood with his own hands. Sulabha did not die. Neither did her intestine go back into her belly. Therefore, you must judge such a cruel man severely. In will get you an extension in your job. And you will also attain moksha. judge Accused Kavathekar, do you want to defend yourself?

Silence. govinda

(suddenly sings a line form a lavani'2)

something like: the ant o f love has bit me. . . (appreciating) Wah! lawyer Your Honour! The accused sings a lewd song in full court, and you appreciate it! Judge If I am not going to get an extension, let me at least enjoy a


song. lawyer How can you? Punish him. judge Accused Kavathekar, do you plead guilty or not guilty? govjnda Your Honour, not guilty. Because Sulabha’s belly is intact. I haven’t touched it. lawyer Prove it! Accused Kavathekar, you must submit the evidence. Judge Accused Kavathekar . . . govinda Yes . . . Judge Don’t say yes, it’s the custom. I call you accused, you call me


Your Honour. That’s the game. So, now, submit the evidence immediately, as the lawyer says. g o v in d a Immediately, Your Honour. The lawyer, Sulabha’s father, and my striving children13 of Sane Guruji, I’ll prove it only on one condition. Sulabha is alive. Her belly is intact. You must say, what I ask you to. Then Sulabha will come here quickly and I will be acquitted. So say, “Sulu dear, Come here! Sulu dear Come Here!”

Atfirst no one says it. After Govinda orders them, everyone begins to chant the line. Lights change. Dreamy music begins. And Sulabha enters. She's wearing a large bindi and a mangalsutra. Everyone keeps on chanting. Carefully, child. What’s your name? s u l a b h a Mrs. Sulabha Nitin Erande. g o v in d a Sulabha Nitift Erande? So the bastard’s called Nitin, eh? OK, how’s your belly? s u l a b h a Oh, what nonsense? g o v in d a Tell us nevertheless. s u l a b h a I just got married. How could it be so soon? g o v in d a Erande, show your belly to the judge. s u l a b h a (Adjusting her sari) What nonsense is this? Is everything ready? g o v in d a What should be ready, Erande? s u l a b h a Isn’t today the fifteenth August7We have the pooja today I have come for that. I didn’t want to miss it. g o v in d a (confused) U m ... puja? Yes, yes, everything’s ready. We'll start as soon as I’m released. s u l a b h a Released? g o v in d a Don’t you see the case going on? One minute.

to the judge. See your Honour? Erande’s alive and her belly is intact. Tophir abhi hukam karo mujrim kophauran riha kardiya jaye " ju d g e Taking into account the evidence, the accused Kavathekar is judged to be innocent and it is ordered that he should mam' my younger daughter. law ye r Kavathekar, don’t give in. The older one is tied around my neck. The younger one has glaucoma, and a left leg half an inch shorter.

Mahapoor Therefore the accused Kavathekar is acquitted. g o v in d a Innocent! I’m Innocent! Finally, the truth is triumphant. Zindabad, zindabad, ye mohabbat zindabad. Expresses Joy, saying these lines. Jhe lawyer and the judge go in. Everyone else goes in saying, let’s go in, the priest is here. Sulabha also goes in. Well Dressed Man is sitting in his form er place. He’s holding the box o f marbles in his hands. See, Sir, I’m innocent. I’m zindabad. Satisfied? Now do you know where I was for the last two days? and what my parents are? ( shouts) Sir . . . wdm No use shouting. Nobody has come here. It’s all your mind’s trick. A thought appears so vividly to you that you think it’s actually happening. Only the two of us were here in this house, and still are. The rest is all a trick of your mind. Is it possible for anybody to come here in reality? g o v in d a (slowly breaking down) N o .. . no . .. no. .. w dm What can I do if you see a person before you, when all that’s actually happening is that you are thinking of him? I will not be satisfied by this. You say Sulabha was here, but can the person you murdered come here? Which Judge ever goes into the court wearing pyjamas and vest? It has not happened in reality. But you created a vivid picture through your'speech. It was a world created by your mind. There were no actual incidents. And they are not answers to my questions. g o v in d a Who are you? What do you have to do with me? w dm I must have answers to my questions. g o v in d a (suddenly remembers) Proof! I have got proof. My parents have gone on a pilgrimage, and I have their note in which they say so. wdm Where is the note? g o vin d a (gives the note) Here. wdm Shall I see it? That is . . . if you trust me. . . g o vin d a Y o u can read. wdm (reads the note, laughs viciously) Even then my questions remain unanswered. govinda Sir, do not try me like this. If I get angry it will be very bad for you. If I whistle just once, the boys will come and beat you to pulp. wdm Why do you threaten me like this? I’m not Sulabha’s father.



You are not satisfied, even when I gave you proof. w d m This is not proof enough. Because you have written this note yourself. I know your handwriting. Do you think the man who is interrogating you all tips while is a novice* You came home after murdering Sulabha. You wrote this note... and you parents are nowhere to be found. . . g o v in d a N o . . . .N o ... I did not write this note. w d m Write two lines on this paper and I'll show you. g o v in d a N o . . . N o . . . 1cannot write, 1 never went to school w d m Kavethekar, where are your parents? g o v in d a They must still be in jail. The British put them in and the Indian Government extended their sentence. w d m The terrace on the roof is quite large. g o v in d a Yes, quite large. w d m The water-tank on the terrace is quite large too. g o v in d a Yes, the tank is large. wdm The water in the tank is red. The tank is overflowing. The whole terrace is filled with water. The stench is increasing and your parents . . . g o v in d a (Spot on him) No.No.No. I have not killed them. I have not done anything to Sulu. Because I never understood the difference between friend and beloved. I saw a girl, a while ago. Mrs Sulabha Nitin Erande. Is she my childhood friend, or my beloved? Whose belly was I going to slash up? Every time I backed ou t. . . and my thoughts remained in my mind. Sulu’s mother, eat something! At least take off the dark glasses while praying! Then God won’t feel bad. All my neighbours, your water-tank is clean. The water is crystal clear. You can see the reflection o f the full moon in it. But on the moon, there is Raghunath Datto instead of the rabbit, and beside him, Shyam’s mother. Sane Guruji’s striving children are sitting pretty on the moon, like Ganesh in a pandal. Who am 1 to kill them? If I try they go to the moon, and my thoughts remain in my mind. What can I do if I can’t stand the moon, the ashram and the bakula garden7 They can’t find out why they went to the jail, nor why extremist Jadhav was bad. And I can’t understand the difference between a friend and a beloved. I can’t find reasons for anything. The blind man’s buff goes on. But still in my mind I feel the water in the tank should turn red g o v in d a

Mahapoor The stench should permeate the building. And the womb below th&intestine must be removed and kept in a jar. So that, sooner or later I may find the reasons. And as the stench increases the whole building will realise that the only true reason is the one in which you believe. Everyone has it. But if you tell it, it becomes a tale. And my mother transforms into Shyam’s mother. No sir, no, I haven’t done anything. Get me out of this. I do not know the difference between friend and beloved. I do not know the water tank, for I’m not a plumber. Come, Vithoba, run. Do not walk slowly, these priests are killing me. Vithoba, come, run.

Lights come back. The Well DressedMan is holding Govinda's arm and giving him an injection. Raghunath, Anasuya and Chidgupkar are standing at the back Sir, after all you turned out to be a doctor. doctor (to Raghunath) I’ve given him a sedative. He’ll go to sleep soon. Raghunath and the Doctor help Govinda lie on the bed. anasuya Will he d o any harm to himself? doctor No, no, don’t worry. He is very hurt because o f that girl. He must get a lot of rest. It’s a temporary state. A sort of nervous breakdown. But I got him to talk a lot. So there is no cause to worry. O.K., Chidgupkar . . . govinda

Doctor and Chidgupkar get to one side. One thing I couldn’t understand from the history, who is Maya? chidgupkar What Maya Doctor? I’m a bachelor. I’m fond of this boy. He imagined that I have a daughter and her name is Maya. The only thing I can say is that I could never marry, so you know. . . doctor I see! Even then he thinks you have a daughter. Interesting. By the way, Kavathekar, ask you family doctor to ring me up, so that 1 can write down the treatment.

Sulabha enters. Sees the Doctor. suubha doctor

Doctor, can I talk to him? Sure. He’ll feel better. O.K., I take your leave.

Doctor and Chidgupkar go out. Raghunath Sulu, careful.


Everyone goes in, except Sulabha. Govinda is lying on the bed. Sulabha sits on the bed. Govinda is drowsy. Who, Erande? Su l a b h a I’m yet to become Erande. The wedding’s next week. g o v in d a When did you come? su lab h a Just this minute. Is the pooja over? g o v in d a What pooja? s u la b h a Isn’t today the fifteenth August5 * I came for lunch. g o v in d a Did you give all the invitations? s u la b h a Y o u must attend the wedding. Almost all. g o v in d a H o w can I attend the wedding? That is, even if I come I won’t be there, so I wont come. s u la b h a I went to our school. To give invitations. I met Karmalkar ma’am. g o v in d a Ever-beating? su la b h a Yes, she is still not married. Now she is the headmistress g o v in d a Good for her. Now she can beat even more. g o v in d a

He isfeeling drowsy. Are you alright? Has he given you some medicine? You are looking so sleepy. govinda Not sleepy Mrs Erande. I’m tight. Our relationship got over and I took to the bottle. Sulabha (laughs shamefacedly) Don’t talk bookish. govinda Really, Sulu. I’ve drunk a lot. My mother’s Shyam is tight today. su la b h a Your are getting disturbed. Shall I go in? Let me help your mother. govinda Don’t go, piece o f tamarind. Come let’s go and see the flood. Sulabha, hey, Mrs. Erande . . . Shall I jump into the river? sulabha Gondya . . .


Her scream echoes. My Sulabha is flustered. Sulabha’s eyes brim with water. Locks of hair on salty cheeks. Sulabha’s frock is on her eyes, the lace o f her knickers, on her knees.

g o v in d a

chaps. Great! Mrs Erande, what a dialogue!

Mahapoor sulabha

(tearful) Don’t mock me, our friendship is intact, believe

me. g o v in d a sulabha

I certainly believe you, Mrs Sulabha Nitin Erande. Don’t talk like this. Let me go in and help yo u r mother.

G ovinda suddenly remembers something. Gets up stumbling. He is very sleepy. The marblesfa ll out as he gets up. He sees the transistor and gives it to Sulabha. Here, take this Erande. I brought it here by mistake from your house that morning.

g o v in d a

Sulabha takes the transistorfrom him and goes in. Oh, the marbles have fallen out of the box. I must put them back. One, two, three. . . in all thirteen marbles. Four, five. . . The injection seems to be quite strong .. . six . . .

He is extremely sleepy. H alf awake, half asleep, as he is putting the marbles back into the box...

NOTES 1 Sane Pandurang Sadashiv (24 Dec. 1898-11 June 1950) Well-known in Maharashtra as Sane Guruji. A major figure in the Independence Movement, Sane Guruji combines Gandhian thought and action with socialism. He was influenced also by Vinoba Bhave. He considered service as the fundamental aim o f his life. His fiery speeches during the 1942, and his straggles especially the hunger strike for opening the temple o f Vitthala at Pandharpur for the untouchables' (1947), and the satyagraha for the farmers in Khandesh showcase the fighter and the revolutionary in his otherwise mild personality. He founded the Rashtra Seva Pala, and, towards the end o f his life put forward the idea of an institution— “Antai-bharati”— for cultural integration o f independent India. His contribution to Marathi literature is immense and includes novels, essays monographs, biographies, translations from English and Indian Languages and much more. He was loved by people and was a major source o f inspiration to the participants in the Independence Movement and also for later years. He ended his life on 11 June 1950. 2 The literal translation o f the title o f Sane Guruji’s most w ell-know n autobiographical novel Shyamchi Aai. Sane Guruji wrote most o f the chapters of this novel in the jail at Nasik in 1932. Shyam, the narrator-protagonist o f the novel reminiscences about his childhood. His mother has a fundamental and formative role in his life and from her he learns the value o f love, sacrifice, morality, and service. 3 This line is chanted in funeral processions.


MODERN IN DI A N DRAMA 4 A character from the MahabharaUt, who was inescapably trapped within a battle— formation. 5 Pandharpur is a place of pilgrimage in Maharashtra, where thousands of people walk in processions from their homes, twice a year in the months o f ashadh and kartIk. These pilgrims are called 'varkari’s. the procession which carries the idol o f Vitthal is called ‘palakhi’ or a vari’. 6 Pundalika was a devoted son. Vitthal came to visit him, pleased with his devotion to his parents. Pundalika was pressing his parents feet. He would not stop to meet Vitthal himself, and threw him a brick to stand on, until he finished. From that moment onwards, Vitthal and Rakhumai stand on bricks with (heir hands on their waists. These are the images o f the deities at Pandharpur. 7 A ritual involving the worship ofthe deity ‘Satya-NarayanMt is usually performed on auspicious occasions or on occasions o f fulfilment o f wishes. 8 “Give me your heart, and I’ll give you marriage.'* This line invokes the famous line by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, "turn muijhekhoon do, main tumheazaeb doonga (give me your blood and I’ll give you freedom) 9 A well-known song celebrating the freedom movement. This song is given here only to indicate the type o f song to be sung at this point. 10 A verse recited every day in Vinoba's ashram, and by his followers elsewhere Here, any verse which belongs to an equivalent tradition may be recited. 11 The call in court for the accused to appear before the judge. 12 A popular form o f erotic songs in Maharashtra. 19 Literal translation o f the title o f Sane Guniji’s novel "Dhadpadnari Mule', in which the three young men strive hard, with dedication, for India’sfreedom. 14 An off-used line, especially in Hindi films, meaning T h e accused is acqu itted .'

Mareech, the Legend ARUN MUKHERJEE Translation: Utkal M ohanty

The sound o f a dug-dugi playing. Along with it the dholak, cymbals, shehnai and harmonium. The Ustad or troupe leader, enters with his troupe. He is dressed in weird costumery. A sling bag on his shoulders, the dug-dugi and a stick in his hand. The costumes o f the other members of his troupe are also out o f the ordinary. Hey, Bhanumatir khela babu jadukatir khelaf Don’t you miss the boat, oh babus, don't you miss this chance To see the greatest show on earth, this magic wand dance!


Plays the dug-dugi. Past, present and future, friends, are all in my hand, 1can make them come alive with my magic wand. History, mystery, a simple tale are all in my bag, Any scoop you want to hear, some gossip or a gag. But all these gentlemen here and the Memsahibs too. Want a little fancy stuff and a laugh or two, A bit of song and dance, perhaps, a teeny fairy story, Then they go and hit the sack and snore away to glory.

Plays the dug-dugi again. We’re a wandering troupe, babu, and we whisk up our shows anywhere, marketplaces, open fields, even in front o f government offices. A variety of numbers, babu, a whole lot of tricks. I know different people go for different kicks. Someone who want to see their own joys and sorrows life-size. Still others go in for a juicy bit of foreign scandal. So I say-okay, babu, okay, you will all get what you want. It’s nice cocktail I have for you. And here it comes.

Plays the dug-dugi. All kinds o f gigs, babu, all kinds o f tricks. Yes sirree, babuji! This magic wand is all I have. Just a touch and I can turn day into night. Recreate any event from mythology, history or pure imagination. Bring any man into sight from anywhere in the world. Can tell you what’s cooking in anybody’s kitchen— What kind o f soup who’s in! Just a touch. Just a touch o f this magic wand. That’s all I need. (Plays the dug-dugi.) (In English) Now ladies and gentlemen, my magic stick is


ready for your pleasure! ( Plays the dug-dugi. In pidgin Hindi) Aapke monoranjan ke liye har kisika tamasha! Hamara jadu danda pesh kar raha hai.... (The dholak, cymbals etc. join in .) Hey— y— y— ! Open the eyes o f even the blind, Hammer some sense into the moron’s mind, Teach the lame and hunchback to dance, Reveal the fraudulent godman’s pranks, And for the good man a real treat, For sheer showmanship it’s hard to beat!

The music stops. The ustad steps back, joins the troupe and speaks. These are the players o f my troupe, babu. They will speak, they will laugh and cry, whatever, whenever, at the command of my magic wand. And listen, friends, today w e’re performing in a really important place. Look at all those respectable people, the cream o f society, sitting on the edge o f their seats, waiting for our show to begin. They deserve the best, and nothing but the best. (Comes to thefront again.) Babu, this land is a holy land. Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai—the land of the scared river Ganges. And people worship mother Ganga— sing her praises. We all hail from that land, babu. A land where the brethren o f Mother Ganga engage in worship and ritual— we belong to that land. Religion, I mean dharma, is so mingled with our hearts and minds, that dharma itself is our tradition. After all, you have all read a bit of the Ramayana or Mahabharata—haven’t you? Haven’t you heard the story o f Rama and Sita? Yes, they happen to be the hero and the heroine o f the Ramayana. But we will leave them alone and talk o f an ordinary man instead. No, in fact, a demon— Mareech is his name. Yes, babus. fee haart. Our show today is about the story o f this very Mareech . . . Mareech, the Legend But legends and myths are not everyone’s cup o f tea— so 1will spice it up a little with tales of our joys and sorrows— yours and mine— and along with it, a fantastic scoop, babuji, some real foreign stuff—from America— from Yankeeland. My magic

u stad

Mareech, the Legend wand w ill wander anywhere it likes and you will have to visualize it, all right7

The Ustad becomes purposeful and directs all the members o f his troupe—everyone starts to leave helter skelter through the wings. Only the Ustad’s assistant, the musicians and'the chorus remain. Come on now, let’s start. Enough o f this lecturing. The babujis are going out of their minds.

The musicians take up their positions as they continue to play their respective instruments. Mareech the legend is coming on the scene. Keep your ears open and keep your mind clean. The best ever story that any one can tell

Bhanumati ka khela, babu, jadu chhadi ka khel. Start now.

Ustadplays the dug-dugi and swings his wand. The Chorus comes forward. Ustad and his assistant take positions on one side. The harmonium players and musicians stand on the other side with the Chorus in the middle. They carry a festoon which reads \Inpraise o f Valmiki’. The lead singer stepsforward and starts singing while the Chorus p in s in. The lines are sung in the usual Ramayana dhun style. I present my respects to the sage Valmiki, Verily the Adam of the poet community! On the eve of our show this evening, the master-poet we praise. He started his life as a mere bandit Ratnakar; A sudden blow turned him into a sage-cum-troubadour; And everything he experienced for survival’s sake went into writing the Ramayana, His masterful epic. The Ramayana can, so to speak, tell all the hows and whys—


If you can read between the lines and are a wee bit wise.

Those who hold the festoon turn it round—it now reads 'Mareech, the Legend. ’ The song continues. Now we come to Mareech the demon, Bom from the womb o f Tadaka the demoness. When the rishis in the ashram sat down to evening prayer, Tadaka had to drop in and give them a scare. The helpless rishis sought the aid o f Rama and Lakshman, The gallant brothers then shot down the menacing demon Mareech was missiled on a windy flight, To land in Lanka— Oh, what a sorry sight! Arrow-stricken Mareech by Ravana was saved, To the wounded one a fresh life he gave. Then Mareech left the shelter o f Ravana, For the green depths o f the deep jungle. Praying to the gods, Mareech got the power, To impersonate anybody, any shape acquire. Sister Surpanakha to Ravana was dear, Lakshman’s knife left her minus nose and ear, A tremble in rage, a raving Ravana raised hell, Massing his army his sister to avenge. Kalnemi cooled him down with cleaver advice, ‘To punish Rama, abduct Sita, this will be wise. Mareech is a master in illusion and disguise, We’ll ask him to help us in this our fight.' So he goes to fetch Mareech to work his clever scheme, Mareech was in real trouble now in ways he couldn't dream.

USTAD continues playing the dug-dugi. The chorus goes out. The musicians continue to perform and shift to one side. Ustad keeps swinging his wand. Hey, you heroes of the legends, Come down from the skies, What ye all, the Bhanumati tricks Dazzle all eyes.

u stad

As soon as the Ustad moves to one side playing the dugdugi, a stage hand places a box with a cut-out o f a tree stuck into it and leaves.

Mareech, the Legend

Enter Kalnemi. kalnem i

Mareech! Mareech!

Enter Mareech. Who? Who dares call out my name in this fashion? Who dares interrupt my meditation! kalnem i This is no time, Mareech, for meditation. When disaster knocks at the very doorsteps O f the demon king! On a very special errand have 1 come Hurrying to you. Waste not a moment. Come with me right away. Ready yourself for the journey. m areech How can 1? How can I forsake my sacred rites? How can I set myself to anything new before I have achieved my life’s noblest goal? kalnemi Mareech— It is a command and you must obey! mareech (flaring up) Mareech is not a slave for anyone to command! Under no one’s rule— receiving charity from no one’s hand. Doesn’t need to bow for benediction. 1 live with my own vocation. Look up only to my personal deity, And no other creature, however high and mighty. kalnemi There is another God, Mareech, That everyone must look up to. Any descendant of the demon seed, whether in Heaven, earth or in hell, By his birth must swear allegiance Sans any condition, To Ravana, the Lord of Lanka— Who in battle has the three firmaments vanquishedThe lord o f every one of us is he. The lord and master of the demon race— Ravana himself—has remembered you, Mareech. MAREECh I don’t live within the limits Of his territorial kingdom! Long ago I came away, Forsaking the pleasures of the royal court, The bustle of the city, the riots and the revelry,

m areech


the frothy fountain o f life. I have left all that behind, Opting for this self-exile. Then why does he remember me after so long? What need has he for this poor unfortunate? k a l n e m i There is need. Only you can help. You will hear everything, o f course. Hurry, hence, with me. m areech No, no. Impossible to abandon this sacred spot Where I must strive Until my goal I achieve. k a l n e m i Hear, then, why the great Ravana Needs you so! His sister Surpanakha— so well beloved by all— Has been humiliated at the hands O f some mere mortals, suffered such shame, Her offer of love rejected with such callousness, With such contempt, by the swollen arrogance O f those human trash! And that’s not all. Disfiguring her ears and nose, They have subjected her To such degradation, Those brazen brats o f the human race! m areech Who is the human Who has thus charmed our Surpanakha’s heart? Who the daring mortal, who could rebuff Such a beauty of our clan? k a l n e m i My tongue is loathe to utter the name, My body bristles in rage. But to quell your curiosity I will tell— it’s none else Than the lowly Rama. m areech {greatly moved) Rama! Ramachandra! k a ln e m i Not he Alone, though! His insane younger brother, Who goes by the name o f Lakshmana Has heaped insults upon her— With the point

Mareech, the Legend o f h is in fa llib le a r r o w has c l i p p e d . ..

Mareech sits down, with his head in his hands. m areech R a m a c h a n d ra ! kalnem i M a r e e c h !

Are you so unmoved even now? Where are the sparks of fire in your eyes? Doesn’t your blood boil in your veins With the flames o f vengeance? How can your righteous wrath slumber In the face of such an outrageous challenge? The name o f Lanka is today Ground in the dust, and you keep silent, Speaking to me o f your meditation! Weren’t you born of this demon-clan? Does demon-blood not flow in your veins? mareech True — was bom in this demon-clan. But since the day I saw His glory In the hermitage garden, I have offered Him my devotion. kalnemi What is that you say? mareech How the wind-borne missile Shot from His bowstring Made all the demon-blood Gush from my veins! Even now the memory Of that God in human-form— kalnemi Enough! I have no ear for such Eloquent praise of that vile human On a demon-tongue. Listen, Mareech, it’s all been settled. The swollen-headed sons of the human seed Will be taught a fitting lesson! Ravana intends to abduct Sita, The beloved wife o f that Rama. mareech So that's what he wants! To make them pay for Surpanakha’s sins! Who in the name of God Asked her to offer her love so shamelessly? A human has rejected The advances o f a demon-damsel.


I see nothing amiss there. k a l n e m i Wonderful, truly wonderful You are so enamoured o f the human race You find fault only with us. But keep this in mind. Mareech! Whoever the hero you adore in your own mind. You cannot ever disregard The command of Ravana m a r eec h If the Lord of Lanka is so enraged, Why does he not face them in open battle? No dearth o f willing fighters Amongst us Demons! How can I be o f any service? k a ln e m i No, no, a fight face to face Won't be the right thing now. Mere mortals, o f course, they are, but Superbly skilled with bows and arrows, Are those two brothers. Therefore, through this devious scheme has Ravana planned To abduct Rama’s love, Sita. MAREECH N o — kalnem i

Y o u a r e th e m a s te r

O f m ira c u lo u s p o w e r s .

With you skill in creating illusions You will lure away the brothers Rama and Lakshman and in the meanwhile— m a r e e c h (screams) No!

Immediately the sound o f Ustad’s dug-dugi is heard. From offstage a scream floats in— is h w a r

(off) I

c a n n o t — I c a n n o t!

The dug-dugi and the music continue. Ustad goes on swinging his wand. Two people enter holding a big blue curtain on both sides. The curtain carries these words written on it in thefestoon style— !Lathiwallah Ishwar And The Cunning Nayeb \ The curtain enters the stagefrom one direction, keeps moving to the opposite side and gradually

Mareech, the Legend moves out. Behind it exit Mareech and Kalnemi. The removal o f the curtain shows no tree but a box instead, on top of which is the suggestion o f a thatched roof The music stops. Ustad waves his wand; Ishwar and Nayeb come to life at the touch o f the magic wand—as if they were lifelessfigures till now. ishwar

No, no, Nayeb moshai, I cannot do it. I cannot rake up a

riot. nayeb Cannot do it? This tiny bit of a job you cannot do! Why, may I know? After all, these are your jobs— starting a riot, setting fire to people’s houses. Don’t tell me you don’t know that. Come, come. So all those things I’ve been hearing about you are true, then* ishwar What have you heard? nayeb That you have become a virtual saint these days! And they say you follow that Raghunath around like a shadow. A big disciple you’ve become, eh? ishwar Raghunath treats everybody like a near and dear one. So if one sees him on the road one has to smile and say hello. And if he comes to one’s house, one has to ask him to sit down. nayeb And offer him tea and snacks . .. ishwar I mean, if a guest comes to your house . . . nayeb (grimacing) Guest! My left foot! You call him a guest! Always up to something or the other behind our backs, trying to screw us up. Listen, Raghunath is our enemy. Enemy Number One. Get that into your head! ishwar How come, enemy? He hasn't ever behaved like that with me. nayab Arre baba—not with you, maybe— but he does that with us, doesn’t he? And with Pal babu as well? And if Pal babu’s roof was on fire, shouldn’t you and I rush to put it out? ishwar That is one’s humanitarian duty. But 1 can tell you one thing Nayeb moshai— Raghunath is not the type to set fire to anybody’s house nor would he try to screw anyone in an underhand way. Only you people with your tricks... nayeb You are really pigheaded, you know, Ishwar! Only the other day Raghunath growled to Pal babu’s face, ‘The paddy w on’t reach your granary this year! The farmers will carry it home this time! They’ll cling to the harvest for life, if need be!’ Isn’t that enough to drive you mad? Bastard! Your father’s paddy or what! 543


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Yr.fc V , harm a* such— Pai bahu wo^.d cc/rme "c tjc ereo: rarm But you knrsw . it s not enough 10 reap :b e harvesi Y:*_ r-i•e to know how to honour it. vou see b h w a * Meaning? nayeb /trre Babct. Do you think this gnain-business is all thai ?imple; The sifting and winnowing. Carrying it to the granary measure by measure— storing it safely— selling it when the market is hot— there’s all that. But these goddamn peasants— all they understand is their bellies. As long as they can reap the harvest and stuff it in their bellies, they’re content. Why don't they understand that they are not the only ones with bellies5 The crop is meant to feed the entire nation. Can you expect them to grasp these elementaries? is h w a r Allow them to and they will. They are eye-deep in debt Let alone savings— they don’t even have enough for two square meals a day. Why don’t you let them keep the crop they reap for once, and see for yourself whether they can manage or not? naykb Supposing they can— And Pal babu will sit at home and suck his thumb and give away the holy prasad! Listen— stop going gaga over Raghunath. Bastard! Long time no work and now you’re afraid to move your lazy bones. Don’t forget we work for him. You must see to it that his interests are taken care of. just as I do. is h w a r But why me, Nayeb moshai? Daroga babu is there to watch out for him. And look at the way he guards him day and night7 Isn’t that good enough? nayp.u Trying to be sarcastic, huh? O r ... are you feeling left out? Of course, you've got reason enough to feel hurt. In Pal babu's father’s time, these lathi-wielding musclemen could not only Ilex their muscles, but were also held in high honour. Now take *


Mareech, the Legend the case o f your father— the Zamindar wouldn’t budge a step without him. Then again, if there was a house to be set on fire, it was your father who had to be called. Or say, such and such a person needed to be straightened out with a thrashing— it was again your father who’d do the job. And say there was this hot number who had caught the Zamindar saab’s eye, who had to be dragged to him, gagged and tied, it was again your... ishw ar (flaring up) Leave that out of it! nayeb Eh! Yeah, better leave such things alone. Those days are gone. There was a time when Nayeb moshai just had to call out, and the peasants would fall at his feet. And now? Except for spitting on our faces.. . But that doesn’t mean that you and your like are not in demand any more. After all, you can’t leave everything to the Daroga babu. He can only be there behind the scenes. So you see, now that you’ve got the chance to serve Pal babu after so long— ishwar But this is injustice! A sin! nayeb What! A sin! (Bursts into a laugh.) What do I hear today on the lips o f Ishwar Lathiwallah, the son of Bishan Sardar? You know, Ishwar, sometimes I feel that this name of yours, Ishwar, has spelt your ruination. Ishwar, meaning God. Was God ever good for anything? Has he ever been of any use except for sitting tight and gobbling up the puja sweets offered to him? But then I think— no, no, it cannot be so. After all, your father himself trained you-it’s hard to find a match for you in swinging the lathi, wielding the knife, even in gun fighting. Besides, we have all seen the kind of show you can put up. Maybe you haven’t been in action for some time. But does that change one’s nature— what is part o f the blood . . . ishwar (bursting out in irritation) Didn’t I say let’s leave all that aside! Those days are gone. I am telling you clear and straight, Nayeb moshai, I cannot do this job. I really cannot understand it. All o f you are so god-fearing. Pal babu himself doesn’t even drink water before partaking o f the prasaad. And yet you people. . . nayeb (laughing aloud) Ishwar! I was telling you only a little while ago—Ishwar by himself is good for nothing! But if you can make good use of this Ishwar—or God, or the idol, or dharam, religion— if you can make good use o f them, you often reap rich dividends. Now look. The affair there is just getting pretty 545


ripe— the Mussalmans are all sizzling inside— a little more, and pop they’ll burst. But this spoilsport Raghunath— he goes and scuttles the whole thing. Ah! If only the riot could somehow start— only a spark is needed in the present situation. And that's where you come in. Take those men from the Harijan village along with you— show us something grand this time! Something that will make us say— like father, like son! is h w a r What does Pal babu gain from inciting this riot’ n a y e b There! It’s your habit o f trying to understand everything that creates all the complications. Okay, listen, let me explain to you what it is exactly that Pal babu wants. The crop here, as you know, is almost ready for harvesting— Raghunath and his men are (gnashing his teeth) guarding it! Guarding it! But once the riot breaks out, Raghunath will run there with his platoon—and while they are busy tackling the situation there— at that moment Y ou want to loot the crop! n a y e b Yes, we will. Loot the crop. In those days w e did it in broad daylight with the help of our lathi-wielding goons. Now we have to do it on the sly, in the darkness of the night. But if that doesn't work, one will have to enter the fray directly— Daroga babu is also prepared for that— and then all o f you are there as well' (Ishwar is silent.) Well, what’s there to think so much about’ Actually, raking up this riot will give us a double benefit, don’t you understand9A tight little clique those peasants have formed. There will be a crack there— they will get diverted from their main focus. Raghunath has grown a bumper harvest, hasn’t he? His field will be the first one we attack! is h w a r He has poured his life and soul into that crop. The crop that gives a poor peasant his food— n a y e b Anna-daata, the crop-giver, takes care o f food. And if you turn your back on her, you will only be inviting trouble for yourself. Let the grain reach the granary, then w e’ll see what that Raghunath is capable of. Tweak my left ear, Ishwar, if the whole bunch of them don’t fall at Pal babu’s feet. So, Ishwar, it’s all done and settled. You’d better get on the job this evening itself. Daroga babu will also be there— Don’t forget to stuff enough arrack down those Bagdi villagers’ throats before you take them along! If you can bring this off well. ... ishwar

Mareech, the Legend Leave me out of this, Nayeb moshai, it is really beyond m e. Get someone else tonayeb If someone else could do it, why would I say all this to you, Ishwar? Who else can finish the job with a cool head, like you can? This job can be entrusted only to the old faithfuls. What times these are! One can’t rely on one’s domestic servants even, to say nothing of clerks! You never know what they are up to behind your back. (Nayeb forces a laugh as Ishwar’s eyes meet his.) But you and me, our case is quite different. My old man served the old Zamindar Saab and now I’m serving Pal babu. Likewise, your father worked for the Zamindar Saab and you too w ill. .. ishwar (firm ly ) No . .. nayeb Will you betray him, Ishwar? ishwar You call it betraying? nayeb You foiget that your father lived off land given by Pal babu! And even today you are living off the crop grown on the very same land. You can’t deny that Pal babu always stood by you in your times o f trouble, he sent you to the hospital when you were sick. Gave you back your life. And now that he’s in such a bad fix, w on ’t you come to his rescue? Won’t you answer Pal babu’s call? ishwar

Sound o f Ustad’s dug-dugi—alsoplaying are the dholak and the cymbals. Twopersons enter with a screen. On the screen is written 'The President’s Call’. Gregory is sitting on the box on which Ishwar was sitting earlier, a cut-out o f a large mansion by its side. They rise as the Ustad swings his wand. (a cigar in his mouth) The land where we were born, the soil w e grew up on, the water-earth-air o f which land is a part o f our very existence— there can be no scope for hesitation or debate in the mind of any American in answering the call o f that land, Gregory. The President is right: There’s only one criterion by which the patriotism of every American citizen will be judged— who is willing to die for his country and who is not. So, my friend, don’t you go around having any second thoughts on this. Gregory Each one of us should be ready to lay down his life for the sake of the nation. I’ve got sense enough in my head to appreciate



that, Macky. But I may have an idea or two o f my own as to what is good for the nation. And surely American democracy grants each of its citizens freedom of thought. . . m a c k y The plain truth is that so many of us are just too chicken to go to war. Little wonder, with all those outlandish rumours of guerrilla activities doing the rounds. g r e g o r y Macky, maybe I’m scared too. Listen, I want to do away with this thing called war, if I can. I want to avoid this very thing called war. But believe me, Macky, I’m thinking not of myself alone, but of America as a whole— m a c k y Ha! Ha! Ha! It’s too much emotion that grows all that fuzz in your head. Look at me— I take everything easy. Women as well as war. But I swear to God, Gregory, when I see that tiny chit of a country throwing a challenge at our America, my fingers fidget to strangle the shit out of them! GREGORY No one’s thrown a challenge at America, Macky. It’s America that’s gone poking its nose around. m a c k y About these foreign policy matters— g r e g o r y But why war? Why do we have to carry on such a bloody war thousands o f miles away? Why do thousands o f Americas have to leave their homes and families for such a faraway land7 Isn’t it important to try and understand? m a c k y I don’t understand too well. I only understand bloody well that it’s a war to protect democracy. We’ve got to go on with this war to save the honour of America— by wiping the outline of that country off the world map, if need be. g r e g o r y You’re thinking only o f America, Macky. What about those brave millions, fighting for the sake of freedom? m a c k y Bullshit! How much do they understand o f this stuff called freedom? Do they know how to enjoy freedom? A bunch of illiterate, semi-civilized people. I’m damned if there isn’t a hidden hand behind the wheel somewhere. g r e g o r y But why don’t you let them go their own way, Macky— choose their own system of government? m a c k y No— we can’t allow it. The high ideals o f democracy which our noble President Abraham Lincoln has placed before us must be propagated and protected, not only in our own country but throughout the length and breadth of this planet. That’s our sacred duty.

Ustad’s dug-dugi beats. The musicians continue playing

Mareech, the Legend Two persons enter with a frame, on it, the words—‘Men baba\* Men Baba! Men Baba! Gobble gobble gobble, I just love to grab and gobble, A nickel here— a penny there, Take all I can from everywhere. Meri Baba! Meri Baba! I reach for this, I reach for that, Whisk it into my bag or under my hat, Meri Baba! Meri Baba! Gold I want, grain I want, Snacks both rich and plain I want, Rich and fancy feasts I want, Songs in voices sweet I want, But more than all this 1 want to see— What? What? What’ What’ That blindly you all obey me! And then? Then? Then? Then? Tee-hee-hee-hee— The whole world in my fist For all to see! Come, come, 1 pray you, Take a donation, In return just let me in, Into your kitchen. I’ll do the work, lay the table, Serve you fresh hot dishes. Sing you a soft lullaby, According to your wishes. Make you real comfortable In your warm bed, leave the household cares to me Don’t bother your head. What if I do keep the keys? You’re happy, aren’t you? Go to sleep, dream in peace, I am here for you. 549


Like how? How? How? And then? When you wake up from your dreaming, And you look around, You find you’re in the gutter, Outside your compound. All is changed and rearranged, The name-plate’s not the same, The fixtures and the walls are new, You don’t know whom to blame. Too late now for cries and tears, For raging or teeth gnashing, Fall at Men Baba’s feet, The fount of all compassion. If you like, stay downstairs, There’s a room to rent. By and by you'll grow resigned, To this new arrangement. By now you must have realized Meri Baba’s policy So raise your voices high in joy, And sing right along with me. All hail Meri Baba! Meri Baba all. hail! Oh, I come to distribute love, Yes, I come to distribute love! I’m the God of love come from above, I touch the demoness Surpanaka With the touch o f love. If you accept my love and take it in, Make me your life’s companion, Some day I’ll break your neck and do you Drink your blood at one sitting. And if you reject this offering, Invoke the pangs of parting. Turning demoness I’ll devour you whole, Bones and all, body and soul. And those who despoil and destroy, Should I not offer them love thereby? I’ll recover with profit by and by.

Mareech, the Legend Haven’t you learned to know Men Baba?! So tell me quick, do you his love accept9 Or else no one can save you from certain death. Come on quick, say you his love accept, Or the ocean of love will drown you yet. Come on quick, do you accept his succour? You won’t find devotion hand in hand with power. Answer, do you say yes to his love? We, the caretakers of democracy Extend our hands For help and for cooperation For help and for cooperation For freedom and for justice For power and for plunder.

Exit Chorus. Enter Macky and Gregory. It’s a helluva responsibility, Macky, and a regular burden. The burden of love. But you know what’ Everyone may not be game to carrying this burden of love around. m acky I can’t make anything o f the things you say, Gregory. Your father was a scholar and a professor o f no mean repute— known all over the country. The books he wrote on American democracy made people all over the world sit up and take notice. And then there are the lectures on democracy from his world tour. Reading through them— GREGORY I have read them, Macky. Each and every single one of my dad’s writings .. . m a c k y Just as your dad did his duty for the country— the States, too have given him recognition— rewarded him. GREGORY Yeah, that’s true. I’ve grown up in comfort on all the money that he made. m a c k y Then? Don’t you owe him something? Don’t you have a duty towards the nation, towards America? g r e g o r y But what exactly this duty is, is something 1 can’t figure out, Macky. m a c k y Strange! But you need not worry about that. Our duty is guided by our President, our duty is guided by our foreign policy, our duty is guided by our glorious democratic tradition. Listen, Gregory— I’m saying this as your friend— you must make capital o f your Dad’s good will. You have an education. You




write well. You’ll make it as a journalist. You only gotta shake all that confused crap out of your head— . g r e g o r y Let me think it out, Macky— m a c k y Go ahead. American democracy grants you the freedom of thought-only don’t push it so far that— ( Gregory looks at him. Macky stops.) We both have been nominated. Both o f us have to go to the battlefield as journalists. O f course, if necessary, we have to take up a rifle— I’m prepared. And 1 hope you’ll keep yourself ready too, so long.

Macky goes out. (to himself): Freedom of thought! American democracy! My father’s research work on democracy— I’ve read everything— what shall I do? I— ( Covers hisface with his hands.)


Conscience** enters with a song. What are you thinking? What are you thinking? You don’t know what a trap you’re in. It’s their beat you have to march to, It’s their tune you have to sing

Musical interlude continues. Gregory gets up and goes out, carrying the cut-out o f the mansion. Enter Ishwar with the cut-out o f the hut. He sits, in Gregory’sposture. Conscience sings again. If you can break free, Know your true friends, the light o f dawn, then you’ll see, shine ever so brightly.

Musical interlude again. Exit Ishwar with the cut-out. Enter Mareech with the cut-out o f a tree, siis the same way Conscience sings again. By false illusion trapped in fetters, Why shed futile tears today?

Mareech, the Legend All sorrows will fade away, Shoulder to shoulder with the others.

Conscience goes out after the song. Mareech raises his head. What must I do? No way out Of this dilemma can 1 find. Why did I master this art of working illusions? Must 1 bring to ruin by my ruse He for whose sake Was my life’s labour, my endeavour, all? No, no. 1 must go Far, far from this place If need be, to some remote planet. Or to hide in the dark depths Of the nether world— where Ravana, King of Lanka, will never find me.


Enter Ravana, What! The demon king Ravana, the Lord of Lanka. In person in this poor man’s hut! ravana I have come to enquire Of your welfare, and see for myself What great enterprise engages you so, That you could disregard my call! Me thought, is this the one Whom I brought back from death, Nursing him to health with mine own hands? Fix your eyes on mine, Mareech, And see if you can find that old Ravana The ten-headed, all care and concern, Who took you unto his lap, when You lay helpless on the wayside Surrounded by the shadows o f death; Who made your acquaintance And snatched you from the unrelenting Clutches o f Yama, God o f Death. mareech True. Every word o f what you say 553


is true, 1don’t deny it! It is to you, oh Ruler of Lanka That I owe my life. Even today, my heart flows out To your feet in gratitude. r a v a n a ( moving away) Gratitude! If you had any feeling O f gratitude, you would have rushed To me, wasting not a moment. Let that be. Ravana does not Come soliciting gratitude. But Mareech, forget not— You are doubly indebted: to me, your king, And to your mother’s memory. m a r e e c h (startled) Lord of Lanka! r a v a n a I have heard from Uncle Kalnemi That you sit in meditation, Desiring the blessing O f the God in human form. Shame! Shame! You must hang your head in shame. Being bom in the demon clan. To seek mercy from a mere mortal! But heed my words, Mareech. Any demon that breathes anywhere In the three firmaments, looks u p to Ravana As his lord and master. Royal birth itself impbses A debt that must be repayed. m a r e e c h Prepared as I am to do your bidding, please ask not o f me To lure Rama and his brother Lakshmana With my miraculous powers. r a v a n a Mareech? Have you forgotten so soon How your mother had to meet Her untimely death At the hands of those two human pests? A mere child you were then, unable To save her from the tragic end. But your muscles today ripple with the Demon strength, Mareech, the strong and brave! When will there be

Mareech, the Legend A more opportune moment to avenge your mother’s death And pay back your debt? m a r e e c h My mother lost her life In battle. Perturbed by her irksome antics The rishis called upon The valiant brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, so that peace could prevail; But they were not responsible For the encounter. Her own fault it was that... r a v a n a Stop. Some devoted son of a mother You are. So enchanted are you with the human race That you don’t baulk at judging your mother? Now I know how it is! How your cowardice cowers In the shelter of your facile reasoning! But that is not a demon’s wont. The tales o f my power and my conquests Make the three firmaments tremble. If there be one who dares to defy My laws and my authority To follow the reasoning of his Own arguments, to claim his right, Ravana, the all conquering demon-king, Won’t forgive him. And he who has heaped such humiliation On my dear sister, be he Lord Vishnu in human form, or the devil himself, He shall burn in the devil himself, He shall bum in the blaze of Havana's anger! Now for the last time I ask of you, If indeed you have some sense of gratitude, Some concern for your race, for your mother, Then you must at once act On my proposal, or else— (He falls silent fo r a while. Looks this way and that way, then starts suddenly—Jyour land will be seized, your hut confiscated; and, most important, there is an old summons in your name buried in the police files—


The Ustad enters, all flurried, a clay cup o f tea held in his hand. Hey, stop it, stop it— what’s all this you’re blabbering? You are Ravana—or have you foigotten that?


Pal babu, the land-holder, enters with Ishwar. But you did not sound your dug-dugi and I had finished my dialogue, so.... u s t a d So you carried on merrily with this fellow’s dialogue? (To Pal babu) And what do you have to say, huh? He fixes it now. u s t a d (to the audience): Oh no, the show went for a six. Just went out for a cup of tea, babujis, and this slip occurred— do excuse me, babus. Start now. ravana

He swings his wand. Your land will be seized, your hut will be confiscated, and most importantly, there is an old summons in your name buried in the police files that will have to be dug out. is h w a r What are you saying, Zamindar babu? p a l b a b u The riot in which your father was killed along with a few peasants— remember we spread the word that all the dead bodies were your father’s handiwork? Because it could not do him any harm, he was dead. One cannot hang a dead man even with ten murder charges on his head. But we could have got you hanged, Ishwar, because even with those severe lathi wounds on your legs, you lived— and are still living. We knew that some o f the peasants were killed by your lathi, too. And Daroga babu knew it, too. In fact, some o f the old eyewitnesses are still around. It was I who saved you, Ishwar; and if you don’t stand by me now. . . .And besides, don't forget, Ishwar, that these riot-happy peasants killed your father. is h w a r The riot was raked up by my father himself—you tricked him into it. I remember, he wasn’t well that day but he was your loyal servant— and he went. I accompanied him. When the fatal rod struck him on his head, I went out o f my mind. I swung my rod in a frenzy. . . Ohhi p a l b a b u I know, I know everything. Hit on the leg, you fell flat. Thank heavens Daroga babu reached the spot in time. Or else, the peasants wouldn’t have spared you either— pal babu

Mareech, the Legend My father paid off his debts to you with his life. Please leave me alone now, Zamindar babu! pal b a b u How can I? Aren’t you living off the land that I gave your father? The hut we had built for your father— haven’t I re-thatched it for you? So you’re indebted to me tooish w ar I can’t do it, Zamindar babu, I can’t. Not as long as I remember what my father told me before dying! PAL b a b u What did he say? ishw ar

Sound o f Ustad’s dug-dugi. A scream is heard offstage: ‘IshwarV—Enter Bishan Sardar, Ishwar’sfather, wounded. He stumbles and falls. Ishwar helps him up—Pal babu remains in the position he was in before. Ishwar! All my life I’ve shed the blood all my life, the girl whom I bound and brought before the w olf was my own daughter, the house I set on fire was my own. Don’t eat out of the Zamindar's hands! If you want to live, run, Ishwar, escape. Or else, join the landless peasants. They’ll save you. They are our own people, Ishwar, they are our own. Sound of the dug-dugi—Bishan leaves the stage—Ishwar resumes his original posture. Pal babu stirs back to life. b a b u So? Why are you quiet? Well, what did your father say? (Ishwar remains silent.) I know what he said. He saidj you shouldn’t think twice about giving your life for them who provide you with your livelihood. And that’s quite right, too. So, it's all settled, then! You arrange those fellows from the pariah village,. right7 You see, they listen to you. And don’t worry about the money— I’m there to take care o f that. There’ll be lots more for you, kept aside— just get the job done. Come back towards the evening. Here, keep this for the time being.

b is h a n


Pats Ishwar on the back and leaves. Ishwar looks at the currency notes in his hands andflares up in rage and agony. Buying Loyalty! Thoo! (Throws the money on the ground.) Bastard! Where do you get all that money? You fill your coffers from the poor peasants’ sweat and labour! What kind o f largesse is that? You give me land, have me treated in hospital, give me back my life—only in your own interest. And me? Crippled for life, walking with a limp. No more. No more. Now I know who



my own people are. I will go and join them. Let me lose my home, my land, my life— I shall live or die as one o f them. I cannot be party to this bloodshed o f my own people— I cannot shed this blood. . .

Ishwar is about to exit. Ustad enters. Hey— is this what you were supposed to say? is h w a r Huh?! u s t a d Son o f a bitch! Playing to the gallery, huh9 And just look at how he’s strutting around. I bet you’ve forgotten all about your limp. is h w a r But Ustad, that's what the father had told his son, before dying. u s t a d Oh, lots of dead men say lots o f things. And then no one else has heard what your father told you. So why don’t you just speak your lines, son? Now where are those notes? (Picks up the notes from the ground and dusts them off.) Bastard— real money, and he’s throwing it around! If someone had chanced upon it, the money would have vanished. Hey there, Pal babu— Listen ( Pai babu enters.) You stuff these notes into his hands once again and make your exit— u stad

Instead o f the notes, Ustad hands Pal babu a piece ofpaper from his basket, Pal babu takes it. Ustad moves aside. Come back towards the evening. Here, keep this for the time being.

pal babu

Places the slip o f paper in Ishwar's hand and exits. I could not run away, Bapu. I was lying in hospital for two months with both my legs broken. It is Pal babu who looked after me— who got me back on my feet. All these years— I have been living off him, Bapu. And being your son, I cannot kick the hand that feeds me. I cannot commit this treachery.

is h w a r

Breaks down sobbing. Williams’ voice, offstage. Yes— it’s nothing but treachery. If Gregory thinks he can ignore our order and go ahead with his independent thinking, he will have to suffer the consequences too.

w illia m s

Senator Williams enters speaking. He isflustered on seeing Ishwar on stage.

Mareech, the Legend William s What o n earth is this, now ? Why the hell is this bloke still

parked here? Ustad!

Ustad steps in. Behind him, an assistant. Ishwar* What are you doing squatting here?! assistant Your part is over, my dear, you don't have to cry any more! ishwar (getting up) As though I have nothing else to do. I was just sitting and wondering what I should do after this. ustad That’s not for you to think about, Ishwar! I’m the one who’ll think o f that, I and my magic wand. Creating a fuss all the time— if the show gets all bungled up— what will the babus think of me? Come on. (Ishwar starts enthusiastically to go out.) Hey (pointing at the cut-out o f the hut) who’ll take this? (Ishwar comes back, takes the cut-out and leaves.) A real country bumpkin, babujis. w il l ia m s If I c o u ld ju st la y m y h a n d s o n h im o n c e — I c o u ld fix h im , ustad

a ll rig h t.

Arrey—dhyat! How can you fix him? You stay in that Yankeeland and h e... w illiam s I can. I sure can. We’ve cast our net over all parts of the world. If we wish . . . ustad Stop there, I say! If you give away everything beforehand the real fun o f the show is lost. Now you cool down and fix the person you’re here to fix, Gregory . . . (Gregory enters on cue. The cut-out o f the mansion is in his hands.) Stand there. ( Gregory stands in his place.) Come. Let me introduce you to the babujis. (He movesforward together with Williams.) Babu... w illiam Ustad. Let me. ustad Well, very well. Go ahead. Ustad and the Assistant move away. williams I’m Williams. John— I’ve been sent to Gregory as a special envoy o f the President. O f course, his father was a great pal of mine. But since I’ve been entrusted with a responsibility and throughout the world. . . (Ustad silences him. Williams stops) Oh yeah. Let’s start


Williams stands in his position. In the mean while, two persons enter with aposter with In Praise O fPressure’ written on it. When they near centre-stage Ustad asks them to stop and moves towards them.


Stop there, 1say! Damn, if you people start making blunders to o ... (He straightens out the posters. Now it reads: A Patriot ’s Diary') Beat it now. (They go out with theposters.) Start— (Ustad provides the cue.) Diary— w il l ia m s Yeah, diary—what had your father written in his dairy! GREGORY All that I’ve done, all that I’ve thought, throughout my life— all o f it is wrong, lies, betrayal. That’s what my dad has written very clearly in his diary. w il l ia m s As you only know too well, Gregory, I, too, have read your father’s diary. Professor was a real buddy o f mine. Didn’t ever hold back anything from me. But those words in his diary— they aren’t worth all the fuss. They were written when your father was in an unwell state o f mind. g r e g o r y What are you saying, Mr Williams? w il l ia m s I'm afraid so, Gregory. After he returned from his lecture tour in several East European countries, something went wrong with his head. He wanted to retire on grounds o f illness, but then died of a sudden stroke— and who knows, perhaps it was all for the best. For the kind o f dangerous stuff that’d been crowding his mind could have undone a lifetime’s work. It would have been all in vain. g r e g o r y It has been all in vain, Mr Williams. w il u a m s No. We haven’t let that happen. If that diary had somehow fallen into the hands of the enemy, even if some fragments of his later thinking had found their way into print in the foreign press— then nothing could have been done. Even today he sits on a high pedestal in the people’s hearts. All that would have been a thing of a past. The portrait of the patriotic professorprofaned. The revered patriot would have been dubbed a traitor— g r e g o r y Mr Williams! Dad was the greatest scholar and spokesman of American democracy that ever was. But the very man who. from within the confines of American democracy, wrote this secretly in his diary, could never speak openly o f it to anyone! In the process, he suffocated within the coloured balloon built by himself and . . . w il l ia m s (patting his back) You’re making a mistake. It’s because your father was such a genuine patriot that— Look, in the Senate, we Senators criticize our foreign policy, we raise hell over the ustad

Mareech, the Legend Pentagon budget. The freedom of thought in a parliamentary democracy— GREGORY Oh! Please stop, Mr Williams!

William stops initially, then flares up. There were hints in your father's diary to the effect that parliamentary democracy is a hoax. Not only that, the Professor had begun to think that it was not possible for a true democracy to develop in this system. And most damning of all, he wrote clearly in his diary that our foreign policy was nothing but a mask for imperialistic expansionism! Imagine the kind o f harm this kind o f thinking could have done, coming from an international scholar of his repute. So I tell you, Gregory, you just keep holding on to the haloed image o f your Dad, which still shines in every American’s heart. Don’t go poking into his secret identity as contained in that diary, because what you and I take to be secret may not be all that secret in reality. Gr eg o r y What’s that supposed to mean? My father had asked me to burn that diary, I—even my mother doesn’t know about it— w illiam s ( chuckling) To run a country you have to keep tabs on the innermost thoughts o f every citizen, Gregory. It may be that even today a copy of your secret diary is carefully preserved in the government files. Gr e g o r y Mr Williams . . . You williams

Ustad’s dug-dugi comes on. Williams and Gregory freeze. The musicians continue to play. Enter the Chorus with a festoon CIA’. From the forests flies a parrot bold Crested with a crown o f gold Where did it come from? Where did it go? For everything you want to know Just contact the CIA CIA, CIA, CIA-A-A! Do you like your meals bland or nice and spicy? How much sugar do you have in your tea? Do you go without food or stuff your belly? They’ll tell you at the CIA CIA, CIA, CIA-A-A!


The sweet-nothings you whisper to your sweetheart at night, All your secret dreams, no matter how deep or how slight If you stand on solid ground or are prone to take flight They know it all at the CIA CIA, CIA, CIA-A-A!

At the end o f the song the Ustad's assistant hands a wig and a namavali to the lead singer, who puts them on. In the background the Chorus picks up the refrain in the style o f a prayer song, with folded hands. The lead singer chants in the style o f a mantra. The festoon reads Adhikaram Aar Kartavyam '■— ‘Rights and Duties’. Rights and duties must have proper synchronism, Everyone must swallow the pills o f patriotism, Whose nation and love for whom, if you ever ask 'em, Then you only dig your grave, sing your own requiem.

t h e l e a d s in g e r

The Chorus moves out. Ustadplays l/zedug-dugi and swings the wand: Williams and Gregory come back to life. There was mention of you in a couple o f places in that diary—which makes it pretty clear that you were in agreement with the beliefs the Professor held in his last years. O f course, the Professor later crossed out those lines but the experts have salvaged them. Which means they are not exactly in the dark as to how your mind works. Besides, we have retrieved this stuff written by you. O f course, not everyone has seen it as yet Because this journal is not very widely circulated. But those who could make it hell for you have seen it, all right. The indications in that small article o f yours are pretty dangerous. You'll write something to counter this and hand it over to me, I will get it published. And now that your name is on the list of the correspondent-cum-combat group who are on their way out, you will not refuse. Gregory, I’m a friend o f your father’s and your well-wisher. The Professor escaped a terrible fate by his sudden death. But you don’t have to follow that path and go around asking for trouble. You are young, with a bright future ahead of you. You’d better do as I tell you. And otherwise, if you want to act according to your independent judgement, well, you’re intelligent, I’m sure you can understand. g r e g o r y I can, Mr, Williams. My father's reputation, my comfortable

w il l ia m s

Mareech, the Legend lifestyle—everything will be at stake. I will be . . . w il l ia m s As a special envoy o f the President himself I tell you . . the tales o f my power and my conquests Make the three firmaments tremble. If there be one who dares to defy My laws and my authority To follow the reasoning, o f his Own arguments, to claim his right, Ravana, the all conquering demon-king Won’t forgive him.

Ustad coniesforward. Blunders all around today, Babujis. This one speaking that one’s lines and that one speaking this one’s. But frankly, babujis, tell me, wasn’t it great fun to hear him speak those words?


Ustad plays the dug-dugi. Williams and Gregory go out. The Chorus comesforward. The musicians keep on playing. Thefestoon reads ‘In praise ofpressure’. Well, you can fix anybody you want to fix, You just have to bring on the pressure tactics. Someone’s crumbling under a pressing need, Throw a rope around his neck, finish him with speed. The warmongers are busy pressing the war-button, it’s the poor whom patriotism weights heavy upon. Fear finds a comer in the poorest's man’s mind, Press your thumb there to play games o f any kind. Pressure o f love, pressure o f money and pressure of status, It really amazes me, how man survives thus. Democratic rights press heaviest o f them all, It’s as if all the treasures are stored behind the wall. You try to lay your hands on them— they shout it’s burglary. So I say, come, sing with us Hare Krishna Hari.

The Chorus goes out. The Ustad moves forward. Yes, babu, you can jolly well tell what’s going to happen next. But you know, things don’t always happen as you think they will, or as you plan. So let’s stop worrying about what’s going to happen next. Let’s take a look at the dance o f the golden deer. (Swirls around and dances, playing the dug-dugi.) The golden




deer dances/my golden deer daunces/Jhum jhum jhum jhum jhum/my golden deer dances. ( Stops short upon seeing that no one enters) What’s the mater? What has happened to that stupid golden deer? ( The Assistant enters— whispers something into Ustad’s ear.) Cannot dance? (Again the assistant whispers something in his ear.) What? Sprained his leg? Okay, let if go. (The Assistant goes out.) Babujis, you will have to excuse me, for I am not able to present this terrific foot-tapping item. This golden deer has been the root o f all trouble—everywhere. You know how it created havoc in the Ramayana. Even in our show, it has given me no end o f trouble. First 1had to scratch my head trying to decide whether the golden deer should be a boy or a girl. Can any o f you tell me whether the golden deer is male or female? You see, though Mareech was a man all right, that doesn’t mean the golden deer has to be male. But if there’s one thing 1 know, it’s that girls are best at all this singing and dancing. That's why I had fixed up a girl; even did a few shows with her. But God knows from where— a circus party manager came and snatched her away from my group. Good riddance, in a way. Because when she danced, some people would whistle— some would throw burning glances and some would even throw coins, and the real idea of the show would be wiped out. After this I picked up a little child (stops and gives a coy laugh)— actually no one could tell whether it was a little boy or a girl. So I trained this child— moulded him— and now, curse my stars, babujis, this child-cum-golden deer has sprained his leg today. I couldn’t present a sizzling show before you, babujis. Do excuse me, please. (Assistant enters and whispers something in his ear.) No, no. Since there wasn’t any dance, there won’t be any interval either. We shall see about it later. Now you take this away and call them in. (Assistant goes inside with the wooden box.) So, babuji—where were we? Oh yes, I was telling you, things don’t always go as per plan. So before we hurt our heads worrying about what is going to happen to whom . . . (Mareech, Ishwar and Gregory enter.) Oh, here they come. Get it straight from the horses' mouth, then. (Mareech advances upfront.) So, Mareech, in the end you did what Ravana asked you to do and accepted defeat. Isn’t that so? m a r e e c h If 1 failed to heed the command o f—

Mareech, the Legend Hey, your show is over, son— now you can talk in plain language. mareech If I hadn’t listened to Ravana— ustad He would have laid you flat with one punch on the nose. So it was fear that made you agree, then? But in the end—you had to die at the hands of Rama. mareech Whether by Rama or by Ravana, I had to be killed. But I thought if I died at the hands o f Rama, I would earn salvation— eternal heaven. In that hope— ustad Oh, devotional sentiments! And you thought only of your own salvation! But it didn’t occur to you even once that it was because of you that Sita was kidnapped? Oh well, let it go. So ultimately, you met your death with an arrow from Rama, right? Gregory— ustad

Mareech moves away. Gregory comesforward. Well? g r e g o r y What else was there for me to do? All my options were blocked. I was so badly hedged in, trapped . . . ustad The babujis have seen all that. Just tell us what you did finally— GREGORY Because o f my father’s nation wide fame and position, I was used to moving in the highest echelons o f society from a very young age. So I never got a chance to find out where it was that I really belonged— and when I did, it was a little too late. I had no other alternative— ustad Hmm, I get it. Do you get it, babujis? This so-and-so committed suicide. Put a pistol to his head and— ishw ar ( advancing): Chhi, chhi You took your own life— ustad

Mareech, too movesforward. Ustad moves aside. Those who don’t want to go to war are shoved into jail. And tortured mercilessly. Those who refuse to go and fight on foreign soil are shot dead. I . . . . I . . . ishw ar Coward! Gr e g o r y But I didn’t bow down to them. I didn’t write what Mr Williams wanted me to write. And listen! My Dad’s last diary, which he had given me to burn, was safely hidden away by me. Before I killed myself, I saw to it that it reached to right place. You must have read it. ( To the audience) Haven’t you read it? American democracy—The Real Story?



(moving forward again) Listen, calm down. There's nothing to get so excited about, son. Lecturing and preaching won’t explain what democracy is all about— those who know all about it will understand all right. But couldn’t you face up to them, you had to die— is h w a r It would have been different if you had died fighting. Instead o f that, running away like a coward— u stad

Mareech and Gregory move aside. Ustad comes close to Ishwar. You have been fidgeting for quite some time, son— you t o o . . .? is h w a r No— u s t a d No! How do you mean no? is h w a r I haven’t committed suicide. Nor have I drowned myself in the sea of devotional bliss. I— u s t a d Ishwar, once again you’re talking gibberish and creating trouble. The Nayeb brought you some toddy— is h w a r No— u s t a d A few glasses of that and you were flat. is h w a r No, I did not touch a drop of it. I did not allow myself to get drunk and lose my senses. u s t a d £al babu himself put the lathi in your hand. is h w a r I flung that lathi away. u s t a d Yes, you flung it away. And because you flung it away— your corpse was found floating in the river—a few days later. is h w a r No—they could not, they could not. Raghunath saved me. The peasants saved me. I have revealed everything to them. Pal .babu’s game is up. They could not start a feud between brothers to serve their own purpose! u s t a d Shut up, bastard— you’re player in this troupe. You can’t just go on doing as you please. This is the Mareech play. And in this show all of you must die— is h w a r Why should I die? I have found my own people. And that is why I am still living. Today I stand, lathi in hand, by the peasants' side. I’ll fighting for the peasants, if it comes to that. ustad

Enter Pal babu. Die fighting! How about that? ( Ustad moves aside.) Give your life for the peasants? After having been fed and clothed by

pal babu

Mareech, the Legend me, now you want to guard that Raghunath’s property? ishw ar I don’t want the harvest o f the land given by you. I have left the house you had given me. pal b a b u But that summons from the police? How will you escape the long arm of the law? ishw ar I will tackle that myself. pal b a b u Hmm. But we can’t allow an antisocial and a murderer to walk around free like this.

Signals with his hand. Enter Nayeb, police caps and revolver in hand. Pal babu puts on the Inspector's cap. Nayeb puts on the constable’s cap. It’s you people who wanted to make me an instigator of riots, a murderer. Now that I’m about to start a new life— pal b a b u You are a dangerous antisocial. For the sake of law and order, you ( turns round holding the pistol) are under arrest! is h w ar What is this! You— you all— ha-ha-ha all right! If this is the face o f the law—then let me shape the law with my own hands— when the lathi-wallah Ishwar swings his lathi, even bullets will run for their lives. ( Runs to the comer, but doesn't fin d the lathi there.) What is this? My lathi, where’s my lathi? pal b a b u It isn’t there, Ishwar. We put that lathi in your hands and now we have taken it away.

ish w ar

Pal babu lets loose a grotesque laugh. Then lifts the revolver, aiming to shoot. Mareech and Gregory rush in from the two sides. at GREGORY No! ( They cover Ishwar. Ustad moves towards Pal babu with a laugh. Mareech and Gregory lift up Ishwar from the ground.) ustad Ha-ha-ha. No, you haven’t managed to kill him. Bloody hell! If the dead rise up to save him, what can you do? From the way things are going, it seems yóu will need Ravana and the President to help you out.

m aree ch

Pal babu goes out. No. You all are out to sink me. My goodness! I have to end the show somewhere, don’t I? Unless Ishwar dies, the show won’t be over. But you chaps— Gr e g o r y I c o u ld not, Ustad— seeing that helpless Ishwar being shot ustad


at— now I feel that instead o f taking my own life, I—

Voice o f Macky offstage— ‘You could have stood your ground. ’ Everyone moves away helter-skelter. Macky enters propped on crutches. One side o f hisface is burnt—a hand missing—he is in military uniform. You could have stood your ground—could have registered your protest. If nothing else, at least you could have waited a little while more. g r e g o r y Macky— It’s you! What’s happened to you? m a c k y The reward for patriotism! A memento for carrying out the sacred duty o f establishing democracy throughout the world. g r e g o r y But your hand— your eye— m a c k y I went to the warfront. Got injured in a bomb attack. And then in the hospital. . . GREGORY You— m a c k y One o f America's dead war heroes. A martyr. There are thousands more— those who have to lay down their lives on foreign soil. And there are even more who have lost their golden youth and have returned home maimed and crippled. We have blundered, Gregory— but it’s you who’s committed an even bigger blunder. GREGORY Me? m a c k y Your ideas, the power o f your youth, the voice o f your protest— in the final reckoning you let all come to nought. We erred, because we didn’t know— but you knew, and y e t... g r e g o r y But instead o f bowing down to them against the call of my conscience— 1thought my suicide would be my protest. And by publishing my father’s dairy, I hoped to unmask the true face of their democracy. m a c k y But do you know, as soon as your Dad’s diary was published they let it out that he was associated with some foreign secret agencies? g r e g o r y What are you saying, Macky! m a c k y They also spread the word that you were actively plotting against the country. And that once you were discovered you tried to evade punishment and disgrace by— g r e g o r y Macky! m a c k y That was the story about your suicide a n d your father's diary m acky

Mareech, the Legend that was handed out, Gregory, framed with such masterly cunning that I’m sure the people swallowed it. g r e g o r y I didn’t imagine, Macky, that they could stoop this low for their selfish, mean— m a c k y You should have imagined it, Gregory. Where democracy is but a tool in their hands for the protection of their won interests, what value does my life or yours bear? It’s to serve their interest that thousands of young men lay down their lives in war. We are supposed to be fighting for the nation, but their is no difference between us and bandits and plunderers— g r e g o r y But Macky, why can’t our people see through this even now? m a c k y They can, Gregory. Many today have realized that they can’t have peace in the country by fanning conflict throughout the world. A movement has begun— an awakening! You could have been a part of that movement had you been alive— You have made a big blunder, Gregory! You should have stood your ground. (Macky keeps backing out, on his crutches.) You could have protested— if not anything else.

Macky goes out. I could have taken part in the farce o f a trial in a democratic court o f law, convicted of the charge o f being an anti-national— I have made a blunder. . . I . . . ustad (com ing forward) What good can it do now to scream and shout like this, soa? Arrey baba, there is no return ticket from where you have chosen to go. Really, what’s all this chaos happening today! The show should have been over a long time back—and look at all you dead people making trouble for me! Here, are you or are you not going to deliver your last lines? GREGORY & MAREECH (together)'. We are the losers, this is our song. We were not able to stand our ground. We didn’t know whom to call our own. That’s why we lost, remained all alone. We are the losers, this is our song, Oh how we suffered, but all in vain. We are the losers, we say so again. mareech ( exploding suddenly) No—this is unjust, unfair!



What’s happened? Which demon has got into you now? m a r e e c h If he has admitted his mistake—you must give me a chance to admit my mistake, too! u s t a d You also want to admit your mistake? Good lord! Then the whole show will become a mistake, son! m a r e e c h I had to die an untimely death under pressure from Ravana. u s t a d Listen, baba, listen. These people can be allowed a little leeway here and there. But you can’t budge an inch from your role. m a r e e c h Why? u s t a d Y o u have to act just as Valmiki has written in the Ramayana Otherwise I won’t be left in peace. These old stories form the Puranas are rooted in people’s minds. If I touch anything there— they will beat me black and blue. m a r e e c h But if Valmiki has done an injustice to Mareech, shouldn’t it be open to judgement, shouldn’t he offer an explanation? u s t a d What nonsense! Have you gone crazy! Who can judge Valmiki? Where are w e to find him so that w e may listen to his explanations? Wstad’s two assistants whisper something to the Ustad.') Oh no, no! What are you saying?) ( The assistants are insistent.) No . . . no . . .How is that possible? a s s t 1 Why not Ustad? You have the magic wand— you can summon anyone you wish . . . u s t a d But that does not mean . .. a s s t 2 Why don’t you, please, Ustad . . . it would be great fun . .. u s ta d But he is the Great Poet, it wouldn’t be right to drag him out here; and besides, who will debate with such a wise man? a s s t i We can always give it a try, Ustad! u s t a d You! Well I must say, you people don’t know that old man! He is a very good person, all right, but when angry he can really wag a filthy tongue— a s s t i Well, w e’ll play mishievous grandsons to an old grandfather a s s t 2 Yes, no harm trying, Ustad— asst l Besides, you really should give Mareech the chance he’s asking fo r . . . u s t a d I can see that you all are hell bent on causing a scandal here today. a s s t i Don’t worry, Ustad . . . Just play o n your dug-dugi—play, Ustad . . . please . . . ustad

Ustadplays on his dug-dugi. Assistant chants a rhyme.

Mareech, the Legend i Magic Wandee! Summon Grandee— Guru o f the bards u stad It makes me tremble just to think o f what’s on the cards.


Ustad steps aside. ASST 1

Watch one and all, How, to our call, Will the great Valmiki appear, To disperse all clouds, And quell our doubts, And make us happier

The Chorus comesforward. A hermit-boy in front followed by a person carrying a poster. The poster reads Valmiki Apology'.


he r m it b o y

A p p ea r b e fo re us,

O wisest o f sages! Fill our ignorant ears, With your sagest messages!

The Chorus joins in. a sst

1 Louder, Louder. The old man is a little hard of hearing.

ch oru s

( at high pitch) Appear, Saviour! Appear, Saviour!

Enter Valmiki, a hermit’s kettle (kamandulu) in hand. The Chorus, frightened, take to flight. The hermit-boy remains as he is. Valmiki gives him an affectionate smile and a pat. Then he looks at theposter. The hermit-boy walks away. Valmiki reads the poster. Could Valmiki be wrongly spelt! ( Reads again.) Valmiki’s apology? What? Which pigshit scoundrel dares to wake me up in the middle of the night and demand an apology? Who dares with such audacity! a ss t l Grandpa, listen Grandpa— v a l m ik i Grandpa! asst i No, I mean Great— Great— Great Grandpa’s— v a l m ik i Shut up! So you demand an apology! asst l No, no! Who said anything about an apology? Here, you see . .. ( He signals to the poster-bearer, who turns the poster back to front— it now reads: ‘The First Poet’s Self-vindication’. v a l m ik i


What is there to see? I say what is— Turns around to read. Smiles all over. Then suddenly becomes serious again. Self­ vindication? Poking fun at me, eh? Just because I am a poet, you think I am a confirmed idiot9 asst 1 Not at all, there he is (points at Mareech). v a l m ik i Who is he? (Goes closer to Mareech ) Aren’t you Mareech? What on earth are you doing here on the road amongst these street buffoons? a sst 2 It’s for his sake that we had to invoke your presence here— valm iki I don't understand a thing. Who are you people, by the way? And how come Mareech is here— a sst 1 We can explain, Grandpa. Please don't get so worked up— we are presenting a play! valm ik i A play! a sst 2 Yes, the Mareech play! valm iki The Mareech play! a sst l In fact, the play was getting along fine. But some o f the players started making trouble, and MAREECH, too, in the end— v a l m ik i Mareech, too, started his antics. Right? O f course he would! Don’t I remember how much trouble he gave me? Bom into the demon clan, you would expect him to live the life of a demon—but there was no end to his tantrums! O f course, there was Yaksha blood in him, too. Tadaka the demon maiden was born to Suketu, a Yaksha. Tadaka was married to Sunda— son o f Jambhu. Mareech is born o f that wedlock. Sunda was annihilated by the sage Agastya for committing some offence. When Mareech and Tadaka went to Agastya to take revenge, Tadaka was cursed by the sage and became a hideous gorgon. Mareech was turned into a demon. And then— v a l m ik i

Valmiki gets out o f breath, having rattled o ff all this in one goRamayana well. But the problem is . . . Mareech has a grievance— v a l m ik i What grievance? a sst i Why did he have to die? v a l m ik i Why did he have to die? ( Valmiki rushes towards him, angrily ) Who the hell doesn’t die? Men die, animals die, birds die, flies die. a sst

l Grandpa, we know our

Mareech, the Legend Kings die, commoners die, heroes die, cowards die. Happiness dies, sorrow dies, love dies, youth dies. And you ask me why did he have to die! asst 1a 2 Please listen, Grandpa— v a l m ik i Matulo Yasya Govinda Pita Yasya Dhananjayaha, Sah Abhimanyu Rane Shete Niyati kena badhyate? He whose maternal uncle is Govinda, He whose father is Dhananjaya, that Abhimanyu— Why should he be compelled by destiny? In the Geeta, Bhagwan Sri Krishna explained to Arjun . . . a ss t i Oh, Lord. Now he’s jumping from the Ramayana to the Mahabharata. . . v a l m ik i Whoever is born will die! No son o f a gun has the power to l {at the top o f his voice): Grandpa! I made a mistake. Mareech’s grievance is over the way he had to die. v a l m ik i Meaning? asst l Everyone has to die, quite so. But in that manner, and while so young— v a l m ik i I see. Well, Mareech, are you really very perturbed? asst l ( nudging Mareech) Why don’t you open up? Come on . . . tell him.

a ss t

Mareech goes closer to Valmiki. My Lord! I do have a query. Was there no other way for me to die? v a l m ik i Has somebody shown you some other way? m a r e e c h Not only had I to die — 1 ,became responsible for the abduction of Sita . .. People cast all the blame on me— v a l m ik i Do they? Well, those who blame you are stupid. You were just an instrument. Sita would have been kidnapped even if you had refused. Aren’t you in the least grateful that I freed you from a life o f cannibalism and gave you such a noble task to execute? m areech But I could have been resisting the abduction rather than abetting it. If I was destined to die, couldn’t I have died fighting, like, say Jatayu—




Oh, I see. You would have been happy to have died a martyr’s death like Jatayu? But that would have been overdoing it, my son! Jatayu was a friend o f Rama’s father, and you were one of the demon clan . .. m areech But I had turned my back on all the pomp and luxury of the demon capital Lanka to live a hermit’s life in the depths of the forest. The demon king Ravana's golden palace was made up of the plunders of the world— there was endless luxury there, whereas the ordinary subjects were a starved, exploited lo t... the tortures o f Ravana’s iron-fisted dictatorial regime . . . v a l m ik i Enough, enough, enough! I never knew you had such notions in your head! Well, if you were such a thinking individual, why did you run away to the forest7If you wanted a fight, why didn’t you stay back in Lanka and stand up against the tyrant Ravana? Come on, answer me .. . v a l m ik i

Ishwar comes forward. You could have shown him the way! Instead of starting a battle between Rama and Ravana, you could have turned it into a battle between the demon king and the demon subjects. . . v a l m ik i Who the hell is this? is h w a r

The assistants come forward. as s t

1 This is another Mareech.


2 There is one more Mareech . .. Gregory . . .

Gregory comes forward. My goodness . . . A white Mareech, I see! From where did all these Mareeches materialize? as s t i In the Mareech play they all are Mareech. Just as Mareech had his arm twisted by Ravana— (He signals to Gregory.) GREGORY Instead o f (in English.) submitting, (pauses) I mean instead of giving in— v a l m ik i No, no, carry on-speak in English, I can follow you well. GREGORY Mareech could have revolted instead o f submitting. v a l m ik i Revolt7 Oh I see, so you people must have put all these thoughts o f struggle and what not into Mareech's head? Listen my sons, let me tell you a few things at the very start— I may be a poet of the ancient age, but from the moment I stepped into this era, I have gained all contemporary knowledge. Do you v a l m ik i

Mareech, the Legend think I don’t understand what you’re trying to say? Class struggle? Struggle between the exploiter and the exploited? Yes, the kings fight with one another. Some win, some lose. But it is the ordinary folks who die. You will aigue that all kings are alike, they run their kingdoms by living off the toil o f their subjects, that a king lives a life o f luxury only by exploiting the poor. By this logic, Rama or Ravana are both kings: they are bound to be oppressors or exploiters! I also know that the terms ’a good king’ or ‘a bad king’ are merely meaningless phrases to you. But my dear ones, you must keep in mind the times and the people o f the times 1 chose to write about. Ohh, you folks are really making me run my mouth off-let's see, could any of you spare a smoke? asst l Smoke? (Takes out a b id i.) Bidi! (Bites his tongue in embarrassment) Ustad, got a cigarette? valm iki Oh! So you have an Ustad too! (Ustad comes forward.) So you’re behind this farce, are you? But did you have to make me say all these dangerous things? Want me put behind bars in my old age? (Lights up his cigarette.) Ah! Quite strong, isn’t it? (Approaches Gregory) So, look here, I can see you pleading for Mareech, but what have you two been doing? (Gregory looks down.) ustad He’s too ashamed to say it, actually he committed suicide to— v a l m ik i Suicidé Strange! You had so many things to do— and you . I have no means of turning back from the mistake I made. v a l m ik i There is. Why do you think only of yourself? The world has not come to an end due to your mistake! There will always be people left to learn from your mistakes. Oh well, I have talked a lot (drawing on his cigarette) This stuff gives you quite a high, you know— so long— ustad But please, wait! Now that you are here, why don’t you solve one more problem? v a lm ik i Another problem? What is it? ustad That Ishwar. He’s supposed to die in the play, too! See, the others bungled a bit here and there but died in the end— but this wretch just refuses to die. va lm ik i Refuses to die! Interesting. Tell me about his case in some detail. ustad Ishwar’s father was a muscleman working for the Zamindar.



He verved the Zajrundar Lii his Us? breath and -»-a.? ar.rr by his master rather w e ll He w-a* given a p»e\:e arc a roof over his head. Uhwar inherited all thaL S c f* ' :be s family wants a little help from Ishwar on a parL>~..iir rr^ But Ishwar simply refuses to help them. He says he w c c : shed the blood o f his fellow peasants. In fact he was supposed 10 rake up a riot among the peasants and in the process he was to die at their hands. But he didn’t do his part at all— then :t was decided that the Zamindar babu or Daroga babu wouid shoot him dead because o f his treachery. But the way the peasants are sheltering him— v a l m ik i Yes— a complicated case indeed! (.Moving close to Ishuar) Well, son, tell me why exactly you don’t want to die. ish w ak If 1 have to die, I’ll die fighting. Together with them . v a l m ik i I guessed as much. Very complicated! When a person is noi afraid to die, you can't have him die at your whim and fancy' Do you know the reason? Just as being alive is as good as b ein g dead in certain cases, one's death in certain cases is more significant than being alive. Don’t you see that he is no longer simply a hired goon or an isolated peasant7He is now a group, a great human collective. Unless this entire group is wiped out. his death will fulfil no purpose. Even if you kill him he won't be dead. (Goes to Ishwar again.) Yes, by virtue o f the fact that you are not afraid to die, I am granting you your life! Never bow your head in fear before Ravan. Hold your head high— Valmiki prepares to leave. u s t a d But how do we end the play? v a l m ik i It isn't a play that you would want to end in a hurry! It will go on through lots o f ups and downs, wins and lasses, lives and deaths— why don’t you let it take its own course— just let it—

Exit Valmiki. Asst 1 approaches the Ustad. So, Ustad u stad Hmm— so now, after this— babujis, I have really tried my best, but the show just did not go as I wanted. Ishwar went off against all rules, didn’t heed my direction at all. My magic failed completely! But to tell you the truth, I feel very happy, very happy indeed. For you see, no one wants to die like Mareech, no one wants to commit suicide like Gregory.




Mareech, the Legend Assistant 1 brings in a poster and stands near the Ustad. On it is written ‘A Ten Minute Interval’. i & 2 Ustad ustad What is that? ( Looking at the poster:) Oh, you idiots!


He turns the poster around. Now it reacts The End’. All the players emerge and stand in a row. The curtain drops.

•Meri Baba: Meant to indicate A-men-ca. *• And idiom used in Jatra, a folk theatre form o f eastern India where the Conscience, collective or an individual’s, can actually speak and sing on stage


The political realm in the Indian theatre has remained rather surprisingly a largely ignored and also unac­ knowledged one. Four plays in this section give you four different kinds of politics. The late U tp a l D u t t was the political activist p a r e x c e lle n c e of the left in this country. He wrote for the party. He wrote for the movement. His position in Bangla and also Indian Theatre is unique. Surya Shikar is just one example of his very large oeuvre. Dalit consciousness is a major part of Indian poli­ tics today. Caste tensions and caste contradictions domi­ nate India’s political horizon. You cannot understand Indian politics without relating to the whirlpool of the inner and external horizons of Dalit identity. B h a g a t ’s play shows us those horizons. No less relevant than Dalit is the tribal identity. M ahasveta D evi, very eminent writer of fiction, has been active with the tribals of West Bengal and Bihar. In this play she looks at the urban Bhadra Lok Bengal in the context of the rising people’s movements. She offers us a view of politics which is both moving and disturbing. As for the last play Raste, I would rather that the text itself speaks to you. It is a text which wants to speak, speak about a suspended moment in India’s political history when all sound appear to be closed or almost so.

Hunting the Sun UTPAL DUTT Translation: By the A uthor

SCENE I A street in Ayodhya. Enter Shishumar. Hear ye, hear ye! By order of His Majesty the Emperor Samudragupta Parakramank, by gracious permission of His Majesty, two slaves shall this day be sold here on the boulevard by Suryavarma of Vaishali. Anyone desiring to buy may please come forth! (Beats his drum. Enter Mahasveta.) m a h a s v e ta Why this noise so early in the morning? Cannot a person sleep? Why are you raising hell before my house? shishu Are you not Mahasveta the prostitute? m a h a Prostitute! ( laughing) Shishumar, you are a petty minion of the State. Your masters, the great captains of this State, prostrate themselves at the feet of the courtesan Mahasveta for her favours. Therefore watch your tongue. s h is h u H ave done with your threats, prostitute. This is Samudragupta’s Capital. 1have taken note of the orgies of adultery and lechery, not to speak of the veritable torrent of wine, that take place in your house every night. I have been thinking for some time of closing down that house of ill fame. It is as well that w e have met. Now— m a h a Why didn’t you stay on in Pataliputra, for God’s sake? Why make Ayodhya your Capital all of a sudden and ruin us in the baigaia9 shishu It is as the all-conquering Emperor wishes. For me it is enough that Ayodhya is now the seat o f the Empire, and as true as my name is Shishumar Pallava, I shall wipe this city clean o f prostitutes, courtesans and dancing girls. Hear ye! Hear ye! m a h a Woe is me! Will you listen Nagarkotala? Stop beating the drum. shishu I shall hold no further discourse with you. My guards will call on you in the evening and arrest you. Hear ye! Hear ye! By order— m ah a H o w odd! If it is a clean city you want, why do you not arrest Malavika of Senakunj? Why pick on me? shishu Malavika has obtained a licence with the Emperor’s seal. You haven’t done so. Go away. Hear ye! Hear ye! m ah a Very well, give me a licence. shishu Licences cannot be had for the asking For example, all citizens are worshipping the Emperor’s household gods today, and all dancing girls are supposed to sing and dance in the streets. Look sh ish u m ar



at you. You have been sleeping. Away with you. Hear ye! Hear ye! maha Dance in the street7Are you suggesting that the great Mahasveta should dance in the street7 shishu All streets are filled with dancers, because it is a public festival. Prostitute, if you value your life, begin dancing at once. In a short while, the Lord Suryavarma will offer his slaves for sale here, and among the buyers shall be the General Hayagreeva, he who has conquered all men, beasts, barbarians and monsters. Also the Lord Chamberlain Basubandhu. If you cannot entertain them I shall throw you in prison. maha Ah, I see. I am a puppet. I dance, but the puppeteer reaps the profits! sh ish u T*he affair has two aspects. If they like your dance, it is not only that I rise higher in the Government, you save your business as well. You help me, I help you. What do you say? m a h a Have I any choice? (calling) Radhanika! Rati! Kurangika! Get me ready. I shall dance for the gods. (She is about to go) s h ish u Stay! My charges are two pieces of gold. m a h a Bribe' sh ish u The chandalas and Shudras use that word. Why be vulgar? We call it perquisite. Come on— two dinars. m a h a T w o dinars! That is rather expensive, is it not? sh ish u Well, licences do not grow on trees. You cannot just gather them. There are palms that one must grease. Out with it— and cash, please. m a h a (handing him two coins) This country is gone to the dogs. Bribe at every step. No one lifts a finger without bribe. The empire is about to collapse, no question. (Enter her attendants). Come, dress me. Have you brought aguru and kaleyakdust? Pound me some lodhhrarenu Radhanika, help me with the ornaments. I shall have to skip and jig on the bloody street. s h ish u Make haste you slut, the General is coming. I can see a flag with a trident atop a chariot. Behind it the Chamberlain’s flag— a full moon. m a h a And I can hear people screaming and running away, which means the General has arrived, no question. m a h a (to the singers who scurry in ) Why didn’t you begin, you fools?


Hunting The Sun Son o f Chandragupia: heroic in battle, the emperor Samudragupta! c h o r u s The Asuras and barbarians are driven off: and the world lies at his feet. leader A terrifying frown on his face. c h o r u s Banga, Kalinga and Kamrup quake in fear. leader For he has slapped the cheek of the world. c h o r u s And it glows red in defeat and shame. leader But now he worries, for his conquests are over, and he is royally bored. The three worlds have bowed, not an enemy left, only the Sun can now be hunted. In the cloudy forests of the sky the Sun runs like a deer. For the royal hunter has sworn to hunt the Sun. The hungry Emperor seeks new conquests. le a d e r

Enter Hayagreeva and Basubandhu. The dancers greet Hayagreeva with garland, chandantilak andflowers. hayagreeva

(laughing) What’s this, what’s this? Why do you m ake a

god o f me? shishu My lord, you return victorious to Ayodhya, having in fair battle vanquished Ugrasen, King of the Palakkas, and Kuver, the king o f Devarashtra. We kiss your feet and consider ourselves blessed. haya I have fought wars all my life, but never have 1 been greeted so. 1understand you perfectly. Woman, what is your name? m a h a Mahasveta, my lord. haya Shishumar, this woman has charmed me. Send her round to my house in the evening. Satisfied? b a s u b a n d h u How many more women will charm you, General? In the last twenty days, I have counted twenty women who have successively won your heart. How many hearts have you? How big is your heart? haya It does not have to be very big, because permanent residence in it is forbidden. The doors ate wide open. They come and go. basu To you therefore a woman is merely flesh that you enjoy for a night7 haya Naturally. Every night I suck the life out o f a fresh body and the following morning toss the dry flesh on the dung-heap and they have one more applicant for the cat-house. Shishumar, I hear Suryavarma of Vaishali will offer slaves for sale. Where is he? shishu He will be here presently, my lord.


I need a slave, a strong man. basu A woman, you mean. h a y a No. No. Man. I had a good one, my chariot driver, but unfortunately I was forced to kill him yesterday evening. Basu We have no right to take the life of a slave. h a ya Rights are written in worm-eaten books, and I never bother about them. I had summoned a woman called Sarangika yesterday— nice-looking as they go, and my slave had the gumption to look at her. I never touch a flower that has already been sniffed at. The slave might have taken her the next morning. I would not have minded at all. But in the evening, before I had even touched heii No, it was too much. I therefore need a new slave. But if Suryavarma does not come at once, I must go. 1 have other things to do. basu For example, go to the theatre, I suppose, and select the bestlooking actresses for future enjoyment. h a y a You are right. ( Basubandhu groans). Look, my lord Chamberlain, 1have just returned from an eleven-year war, and the Emperor has ordered another campaign to begin after the rains. Let me enjoy the respite. You who never go anywhere near the battlefield, but don’t stop sending the silliest orders from the Capital— I don’t think you will ever understand the joys of a furlough. Ba s u (slightly .angered) My dear General, I have been in many campaigns in my youth, and— h a y a Come on, don’t be angry. O f course you have been in battle Here, drink with me— (offers him leather bottle) basu I do not drink before sunset. h a y a - Then I must drink alone, alas. ( drinks) Woman, sing to me. No religious chant, please. I detest Sanskrit tongue-twisters. Sing a love song in Prakrit. Do you act7 m a h a 1 do, my lord. Shakuntala. h a y a Which theatre? m a h a At Acharya Kushadhwaja’s. h a ya Ah, I’ve seen you there, and like your dance, Anuradha. m a h a I am called Mahasveta, Master. h a y a Oh yes, I keep forgetting names. Mahasveta. Mahasveta, here's slight reward, (throws her a bag o f money) I shall see you in the evening. Do you take pan? m a h a No my lord. h a ya

Hunting The Sun haya This pan is from the city of Tamralipti. It’s good stuff. Taste it.

Forgive me, my lord. I have reddened my lips with madancolours, and pan always wipes them off. (Hayagreeva laughs) haya You see, Basubandhu? Woman. The face is not her own, it is a mask o f paint. Is the hair your own? Or have you got a wig on? Your teeth? Eyes? ( seizes her) Is everything false? Is woman a poet’s dream? The first act of a play? A bit of bad acting? And what about your heart, woman? Is that also a lump of earth, painted red and shaped by the fingers of a sculptor into a subtle parody of a heart, a farce, so that it looks like a heart, but has no feelings, no love? maha (gasping) You’re hurting me, please let go. haya (flinging her awayfrom him) Come to me at night, and I shall break open your body and find out if your heart is really false. You see, Basubandhu, there is no such thing as woman, only an exterior, a hollow effigy. open and you have an armful o f straw, earth and wood. shishu Suryavarma has arrived, my lord.

m aha

Enter Suryavarma, whip in hand, followed by the slaves Gohil and Madhukarika and the child Veerak. Long live the Emperor! My salutations, O General! Salutations, Mahamantrin! Please forgive me o f being late, Nagarkotala may I now present my slaves for sale? s h is h u Hear ye! Hear Ye! By order o f the Emperor the slave Madhukarika is now offered for sale. (Madhukarika and Veerak are broughtforward.) basu How old is the child? Surya Ten. Take a look, Mahamantrin, feel him. In the limbs of this child y o u can already feel its growing strength. Very shortly this child will grow into a hard-working slave. basu And the woman? surya Proficient in all household duties. Look at her teeth and you will realize how young she really is. h a ya That's the way you tell a horse’s youth. surya Also a slave's. Slave and beast are similar animals. basu What is your name? m a d h u k a r ik a Madhukarika. basu Who sired this child? m a d h u I do not know. su ryavarm a


What do you mean? surya She cannot tell because all males in my house have slept with her one time or another. And yet her body is still young. Behold. (he displays her arms and legs) basu How much do you want for her? su rya Thousand dinars. basu T o o much. su rya Y o u get two for the same price, damn it. What a bargain! You get mother and child! basu But a thousand dinars? You can get a slave in the market these days cheaper than a dog. The wars go on, and the markets fill with prisoners and the prices are falling. su rya These are not common market slaves. This Madhukarika is an expert at bath and massage. She is going for a song. I would not have sold her but for a debt I have to pay. ba su But a thousand dinars is a lot of money. I must satisfy myself about my buy first. Woman, take off your clothes. (Madhukarika draws back) su rya How now, slave? Why do you play the coy woman? You aren’t even human. Take off your clothes. The lord will look at you. m a d h u 1 am a mother and my son stands before me. I would rather you did not make me naked. su rya What’s the world coming to? I suppose one of these days cows will demand to be clothed. m a d h u I am not a beast o f burden. I am a mother. Please do not dishonour me in this way. ba su My lord Suryavarma, I have no time for comedy. Show her naked to me and I shall probably buy. I have the money with me. su rya Strip, woman. I’ll rip the skin off your back. m a d h u D o not dishonour me in the street, sir, I beg o f you. su r ya ( roaring) A slave has no honour and therefore cannot be dishonoured. Shishumar, seize her and tear her clothes off. basu

Madhukarika throws herselfat Hayagreeva’sfeet. Help me. You are a soldier. Think of your mother who was a woman and help me. h a y a Think of my mother? But 1 am not o f woman bom. I wa> conceived in the stem of a tree. 1have no mother, woman. The m adhu

Hunting The Sun warrior Hayagreeva was brought into the world without a mother’s help. m a d h u Are you saying that you will stand there and watch a defenceless woman stripped naked? h a ya Yes, and I shall laugh, watch and laugh. Woman to me is a night’s fantasy; with daybreak nothing is left but a despicable mass o f flesh, fat and bones. This has been my experience for years. You are no better. Go away. basu And all this coquetry is quite pointless, because it is not as if I desire you. Slave, you presume too much. Sexually I haven’t the slightest interest in you. I merely want to find out how many years you will be fit to work. I merely wish to tap your muscles— clinically and without passion— and calculate how much labour 1am buying for a thousand dinars. This is a financial assessment, and resistance is downright silly.

Suryavarma and Shishumarforcibly undress her. You are cannibals! You have banished dharma from the hand. ve e r ak Mother! What are they doing to you? basu Well, not bad. Calculating in time, I put the woman’s fitness at ten years. Hard labour for ten years. Here is your money. surya And the boy is extra. Ho there, pratiharin, take this woman and boy to the .Chamberlain’s chariot. (Madhukarika and Veerak are led away). shish u Hear ye! By order of the Emperor, the slave Gohil is now offered for sale. haya I s your name Gohil? m adhu

Go h il A ye.

Are y o u a Shudra? g o h il (muttering) Shudra . . . or a monster . . . or a man .. . haya What is this? surya Gaughing) Pardon me, Your Highness. The slave has been chattering away these twelve months. Gone crazy I suppose. But he works well. In fact, because his mind is occupied with other things, he works twice as much as other slaves, and never complains. Behold, O General! These arms are made of cast iron. Do you want to look at his teeth? haya N o . Gohil, how long have you been a slave? surya He is an atma-vikrayeen. He sold himself when— haya



I am asking the slave, not you. When did you sell yourself' g o h il Sold... myself? Famine. You remember the great famine? My father, my mother . . . hunger drove them to sell themselves .. . to this lord . . . Suryavarma. But they died. They died all the same. h a y a Gohil, can you judge horses? g o h il Horses?... ( laughs) That’s a good one. Kshatriyas ride horses, sometimes over the Shudra’s body . . . Can you judge horses? Can you judge a horse from under it7Then 1can. h a y a My lord Suryavarma, how have you used this slave? su rya Agriculture. All my slaves are engaged on land. h a y a And you have worked him to insanity. surya But he is very strong. Test him. Look at his teeth— (Hayagreeva suddenly drives his closedfist into Gohil's belly). h a y a He will do. If he can take that from me and still stay on his feet, he will do. Price? su rya Seven hundred, my lord. ba su This is swindle, exactly twice the market price. surya One engages in slave-trade for profit, Mahamantrin. I would not have soiled my hand in this kind of bilgewater otherwise. HAYA (throwing him money-bag) Count. Gohil, you are now the General Hayagreeva’s property, (w hipping him without provocation or need) Do you understand? g o h il General. . . Hayagreeva . . . h a y a Come, we shall see how hard you can run. I will tie you to my chariot and gallop. Come— h a ya

Enter Indrani. Wait, my lord. I have something to say. h a y a And who may you be? in d r a n i I am Indrani, disciple to Acharya Kalhan. sh ish u Damnation! He is a Buddhist heretic. in d r a n i The General wanted to know who I was. Whether my gum is a heretic is irrelevant. (General surprise) h a y a Woman, how dare you argue with men? In this kingdom the Brahminical code rules. This is not barbarian country. in d r a n i I know the code. And I pray to you with folded hands 1 have no intention of aiguing. h a ya What do you want’ in d r a n i Set this slave free, my lord. in d r a n i

Hunting The Sun (laughing) I have just paid out seven hundred dinars of g o o d money for him. Why should 1set him free? in d r a n ! You will set him free out of kindness to a young man and pity for a wretched woman. h a ya Kindness and pity? Did you learn these words in the theatre? This woman is mad. g o h il Are you not . . . Indrani? Why . . . why are you begging o f these men? Do not demean yourself. surya Woman, you speak expressly against the law. The Naradasamhita does not provide for release of slaves. in d r a n i Have you read the Narada-samhitd (Suryavarma is taken aback). surya N o , but— in d r a n i I have. And in the seventeenth sutra of the fifth chapter— (taking book out) You should read it, you know— Narada says, a slave can redeem his liberty by offering the price of two cows to his master. My general, I have brought you my life’s savings— the price of two cows. But I am not asking you to do it for money. No. Free him because you love him. haya You are a strange woman. Must 1 throw away seven hundred pieces of gold, because I love him? in d r a n i So you think the price of a man is seven hundred dinars? I have always wanted to find out exactly how you calculate the price of a man in gold. shishu This is Buddhist sedition. Treason. haya But she excites me, my curiosity I mean. Listen Vasavi— in d r a n i I am called Indrani. haya Yes, Indrani, of course. Tell me, why must I love this slave? He is low-horn, a Shudra. in d r a n i And you? haya I am a Kshatriya. in d r a n i Prove it. shish u Silence, you Buddhist atheist. If you— haya Shishumar, don’t shout. 1 prove my birth by my father, the warrior Maudgalya. in d r a n i And your mother? haya I have none. I was bom o f a tree. in d r a n i And you believe this fairy-tale? haya What do you mean? in d r a n i Your father must h ave fo u n d yo u under a tree, m ore likely.



No one can be born of a tree. Such absurd things do not happen in nature.. h a y a I must warn you, I have had people blinded for much less. in d r a n i You can have me blinded also, but that can hardly make your fantastic old wives’ tale any more credible. You kill and maim and yell obscenities all day and night, lest you should hear the truth. You want to turn lies into truth with your sword. Where are your senses, man? If you don’t use your perception, cognition and knowledge, how are you different from a beast9 Ask your common sense, if you have any: can a human child be born in a tree-hole? The answer will be: No. Impossible. Then how do we explain the mystery of your birth? Why, either you are a foundling, or you were bom in the womb of a slave or a Shudra woman, and your father invented the tale to cover a scandal. h a ya (seizing her) Arc you calling me a bastard? There are no limits to your audacity. in d r a n i And there are none to your cowardice. You are afraid to face the truth. And you call yourself a conqueror! (Hayagreeva lets her go) h a ya By all the gods in heaven, this woman calls me son o f a slave, bastard and coward. Her words are sparks that scald my faith. What is this come upon us in the shape of a woman? in d r a n i It doesn’t do therefore to harp too much on the differences between a Kshatriya and a Shudra. The slave Gohil and you may have been bom in the same mother’s womb for all you know. h a y a (laughing a trifle too boisterously) Ach, don’t make me laugh. I shall choke in a moment. in d r a n i You laugh in order to keep a straight face, while within you are torn with questions that have plagued you for many years now. The questions now threaten to rebel and you laugh to suppress them. Am I not right? h a ya 1 shall not speak. Only drink. I am just a bastard. in d r a n i Let Gohil go, my lord. If you cannot love him, no matter. Take this money and let him go. surya This is patent treason. Begin to free slaves, and where are you? Who will work? What then happens to civilization and society and religion and the State? basu Shishumar, it will be in order if you were to arrest this woman and—

Hunting The Sun No, wait. Indrani, why are you so solicitous about this slave? What is he to you? in d r a n i I love him. (Hayagreeva thinks this over in astonished curiosity) h a ya What is love? in d r a n i Every time you lash him, I feel the pain. That is love. h a y a Love is a game they play in the theatre. Shakuntala and Dushyant. It does not exist in the world of men. in d r a n i It does not exist in yourv/or\*_;L :-n will conunue to rule. 1 can t betray the future. If the pr.^c oi betrayal is the price I have to pay to get Indrani released. lr;^rirherself would denounce her Guru. h ay a ( shouts) You don't have a heart Can t you see that sight? Inoraru s body drips with blood and shakes with an inexpressible p a in k a lh a n I don't see any need to tell you what 1feel within m y h e a r t But I'll never allow the banner of science to kiss the dust h a y a ( suddenly) Shishumar! ( Shishumar enters with s o l d i e r s > Bauddhashramana Kalhan! I have orders to destroy these weapons and rebellious books of yours. Shishumar, do your duty.

The soldiers start wrecking the telescope, burning the books Sayan and Bibhu try to resist but are beaten up. Commander, I plead with you in the name o f future generations, don’t burn those books. They contain the knowledge, the discoveries, the realizations of men. Commander, don't behave like a beast, don't destroy the treasury o f ideas accumulated through centuries, don’t cast your countrymen into darkness.

k a lh a n

The soldiers hold Kalhan. The flames burn and books are thrown into theflames. Beasts! Only beasts can bum books. Those who try to burn books to suppress the voices o f men are devils, rakshasas and barbarians. haya It's a lesson to you, you heartless Brahmin. This is how we shall stamp out your heartless, conscienceless material from our empire.

Exit Hayagreeva with his soldiers. Kalhan tries to bring out manuscripts from the flames. Sayan and others hold him back. Acharyadeva, calm yourself. kalhan Are they all gone? Is this all that remains o f the research of half a century? A few specks of dust, some charged pieces of paper, splinters of glass? Can they burn science? Can they trample truth under their feet? Sayan, is nothing left?


Hunting The Sun Gurudeva, we will have everything again, Kalhan’s successors will carry his work forward. They will begin again the quest for truth. k a l h a n These ruins, these charred manuscripts, these splinters of glass, these are the witnesses. These witnesses of the barbarity perpetrated by a fiendishly ignorant Hindu empire will send a call into the future asking them to remove the veil of darkness and awaken an era of light and the eclipse of superstitions. It will be a world where knowledge will not feel ashamed to show its face, where truth will not be imprisoned, and where science will not be tied to the wooden wheel and tortured to death.


SCENE V The royal palace. Enter Samudragupta, Dardura, Basubandhu, Suryavarma and Shishumar, their clothes covered with dust. Mahamantri Basubandhu, I seek release from the burden of these royal duties. Allow me to build a cottage of leaves on the bank of the river Tapti, let me sing, let me compose my poetry. Oh, shall I never find release from the temptations of the world? d a r d u r a Yes, can we never find release, the two of us? b a s u b a n d h u Maharajadhiraj, Mahamatya Suryavarma has brought us grave news. Do listen to the news. The empire is in grave danger. sa m u d r a (smiles) The empire? The empire is more valuable than two lines by Mahakavi Asvaghosh? d a r d u r a That’s the spirit, Samuddur. Let’s go to the forest, the two o f us. s a m u d r a Still, I know the Emperor is never free. d a r d u r a There you go. This Emperor will never build his cottage on the bank o f the river Tapti. sa m u d r a The news? basu Suryavarma, tell the news. suryavarma Maharajadhiraj, the slaves in the Sharvalika region are preparing arms, and conferring in the night. There are clear signs of rebellion sam udragu pta

MODERN IN DIA N DRAMA samudra Mahamatya, it’s only natural that they would revolt. After

your cruel oppression, it’s only inevitable. d a rd u ra It’s only natural that they should revolt. After the oppression of these people, what else can they do? sam udra I’ve written a poem about the slaves. Would you care 10 listen? d a r d u r a Do they have any choice? You'd make them listen anyway. s a m u d r a Unbearable the burden o f chains, This injustice from some unknown king lost in the forgotten past, I am proud man facing Brahma’s infinite, And yet I am only a slave. What misfortune! Who leads the rebellion, Mahamatya? su rya Gohil, a former slave o f mine. Commander Hayagreeva had set him at liberty. sa m u d r a Can’t you have Gohil arrested? ba su We haven’t been able, Your Majesty. The slaves of Ayodhya have kept him hidden. s a m u d r a It’s only natural. They want freedom from oppression— and Gohil leads them towards that freedom. If there had been a god anywhere in this cosmos he would have been ashamed at this humiliation of humanity. basu There’s more to be told, Mahamatya. Tell him the news about Kalhan. s a m u d r a What’s the news about Kalhan? surya You Majesty, this rebellious human beast Gohil is guided by the Buddhist atheist Kalhan. Gohil is guided by the Buddhist atheist Kalhan. Gohil goes to Kalhan’s ashram every day. s a m u d r a It’s only natural. A great man like Kalhan would naturally rise against your inhuman oppression. Nagarkotal, arrest Kalhan.

Exit Shishumar A great man! Therefore have him arrested. My tears flow at the misery of the slaves. Therefore have them arrested and set on the shula. basu Your Majesty, won’t the arrest o f Kalhan precipitate the crisis? His reputation is international. sa m u d r a Mahamantri, why don’t you listen to a poem I have written* At the first dawn of creation I was there on the eastern sky, High up there in the garden before the playroom o f God, dardura

Hunting The Sun Hence my name is man. Sentry, bring in the prisoner Indrani. My voice mingled with the music of the first Sama, The first rays of the sun touched my eyes. (In a deep bass) Therefore I’m the arbiter of the world.

The sentries bring in Indrani, almost unconscious and dripping with blood, laid on a wooden wheel. They are followed by Urmila. (laughing) Your majesty, Indrani won’t accept your proposal. She has very few bones left intact. Yet she would not say a word. I don’t see any way except killing her off. d a r d u r a 1can see another way. sam u d r a What other way, Jester? d a r d u r a You can have her cut into pieces, cooked, or may be raw, and your wife can eat her up. urm ila (laughing) Don’t be silly. d a r d u r a Listen, Samuddur! I’ve seen her feast on human flesh. She is a Rakshasi. (They all laugh) As she was feeding on the flesh of a slave, she lost two of her teeth. Let her have the soft flesh of a woman this time— the remaining thirty teeth will remain intact. urmila

They all laugh. Why do you all laugh? (Laughter again) These rascals laugh at every word I say. I am Pushyamitra Dardura. My truth provides them with entertainment. Yet I’ll say that the queen is a rakshasi feeding on human flesh. She must eat Indrani’s flesh, chew her bones, and drink her blood— for that alone would satisfy her. (Exit) sam udra Indrani, did Kalhan rape you? (Indrani is silent) Sentry, turn the wheel. (As the wheel gratingly turns, Indrani moans) Indrani! Indrani! What a wonderful name! Our first meeting, Indrani, Was on the banks of the river we call Narmada. There was not a living being in the world. You made me wild with your touch— And man was bom. Indrani, how many times has the Buddhist Kalhan raped you? in d r a n i I worship the Rishi Kalhan . . . my father. urmila Your Majesty, this woman is insulting you. She spurns your



orders. (Laughing) Why don't you kill her? What w o u ld people say? How would you run your kingdom once p e o p le come to know that a Shudra woman had defied the Emperor himself with contempt? s a m u d r a (laughing) Who wants to run the kingdom, my queen? I’d only like to write poetry in solitude. I find it is you w h o runs the administration. (Urmila retreats in fear) u r m ila Your Majesty, if I have done any wrong, I beg your pardon. s a m u d r a Indrani, will you say in public that Kalhan has raped you, or that he has known you sexually? in d r a n i Acharya Kalhan is my father. s a m u d r a Well, if you so choose, you need not slander your father. Then you have to say that the earth is not round. in d r a n i H o w can I tell a lie? The earth is round. s a m u d r a Will you admit that the moon is a god! in d r a n i The moon is matter. There is nothing in the world but matter. s a m u d r a I s there no soul? No gods? No Isvara? in d r a n i


You were right, Urmila. Indrani is entirely under a spell of delusion, she is under the possession of Rahu. u r m ila Then why do you keep her alive, Your Majesty? s a m u d r a Only because I find a great satisfaction these days as I look at this beauty in the embrace of dark death. I find inspiration for a new poem. The poem is almost there, but it w on’t come. Sentry, turn the wheel. The poem might come to my lips.

sam udra

The sentries do as instructed. Indrani screams. The poem has arrived, it is here— Death, 1tempt you, I give you this woman as a gift. Stretch your thirsty arms to take her. Have you surrendered at last to the human limits?

Enter Hayagreeva in a hurry. Your Majesty, the rebellious slaves have assembled at the Marakatakunjapalli. I took my cavalry into—*(H e looks at Indrani and shudders into silence) s a m u d r a You have just interrupted the birth of immortal poetry. You didn’t allow the royal Ratnakar to become a Valmiki. You didn’t allow me to write a piece of poetry on Indrani lost under the hayag reeva


Hunting The Sun wild kisses of death. What is the news you have brought? Is there a slave revolt at Marakatakunja?

Hayagreeva remains silent. Your Majesty, the Commander is perhaps too tired. He needs wine. Madhukarika, bring the wine. ba su Commander, the Emperor waits for the news. Why don’t you speak? ha ya Yes, I’ll g iv e you the news. I’ll wipe myself out and prove my loyalty.

u rm ila

Madhukarika enters with wine. Have the slaves risen in revolt at Marakatakunja? h a ya Yes, Your Majesty, and your faithful puppet, this Hayagreeva, the man without a soul, has routed them. u r m ila (smilingly presents Hayagreeva with a glass o f wine) Commander, won’t you have wine? haya You can drink the wine, Empress, in the sheer joy of revenge. But I have given up wine. basu Commander, Gohil is the leader o f the rebels. They have their real centre in the Sharvalika palli. Ha y a Gohil? The name sounds familiar. basu You should attack the Sharvalika palli immediately. haya I should use my sword every moment to preserve this empire, for the Emperor is God incarnate. It would have been fine. Your Majesty, if you could have for your commander a stone image without a soul, without passions. He wouldn’t have asked question, wouldn’t have felt anything, would have gone on obeying the orders. sam udra Y o u too have been obeying orders. Hayagreeva. haya Am I obeying orders still? Excellent. Excellent. Then perhaps there’s still some hope, I may yet be able to crush my very being and become the Emperor’s favourite. (Moves towards Indrani) There’s still hope, I may yet be able to write a poem on the woman dripping with blood. Is she dead? sam udra Hayagreeva, my son, the Emperor is God and therefore he is immortal. I was there on the day of creation, I shall be there to complete the epic after the pralaya. You have to go to the Sharvalika palli. You have to wipe out Gohil and his band of rebels.

sam udra



(shouts) I’m going, Your Majesty, to write a poem in letters of blood. Since the Emperor is God Himself, this woman dripping with blood is only a sacrifice in the temple of that God. This is the mantra that I shall chant to quiet myself. You can rest assured, Your Majesty, Hayagreeva doesn’t know any feelings. He is Danava, a warrior made o f stone.

h a ya

Exit Hayagreeva. Indrani, why are you silent? How can I get my inspiration if you remain lifeless and silent? Speak, Indrani, scream. Turn the wheel— turn faster. Indrani must scream. How can I bear the source of my epic to be choked? There is no music in the chunk of flesh that does not stir with life. Turn the wheel, bring life into this body. Indrani, speak, speak! (Samudragupta is almost wild, the other stunned) sh ish u Rajachakravarti, shall we present the prisoner Kalhan?

sam udra

The Emperor breathes gaspingly. Kalhan is brought in chains. You have killed? Emperor, have you killed my Indrani? s a m u d r a Acharyadeva, she won’t speak. She would not let me finish my great lyric. k a l h a n Human beasts! Indrani, Indrani, I’ve come, look at me for once. Speak a word and console your guilty old father. u rm ila It’s not yet time to lament, Brahmin. That daughter of a Shudra hasn't died yet. k a l h a n Death would have released her from the unbearable pain. Indrani, you must pardon me before you die. It was I who sent you to the world o f Chandalas. I brought you to disaster. s a m u d r a Sentry, take Indrani, back to the prison. Tomorrow early in the morning— u r m ila Decapitation? sa m u d r a There is no poetry, queen, in cutting off a head in an instant. Sentry, take proper care of her so that she is fit again. Take her • out tomorrow early in the morning to the yards o f the fort. Then let my mad elephant Jambuka loose on her. Let Indrani be the toy with which my elephant would play. k a l h a n You are an Asura, thirsting for blood. s a m u d r a I’ll stand at the window of my palace, see the game and write my poetry. Take her away. (Indrani is being taken envoy) k a l h a n Indrani, tell me for once, I’ve done no wrong. Tell me that 1 kalh an


Hunting The Sun have not killed you with my own hands. It’s a guru’s order, Indrani, you must speak. ( Indrani, silent, is taken ou t) Samudragupta, aren’t you a Kshatriya? Is this the Kshatriya religion? Why do you torture this helpless girl? If you have the guts, hit me. Indrani’s views are my discovery. Where is your Jambuka? Throw me at its feet, Samudragupta, please let the innocent girl go. I’m a father, a Brahmin, I’m old. I pray for her. s a m u d r a Acharyadeva, you hold Indrani’s life in your hands. How can you think that I'd want to destroy her exquisite beauty? Don’t you know I’m a poet, I paint? Maharishi Kalhan, you can save that beauty that puts to shame the moon in an autumn sky. You have to stand in the Court and say that you are a liar, and that the earth is actually a plain surface, and not round. You have to say that the moon is a god. You have to say that the Puranas are true, the gods are true, Isvara is true, the Brahmanya religion is true. k a l h a n Samudragupta, though a father’s heart is being tom into pieces, though a father’s senses are choked at the sight of the daughter’s tom flesh, yet I’ll say that Kalhan would never utter that lie. Kill my daughter, Samudragupta, it will be her sacrifice to the cause o f truth. But how can her father betray the cause of truth? That would only take away from the glory of Indrani’s sacrifice. No, Emperor, I’ll only pray let there arise from the drops o f Indrani’s blood a science that will crush the structure of blind ignorance. Kill me Samudragupta. Otherwise, for the rest of my life I’ll go about carrying to every place in India my message. I’ll declare there’s no religion, no gods, no Isvara, no heaven, no hell, there’s nothing. There is only man, there is science. basu Silence, you atheist rebel. You have urged the slaves to rise in rebellion against the Emperor. Your Majesty, he must be executed in public. That he has been a liar or we prove that he is a lecherous Tantrik. There is no other way. We have to uproot the very source of his ideas. Buddhist Kalhan, you wouldn’t say that the earth is flat, even to save Indrani’s life? k a lh a n No, Samudragupta. sam udra Then tomorrow you’ll have to sit in a specially decorated balcony and see Indrani in the embrace of the mad elephant Jambuka. Take him away. k a lh a n Samudragupta, I’m a Brahmin, this iron chain that you have put upon me is my sacred thread. I touch this sacred thread and curse you— you will disappear from the face of history, your


Empire and wealth and dignity would melt away. And then Indrani’s words would shine like the Dhruva Nakshtra, leading all Shudras, Chandalas, Anaryas and slaves to the realization of the great truth. Exit. s a m u d r a (laughing) A Brahmin who denies godhead has no Brahminity. Hence this curse is in vain. basu Your Majesty, Kalhan will not submit. And he can't be killed. What is the way out? s a m u d r a Shishumar, has that dancer of yours arrived? sh ish u m ar Yes, Your Majesty. s a m u d r a Call her. ( Enter Mahasveta) Woman, is your name Mahasveta? You pretended and found shelter in Kalhan’s ashram’ m a h a s v e t a Yes, Devadhiraj! s a m u d r a H o w did he behave with you? m a h a He pronounced the immortal words of Buddha, placed his hands on my head, and blessed me. s a m u d r a What's this, Shishumar? sh ish u Don’t you want to live? m a h a I was only speaking the truth for the benefit o f the Emperor But in public I’ll say whatever you want to have me say. s a m u d r a Is that right? Or will you deceive me? Mahasveta, deception hurts me. What will you say in the Court? m a h a I’ll say Kalhan has raped me. I’ll say there are orgies in the ashram all the night long. I'll say, wine and women are Kalhan’.s joy. sa m u d r a Urmila, take change of this woman. Show her tomorrow’s entertainment with Jambuka and Indrani. She'll know what it means to deceive the Emperor. You can leave now. Indrani with her silence has deceived my poetic genius, but I'll yet make her immortal in my lines and colours.

SCENE VI A room in thefort. Enter Indrani, chained, and Shishumar followed by Madhukarika and Veerak. You will wait here, Indrani. A little while later you will be thrown to a wild elephant out there in the yard. Pray to your god.

sh ish u m ar

Hunting The Sun I do not believe in God, Shishumar. shish u (pointing at Madhukarika) This slave-woman comes with a message from the Empress. in d r a n i

Exit Shishumar. in d r a n i

w h a t is yo u r message?

There is no message. The queen pursues her vengeance even unto death. She sent me to fill your last moments with ridicule and insult. in d r a n i (smiling) Well, go on, insult me. m a d h u I am no master, nor queen. in d r a n i What is your name? m a d h u Madhukarika. This is my son, Veerak. Look, dear mother, they have branded him with the mark of slavery. in d r a n i That mark is merely skin-deep. They cannot brand our minds, if we do not surrender our souls to them. m a d h u That is the reason I have brought my son to you. Bless him. Give him deeksha, so that he can hold his head high all his life. in d r a n i We never bless anyone, nor do we believe in deeksha. Come here, Veerak. Do you want to know, to learn, to read? veerak I do. in d r a n i Are you ready to risk your life by running away, and then come back some day and fight for other slaves? veerak I am. in d r a n i (making sure no guards are listening)Then listen well, my son. Take this ring to the Buddhist monk Devangshaghosha in the village of Purvachal. Show him this ring, and he will give you some— (looking round again)—some books. Hide them carefully among your things and go to Muthra, to Acharya Prasenjit’s School. Give him the books. He will teach you. My son Veerak, guard those books with your life. veerak What are those books about? in d r a n i Knowledge. Truth. I have set down in them what my master taught me about the mystery o f the sky. They have burnt everything they could lay hands on, but I had sent these books away to Purvachal. Guard them, dear boy, don’t let the soldiers find them. veerak They will never find them. m a d h u Mother Indrani, touch my son, let him be blest.

m a d h u k a r ik a


Who am I that I should play at being a god and touch this

boy. m a d h u You are the fire that we worship with. Your touch purifies. in d r a n i I shall do it to please you, but it is all so meaningless. (She touches him)

Pushpinau charato janghe bhushnuratma phalagrahih Sherehasya sarwe papamanah sramena prapathe hatha Charaiweti charaiweti. Forward, forward. m a d h u (embracing Veerak) My son, when you return, 1 shall no longer be alive. But you break the chains o f other mothers, remember? ve e r ak 1 shall come back brave and strong.

Exit Veerak. The ideas live on, from Kalhan to Veerak. I might have known. You cannot fight ideas with a flaming torch.

in d r a n i

Shouts within. What is the cry, Madhukarika? m a d h u ( looking out o f casement) They have gathered in their thousands and are howling like famished wolves. in d r a n i Why? m a d h u They desire to see you—trampled—trampled by the elephant. Is the world moon-struck? Have men become animals? in d r a n i Trampled by an elephant. m a d h u You are . . . you are scared. What can I do to comfort you? in d r a n i I am just a woman. How much more can I suffer? Will this persecution never end? ( Shouts within) What was that7Is it time? Is it time already? m a d h u No, dearest, no. General Hayagreeva has entered the yard, and they greet him, for he is their hero today. in d r a n i Has the revolt failed? m a d h u Yes. in d r a n i Have you heard anything abour a slave called Gohil? m a d h u No. The butcher is making his way hither. in d r a n i {frantically) Madhukarika, please do not tell anyone that 1 was scared, that I wept tears of terror. m a d h u Don’t be silly, my little one.

Hunting The Sun Enter Hayagreeva and Shishumar. Your servant begs you, my lord, not to do this. No one is allowed to see her. Order. h ayag reeva Villain, Hayagreeva does not wait for orders. shishu It is a royal command. haya I am violating it and shall also face the consequences. Go on, leave us.

s h ish u m a r

Shishumar goes out. I have come to take you away. in d r a n i Where? h a ya Somewhere far away, where no one will throw our dreams to be trampled by an elephant. in d r a n i Do you know of such a country? How is it called? h a ya I do not know, but we shall discover it together. in d r a n i There is no such land. No matter where you turn, you are still in the empire. You built it, Hayagreeva. You should know it is endless. haya I defy augury and the terror of the empire. You will come with me or I shall drag you on a hurdle. in d r a n i If you try force, you will die also. They won’t spare you this time. ha ya Y ou are dying for nothing, for a bad dream, for a litany of jumbled phrases about cosmic mysteries which affect no one’s life. You will renounce them and call Kalhan a liar, and then we shall walk out of the dark futility of this chamber, hand in hand. You will say, Kalhan lies. in d r a n i (smiling) You know very well I shall never say it. ha ya (roaring) You will. Do not cross me for I am mad. I shall use my sword. haya

in d r a n i h a ya

A s y o u used yo u r s w o rd w ith the slaves?


I shall consider it a privilege to die by the same steel that has taken Gohil’s life. h a ya Who has told you I have taken Gohil’s life? in d r a n i Well, didn’t you? Tell me, Hayagreeva, didn’t yoii kill Gohil? haya I couldn’t. There I was in the middle of, hell murder-maddened soldiers doing bloody execution all around me. And I could not raise my sword once, for I remembered you had said these slaves may just as well be my brothers. And then I saw him, I saw in d r a n i


Gohil, fighting four horsemen all alone. So, I— (stops. A pause) in d r a n i Tell Me, Tell me, Hayagreeva, what did you do? h a ya I then drove off my own soldiers to save him, to let him swim across the Jumna. ( Laughing bitterly) For months now I have been consumed by a sick desire to wash my hands in Gohil’s blood. When the time came to redeem my pledge, I spared him. Am I a fool? You tell me. in d r a n i Hayagreeva, do you really love me so? h a ya But you spurn my love. You fling unrequited love back in my teeth and laugh at my servitude. Why will you not live for me? in d r a n i Hayagreeva, will you never understand? It is my destiny that I die today before those thousands, so that truth will rise triumphant from my mangled, worthless body. h a ya Y ou will willingly die there crushed by an elephant's foot for an illusion, a wild dream? in d r a n i For an idea. I shall have to die with a smile, so they will know truth is strong. h a ya Y ou are... you are so strong. Where do you find such strength? Tell me, dearest, where, where do you gather the seeds o f such pure courage? With all my arms, cohorts and power, I cannot call on death as on a friend. I have never been able to conquer such peace with my violence.

Shouts and trumpets within. The Emperor and the Empress have taken their seats in the royal pavilion. in d r a n i It means it is time to go. h a ya (flinging himselfat herfeet) Indrani! Indrani! Please have mercy on me! Do not die, my beloved. Live for me. in d r a n i For heaven’s sake, Hayagreeva, do not tempt me, do not weaken me— h a ya Tempt? Weaken? What are you saying? You admit I have the power to tempt you, to weaken you? That my exhortations can move a marble goddess? Tell me what you meant then.

m adhu

Noise within. They have unchained the elephant. It is charging the palisades in blind fury. God in heaven protect us! h a ya Tell me, Indrani, why did you say it’

m adhu

Hunting The Sun Shall I say it? Say it now when there is no more time? Hayagreeva, I love you. haya What? What did you say? Say it again, and again and again. in d r a n i 1 love you. Gohil is only a playmate from my childhood. I do not think there is time to tell you how dear you are to me, with all your strength, blind anger and a child’s obstinacy. haya (laughing) Then I become the God of Thunder, I am a sweeping storm, a furious forest-fire.

in d r a n i

Enter Shishumar. General, we shall open the wicket-gate now. The prisoner must go to the yard. h a ya Yes, I take my leave of you. Hold this purse, man. There are a hundred dinars in it— a gift. shishu Master, you are very kind. haya Kind? No, Shishumar, I have just realized that there is someone who loves even so unworthy a creature as 1.1 can now plant my foot on the neck of God and say— do your worst, emperor of heaven, Hayagreeva does not care. He is not alone any more. He has found fulfilment. in d r a n i Hayagreeva, pardon me, 1 have given you nothing but suffering. haya Suffering? No. You have made me taste immortality. m a d h u Indrani, it is time. They have opened the gate. in d r a n i I go and the Lord Buddha’s will be done. haya And where are you going all alone, Indrani? Wait, 1 shall go with you. in d r a n i Y o u ? Why? Why will you kill yourself? Life is beautiful. You cannot— haya Life is not beautiful without you. This I have discovered. Let us go. in d r a n i N o . It’s impossible. I shall not hear of it. I die for my belief. Why will you die? haya For you. in d r a n i (afterpause) You really want to go? Come then, my beloved. haya I am not so brave as you. Do you think I shall be able to face a charging elephant with . . . with dignity? in d r a n i Look into my eyes, Hayagreeva, and you will triumph over fear. shishu


Exeunt. Howl within. Lord! Lord Tathagata! Will you smile benignly over this horror! If there were a God, would he not unleash thunderbolts as a visitation for this sin?

m adhu

Enter Urmila, screaming. At a distance, Samudragupta, Dardura and Mahasveta. Hayagreeva! Hayagreeva under the elephant’s feet! Did you see it, Madhukarika? Hayagreeva’s intestines and blood scattered all over the sand! sa m u d r a Empress. ( Urmila startled) It was an unbecoming scene for an Empress to enact in public. u r m ila Why did you come away too, Your Majesty? sa m u d r a I was afraid my consort had suddenly been taken ill. Why else should she quit my pavilion, groaning to high heaven, and without taking our leave if you please? u r m ila Forgive me, my lord. I am afraid my nerves are no longer so strong as they used to be. ( Forcing dry laughter) The sight of human bodies bursting open under the elephant’s foot was a bit too much for me. s a m u d r a Human bodies? Or do you mean precisely Hayagreeva’s body? If Indrani had died alone, would you have batted an eyelid? You have seen too much bloodshed in your time to be shaken now by an execution. u r m ila Yes, I grant you, it was Hayagreeva. You will agree it was unexpected, all of a sudden to see your favourite soldier strutting into the arena, as if— s a m u d r a ( yelling) My favourite soldier? You mean your favourite lover. u r m ila My Lord! d a r d u r a Caught like a big fish. What a shame, queen! You have sentenced scores o f slave-girls to be spiked in public, and neglected to build your nervous system. Cannot absorb a shock yet? See the two of them together, and all reflexes go out of control? Bloody shame. You aren’t fit to be queen. sa m u d r a ( whipping him) We do not wish to hear all this from the mouth of a slave. In fact there is nothing to say. 1 have known the entire history of this escapade. u r m ila You .. . you know? sam u d r a Did you think the Emperor of India is blind? I have watched u r m ila

Hunting The Sun and know for a long time that, like cheap sensation-hungry courtesan, you have pursued Hayagreeva in a display of desire unworthy o f your position in the state. You will now go to your room, and because you are the Empress, you will take care that no outsider ever finds out that you are really a whore. u rm ila I cannot go thrdugh with this ceremony. Not after what I have seen out there today. I shall not be able to palate the mistress of your household any longer. sa m u d r a Y o u have forfeited all right to my household. But you will continue to don royal robes as and when we order you and pretend you are a happy and benevolent consort to the Emperor. I shall not permit any blot on the Gupta dynasty. Now go. d a r d u r a Y o u see, the queen is also a variety of slave. Jewelled variety. u r m il a I am a prisoner in this palace. And Indrani has taken Hayagreeva away from me.

Exit Urmila. I was about to compose an ode to my elephant when these bothersome interruptions took place. Slave, why did my General suddenly acquire this sacrificial mood? m a d h u He loved Indrani, sire. s a m u d r a Ridiculous. How can the captain of Samudra Gupta’s elite corps fall in love like a common mortal? There is some defect in my military organization. d a r d u r a I am thinking that girl Indrani was rather clever. Checkmated our queen with the very last move. Sa m u d r a Mahasveta, you know what happens to a person who is sent to woo my elephant. m a h a Yes, sire. sa m u d r a If you miss out a single line from your evidence at Kalhan’s trial tomorrow, you know what happens to you. Better do your homework. ( Exeunt Samudra arid Dardura.) m a h a Rest assured, sire, I shall know my lines— Phew, what a sight. Did you see it. Slave? Wild elephant trumpeting. Then blood and brain splashing around. Rather exciting, don’t you think? In a way I enjoyed it. m a d h u Will you have some wine? You look positively pale. m a h a Might as well Restore tissues. ( Drinks) Lots of guts, those two. I saw their faces when the elephant had its trunk right round sa m u d r a


them. Smiling, would you believe it? Actually smiling. That s th e kind of courage I shall never have. m a d h u You will never need such courage, because that's the kind o f ordeal seasible people like you carefully avoid. m aha You are bloody right, you are. I am for king and country' m a d h u But do you not believe in sin? Is it not sinful falsely to accuse a kind and generous Brahmin of ravishing women— especially a Brahmin who sheltered you in simple trust? m aha You seem to know too much. m a d h u I was in the room when the king laid the plot and you a g re e d to cooperate. m ah a Well, naturally I agreed. I am not bloody well going 10 craw l under an elephant. They are too heavy. My throat bums I am more afraid of king than sin. m a d h u You will testify in court tomorrow? m a h a With all my might. Ouch, my cheek burns m ad h u What will you say? m a h a In court? I have memorised a speech about five pages long Mind your own bloody business. m a d h u I don’t think you will say a word tomorrow. m a h a What the hell? m adhu

Y o u w ill say n oth ing to m o rro w , M ahasveta, b ec a u s e today.

in a few moments, you are going to die. m a h a H o w dare you?—Oh! See! Throat! Chest!— Poison! You haven’t poisoned me? m a d h u I have. It is Chinese poison. The life of a stool-pigeon has its occupational hazards, Mahasveta. We cannot stand by and watch you denounce Indrani’s guru, can we now? Say something, girl

SCENE VII Before the palace, Enter Basubandhu and Virupaksha Kulaguru Virupaksha, doomsday is at hand. It is possible that the empire is about to be liquidated. Look, thousands of people have arrived at the Emperor’s summons to watch Kalhan s trial. But our only witness for the hearing, the dancer Mahasveta— v ir u pa k sh a What about her? b a su Dead. Poisoned. b a su b a n d h u

Hunting The Sun viru p Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwar! It is the end of the world.

Her body, blue with poison, has been found in a room in the fort. v ir u p Then what shall be said to these teeming plebeians? If the trial is called off, they will assume we are afraid to face Kalhan, that Kalhan’s ideology must be true. What will happen then to religion, to the empire? basu And incredible as it may seem, the Emperor spent the night at a concert of songs. v ir u p Tire and brimstone! Doesn’t the dupe realize his own danger? This mob can attack the palace and slaughter all o f us, including the Emperor. How can he listen to songs? basu I believe he has surrendered entirely to a morbid death-wish and desires self-destruction. I sent him word last night that the trial should be postponed. He sent word back— the trial goes on, as scheduled; do not bother me when I listen to music. v ir u p Lunatic. He has every right to wish his own death, but what gives him the authority to shilly-shally with our lives? Hark, my Lord Chamberlain, the impatient crowd roars for prey. God, we have lost Hayagreeva. He was the man for crises such as this. He would have scattered this mob in no time. The inconsiderate greenhorn! Just walked away to die with a low-born dame on his arm. No thought for us. He has left us sitting on a volcano. basu Hayagreeva’s scandalous death with a Shudra woman has opened the floodgates of contumely. The Shudras and Vaishyas have become openly contemptuous of authority. What a shame. v ir u p Ah, now you cry shame! You are responsible for ail this— you alone. You drove that young fellow to his death with your plots and stratagems. Now get yourself out of this mess if you can. basu Gurudeva, this is no time for quarrels. We must stand as one man against that murderous mob. Otherwise I might have put the records straight. I might have pointed out that you are not so innocent either o f the affair o f Hayagreeva. viru p Mahamantrin! I had nothing personal against Hayagreeva. I was defending Dharma. But you? You displayed the petty jealousy o f a fatuous old fool. basu Watch your tongue, Brahmin. Before sitting in judgement over my conduct, you should submit accounts of your income. A monk amassing a fortune in gold is a disgraceful sight. virup My son Basubandhu, if you grow saucy in this manner 1shall




be forced to publish an account of how you acquired so much land around the capital. Illegal gratification is how you call it in law. basu Silence. Lecher. 1 have a full list of your concubines. v ir u p You are a common thief. (Enter Dardura.) d a r d u r a Dog eat dog! The greater the danger, the more they eat each other. v ir u p Vidushaka! What news, Vidhushaka? Where is the Emperor? d a r d u r a He says he will attend Court here, but 1doubt it. Why don’t you start packing? It will not be pleasant if that mob decides to flay you two. (Virupaksha and Basubandhu emit involuntary groans) Scared, aren’t you? A sight for my old age. Kshatriya and Brahmin quaking in their shoes. basu (with as much dignity as he can muster) Listen, Dardura, if that mob enters the palace, I was wondering if you could put in a word on my behalf. You could for instance say—

He pauses. What the hell shall I say? For instance, that you have so far had a hundred slaves executed for petty misdemeanour? basu N o , no! What are you saying? Look, Dardura, I usually pay my benefactors handsomely. d a r d u r a A slave can receive no money. That is the law. basu To hell with the law! You could for instance tell them that I have always cherished great love for them in my heart. d a r d u r a I see. In your heart. You have concealed it well. You have never shown it. basu Reasons of state prevented me from making a demonstration. Things in that vein. You know how to handle these things, brother. d a r d u r a Brother? Why brother? Call me father. basu (laughing with great effort) We shall see, w e shall see. d a r d u r a Call me father! ba su (laughing) Father, you old madcap. d a r d u r a That did not ring true. Put a little more filial affection into it. ba su (laughing) Father, father, O father. Is that all right, you nitwit. d a r d u r a No bad. I\shall consider your application. v ir u p Coward! Flattering a slave! ba su Go in, scram I shall not be flayed alive. Let us see how you



Hunting The Sun behave when they turn you into a pure, holy but alas, headless Brahmin. d a r d u r a Brahmin, you better call me uncle. v ir u Destruction on your head, you blithering, crawling dunderhead! d a r d u r a Swearing has become second nature to this man. After they kill him his severed head will still be damning everyone.

Music and drums. Enter Shishumar. Srinu, Srinu! The Emperor approaches! basu Actually approaches? shishu Yes, my lord.

s h is h u m a r

Enter Samudragupta and Urmila. Madhukarikafollows. The crowd cheers. Empress, bless your subjects, (softly) Urmila, take yourself in hand. Why do you not smile? u rm ila (softly) I can’t. I can no longer stand the irony of these rituals. s a m u d r a Y o u will, you will. You are merely an instrument of statecraft, and a womb to bear heirs to the throne, nothing else. You have no will of your own. We need a smile from you to please our children out there. So smile, (aloud) Shishumar, read the proclamation. basu Sire, you will have Kalhan produced here? sa m u d r a Certainly. basu But Mahasveta is dead. Who will testify? How shall we argue with Kalhan about scientific matters? And what shall we say to the mob? s a m u d r a The mob will be angrier still if we do not produce Kalhan. The fame of my judicial department extends from the Himalayas to the sea. How can 1hold a trial with out the accused? What will people say? What happens to my famous justice? What will history say? viru But if Kalhan opens his mouth and begins expounding his materialist philosophy, the world will end. sam u d r a And then again it may not. Shishumar, let sacred fire be lit and let the priests chant their hymns. basu God, he is serious. I am off— (about to go) s a m u d r a (softly) Anyone leaving the court will be summarily executed before sunset. No one leaves. Display a semblance of cowardice, and the mob will go mad for blood. sam udra


Agnirjayoti jyotiragani swaha Surya jyotirjyoti surya swaha Annirwarcho jyotirwarchar swaha Suryo warcho jyotirwarchah swaha Joytih Suryah Suryojyotih swaha s a m u d r a Shishumar, summon the accused. v ir u p You are a maniac. You wish to fill the world with the sulphurous fumes of hell. s a m u d r a I am Emperor, therefore God. 1have miraculous powers. I tame tigers, elephants and Buddhists. d a r d u r a (to Modhukarikd) Bring Kalhan here? They will dare? m a d h u I do not understand it. (Enter Kalhan, chained and attended. The people cheer) basu Rishi, we are ruined. A despot’s mad whim has brought us to this pass. I see no hope. s a m u d r a Shishumar, read the chaise.. sh ish u The accused Kalhan stands before the Emperor, his judge. The accused has declared that the earth is round, that the moon is matter, that there is no God. These propositions being contrary to spiritual and temporal law, he shall now stand trial. s a m u d r a Citizens, I have perused the charges diligently, but find this trial superfluous, because the accused Kalhan has since confessed and recanted. He declares science to be false. ( Consternation) I have in my hand his full and voluntary confession. The master Kalhan has expressed his intention o f observing retreat— Maunavrai—for twelve years to expiate his guilt. He shall not speak, and I am therefore constrained to read his confession in his presence. First of all, he says in this letter— the earth is flat, no round, the Puranas are true, Science is false. Have I read correctly? (Kalhan stirs, but does not seetn to understand) basu Why doesn’t he protest’ s a m u d r a The letter then goes on to say—the moon is a god, the Rigveda is true, Science is false. Have I read correctly? (Kalhan is restless) v ir u p Why is Kalhan silent5 d a r d u r a Why don’t you say something? They are destroying your ideas and making a god of falsehood Why are you silent9 sh ish u Will you disturb the sage in his oath o f silence? You are a villain. priests

Hunting The Sun Kalhan, they are killing Indrani again in public. s a m u d r a This slave does not understand the solemnity of a vow. Arrest him. Take him away. d a r d u r a Kalhan, what have they done to you? You let them rape Indrani’s memory? (He is led away) Ba s u Sire, why doesn’t Kalhan speak? samudra I am God. I raised a finger and he is struck dumb. v ir u Have you cut off his tongue? dardura


A n d also d ru gged him, I suppose?

That is the language of mortals. We gods call it a miracle. I can even turn him into stone. You never know. As I was saying, the letter further says— God is true, the Vedas are true, Science is false. Have I read correctly? (Kalhan groans.) Finally the letter says— 1am a sinner and liar. I shall have nothing further to do with the Black Art that goes by the name of Science. May religion triumph! Have I read correctly?

sam udra

Kalhan shakes his chains and groans. You hear the master Kalhan’s approval. Now for the verdict. Since the accused has acknowledged the supremacy of religion and denounced his subversive philosophy, it will be infamous and cruel to keep a scholar of his stature one moment more in chains. Shishumar, free him. Hereafter Maharshi Kalhan will be known by the addition of Rajkulajyotish and, as Royal Astrologer, he shall live in the palace as our counsellor and friend. shish u Generous King! t h e pe o ple Long live the Emperor! s a m u d r a Citizens you can go home now. Slaves, you shall hereafter worship Maharshi Kalhan as an incarnation of God. Accept my humble salutations. Avatar! b a su Sire, you really can work miracles. You are a God. s a m u d r a Y o u took your time to find it out.

Kalhan yells unintelligible syllables at the people. Strike drums!

Every time Kalhan tries to speak, his voice is drowned by drums, conch-shells and bells. He finally desists. It’s no use, Maharshi, you can’t fight me. You try to say there is no God. Very well, we shall make you a god. You gesture wildly 649


with your arms to say, man needs reason not faith. Very well, w e shall fall at your feet and worship you, and make you a monument of blind faith against reason. You wanted to hunt the sun, old man; that was rash. This is how the sun is hunted. We shall make you, the mortal enemy of religion, a temple for the propagation o f religion, just as we have turned Buddha, the enemy o f Vishnu, into the tenth incarnation of Vishnu. Come, Urmila, let us go into the palace and prepare to receive the eleventh incarnation.

(Exeunt all but Madhukarika, Kalhan and guards.) Come, father. (Kalhan tries desperately to speak.) No, all is not lost. Your ideas live. Do not despair, do not think them invincible. Your science lives. My son Veerak has taken Indrani’s books away. (Kalhan smiles, wants to know m orejYes, Veerak has the books. The world will find out the truth, if not today, then tomorrow, a century, a millennium later. And people will know, a courageous old man once lit a lamp to dispel the darkness o f the mind. They will look up at the sky and will discover the deathless Kalhan and Indrani in the constellations, in the unravelled mysteries o f the universe.

m adhu



Whirlpool DATTA BHAGAT Translation: Georg Nagies, Vimal Thorat and Eleanor Zelliot

The stage is empty. The voices o f the ciholak (small drum) and the tuntuni (stringed instrument) resound. Slowly the rhythm quickens. To the increased rhythm the Sutradhar (stage manager) and behind him the vidusak (jester) enter the stage. They are one with the rhythm. They together cry out “ha, ha, ha" make a gesture and stand fixed in '‘the middle o f the stage. The background music stops. Johar, Mai-Bap, Johar.' I am the Mahar of Your Mahars. I am so hungry I come for Your leavings. I am full o f hope; I am the slave of Your slaves. Cokha says: I have brought a bowl for Your leftover food. jester Hey, .hey, hey! stag e -m a n a g e r Why, what happened? jester Why are you harping on that same old theme again? stage -m a n a g e r It’s not like that at all. Joharis ancient, but its meaning is modern. jester Fine! And what is its meaning? stag e -m a n a g e r Johar is ancient, but there is a new meaning. jester Oh yes, I got that! But what is the new meaning? stage -m a n a g e r New meaning? Now, why am I supposed to know that? Nowadays this is called Dalit literature. jester What kind of affliction is that? stage -m a n a g e r You don’t know of Dalit literature? jester No, not at all. stage -m a n a g e r I don’t know either. jester Very well. stage -m a n a g e r A definition cannot be given, but whatever happens, there is this Dalit literature. jester I don’t understand. stage -m a n a g e r Y o u don’t understand? Even if you have understood, what will you do? Definition is just definition. jester All right. And yet, if I knew, it would be better. state -m a n a g e r It’s a belch, isn’t it? jester I s this something to ask about? stage -m a n a g e r N o w tell me ... JESTER Hey, everybody knows that. stage -m a n a g e r Even so, give a definition, won’t you? jester Oh no, a definition cannot be given. sta g e -m a n a g e r


But belching you do understand, don’t you? jester Oh yes, now I have understood. stag e -m a n a g e r What have you understood? jester That what the meaning of Dalit literature is. stag e -m a n a g e r

Thejester looks to the right side o f the stage. stag e -m a n a g e r

Y o u have understood, haven’t you? Very well. Hey.

what are you looking at over there? jester I’m waiting. stag e -m a n a g e r For whom? jester Who should I be waiting for? Hey, the greetings and salutations are finished, so why haven’t Radha and the Gopis appeared yet? stag e -m a n a g e r Oh my, how backward are you? jester Meaning what? Has Radha appeared before I came? state -m a n a g e r N o , it’s not like that at all. Nowadays the revered Datta Bal2has forbidden the Radha-Krsna tale. jester What Datta Bal is this that prohibits the entry o f the God? stage -m a n a g e r Not the God! He has prohibited making fun o f Radha and Krsna. jester Very well. stag e -m a n a g e r What’s very well? jester Who prohibited that7 Datta Bal, is it? stag e -m a n a g e r There revered Datta Bal. jester How can Bal understand such a meaningful matter? stage -m a n a g e r It’s not like that! Ridiculing God Krsna is unacceptable to him. jester Ridiculing God Krsna is unacceptable to him? stage -m a n a g e r Oh yes, it’s unacceptable to him. jester That’s really very nice. stag e -m a n a g e r What do you mean? jester Now that God Krsna will not appear, I’ll have the chance of teasing Radha. stag e -m a n a g e r What terrible things you say. jester In my college, teasing the girls angered the principal a lot. and now you speak about teasing Radha in a play as if it was something very terrible. As if you were the principal’s father! stag e -m a n a g e r N o w it’s enough of your chit chat. Keep quiet, won’t you? jester Let me speak a little louder now. During the nineteen month o f the Emergency I kept quiet, didn’t I?

Whirlpool Take care! jester What happened? Has she come? (Looking for Radha.) stag e -m a n a g e r Be quiet, that’s the meaning of take care. jester I thought Radha has come when you said take care. stage -m a n a g e r Stop that crazy talk. stag e -m a n a g e r

The dialogue becomes rhythmical. jester

Done so.

stage -m a n a g e r jester

Begin telling the story.

Done so.

We will go a little further. [They both advance fo u r steps. They stop and look at each other.] jester Further we cannot go. We cannot go beyond this row of lights. stage -m a n a g e r We will go back a little. stage -m a n a g e r

Both go fo u r steps backwards and then stop suddenly. Having turned around they look at each other. We cannot go back any further. We cannot cross the back curtain. stage -m a n a g e r Why do you behave like that, my lion (-m y hero)? jester All these circumstances have done me in. stage -m a n a g e r What’s the meaning! What’s the matter? jester The Yesibai-Tamasa has come to the village.5 stage -m a n a g e r So let it be. jester It has slunk into the theatre. stage -m a n a g e r So let it be. jester It’s called loknatya (people’s theatre). stage -m a n a g e r So let it be. What is so wrong about that? jester Why are you so disturbed? It’s like getting a bubbly high drinking lemon soda. But look, all friends look down on that Vithabai’s act ((A song is sung in the style of Vithabai).


IVithabai is a famous female performer, who was honoured by the president o f India.] stage -m a n a g e r

I f Tamasa becomes a little high class, what’s wrong

with that7 jester High class? What mother’s son can refuse that7But then it will be a drama, not Tamasa. (He sings in a rhythmical voice.] Going forward we burn on the stage lights, going backwards we hit the wall.


So where shall we go? What shall we d o' Tell me your opinion. jester We cannot stay here. stage -m a n a g e r We cannot stay here. jester We must go back. stage -m a n a g e r We must go back. jester We must go forward. stag e -m a n a g e r We must go forward. jester We must not go forward, brother, we must not go backwards. stage -m a n a g e r We must not go forward, brother, we must not go backwards. jester We must move in circles. stage -m a n a g e r Oh yes, we must move in circles. jester We must move in circles, move in circles. stag e -m a n a g e r We must move in circles, Let’s go together. stage -m a n a g e r

They begin to dance in circles. Hey, stop, stop my friend. Look, we have come a long way. Oh, fine. sta ge-m a n a ger Then hey, is that Sonapur? je s t e r Is it near Bamani? sta ge-m a n ager Definitely it’s near Narsi-Bamani. je s t e r Narsi-Bamani, that means our Namdev’s' Narsi-Bamani? sta ge-m a n ager Do you think Namdev was your classmate? je s t e r No, no! Wasn’t Namdev in the BA course (studied)? sta ge-m a n a ger Will it break your tongue if you call him Nam dev Maharaj? jester To address a historical person only by his name is today's fashion. stag e -m a n a g e r You are talking about future things, but actually we have come to a point in time very long past. jester Past? How long past? jester

sta g e -m a n a g e r jester

W e h ave travelled thirty-one years b ack w ard .

I s it so?

dindi (group o f devotees) is probably the pava ( little group ofdevotees) of Thakur Maharaj. jester Hey, yes, my friend. Today his stopping-place is here in Sonapur. Tomorrow it will be Bamani, and the day after tomorrow it will be Narsi. In Narsi all the tents will be gathered together sta g e -m a n a g e r

D o you think I’m lying? Look at this, this

Whirlpool and from there all will go to Pandharpur- hey! Will we go to Pandharpur? STAGE-MANAGER What? jester (in a devotional mood) To meet with God Vithai. Nowadays she resides in Pandharpur. (He sits down suddenly and is about to talk about Vithabhai. The stage-managerstops him halfway...) stage -m a n a g e r Yes, yes, yes. jester What happened? stage -m a n a g e r Hay, this is not that Tamasa dancer Vithabhai. The meaning of Vithabhai is Mother Vithoba. (They namaste to the invisible Vithai and sing:) Mother Vithai is the devotee’s mother.

“fnanrajMavli, Tukaram ”, with these cheers thedindi enters. In front there is the maharaja, behind him the bearer o f the musical instrument, behind him the banner-bearer, who is a very old man. The jester and the stage-manager go and meet with the dindi. When the bhajan singing has stopped the maharaja comesforward. Sidnak! (a man comesforward from the dindi.) s id n a k Yes please, (having touched the maharaja’sfeet he politely stands a little aside. Afterwards all in turns follow Sidnak’s example.) m ah araja Sidnak, we have arrived in Sonapur, haven’t we? s id n ak Yes maharaj, every year we stop here, by the Pipal tree at this crossroad. Tukaram Baba always comes here to join us. jakh u My goodness, how can we ever forget this Pipal tree? This railway track didn’t exist then. jester Y ou keep very old matters in mind. stage -m a n a g e r What did you think, that this old bone is of today? ( - He is very old man.) jakhu It was a very bad season, you weren’t born yet, I was a youth then, do you understand? jester That means fifty or sixty years ago, doesn’t it? jakhu Why fifty or sixty years? It’s exactly sixty years since. This Tukaram, who’ll come here to join us, he was ten years old then. At the time of this affair this ox-cart’s track didn’t exist yet. The dindi of Cintaman Maharaj comes down this road. And on this road Tukaram’s father came along, and he went straight to touch the feet of the maharaja. m aharaja


Brother, this was a time of devotion to the saints. j a k h u What, you’re talking about devotion? Tukaram’s father was beaten up. jester He was beaten up? How did that come about7 j a k h u Hey, Cintaman Maharaj is a Bhamburda, and this yeshar low caste grabbed and touched the feet of the maharaja . . . jester Oh, when Tukaram’s father got beaten up, nobody did anything? j a k h u He did, didn’t he? He got beaten up, but why? Because he abandoned the customs o f his caste. Hey, Tuka says, when you’re low caste, you’ve got to eat dirt. jester But why did he lower his head to the feet o f the maharaja? j a k h u What can we do? Pandurang himself appeared before him in a dream. jester And why in that case Pandurang didn’t save him? j a k h u The God was putting him to trial. jester What was the trial? j a k h u The test was still to come . .. jester What happened then? jester

ja k h u Th e cholera broke out in the village.

The cholera? j a k h u Yes brother, cholera comes like a curse. jester And else? j a k h u What else? On the first day Cintaman Maharaj departed for the other world. jester Alas! And then? j a k h u In two days the whole village was finished. jester What happened next? j a k h u What should have happened? There was a message from the Goddess through the mouth of the bhakta (devotee, worshipper), saying that she demanded Tukaram’s father as a sacrifice. m a h a r a ja Oh my God, your will is unfathomable. j a k h u Oh maharaja, in this well over there Tukaram’s father threw his body. Brothers, he was a great devotee. m a h a r a j a Pandurang, Pandurang . . . j a k h u From that time onwards the Bhamburda Maharaja never again travelled this road. He has taken the upward road. (i.e. has gone to heaven) m a h a r a ja Sidnak, has Tukaram not yet arrived? s id n a k I will go to the village and look for him. jester

Whirlpool MAHARAJA

The warkaris (devotees) of Pandhari, Who keeps count of piety?

While he says that all stand in a row as before. Sidnak walks around them and comes to stand behind the back o f one o f them. Those who are included in this dindi stand with their backs to the audience. Tukaram baba, what has happened? Tukaram baba, Tukaram baba . .. t u k a r a m (stepping out o f the row) Who is there? Who is it at this time of the evening? s id n a k Why, Tukaram baba, have you forgotten what day it is today? Won’t you come to Narsi this year? tu k a r a m (steps out o f the house) Heaven forbid! How could 1 possibly forget that? sid n ak

Suddenly he lowers his head to Sidnak’sfeet. You forgot it just like that. The maharaja did worry. t u k a r a m The Josi (astrologer) o f our village said that today’s lunar mansion is Tuesday. Therefore I was of the opinion that you will come on Sunday, but now you are two days early. sid n ak The lunar mansion is not Tuesday’s but Sunday’s, and on Sunday we have to go to Narsi. t u k a r a m It seems as if Josi Baba got something wrong. s id n a k We will look into that later. It’s getting late. The maharaja is sitting and waiting at the other side of the village. t u k a r a m Oh yes, I will call together everybody. Uncle Pira, hey Uncle Pira, who is there? Tell the dindi has come, go quickly. Gopala, hey Gopala s id n a k

Oneperson emergesfrom the row touches thefeet o f Sidnak and stands away politely. I don’t see Manohar, so call him, Uncle Pira, . . . . Tuka, Manohar is not listening to anyone. Who knows what someone who has been to Pune and Bombay has learned there. And then he sits here and teaches it to the boys . . . g o p a l a Piraji, but he won’t tell them something bad, will he? p ir a j i He tells them to give up the caste duties in the village. He is following Bhim Baba (D r Ambedkar) now. pir a ji


What’s wrong with that? God gave you two hands. So toil and labour. piraji And who will remove the dead cattle o f the village? (a traditional duty o f the Mahars) m a n o h a r The one to whom it belongs. Who calls for a Bhangt (sweeper) to wash the bottoms of the children. piraji But why? Why should we change? m a n o h a r People say that you don’t live cleanly and that you therefore contaminate them. That you eat fish and meat and that you will desecrate the deity. I instructed the children o f all the nearby villages. They live cleanly. They don’t eat fish and meat— therefore we are fit to go to the Hanuman temple. piraji That’s what I’ve heard, too. It’s true. m a n o h a r What have you heard? piraji That you will desecrate the Hanuman deity. m a n o h a r Oh no, we will go to the temple. We will worship the deity. piraji What if the big people get to know? m a n o h a r We will tell them. Not today, but on the day the dindi will come. piraji The dindi has come already, Manohar. The maharaja is already on the road. The maharaja is waiting for our arrival. m a n o h a r How did that happen? The Josi said that today’s lunar mansion is Tuesday. g o p a l a It means that the Josi Maharaja has deceived us. m a n o h a r It doesn’t matter. For this task I needed his help, but without his help, anyway, we will enter the temple. piraji Tuka, make this child of yours understand. This will set the village afire. t u k a r a m What is his fault? Jnanoba, Cokhoba, Savata, didn’t they all sit in one row? (with the upper castepeople, at a meal.) PIRAJI But these were saints, mahatmas! m a n o h a r Therefore their conduct should be exemplary for us. We should follow in their footsteps. Going to the Pandharpur temple together with my people, I will worship the deity, God lives in all of us. So how can our touch desecrate the God? piraji But don't you know your village? t u k a r a m What can they do? They will boycott us, like they have done before. But there is no tyranny now. The chief sahab will set everything right. m anohar

Whirlpool Tukaram baba, we can talk later. The maharaja is waiting? t u k a r a m Hey, Gopal Baba, take the water-pot and now let’s go quickly . . . Let’s go. Piramama . .. s id n a k

A song “You noble pilgrims” “Merciful mother and father.” t u k a r a m “How much kindness you have given us, oh God.” a ll “What can we say, you are far above us" a ll

Shouting “JnanobaMavli, SantaramMauli, Tukaram"they allform a dindi and the procession goes its way. Lights dim and all stand with their backs to the audience as before. The jester and the stage-manager step in the middle of the stage. My lion, we have come a long way. stag e -m a n a g e r Yes, we have arrived in Sonapur. jester Have yo u heard what Piramama and Manohar were talking? stage -m a n a g e r Yes, heard it. jester Yes, and the pu blic heard it, too. stage -m a n a g e r That’s true. jester This mad Tukaram sides with his son. stage -m a n a g e r Yes, and what can be done? jester He will be beaten up for nothing. s t a g e -m a n a g e r Yes, he w ill be beaten up. But why is this so important? jester What? stage -m a n a g e r Don’t worry, the village people have co m e to beat him up. jester The village people have come to beat him up? Where are they? (He acts as if he were running away.) stage -m a n a g e r Stop. Hey brother, think for a moment, if the village people have come to beat him up, then what is going to happen to us? (He mimes running away.) jester Very well. And then we will go to the hospital. Ravsaheb Shriman Dheknaji Dhamdhere, the president of the welfare society, will visit the injured. A splendid picture in the newspaper. stage -m a n a g e r Whether there is something else or not, now I have understood the politics behind i t ... jester He is one wheel o f Baba’s chariot (Baba's chariot: D r jester


Babasaheb A mbedkar's movement). The wheel turns, and p o litic s turn with the wheel. Well now, tell me, what did Tukaram say about the chief sahab in the meantime? sta ge-m a n a ger It was during Mughal rule. Will you listen? je s t e r Don’t tell it to me, tell it to the public. sta ge-m a n a ger Well now, listen, (singing) I heard the tale o f what happened in Sonapur. The tale of the quarrel between Baji the goldsmith and Candar Patel. It was not a big matter, but enough for a quarrel. In the struggle of the two Tukya got caught up. Sonar claimed the embankment, the Patel was besides himself with rage. He seized Sonar’s fields and wrought havoc on them. They summoned Tukya, he came, the village council was convened. uSpeak in my favour” the Patel said to him, with threats. Bear in mind that we have the accounts of your debts o f many generations. Speak, to whom does the field belong? Your speech will tell that your master is the Patel. The superintendent came to the village. He summoned Tukya. The superintendent said: I’m taking an oath before God. To ensure the respectability of the law. Tukya spoke the truth, And favoured Sonar. Boiling with anger the Patel said that the Mahar's Baluta' is finished. Nobody protected them, and they got beaten up. jester Therefore Tukaram had called the Chief Sahab? stag e -m a n a g e r The Chief Sahab scolded Candar Patel, trashed his servants (Patel’s servants who conspired with him ) and went the way he had come. jester When Tukaram was beaten up, what were the other people doing? stag e -m a n a g e r What were they doing when Tukaram’s father was thrown into the well? That very— (upon the last word the standing dindi turns around and begins to sing a bhajan. "Let the head be cut, let the body break. . . ( . . . but the truth must be told) ”

Whirlpool Thejester and the stage-manager are included in the dindi. The people o f the dindi stand with their backs to the audience as before when two persons step out as if they have met on the roadj k is a n Ram Ram Mahadubhai. m a h a d u Ram Ram. k is a n Today you are early going to your field. m a h a d u Yes, I’m thinking of going to Narsi tomorrow. k is a n Has it reached your ears what nonsense Tukaram’s son is speaking? m a h a d u What has happened? k isa n He was away from the village for four years . . . m a h a d u I know that. k is a n He has gone to Dehu, to Pone, to Bombay. Having seen some half wrong, half right things he has come here and now tells these things to everybody. m a h a d u What is he telling? k is a n Well, the untouchable Mahar boys listened to him and now are bent on entering the Vithoba temple of Pandharpur. m a h a d u Hey hey! Is it so? Has the Kaliyug come? k isan Therefore Tukaram Maharaj said— listen, the fruit of Kaliyug is the origin of future misfortune. Four classes, eighteen castes will dine all together. m a h a d u What is going to happen next? k isa n What do you expect? The Pujari will lock the temple and he will run away. m a h a d u What a good thing to do. k isa n There will be no benefit in it. m a h a d u Why? k isa n They’ll break the padlock and then they will push inside. m a h a d u When the deity is enraged it’ll become known. When Tukaram’s father had touched Cintaman Maharaja’s feet the whole village was shaken because of the cholera. k isa n I was too little at that time. m a h a d u But I understood a bit. k isa n What happened then? m a h a d u What should have happened? Police Inspector Candar Patel is a very dangerous man. He was feared even when there was the tyranny. He summoned the Potraf. Through the Potraj there was a message from the Devi, and the message was: “I want


Tukaram’s father offered as a sacrifice. He is at the root o f all the sins.” k is a n The Mother Devi really said so? m a h a d u How stupid are you? What Mother D evi...? The Patel had intimidated the Potraj. What power has the Potraj to contradict the Patel. k is a n Well, well. And then . . . ? m a h a d u And then what’ With array and pomp, striking up music, they all went to Tukaram’s house. There Piraji tied his hands and his feet and threw the sinner into the deep well there. k is a n You destroyed that sin. Now what are you going to do with that other sin? m a h a d u With what other sin? k is a n With the sinful Manohar. I heard he’s going to enter our temple. m a h a d u What we did to his grandfather, that’s what we’re going to do to him. josi There, he has made full preparations. Sit here, keep talking. m a h a d u Kisan? josi This lad, Manohar, just today has gathered four boys together.

Starts moving Where are you going right now? j o s i We’ve also made some preparations, haven't we, some preparations for going to the cremation ground. The dindi will come, and the lads took the firm resolve to enter the temple that day. m a h a d u That means today . . . ? n o s i No, the day after tomorrow... I told them the wrong day o f the week, so they’re two days late, otherwise the story of our village would have reached Pandharpur. All their preparations are useless, as the dindi has come early. m a h a d u Otherwise they would have entered the temple, josi This rascal not only called the lads from Sonapur, but from all the surrounding villages. They were all coming. Now come. We are prepared for the day after tomorrow. k is a n Josi Maharaja, you acted very shrewdly, josi What shrewdness is there in what I did? k is a n What else can it be called than shrewd? You alerted all the villages. josi Yes, you’re right. But that wasn’t because o f my shrewdness. 1 m ahadu

Whirlpool only followed Candar Patel’s orders. My goodness, how could we dare to disregard his orders? m a h a d u He is as trustworthy as Piraji was. kisan But the Patel has . . . josi ... no idea o f all this? The arrangements for later on are already complete, too. The work left with us now is only to light the torch. k isan Whose . . . ? josi Nobody’s. His plan was to enter the temple, wasn’t it? That’s what w e’ve heard from himself, right? m a h a d u Look, these people have jilst come.

Piraji, Tukaram, Manoharand Gopal step outfrom the row, singing a bhajan. Seeing theJosi Maharaja they are taken aback and remain standing a little away. Where are you going, brothers? piraji Thakur Maharaja’s dindi has come, hasn’t it? josi But that means that they’re two days early. It seems as if they’ve confused the lunar mansions ( - the days o f the week). tu k a r a m The maharaja would never make a mistake regarding the lunar mansions (-th e current date). josi Hey, why? What do you mean to tell us? Do you mean to say that we can't read the calendar? m a h a d u Tukya, you’ve become very proud. Is it your maharaja who performs the village josi’s duties? k is a n Do you mean to insult our Josi Maharaja? m a n o h a r Why do you accuse us? Who did we insult? k is a n Shut up, rascal. You don’t understand a thing. Tukya, has your father ever read the calendar? m a n o h a r Don’t mention my grandfather, Patel. m a h a d u Yes, yes, don’t mention that matter, Kisan. Have you forgotten how the cholera has knocked down the village? If you bring out that matter again the cholera will strike once again. tu k a r a m Why do you speak about my father, Patel? He suffered the fruits of his own deeds. k isa n And today you will suffer the fruits of your son’s deeds. t u k a r a m What has he done? k isan A s if you didn’t know. m a h a d u Hey, Kisan, if you go too far he will possibly call the chief sahab. And it’s still the chief sahab’s rule here. k isa n



He won’t live until the chief sahab gets here. m a n o h a r What are these threats good for? Tell me my faults. k is a n Y o u know your faults quite well. You contrived a plan. m a n o h a r Are you talking about us entering the temple. k is a n Now you’re talking straight. m a n o h a r And that’s why the Josi Maharaja told us the wrong lunar mansion? k is a n That’s the truth. m a n o h a r After all the preparations had been finished 1 was the one to tell everything. k is a n Which preparations? You mean to desecrate our deities? m a n o h a r If we enter the temple will it desecrate your deities? k is a n As if you didn’t know. m a n o h a r Your deity is that impotent? It will be polluted? k is a n But why don’t you have your own temple? m a n o h a r Isn't that temple ours, too? k is a n Oh no, it isn’t. m a n o h a r Is God the patrimony of any one caste? m a h a d u This lad won’t teach us brahmajnan (divine knowledge). You’re defiling us. m a n o h a r You’re all talking about bodily impurity. But the soul is pure and shining. Bodily impurity originates from the body. Show me that religion that teaches that the body is bom pure. m a h a d u Hey, Tukya, look, your son is full o f wisdom, take care of him, otherwise . . . m a n o h a r Is it in this society an offence to have knowledge? m a h a d u What is to be must be plenty. Now say “I won’t go to the temple’’, beg Josi Maharaja’s pardon and then go . . . JOSI Yes; beg forgiveness, and do so by rubbing your nose on the ground (i.e. with abject entreaties) piraji Let us pass by, mai-bap. He made a mistake, we beg your pardon, and now let us go home. m a n o h a r What for do you beg their pardon, Piraji dada? As yet we didn't commit a sin. josi No sin9You mean saying that we don’t read the calendar right is not a sin? m a h a d u Y ou mean to say o u r religion is debased? m a n o h a r We didn’t say all these things. josi How falsely he speaks! k is a n

Whirlpool Beg their pardon, Tukya, that’s what I beg from you, rubbing my nose on the ground. s id n a k The maharaja is waiting, make haste, tukaram baba. m a n o h a r What maharaja? Devotion to whom? Do what you think is right for you. Shall we look on silently, whatever happens? A deity that is desecrated by our touch is not our deity. That religion that keeps us away is not our religion. It’s better to live one day the life of a lion than to live a thousand days as a meek sheep, that’s the message that was given to us. m a h a d u Pirya, tie his hands and feet. . . m a n o h a r That’s not necessary. We will go wherever you tell us. But I want to make it known that it is not in your power to make a decision on justice and injustice. Not even the goddess who is pretending to enter the body of the potraj, not even she has the power to decide on justice or injustice. It’s the people who rule, that’s what Gandhi and Nehru say. m a h a d u That may be the case there, but here it’s Candar Patel who rules. Pirya, have you tied them or not? piraji

Piraji acts like typing them. Sidnak emergesfrom one side, the rest from the other side, then they stand in a row as before. When they've formed the row they sing a bhajan. Slowly the dindi joins them in this song. Where are you busy my father, Pandurang of Pandhari.. . In your court are holy middlemen making people s lives miserable Society becomes meaningless Only fear is left Oh master, stop your self satisfaction Deny the false worship.

When the song isfinished only the dindi is in motion. Sidnak steps out, panting heavily. Maharaja, there are dire difficulties. ( This debate is going on while cheering shouts o f "jnanba tukaram " begin in a low voice.) m ah ar a ja Why, what happened? s id n a k Tukaram baba has been brought before the pancayat9. m ah a r a ja But why? s id n a k His boy has been talking about entering the Hanuman temple. s id n a k


MODERN INDIAN DRAMA m aharaja The Bhamburda temple? sidnak Yes, my maharaja. m ah araja Who is this rascal? sidnak Tukaram’s Manohar. m ah araja Tukaram’s Manohar? sidnak Yes, my maharaja.

( beginning a bhajan) Hari, Hari, what can we say now? How can we say it? Hey, We have the right only o f leftovers. The bhakti of the saints is very good. Vithoba’s name is easy to chant. My only wish Is to be without caste, says Cokha. God will fulfil my wish life after life Pundlik varda Hari’ri Vitthal. Jnanoba Mauli Jnanraj Mavli Tukaram.10

m aharaja

Delighted the dindi leaves. Only the stage-manager and the jester remain on stage. They're dancing. Jnanoba Mauli Jnanraj Mauli Tukaram. stag e -m a n a g e r Jnanoba Mauli Jnanraj Mauli Tukaram. jester Manohar Mauli Piraji Mauli Tukaram. stag e -m a n a g e r Manohar Mauli Piraji Mauli Tukaram. jester Piraji Tukaram. stag e -m a n a g e r Piraji Tukaram. jester Tukaram, Tukaram. stage -m a n a g e r Tukaram, Tukaram. jester Does he become a Ghasiram? stag e -m a n a g e r Ghasiram, Ghasiram. jester (holding himself up suddenly) Hey, why are we talking about this Ghasiram? He is the kotval (chiefpolice officer), isn’t he? stag e -m a n a g e r Oh yes, definitely. The one kotval'who takes revenge on Nanasaheb in Tendulkar's play. jester H o w did this fellow come here? sta g e -m a n a g e r He didn’t come here, but he was brought here, but what for? jester There’s no meaning in it. stag e -m a n a g e r N o meaning in it? W hy, what happened? jester Tukaram will never become Ghasiram. stag e -m a n a g e r Meaning what? jester

Whirlpool That means I’m asking what else can there be? Is Tukaram now captured and tied up or not? stage -m a n a g e r They have taken him, haven’ they? jester But why? stage -m a n a g e r Because he has insulted the Josi Maharaja. jester Who told the wrong lunar mansion? stage -m a n a g e r Josi Maharaja did. jester To whom’ stage -m a n a g e r To Tukaram, devotee of Vithoba. jester So who is at fault? stage -m a n a g e r Josi Maharaja is. (He is alarmed.) jester Yes, yes. Don’t panic. The punishment is nineteen months in ja il. . . Have you understood? stage -m a n a g e r Yes, yes. Got it. jester Tukaram called the chief sahab to the village. The distribution of the Baluta to the Mahars began, but what did Tukaram get? stag e -m a n a g e r He got beaten up by the Patel’s servants. jester N o w that Manohar talks about entering the temple, what’ll he get? stage -m a n a g e r (silent) jester Wherever one goes, the dhak leaves remain three ( « there is poverty and helplessness). Tukaram’s father, Tukaram, Tukaram’s son Manohar, they are always the victims. stage -m a n a g e r Meaning what? jester In what manner does the spinning top move? Gar, gar, gar, but on one spot only. Tomorrow Manohar’s child will move around like that, too. stage -m a n a g e r I don’t understand. jester Tukaram is a very straightforward, honest person, isn't he? stage -m a n a g e r It seems so, yes. je s te r Just like Tukaram, Sakharam and Gangaram a re straightforward and honest. stage -m a n a g e r Maybe, maybe. jester Whosoever’s name is— ram, that person is straightforward and honest. stage -m a n a g e r Oh, I understand. Go on. jester Then instead o f being made Tukaram or Gangaram, why wasn’t he made Ghasiram? stage -m a n a g e r I have no objection. jester I haven’t either, but it hasn’t happened like that. . . . jester


Why? jester Because beginning with Sambuk, it seems to everybody as if Rama's killing of Sambuk was to his own good. stage -m a n a g e r Now you’re moving into very deep waters. jester Oh no, I’ve gone into the Ramayana. ¡A throne is brought quickly. There are cheers o f "Ramacandra ki ja y ” (May Ramacandra be victorious). The jester seats himself in the manner o f Ramacandraji. From the cheering crowd two servants come and stand waiting to either side o f him. One holds a royal parasol. Thejester accepts with great dignity the cheersfrom the crowd.} Ministers, Friends, people— stag e -m a n a g e r

A man makes an effort to enter. Have pity, my Lord, have pity. jester Gatekeeper, give way to this petitioner. Let him come in. o n e My Lord, 1was looted. Rescue me. (Kneeling in entreaty) jester Why, petitioner, speak out, what’s the matter? o n e My Lord, I’m a poor Brahman. jester What’s the matter, Brahman? We will rescue you. Which kind o f difficulties have befallen you? o n e My little son has died, my Lord. In this Ramrajya (the kingdom o f Rama: a perfect world) I was made wretched. jester For what reason? o n e In the kingdom there is such a sin perpetrated that my son has died. jester Brahman, give us your blessing, we'll free you from your worries. We’ll search for the origin of this evil. We’ll search every corner of the kingdom and find the cause of this evil. stag e -m a n a g e r A s you will, maharaja.. . . jester The responsibility for the distress o f this poor Brahman is ours. I order that you now go. Search every pait o f the kingdom. stag e -m a n a g e r Your order, maharaja. In the meantime the tied Manohar is dragged in forcibly. jester What’s g o in g on, m y servant. s e r v a n t Maharaja, this Nisada (a low-caste man, an outcaste) practised ascetic penance in a wood near Ayodhya. And this unfortunate creature wasn’t ready to come here. jester What’s your name? one


Whirlpool Sambuk. jester You’re a Nisada? m a n o h a r Yes, sir.. . . o n e Visva Samraksak (all-protector) Bhagvan (worshipful Lord) he is the sinner because of whom the son of this poor Brahman has died. The wrongful penance of this Sudra is at the root of this evil. jester You w e re practising ascetic penance? MANOHAR Yes, 1was. m anohar


Y o u also k n o w that this is w rong?

Yes, I do. jester (standing up)Counsellors, re m o ve this sinner from here. A n d then behead him. He descendsfrom his lion's seat ( throne). With cheers o f "Ramacandra kijay " (May Ramacandra be victorious) all exit. The throne is still in itsplace. While the crowd is cheering, a chair is brought and placed facing the throne. It's a chair of an old type. The jester seats himself on this chair and spreads his legs. jester Attendant, hey, attendant. . . stage -m a n a g e r Yes, master. jester Hey, why do you stand there pitched like a pole of a collapsing roof? stage -m a n a g e r I’m just waiting for Mahadurav and Kisanrav. jester Hey, they will come, won’t they? Is Josi Maharaja worried because of that? stage -m a n a g e r Now they’ve all come, haven’t they? k is a n Ram Ram, Patel. k a h a d u Ram Ram. josi Ram Ram. jester Josi Maharaja, why do you look so annoyed? m a h a d u Something bad happened. jester What happened? k is a n Hey, wasn’t Tukya’s son about to desecrate our deity? m a h a d u Tukya said that Josi Maharaja cannot read the holy calendar. jester Have you heard that with your own ears? k is a n Do you think I’m telling lies? jester So, why did you come with empty hands? Why haven’t you grabbed him and brought him here? m a h a d u He’s down below. m anohar


Bring him before me. stage -m an ag e r Hey, bring them here. (Piraji brings the tied Tukaram and Manohar.) jester Tukya, is this your son? t u k a r a m Yes, sir. jester I s it true what Kisan says? That child was about to ascend the stairs of our temple? m a n o h a r It’s true. jester This lad has gone to Pune and Bombay and has become very brave. Eye, look straight into my eyes and answer me. josi He isn’t ready to apologise, either. jester How can he apologise? He thinks the government is his. Hey, but what is his? The government is in Delhi, and Delhi is very distant. josi Why are you silent now? You used to speak very arrogantly to me. jester (getting up) Throw these two into the vat with the boiling sugarcane juice immediately. And yes, the Josi Maharaja will go to the city and tell the doctor that our two workers fell into the sugarcane vat while they were making sugar and burnt to death. Go quickly. (A ll go. Manohar cries out loudly) MANOHAR That’s injustice. We are innocent. The people o f the village will throw us into the sugarcane vat and bum us to death jester

Only the stage-manager and thejester retnain on the stage. One more chair is broughtfo r the nyayamurti (embodiment o f justice, the judge). The jester seats himself on this chair in the manner o f a nyayamurti. In front o f the chair there is a table. Two witness boxes are brought. The complainants Manohar and Tukya are present. The accused Manohar and Tukya are present. (Manohar comes and stands in one witness box.) The witness Pirya Saknaji is present. (Piraji stands in the witness box.) Tw o lawyers are present. According to the rules the oaths are taken. law ye r Piraji, look, your testimony is o f ultimate importance in this case. piraji Yes, sir. law ye r Are these accused persons known to you? piraji Yes, sir. This is Manohar Savai, and that's Tukya Savai, his father. stag e -m a n a g e r

Whirlpool Since when d o you know them? piraji We were bom in the same village and we grew up there. We are related to each other and we used to serve the same master. law yer Which master? piraji Raybhan Patel. law yer For how many years? piraji It was twelve years. law yer Does he have a sister? piraji One. law yer Your Eminence, to ask the witness questions of this kind is inappropriate in this court. law yer Your Eminence, here the witness’s testimony is of utmost importance. jester W ell,. . . Proceed. law yer H o w old is his sister? piraji She may be some twenty or twenty-two years old. law yer Has she been married? law yer


No .

Why not? piraji Because her family lives in great poverty. There was no money for a marriage. law yer H o w do you know? piraji I was there when these two asked the Patel for money. law yer What did the Patel say? piraji He said they won’t receive any money, maybe later they would. law yer And then? piraji Manohar said to me that if the Patel won’t give them any money, he will inform the newspaper that the Patel tried to assault the honour o f their sister. law yer What did you do then? piraji I tried in every manner to convince them not to do so, but who has, on the one hand, done twelve years of service and who has, on the other hand, not received even five or sixhundred rupees is likely to be very angry. law yer What happened next5 « piraji Infuriated the two of them went to the Patel’s mansion. law yer Did you see that? piraji Usually I stay there overnight. On that day I was there, too. law yer What happened next7

law yer


They knocked on the door. And then among the two o f them and the Patel there was a lot of pushing and shoving around the doors. law ye r Who did then tear out Tukya’s eyes? piraji Nobody tore them out. He did it to himself. law ye r He himself? piraji Yes, he himself. The Patel had closed the doors because he wanted to avoid a quarrel, then the two were jostling against the doors. In these doors there are very big spikes. Tukya jostled himself forcefully against the doors. The doors opened but the spikes were thrust into his eyes. law y e r What were you doing? piraji I was holding the doors closed together with the Patel. law ye r Your Eminence, the testimony of this witness makes it utterly clear that Raybhan Patel did not harm to Manohar Savai or Tukaram Savai, but that he rather closed the doors in order to avoid a quarrel and to protect himself. In the course o f that Tukaram lost his eyes out o f his own carelessness and misfortune. But the complainants gave a false account before the court and falsely accused Raybhan Patel, therefore I request you to mete out punishment to them. jester (to the lawyer) Do you want to cross examine the witness? law ye r (2) No, thank you. jester Piraji, you can go. (When Piraji has left Kisan steps into the witness box.) k is a n Your Eminence, we want justice. jester Are you in the record of cases? k is a n Yes, your Honour. jester What’s your name? k is a n Kisan Vald Mahadu Rankhambe. jester Your village? k is a n Uranganv. jester Proceed with the case. k is a n Your Eminence, we are poor Kunabis1 1 from Uranganv. We have never been in any sort of trouble. jester Then why have you come here? k is a n Under provision 302 we have been accused o f murder. JESTER Really? Who did so? k is a n This uncle and nephew, sir. Their surname is Saranvare. His father was a very virtuous man. The cholera had come to the piraji

Whirlpool village. The people died one by one. Then this saintly man sacrificed his own life by taking jalsamadhi (drowning himself). Thus he eliminated this tribulation from the village. But now they say that we pushed him. jester The record says that the hands and feet of the body were tied with ropes. kisan We did not tie him, your Eminence. He himself tied his hands and feet. That’s in order to keep worldly attachments from rising while taking jalsamadhi. jester Oh, I see. kisan Yes, sir. Now you see. jester Indicted Manohar and Tukaram, you’ve heard all the accusations that were made against you. I give to one of you the opportunity to put forward a defence. Considering your stages o f life I give this opportunity to Manohar, the representative of the younger generation. Manohar, do you want to speak9

Stage-lighting is now solely on Manohar. Yes, your Eminence, today I will tell what’s on my mind. To express the anguish of an age-old inheritance o f suffering is the grave purport of my speech. I’m the world ruler of poverty. I’m the Arya Chanakya of the politics of the destitute. My hopes and desires were crushed under the rock of tradition. The challenging shout of my soul has never passed my lips. Your barriers kept the Sarasvati of my tears from flowing. But today I will speak out. The words of revolt which flowed in my blood age after age are now suddenly taking shape and becoming visible. The blood clotted by sad and dire suffering gushes out today in fiery words. I'm the same sinner Sambuk who crossed the boundaries of your Aryan religion. The power o f my ascetic practices was sinful in your mind. I’m the one who has never acted against the wishes of Sita, the lord of the kingdom of the fourteen thrones, the ten­ necked Ravana. Even though, when Yuddhistira climbed to heaven and all others fell by the way, his eyes filled with tears when he saw a sick dog. But now the Suryaputra asks for brotherhood and nobody cares. The poison of the traitor Indra’s abhorrence runs in my nerves. The dream of Visvamitra to make a different world was destroyed by Visnu. I’m that dear Mahar

m anohar


child carried so lovingly by Eknath. I am that Chokhamela whose bones, buried under the wall o f Mangalvedha cried out the name of the Lord. Oh Lord,—-come and save me— I am the sense of hope in this song. I’m the one (D r Ambedkar) who challenges the father o f the nation (Gandhiji). I’m that Savai who in exchange for speaking the truth had to give his eyes. I’m that Saranvare from Uranganv who accused those people who sacrificed my grandfather. I’m the spark that will set afire a storehouse of wood five thousand years old. There were several bodily veils, time has taken many turns, but today I’ve reached here. Today I’m standing at that turn o f time where I will enter the temple. If you consider this sinful, then I’m committing a sin, but I want that turning like a spinning top to come to an end. The moving in circles on one spot should be ended. Your honour, if I’ve incurred guilt, well, then that’s it. I’m a spinning top, a spinning top turning in circles on one spot.

The light on Manohar dims and the whole stage is lighted. Tukaram stands there as before. They both leave the witnessbox. The assembly now takes its decision. They wear btight white caps, but there seem to be blue and ochre-coloured caps, too. Brothers, does it seem to you as if this father and son have incurred guilt? ( Thejester speaks in the manner o f a leader. From the congregation "yes, yes, yes” is heard.) All right, all right. It is said that the pancayat (village court) is supreme. There is democracy nowadays. If you say so then we will send them to the police-post, but the good name o f our village Sonapur. . . . a ll No, no, no . . . jester All right, then speak, what punishment ought to be given to them? k is a n Expel the two from the village. jester But don’t forget, they’re our brothers, whatever may have happened m a h a d u Banish those Mahars, if you won’t, cut off their hands. jester The days o f tyranny are gone. Nowadays there is democracy. Say something constructive. piraji (Wearing a blue cap. With lowered gaze he looks here and there. All watch him. When he gets up he says) Sarpanc (head of the pancayat)! jester

Whirlpool Ey, Pirya, sit down. josi Sarpanc, it seems to me that the two ought to be punished. piraji (again standing up.) Sarpanc, send them to the police-post * instead. m a h a d u Ey, Pirya, sit down. We know you have been elected, but it doesn’t mean you’ve become a wise and different person. Sit down. jester Let him speak, let Piraji speak out. In a democracy everybody has the right to speak. piraji Sarpanc, it seems to me as if we should forgive them once again. jester (standing wpj Brothers, (whispering is heard) I’ve heard the opinions of all of you. Whatever has happened, Tukaram and Manohar are our brothers. (Whispering is heard) When our brothers make a mistake they are beaten, expelled from the village, punished. But these are the old, worn-out punishments. Gandhibaba says that there should be Ramrajya (the kingdom o f Rama: aperfect world) now. (Whispering is heard) We won’t judge them. We won’t punish them. According to what Mister Piraji has said we will forgive them. (whispering sound) Wait— a man that is forgiven carries his head high. Again he will commit a fault. Therefore there ought to be punishment. An entirely customary punishment. In accordance with the orders of our most benign government we will dig a public well in our village. Water is to be found only two to four hands (one to two meter) deep. This well will belong to all of us. The little work which remains to be done these two will do. (whispering sound) That way the village will benefit, and they will benefit, too. Tukaram and Manohar, is that acceptable for you? piraji (falling in ) O f course it is acceptable, master, what else could they say. They don’t have any common sense left. jester N o w Kisanrav Patel will make all the arrangements. Won’t you, Kisanrav? kisan All the arrangements will be made. jester The meeting is closed. Start the work. k is a n

All begin to dance holding hands and form ing a circle. They surround Tukaram and Manohar. In the middle the two act as if they were digging a u>ell. 677


Hey, why do you but clap your hands? Shout: May Mahatma Gandhiji be . . . a l l . . . victorious! jester Remove poverty! a l l Work hard. Work quickly. (A ll begin to dance, clapping hands in rhythm. Between the jester and Kisan there is a communication o f signs and winks going on. Red lightfalls on Tukaram and Manohar. TheJester and the stage-manager come forward. Kisan Patel stands a little away immersed in thought. The stage-lighting dims. The singing and clapping o f hands is done in such a manner as if it wasfrom a distance.) s t a g e -m a n a g e r (in rhythm with the applause) What have they done? What have they done? jester They’re digging a well. They’re digging a well. s t a g e -m a n a g e r How many workers dig the well? jester T w o workers dig the well. Two Mahars dig the well. s t a g e -m a n a g e r To whom does the well belong? To whom does the well belong? jester It belongs to the village. To all the villagers. jester To whom does the w a te r belong? To whom does the w a te r belong? s t a g e -m a n a g e r It’s the villager’s water, not the Mahar's. jester The poor were deceived. The Mahars were deceived. jester

Having ignited some sticks o f explosives Kisanrav flees, warning all: get out, get away, get awayfrom here. A ll run away. When Manohar and Tukaram try to come out o f the well nobody helps them, but just then there is the sound o f an explosion to be heard. The two o f them fa ll down wounded. The jester and the stage-manager stand fixed stone-like. The exhilarateddindi enters, in it's own manner. There are Vitthal-cheers: "We will wave the banner o f God’s name. ” The dindi goes off. Tukaram and Manohar join the dindi and they all exit. Only the stage-manager and the jester are on the stage and there is a dead quiet. Slowly the rhythms o f the dholak (small drum) and the tuntuni (stringed instrument) start. We cannot stay here. s t a g e -m a n a g e r We cannot stay here. jester We must go back.



Whirlpool STAGE-MANAGER We ITUlSt gO back.

We must go forward. stage -m a n a g e r We must go forward. jester We must not go backward, we must not go forward, brother. stage -m a n a g e r We must not go backward, we must not go forward, brother. jester We must weave in circles. stage -m a n a g e r We must weave in circles. jester Weave in circles, whirl around, weave in circles. stage -m a n a g e r Weave in circles, whirl around, weave in circles. jester

As they move in circles, whirling around like a spinning top, the curtain falls.

NOTES 1 Joharvns the traditional greeting o f a Mahar (a Dalit caste o f Maharashtra) to his superiors. Here God Vitthal is addressed with Mai-Bap ( mother andfather). The whole verse is actually an abhanga (Bhakti-song) by Cokhamela, a saint who lived in 13th/l4th century, Maharashtra. 2 ‘ Dana Bal is a self styled saint figure, popular during the 70s. He pleaded to purge Tamasa a folk play o f its traditional Radha-Krishna scene, which is a very significant formal element o f Tamasa. He felt it was blasphemous.’ 3 Tamasa is the principal form o f folk theatre in Maharashtra. 4 Namdev is the name o f a 14th century saint who founded the tradition of pilgrimage to Pandharpur. 5 The dindi is part o f a palkhi, a procession on its way to the pilgrimage centre o f Pandharpur. The main dindi carries the footprints o f the saint celebrated by that group. Each caste has its own dindi. Thakur Mahara) heads the dindi of the Marathas. 6 "Chief sahab” means the Police Inspector. 7 "Baluta is a relationship between the Mahar and the village, i.e. certain prerequisites such as a little land, grain, etc., for specific duties, in this case, land boundary decisions.' 8 The Potraj is servant o f the goddess Mariai and functions as a trance-oracle. 9 village court. 10 a chant of all the names o f the Vithoba cult. 11a community o f landless agriculturalists. 12 an election slogan Indira Gandhi once used.

Mother of 1084 MAHASWETA DEVI Translation: Samik Bandopadhyay

ACT ONE The stage is dark when the curtain goes up. Even as it rises, a voice repeats three times with the samepause in between• 'SeventeenthJanuary, Nineteen Seventy ’. A telephone rings as an early morning glow spreads over half o f the stage. Sujata in a white sari, straight out o f bed, walks in. The impersonal voice o f an officer (off). v o ic e

(off). 460001?



Dibyanath Chatterjee’s house? sujata Yes. v o ic e Who are you? sujata (surprised). Mrs Chatterjee. v o ic e Mrs Dibyanath Chatterjee? v o ic e


Yes. W h o are you?

v o ic e

I s there n o m ale m em b er around?


Still sleeping. Who are you? What’s Brati Chatterjee’s relationship with you?

v o ic e sujata


Son? Come to Kantapukur. sujata (uncomprehending). Kantapukur? v o ic e Yes. You have to identify Brati Chatterjee.

v o ic e

The connection is cut off at the other end. The receiver slips from Sujata’s hand. Dibyanath and Jyoti enter. d ib y a n a t h sujata

What’s the matter? Who was it?

I d o n ’t understand.

What don’t you understand? sujata Who was it on the phone? He only said— Come to Kantapukur. d ib y a n a t h What? j y o t i What did you say? sujata He said, Come to Kantapukur. He said .. . you have to iden­ tify? Brati? d ib y a n a t h


Dibyanath and Jyoti look at each other, with a clear un­ derstanding o f what has happened. Kantapukur? Haven’t told you? Jyoti, get the car out.

d ib y a n a t h sujata

MODERN IND IAN DRAMA DIPANKAR No. Not our car. SUJATA Why? d ib y a n a t h

My car, at Kantapukur? No. Listen, Jyoti. ..

Yes? sujata But why? Why Can’t the car be there? d ib y a n a t h I need the car. I’m going to Chaudhuri. You ring up Dutta. Tell him . .. why don’t you go over straightaway? sujata You talk of going to people? Why Brati. . . d ib y a n a t h (oblivious o f Sujata’s presence). Jyoti, there may still be time. Isn’t there a relation o f your mother-in-law’s in the police? j y o t i A maternal cousin. d ib y a n a t h Ring him up. Chaudhuri must help hush it up. He had warned us. sujata ( uncomprehending, in a panic). What will you hush up? What are you talking about9 d ib y a n a t h Jyoti, there’s no time to waste.

jyo ti

He goes out. Jyoti! (Jyoti is busy dialling a number. He does not reply). Jyoti! (Reproving). Jyoti! What’s happened? j y o t i Brati. . . (Goes on dialling, but cannot connect.) sujata JyotiJ What’s Kantapukur? j y o t i (helplessly). The police . . . morgue. sujata The police .•. morgue? j y o t i (hostile, from having been forced to reply). Yes. sujata (as she comprehends) So that’s why your father has to rush to Chaudhuri? But Brati? Who’ll go to Brati? j y o t i We’ll go there, mother, a little later. sujata Later? sujata

Sujata shakes her head, goes on shaking her head. This part o f the stage goes dark. Five young men enter the other part o f the stage, lie down, and cover themselves up with white sheets. Two more men enter and stand. This part o f the stage remains dark. Sujata’s voiceover the darkness. (pause) arc rushing about the place to hush up the news . . . (pause). . . and so I’m all alone . . .

sujata Jyoti and Jyoti’s father...

Mother o f 1084

ACT TWO Lights go up on the other half o f the stage. Five bodies, cov­ ered under sheets. The Officer-in-charge, on duty, imper­ sonal, standing at the head o f the bodies. The Dome—one o f the untouchables who handle and cremate dead bod­ ies—stands beside him. A woman, crying, can be heard, from somewhere at the back Bring him back to me. Let me hold him close to my breast for once, and I’ll weep no more. My Somu ...

th e c r y in g v o ic e

The lamentation will continue throughout this scene, on a lower pitch. o.c. (to Sujata, looking at the papers in his hand). Brati. Yes, Brati Chatterjee. (Sujata stands, her handspressed tightly to her mouth, a look o f disbelief in her eyes.) Yes, the third body from the left. Yes. Height five ten, isn’t that so? sujata Yes. th e o.c. Complexion fair? sujata Whose? th e o.c. Your son’s. Brati Chatterjee’s. sujata Where's Brati? th e o.c. Any identification mark? sujata On the throat. There’s a mole on the throat. th e o.c. Yes. (He signs to the Dome, who lifts the sheetfrom thefeet to the neck, but leaves theface still covered. Sujata touches the edge o f the trousers, but removes her hand almost at once in terror as she touches blood. Then she stretches her hand out again and fumbles with the clothes o f the dead man. All the time she goes on shaking her head and repeating, 'No, no, no, n o . a s if she could change the horrible. Yesstaring her in the face into a No. She raises'Brati's hand, stiff, thefingers clutch­ ing at something... What had he reached outfor?.. .As Sujata lets the hand go, it drops with a thud. She shakes her head and reaches out to uncoverBrati’s face) No. Don’t uncover the face. sujata I must see his face. d o m e What’s there to see, Mother? There’s nothing left of the face! sujata (as she tears off the sheet, we do not see Brati’sface; his head lies back at an unnatural angle). Brati! Brati! (She strokes his th e


face, then draws her hand away with a shudder.) Brati! Brati! (She bends down to clasp her hands around his head, but does not, just remains bent, hanging midway, then she raises her head slowly, her eyes sightless, her voice whispering.) I’ll take him home. THE O.C. NO. sujata Can’t I take him home? The O.C. No. SUJATA No? THE O.C. No. You won’t get the body. sujata th e

I w o n ’t g e t it?

o.C. No. You w a n t’s ge t the body.

The sentence— Wo. You won’t get the body■—reverberates in different voices, in different pitches, each time striking Sujata's face like a whiplash, as Sujata kneels, her face staring upwards, shocked, Lights dim out, as the curtain comes down.

ACT THREE The curtain rises on a dark stage, with a telephone ringing. Sujata's voice off stage. It’s the seventeenth or January again, and two years have gone by. The phone rang again, early this morning, on Brati’s birthday.


It is only Sujata‘s voice that is heard on the telephone. The stage remains dark until she stops speaking on the telephone. Nandini?.. . Yes, this is Brati’s mother .. . OK, I’ll come ... Right, at four o ’clock then . . . No, I’m not going to the bank today. It’s Tuli’s engagement today . . . No, they didn’t ask me when they fixed the day.


All through the dialogue on the telephone, Nandini’s voice sounds metallic, indecipherable. A short pause before the stage lights up. Tuli, Sujata’s youngest daughter, sits all by herself at the table, fuming in impatience. Sujata enters with a glass offresh limejuice

Mother o f 1084 in her hand. Herforehead wrinkles in pain again and again. Sujata sits at the table. TULi No tea for you?

No, lime juice. t u l i Why? Is the pain bad? sujata Took a Baralgan in the m orning. t u li I just don't see why you have to put it off. Removing the appen­ dix is no operation at all. There’s no risk in it. sujata (slowly, as she stirs the juice with a spoon). Not always. I’m anaemic, with a bad heart. The doctor doesn’t feel sure. Tuli When will you have it? sujata Let’s get through your wedding. t u l i That’ll be in April. sujata Let's see. t u l i Who was that ringing up so early? sujata (after a pause). Nandini. t u u Nandini? sujata Yes. t u u (after a pause, venomously) What a house! Nobody cares to come down for tea on time. sujata Who’d come for tea? Jyoti isn’t up. Your father. . . t u u Nothing to do with father. I sent him his yoghurt the moment his masseur left. sujata Bini’s in the prayer room. t u u All sham! sujata Why sham? tu li Where did she pick up all that devotion? She was bom in Brit­ ain! sujata (finding Tuli’s spitefulness just too much) So what? Her fa­ ther had a job in Britain, she lived there. She lived in Britain till she was sixteen, that’s no reason why she shouldn’t offer flow­ ers and water to the gods in her prayer room. t u l i Y ou won’t understand. sujata



I know that. sujata Y o u believe in the Swami, your future mother-in-law’s guru. If that’s no sham, why should Bini’s attachment to the prayer room be sham? You can be so mean as to laugh at Bini behind her back! t u u Didn’t Brati laugh at other people’s beliefs? tuu


Brati’s belief was so different from your belief in the Swami, or Bini’s in her prayer room, that it sounds utterly absurd when you drag his name into the same context. t u u The same thing again! You will react every time we mention Brati. sutjata Yes. t u u Are we not worthy enough to pronounce his name? sujata The way you pronounce it! To hurt me! t u u Hurt? sujata To Tony and his crowd, to the others, you, your father, Jyoti, Neepa, the way you all speak his name, as if, as if Brati was a criminal. t u u Still harping on i t . . . sujata Stop it, Tuli. t u u The jewellery from the vault’ sujata I’ll bring that. t u u Will you be home in the evening? sujata Why not? It’s Brati’s birthday today, if that didn’t matter to you when you chose the day, I think I have to be there. t u u It was the Swami’s decision. sujata Sure. Don’t worry. I’ll be there. t u l i (a threat in her voice) I hope you’ll behave normally with Tony’s friends. sujata (gets the hint, and asks quietly) Have you invited Saroj Pal? t u u Yes, We don’t know whether he’ll come. sujata Saroj Pal! sujata

Sujata shuts her eyes. Inscriptions in shadows pass across the screen at the back o f the stage: 'Saroj Pal, bloody cur o f the police, no forgiveness fo r you!' \Quick promotion fo r Saroj Pal, in recognition o f his heroic role in the suppression o f the Naxalite revolt’ . .. Saroj Pal's voice on the tape: (off). No, Mrs Chatterjee, your son didn't go to Digha. I know, I too have a mother. No, Mr Chatterjee, it won't get into the papers. No, we’ll search the house. A cancerous growth on the body o f democracy!

saroj p a l

All this passes through Sujata’s mind. Tuli does not feel anything o f this. She knits her brows and tvaits impatiently Sujata opens her eyes.

Mother o f 1084 It’s only natural to try to hush it up when something like this happens. sujata But that soon? Even before the body’s been identified? A father gets the news on the telephone and doesn’t even think o f rushing to have a look? All he can think o f is that he’d be compromised if his car went to Kantapukur? t u u That’s only natural. sujata Brati was dead to all o f you long before, isn’t that so? t u u You’ve always been too possessive about Brati . . . and even now— sujata Stop it, Tuli.


Tuli tinkles her spoon against her cup. Sujata watches her. Her thoughts on the tape. (off). With Brati, they’ve cast me too in the opposite camp. If Brati had been like Jyoti, or a drunkard like Neepa’s husband, Amit, or a hardened fraud like Tony, or had run after the typists like his father, he’d have belonged to their camp. sujata (rising). Tuli, you’ll be happy in life.


ACT FOUR The curtain rise on a dark stage. Sujata’s voice on the tape. (off). I went to Somu’s mother in the afternoon. One can now visit the colony. There’s no disturbance any more, no terror, no sirens, no gunshots, no screaming young men— no! ( Pause.) It was the second time I visited Somu’s mother. (Pause.) I didn’t know Brati well enough, Somu’s mother knew him better. When I visit her, 1find Brati.


A part o f the stage lights up. Somu’s mother and Sujata sit face to face. My daughter tells me, don’t cry. Will he ever come back? She tells me, you’re fine. Think of Partha's mother, sister, she handed her son over to Death. Partha’s younger brother can’t come back home. They’d kill him too if he came back. sujata Even now? som u ’s m o t h e r Even now. There’re thousands of them, young men,

somu s m o t h e r


all homeless. All those families banished from the colony. It leaves one sick at heart even to think of them. I can’t think any more. sujata

A ren ’t things all q u iet now ?

Quiet, sister? How can there be quiet with the moth­ er’s hearts burning like bodies on fire? My daughter too burns. It’s not easy to give tuition and earn enough to feed two souls, mother and daughter. What can I tell her? With all the attention we paid to Somu, we never had time to look to her schooling. And Somu had to leave us behind, all at seal! To think o f that... ( She breaks into weeping.) sujata (in a low voice). Don’t cry. s o m u s MOTHER That’s what they tell me. Don’t cry, mother. But 1 can’t forget. sujata I know. SOMU’S m o th e r Your son, sister, gifted his life away. He had come to warn Somu and his group. They had got wind that the four of them were there in the colony, there was the fear that they wouldn’t survive the night. When Brati came and asked, Where's Somu, Mashima? I asked, why? He said, I’ve a message for Somu, I’ll leave right now. sujata Was it evening then? SOMU’S m o t h e r Yes, I had just set the evening lamp alight. I told him, Somu has gone out to call Bijit and the others. They’ll all eat here tonight, he brought flour for me, and I’ve made chapatis for all o f them. They came along, even as 1stood talking. They talked to Brati. Then Brati asked, Can I go now? Sujata (learning all thisfo r thefirst time). Then? SOMU'S m o t h e r Somu asked, Why? Are you dying to get killed? Stay here. I too joined in, Don’t go, dear, stay here for the night. They were killing the young men of the locality itself, a stranger would be a surer target. Who knows, sister? If we had let him go that night, he might have escaped death. (Sujata shakes her head in negation.)They didn't live the night through. It’s all before my eyes now, Somu, Bijit, Partha and Brati, lying on a tattered mat­ tress in our crumbling house, talking and laughing! sujata The other boy? Laltu? s o m u s m o t h e r They dragged him out of his house. sujata (looks around the room, yearning eyes). This room? SOMU’S m o t h e r The only one we have, sister. And all the strain that so m u s m other

Mother o f 1084 he had to put into it! Somu’s father was a poor shopkeeper, he had no savings. A timid man all his life, he had never learnt to cheat. The two o f us stayed awake. We’d call them up before daybreak. They too hadn’t gone to sleep. The way Brati laughed! Sister, your Brati’s laughter still rings in my ears. sujata Brati used to come here often? SOMU’S m o t h e r Oh, so often! He’d come and call out, Mashima, a cup of tea please, a glass of water! Sweet words. My Somu was rough— those who don’t have a thing to call their own, and get kicked about by all and sundry, turn rough in the process. sujata Were all the other boys from here? so m u ’s m o t h e r They were all from the colony, either from this part or from the other. Laltu was the best o f them. It was he who drew them into this, and he died for it. sujata I hadn't ever seen them. (Pause) Brati had never brought them home. (Pause.) I wasn’t home all the time. SOMU’S m o t h e r (draws a breath) You’re a working woman, you’ve a rich home, I wonder why Brati chose such a course! Didn’t you ever realize what your son was up to? sujata No. (A disturbing memory.) I didn’t know. He was home the whole o f that day. I realized later that he had been waiting the whole day for a call. He knew that Somu and his group would be returning to their locality. And there’d be danger the moment they returned. Anindya had been sent to them with that mes­ sage. Anindya was supposed to warn Somu and his group not to return to their locality, and then report back to Brati. som u ’s m o th e r Anindya? He didn’t tell Somu anything. sujata No. Anindya hadn’t told Somu anything. What Brati didn't know was that Anindya had already come to the locality and told the others that Somu and his group would be coming back. (Disturbed.) I learnt later that it was Anindya who had given the information, and they decided to do it in the night, not in the day... Anindya had informed the police station too, so that they wouldn’t take any action . . . som u ’s m o t h e r Anindya? A-nin-dya? He had come so many times, sat here, been so close to Somu . . . sujata Brati was cool, he was under the impression that everything was under control. Only when the call came through in the evening did he know that it was a disaster. Somu and his group were back in the locality and they hadn’t been warned.

MODERN INDIAN DRAMA SOMU'S m o t h e r Who was it on the phone?

I don’t know. When the call came ... (she stands up, takes a step towards another part o f the stage.) I was home. Brati and I were playing a game of ludo.


ACT FIVE The part o f the stage in which she stands goes dark before she finishes. Lights come up on the other part, as Sujata crosses over. Brati enters with the ludo board and a mat. They lay the mat, recline on it, and start playing. Sujata’s left hand lies on Brati's knee. I’ve killed your piece. Take it off. sujata You’ve killed again? b r ati It was a close one. I couldn't let it go. sujata You’re too cruel. br ati Didn’t you kill mine? sujata (her eyes on the board) Brati, who’s Nandini? brati (surprised, cautious, smiling) Why? sujata Won’t you tell me? b r ati A young woman. sujata Will you let me have a look at her some day? b r ati She’s plain. sujata So what9 If you like her, I’ll like her too. b r a ti (a different voice altogether, suddenly) Mother do you know where the Boss goes every evening after office? b r ati

Sujata, startled, turns towards Brati. Sujata wonders, on the tape. (off, taped) Does Brati know o f the typist9 b r a ti (lowers his eyes) Mother, you have to bear with a lot for me, don’t you? sujata No, Brati. Bear with a lot for you? Oh, no. brati Don’t they bully you a lot over me? sujata Let them. brati (with tenderness and concern) Why do you bear it, mother? sujata It hurts once, doesn’t hurt any longer. It hasn’t hurt from the time you came, because you’re there. sujata

Mother o f 1084 Because I’m there! sujata Oh, let it g o . You tell me what you’ll have fo r dinner to m o r­ row. brati Why? What’s special about tomorrow? sujata Don’t you remember, it’s your birthday tomorrow? (Smiles.) It’s half past twelve tonight actually, but datewise it’s tomorrow. What a strange system, really! You are born on the sixteenth, but just because it was past midnight, it becomes the seventeenth! brati H o w can you remember birthdays? brati


H o w can I h elp rem em bering? I w as almost d yin g w h en you

w e re born. brati

( smiles) Lucky yo u d id n ’t!

They look at each other. Brati moves aside a wisp o f hair from Sujata’sforehead. Let me go and tell Hem about the milk. brati Why? sujata I must make a little payesh for you tomorrow. brati What else? sujata I’ll give a sari to Hem. brati It’s not Hem’s birthday! sujata I must give her something. The care with which she brought you up! And . . . you’ll make a big fuss if I give you something. brati That must have been Boudi! sujata I’m not giving you anything. Bini’s going to give you a new shawl. You have stuck too long to my ancient, tattered shawl, you won’t give it up, you won't even give it for a wash! brati (wraps the shawl closer around himself) How would Boudi know how cosy it is! sujata I’ll be back in a minute. Let me go and tell Hem about the milk. sujata

As the telephone rings, Brati jumps up, rushes to the tele­ phone, and lifts the receiver: Exit Sujata. Yes, it’s Brati speaking . . . What did you say? Somu and his group have left9. . . Anindya?. . . OK.


He places the receiver back on the rest. He clenches hisfist, opens it. His forehead wrinkles. He shakes his head. He is obviously agitated. He throws offthe shawl. He takes a scrap



o f paper out o f his pocket, lights it up with a matchstick. and lets it bum to ashes, and then rubs the ashes to dust with hisfeet. He takes out coinsfrom his pocket, and counts them. Sujata enters. What’s the matter? brati I have to go out. Can you give me some money? sujata Where are you going? ( Disappointed.) Didn’t you tell me you won’t go out? You said you’ll stay home. brati Something important... suddenly. . . (takes another scrap of paper out o f hispocket, has a look at it, and puts it back into the pocket.) sujata (lifts her bag from the mat). Here’s money for you. (Gives him the money.) When will you be back? brati I’ll be back . . . be back. (He suddenly looks at Sujata. Sujata showspanic and concern. Why does Brati look such a stranger? Brati suddenly relaxes, smiles, and places his hand on Sujata’s shoulder.) I’ll be going to Alipur, mother. I’ll stay on at Ronu’s if it gets late. sujata (relieved) So there’s no danger! br a ti (on guard) What d’you mean by danger? sujata How would you know? You never have time to read the pa­ pers. All that’s going on in Calcutta! Young men from one local­ ity aren’t allowed these days to visit a different locality. They get killed if they do. Ronu’s is a safe neighbourhood. br a ti Don’t worry if I’m late. sujata Do you care if 1 worry or not? brati I’m off. sujata Ask Hem to fasten the door. b r a ti I’ll ask her. sujata

Brati standsfor a while watching Sujata as shepicks up the mat, and the ludo board. Suddenly conscious, Sujata looks up. Brati goes out with a smile. Sujata stares after him fo ra while, her brows knitted. She follows him out, with all the things in her hand. Then she comes back, bag in hand, crosses the stage to the other acting area, as the lights go off in this acting area, and go up in the other area, where Somu's mother and Sujata arefound seated, face to face.

Mother o f 1084

ACT SIX SOMU’S m o t h e r That’s it. You can’t have known. One can’t send one’s

son to his death knowingly. sujata What happened that night? SOMU’S m o t h e r (goes back into the past, gripped by the terror o f that fateful night) It was still a little while to midnight. A nightmare . . . still seems like a nightmare. It was not midnight yet. They had surrounded our house already.

ACT SEVEN It’s dark this side o f the stage. On the other side beams o f light crisscross like arrows clashing. Sujata goes out. Somu's father, Brati, Bijit, Partha and Somu enter. The whole stage now is enveloped in a red glow. Brati and his group occupy one end of the stage. The mob enters from the other end. Even as the groups move towards one another, theyplay out their awareness o f a spacefo r the house. Come out, Somu. SOMU’S father Wasn’t that Atal-Babu’s voice? som u (grimly) Yes, there’s Madan Muktear too. m o b Come out, Somu. Or w e’ll set the house on fire. Come out, Bijit. Come out, Partha. Or we’ll bum up the whole lot of you. som u (to Brati and the rest) Let me go out first. If they get at me first, you can take a chance and try to run away. SOMU’S father ( a shaken voice) Let m e see if you can try the back door. (Chorus o f threats from the stage and from off stage, on the tape, like a collective slogan.) m o b Come out. Come out. SOMU’S fath er It’s no use, son. They’re on all sides. mob

Somu’s mother looks at him— the look o f a dumb, panicstricken animal. She has been sobbing all through this scene in silence, the end o f her sari held tightly between her teeth. Come out. Come out. brati There’s no point in your going out alone. There’s no chance of escape. Let’s go out together.


69 5


(quietly) Let’s get out fast, Brati. Otherwise they’ll set the house on fire. Madan Muktear has set several on fire already. m o b Come out. You claim you’re not scared o f death. Then why do you hide in your hole? brati (moves closer to the door, and shouts defiantly) Don’t shout. Wait a bit, w e’re coming out. Bijrr

Brati is the only one who speaks in standard Bengali, the language o f Calcutta and West Bengal, the rest in the dia­ lect o f Eastern Bengal, and the contrast is striking. (hooting, jeering, triumphant at having trapped yet another prey) The bastards have got a new one. Come out, you son of Calcutta! SOMU’S m o t h e r (finds her voice, only to break out in a helpless shriek) Don’t go, Somu-u-u-u-u. m o b (mimicking). Don’t go, Somu-u-u-u-u. s o m u (in defiant determination, snaps at his mother) Stop whim­ pering, mother! Father, hold mother tight (Somu ’sfather tries to hold his wife back.) Don’s let her go. Let us get out, or they’ll set the house on fire. mob

Somu's mother, now utterly helpless, almost sinks into her husband's arms. Bifit tidies his hair with his fingers. Bijit and Partha take out knives and hold them out. Somu and Brati are weaponless. (gives orders, with a bend o f his hand) Let’s go. They hold one another’s hands, as Somu opens the door. They shout slogans: Long live. . . ! Long liv e. . . ! SOMU'S father They’ve taken them out to the field. Listen. They’ve taken them out to the field. I’m going to the police station. They’ll . . . still be alive if the police comes. I’m sure they’ll come.

som u

He goes out. The stage goes dark. When the lights come on again, Somu 's mother and Sujata sit face to face. (shakes her head) Somu’s father ran all the way. He had such faith in the police, but they wouldn’t even take down his complaint. They didn’t do a thing. They only sent their vans when it was all over to collect the dead bodies. When it was all over he had run to the police headquarters at Lai Bazar too. (She shakes her head again.)They didn’t do a thing. That was more

SOMU’S m o t h e r

Mother o f 1084 than he could bear, and he died of the shock. O god! Is there no justice in this country? God! No justice? He went on and on ask­ ing till he was dead. sujata (shakes her head) No, there’s no justice. so m u ’s m o t h e r You have yet another son. You can sUll hold him to your breast and forget your grief. (Sujata shakes her head.) SOMU'S m o t h e r 1 lost my son, my son’s father, and I, with this tortoise's life of mine, shall live on forever, the two funeral pyres burning within! sujata I know. so m u ’s m o t h e r (suddenly remembers something) Sister, I’ve some­ thing to tell you. sujata Yes? so m u ’s m o th e r (diffident) They threaten my daughter because you come here. sujata Somu’s elder sister? Who threatens her? so m u ’s m o t h e r Those who killed Somu and his friends. Who else? sujata The same crowd? s o m u ’s m o t h e r They tell her, why does she come to your house? Forbid her. It’ll be dangerous otherwise. sujata What do you mean? s o m u ’s m o t h e r It hurts, sister. But we can’t annoy them and stay here. Somu’s sister never got a job in a school. She’s always in a temper. She rages at me, all this for that one son of yours! They won’t let me work to earn food for my stomach! sujata I have gone on with my job. s o m u ’s m o t h e r That’s because you’re rich. There’s no comparison between you and us. su jata (hurt) Fine! I ’ll never come again. There’s just one thing . ., som u s m o t h e r What’s it, sister? su jaia It’s nothing really. SOMU’S m o t h e r (thinks it over) No, sister, come again. There’s such peace in talking to you. sujata (shakes her head. She will never come again. Pause fo r a while. Then, with an effort) Brati . . . Brati— the day Brati died, it was his birthday.

Somu’s mother holds Sujata by the hand. The curtain drops on the twofacing each other.


ACT NINE The curtain is still down when Sujata’s voice, sad and ex­ hausted, comes on the tape. (off) Grief had brought Somu’s mother and me together one day, time has split us apart again. I used to go to Somu’s house to find him there. I won’t be going there again. Where else is he? Where I’m not? (Pause.) I went to Somu’s house early afternoon, and later the same day I came to Nandini. (Pause.) Brati. (Pause.) Loved. (Pause.) Nandini.


The curtain goes up, with only a part o f the stage lit up. Nandini and Sujata sit at a table. Nandini wears dark glasses. Everything about her, her form, the way she sits, the way she speaks, gives the impression o f a tight secretiveness, a self-imprisonment. When she speaks, she has the manner o f a storyteller, as if she is speaking o f otherpeople, not herself, not about her own people. Nandini never softens except when she utters the name Brati with tenderness. They sit in silence fo r a while. A glass o f water on the table. Sujata takes a Baralgan tablet out o f her bag, puts it into her mouth and takes a sip. It was Anindya who betrayed us. sujata (humble). I don’t know everything, Nandini. n a n d in i Your not knowing doesn’t change a thing. sujata That I know. n a n d in i And yet Brati, like a fool, trusted Anindya. Do you know why he trusted him? sujata No. n a n d in i Because it was Nitu who had introduced Anindya. Nitu had been in many actions. And Nitu had been killed. It was simple arithmetic. Nitu had introduced Anindya plus Nitu was dead plus Nitu’s death itself was proof of his integrity. Therefore, Anindya, who was Nitu’s recruit, must be dependable. That’s how we ar­ gued. We never judged, never made enquiries, and yet we should’ve known. sujata What should you have known? n a n d in i We should’ve known that they too had their programme, just as we had ours. We had a cause. They too had one. n a n d in i

Mother o f 1084 Cause, Nandini? Programme? n a n d in i Of course. A programme of betrayal. That programme was their cause. sujata (in incomprehension) But how? n a n d in i Money, jobs and power didn’t mean a thing to us. But these were the temptations that seduced those who had joined us only to temptations. (Pause.) That’s why I never stop wondering. sujata Wondering, Nandini? n a n d in i Wondering why we hadn’t provided for the possibility of people joining the Party as friends only to betray us ultimately. sujata (with a nervous smile) You were young! n a n d in i N o , no, it was an overdose of romanticism. We didn’t have a clue to the reality. These were among the major failings of that time. sujata Failings? n a n d in i Failings, mistakes, deviations.. 1still wonder how we could afford not to know that with all that has happened since 1947, all human loyalties had dissolved by 1970. I wonder how we could be unaware that they could betray us to kill us. I wonder how we could be shocked whenever we heard that behind an assassination there was someone closely related to the victim— a father, a brother, a relation, a friend or an acquaintance. (Smiles.) People think that we hate whatever exists. (Smiles.) But some* day there will be people who’ll say that behind all our apparent hatred lay a craving to love and to revere. sujata Why do you wonder? n a n d in i Y ou wouldn’t understand. (Pause.) Now when we look back, it all seems to have been a betrayal. sujata That’s not the way to think, Nandini, it will only make you suffer more. n a n d in i Betrayal was rampant, but we hadn’t been taught to be sus­ picious. When we began to suspect, and could analyse our past experiences, only then could we become more confident of our­ selves. sujata Nandini! n a n d in i (unknown to herself there is a touch o f tenderness in her tone) But we felt the end of an era in those days. We thought we were bringing in a new era. 1 (pause) and Brati walked from College Street to Bhowanipur day in and day out, talking, just talking. Those days there was sheer delight in talking, in



looking at the streets, in the processions, in people, in the red roses at a street crossing, in the neon lamps, in watching, in the Hindi songs on the radio. We could burst with delight. ( Pause.) I’m not the same person any more. An era's gone by. What I had been those days is dead forever. sujata Don’t say that. NANDiNi Y ou ... my mother... you all speak the same way. (Pause.) You will never understand. You have never pledged everything you had to the cause of all, the way we had! sujata No. We hadn’t. nandini Brati used to tell me, he hadn’t ever seen a person as totally honest as you. Sujata (yearning in her voice) Did Brati say that? nandini Didn’t Brati tell you? sujata No. nandini Yet the way he spoke of you, gave the impression that you were very close. (In a different voice altogether.) The betrayal continues still. sujata Still? nandini Still -(Pause.) It’s frightening. sujata Betrayal? nandini Betrayal. The prison walls rise higher, new watch towers shoot up, there are so many young men still in the prisons, and yet a political party will not take a stand until it has been able to determine how it’ll serve its own interest and affect its standing with the Centre. Betrayal. The worst reactionaries make avow­ als o f their sympathy for us, and in the process they spoil our image in the public eye. Betrayal. We are not allowed the use o f the Press, paper, type-lead to explain our views. And yet there are all those journals that claim to be sympathetic to our cause. Betrayal. Every supposedly sympathetic piece tries shrewdly and skilfully to prove us adventurist-romantics. Betrayal. Even when we were being killed, all the writers and all the periodicals were crying over Bangladesh, they had nothing to say about West Bengal. And the same ones now write lamentations about us. Betrayal. And . . . within the prisons . . . sujata Still? nandin! O f course. Do you think they’ve stopped only because the newspapers don’t report them? Arrests? Torture? Murders in the

Mother o f 1084 name of encounters? A whole generation between sixteen and forty is being wiped out. sujata Don’t tell me. n a n d in i I loved Brati. sujata I know. (Pause.) It leaves one so empty when you think of it, Nandini. Brati was the soul o f my life, yet I knew him so little. n a n d in i Did you ever try? sujata Is it a relationship where you have to try? n a n d in i It’s a deadly time when people do not belong to one an­ other by virtue of kinship or ties of blood. Everyone remains a stranger these days to every one. It’s a crime to allow this to persist. It’s an obligation these days to know one’s son. sujata Is it an obligation for parents alone? n a n d in i (smiling) It’s for you to take the first step. Isn’t it your obligation to set a model for the younger generation to follow? Why do you demand loyalty by virtue o f relationships? Why don’t you try to earn it by virtue of your integrity? You won’t be honest, won’t forge relationships, and then you put the whole blame on us. sujata I didn’t say that. n a n d in i So where do we reach? Brati came from a household of a certain kind, he hated his father. Sanchayan, Dipu, and Smaran came from a smug high middle class. Somu, Laltu and Bijit be­ longed to apolitical, poor refugee homes. Mani and Kushal had parents involved in leftwing politics. But they all shared one common feature: the children and the parents were strangers to one another. sujata Did Brati talk about me? n a n d in i O f course. He stayed back home till the sixteenth of Janu­ ary only to honour your sentiments. Otherwise he should have left for the base on the fifteenth. sujata Was i t . . . because . . . he stayed back home . .. that day? n a n d in i He stayed back home for your sake, and he left home after I had rung him up. sujata (goes pale). Was it you who rang him up? n a n d in i Yes. I let Brati know the moment I had learnt that Anindya had betrayed us, and that Somu and his group had gone back to their locality. Brati could have passed the information over to Bijit on the telephone. That’s what I had expected him to do. I didn’t think that he would go himself. . .


When did you know? n a n d in i (an artless smile) I was arrested the same morning. Anindya had betrayed a whole unit I got the first information from the police. sujata Then? n a n d in i The prison. The solitary cell. The worst torture. (Sujata shiv­ ers. Nandini, insistent) Yes, the worst kind. sujata Nandini! n a n d in i (takes off her dark glasses, and places them on the table, as the lights begin to dim on thispart o f the stage). They carried out their interrogation in a dark room. Alone in the solitary cell. Then one day I was called up to a different room.


The stage goes dark. Sujata goes out.

ACT TEN Lights come up on the same part o f the stage. Nandini in a chairfaces Saroj Pal in another chair. A glaring light stares Nandini in theface throughout the scene. Nandini fidgets from time to time, trying helplessly to rise to her feet, and makes it obvious in the process that her hands and herfeet are tied to the chair. Nandini Mitra? n a n d in i Yes. saroj p a l (reads out from a report) Father, Suryakumar Mitra, a lawyer at the Alipur court. Address, 23/2/1A, Phani Goala Lane, Kalighat. n a n d in i Yes. saroj p a l Presidency College? n a n d in i You have all the details. saroj p a l Did you go to Digha with your classmates on the twelfth of December? n a n d in i Yes. saroj p a l (a charming smile) But you didn’t go to Digha. You went out with the boys. There was no other girl in the group. n a n d in i There were. saroj p a l Y ou went to have fun at Digha with a gang of criminals? Your father broke down at the news. saroj p a l

Mother o f 1084 That’s a lie. saroj pa l So you w e r e at Digha? n a n d in i O f course. n a n d in i

saroj p a l

A cco rd in g to m y reports, you w e re travellin g by train.


You were travelling by train, from Kharagpur to Digha. Deola was your actual destination. You and Mani were supposed to stay on at Deola and train the cadres, the others were to come back. Mani and you had competed in inter-collegiate rifle-shooting. You had resolved to train up the guerrillas in the villages. n a n d in i No. saroj pal You were on the point of boarding the bus for Deola, when Sanchayan brought the news that the police were search­ ing the bus. You stopped a truck on the highway and came back on the twelfth itself.

saroj pa l

n a n d in i

No .

If you had been in Digha for all the five days from the twelfth, how could you go to Nitu Pal’s house on the thirteenth? n a n d in i (Knits her brows and wonders who could have betrayed them) I didn’t go there. saroj p a l I know Nitu’s friends. Samiran, Bijit, Partha . . . n a n d in i I don’t know them. saroj pa l But I have information (smiles) that you are quite close to them. You go to Samiran’s house to collect arms, and you keep them for Bijit. You write posters with Sanchayan, and carry mes­ sages from Kalighat to Jadavpur. (Cuttingly, with pauses) you learn to manufacture pipe guns with Partha and someone else, and yet you insist that you don’t know them? n a n d in i (realizing, at last) Anindya! saroj pa l Right. Anindya’s an excellent chap. He loves his country, his society. (Pause.) Who drew you into the Party? n a n d in i I won’t say a thing. saroj p a l Fine. (Staring at her.) Do you realize that your parents will have to pay for your stubbornness? n a n d in i I won’t say a thing. saroj p a l They’ve all left you in the lurch and are cooperating with

saroj p a l


I d o n ’t b e lie v e you. saroj p a l Why? Do you think that they can’t be bought? n a n d in i No. n a n d in i

MODERN INDIAN DRAMA SAROJ p a l You’re quite a bore, saying the same thing over and over

again. No. No. I won’t say a thing. In the college debates, you seem to have had a much better range of vocabulary. n a n d in i I don’t want to hear anything. saroj p a l (sounds fierce) Well then, you can have a look at these pictures. n a n d in i Pictures? saroj p a l Pictures from the police morgue. n a n d in i No, I won't look at them. (She turns her head away, tries to rise to herfeet, but cannot.) saroj p a l Why don’t you have a look? n a n d in i No, I won’t. (She does turn once to the photograph.) saroj p a l (holding thephotograph before her) Look at this, it’s Somu Dutta Roy. NANDINI No, Not Somu. saroj p a l And Birit Guha, and . . . (holds up picture after picture) and . . .? n a n d in i Who else? (She screams.) saroj p a l And Brati Chatterjee. n a n d in i No, not Brati. (As she turns her head away violently, Saroj Pal insistently holds thepicture up before her eyes. Nandini goes on repeating. No, not Brati. Not Brati.) saroj p a l (softly) What was your relationship with Brati Chatterjee? Was he a friend? n a n d in i Stop it. saroj p a l (the same voice) What was your relationship with Brati Chatterjee? Was he a friend? (Bends closer to her, lights a ciga­ rette, presses the lighted cigarette to Nandini fs cheek. She creams.) What was your relationship with Brati Chatterjee? Was he a friend?

He puffs at the cigarette, and then presses it again to Nandini's cheek. Nandini screams. The questions and the pattern continue. The stage goes dark. Saroj Pal rises and moves out. Sujata comes in and takes her seat. Nandini puts the dark glasses on.

Mother o f 1084

ACT ELEVEN Lights come on on this part o f the stage. (her voice trembles) Nandini! Nandini! n a n d in i That was the beginning. sujata The beginning! n a n d in i I won’t be able to tell you all that happened after. (Pause.) The sores on the skin have healed, but I’ll never be normal again. (Draws herfingers across herface and chest.) sujata (she realizes that it’s more tragic fo ra living Nandini than fo r a dead Brati). But Brati’s no longer there, Nandini. n a n d in i Not for that. (Smiles.) Something else. After what I went through in prison, every man approaching me seems to be a policeman. sujata Nandini! n a n d in i I sometimes wonder, shall I forget Brati too some day? I wonder, all those deaths, all the bloodshed, were they all use­ less? I wonder, all the arrests, the killing and the bloodshed that continue, all that for nothing? sujata But it’s all quiet now, Nandini. n a n d in i (screams) No. No. No. No. It was never quiet, nothing’s quiet. Nothing’s changed. Thousands of young men rot in the prisons without trial, they’re denied the status o f politicals, and yet you’d say it’s all settled down again? Torture continues with greater sophistication and more secrecy, and yet you’d say it’s all quiet? All quiet? What do you need to get it into your heads that nothing’s quiet? sujata (Brati .is wiped out o f her thoughts fo r the time being, all concern fo r Nandini) Calm down, Nandini. n a n d in i H o w can you be so smug and complacent? With so many young men killed, so many imprisoned, how can you wallow in your complacency? It’s your ‘all’s right with the world, let's go on nicely' that frightens me most. How can you carry on with your pujas, concerts, cultural festivals, film festivals, poetry fests? sujata What will you do now? n a n d in i Me? I’m out on parole. For medical treatment. They wouldn’t have let me out otherwise. sujata Treatment9 n a n d in i (takes o f her glasses, puckers her eyes, puts her glasses on



again) My right eye’s blind from the gleam of the thousand watt lamps. There’s a little sight left in the left eye. sujata Nandini! n a n d in i ( smiles) I can’t see you really. 1 can feel it, you are deeply concerned for me. (To herself) Alone in the cell, with a mind grown sharp Like a dissector’s knife. Even when I don’t see, I can feel what you’re thinking. sujata After the treatment. . .? n a n d in i I don’t know. (Smiles benignly.) But I’ll never come back to the so-called tidy life. Some day you’ll learn that I’ve been arrested again. The clock strikes six. Sujata looks at her watch. It’s time for me to leave. n a n d in i Yes. It’s your youngest daughter’s engagement party. sujata I’ll come again. n a n d in i (smiling) No. sujata (hurt) No? n a n d in i No. What do you gain out of coming to me? You live with your past. I have to harness my present, and think o f the future. sujata I won’t go to Somu’s mother again. I won’t come to you. I won’t go to the places where Brati exists. Maybe that’s my pun­ ishment for not knowing Brati. n a n d in i (smiling) Your solitary cell. Come, let me show you the way. sujata Never mind. I ’ll fin d m y w a y out. sujata

Sujata suddenly caresses herface and shoulders, before going out. Nandini stands with the same remote smile. The curtain comes down on a dark stage.

ACT TWELVE The curtain goes up. A com er o f the stage, in darkness. The rest o f the stage glows, with a party in fu ll swing. They all have glasses o f liquor in their hands, except Sujata, Bini and Tuli. The moment I saw the Swami, my dear, a light flashed within me. We met at the San Francisco airport, and he said, My

mrs . KAPADiA

Mother o f 1084 dear daughter, meet me at Miami. Just think of it, how did he know that I was going to Miami beach? sujata (her thoughts, on the tape) Brati, I spent the whole of the day with you, and I can’t forget myself now to carry out my duties. sujata True! mrs k a p a d ia And from that moment itself the Swami’s been my guru. America has discovered the Swami, just as it had once discov­ ered Vivekananda. Now India will recognize the Swami. The Kapadias move over to Dibyanath and Dhiman. Bini comes to Sujata with a glass o f water. b in i Must be paining a lot, mother? sujata (with a strained smile) No. b in i I noticed you were drinking ice water, you had a cold bath.

Sujata holds the tumbler to her chest, and shuts her eyes. (her thoughts, on the tape) Brati’s fingers, his eyelids, how cold they are to the touch. Nothing can be colder. I was with Brati the whole day. d h im a n (coming up). How charmingly Mrs Kapadia speaks. Would you mind introducing me to her? sujata Oh yes, of course. Bini, why don’t you introduce him to Tony’s mother?


Bini moves away with Dhiman. Dhiman, M r and Mrs Kapadia come up as Sujata moves to take her position at the edge of the stage. Yes, it’s his birthday. mrs k a p a d ia Who could’ve thought, some one from this family . ..? d h im a n Misguided youth! d h im a n

Amit, Neepa’s husband, comes up sozzled. (poking Dhiman in the chest) Naughty! Naughty! Naughty! What does our rebel poet have to say? mrs k a p a d ia You’re a poet? How lovely! a m it O f course. His poems are a homage to Brati and his genera­ tion. mrs k a p a d ia Marvellous! d h im a n (with pretentious modesty) Can one write about anything else?

a m it



Dhiman and the Kapadias move, talking, to the rear o f the stage. Jyoti and Neepa come up, both quite drunk. Dhiman writes sob stuff on the twenty thousand men rotting in the prisons. Neepa, steady! neepa (her eyes closing o f their own accord) I . . . I . . . I know. j y o t i When Brati died, he was whining over Bangladesh. Now when everything’s under control, he writes about them, from his pig­ sty o f safety. Neepa, careful! neepa I . . . I . . . I . . . know. a m it (comes closer, to Neepa) What do you know? neepa That friend o f yours? He’s a washed out poet! He cultivates the rich to booze off them. And you blow him up as the rebel poet! What was your poet up to, when my brother was killed? a m it It was you who were ashamed of Brati. Not me. neepa Liar! a m it (shouting) I come from one o f the best families around— the Gangulis of Kidderpore. I’m not going to take that from a three­ penny whore. sujata (coming up) Amit! Neepa! Stop it. jyo ti


Y o u are funny, m other! D o n ’t you k n o w h o w much w e en jo y

these fights? sujata

Have them at home, not in public, please!

Amit tries to say something. But Tony and Tuli start danc­ ing suddenly. Amit, Neepa and Jyoti jo in them. The Kapadia, Dibyanath and Dhiman come forward. MR k a p a d ia Mrs Chatterjee hasn't been able to recover from the shock

of your youngest son’s death, it seems . .. d ib y a n a t h N o , no . . . mrs k a p a d ia H o w could your son ...? d ib y a n a t h Bad company, bad friends, the mother’s influence. MRS k a p a d ia The mother’s influence? d ib y a n a t h

Y ou d o n ’t k n o w h o w clo se w e w e re , th e tw o o f us!

MR k a p a d ia I know. Tuli told us.

Like babies. d h im a n With a father like you, that’d be natural. d ib y a n a t h It broke my heart when I heard the news. d h im a n Naturally. mrs k a p a d ia ( holds Dibyanath's hands). There’s nothing to grieve d ib y a n a t h


Mother o f 1084 for. The Swami says, there’s no death. It’s only the body that dies, the soul lives on. Your body will die. And then your souls will meet in heaven. d ib y a n a t h Truly? mrs k a p a d ia Oh, yes. d ib y a n a t h I’ll follo^v the Swami. (To Sujata) Did you hear that? sujata (from her place) What? d ib y a n a t h The wonderful things they said. sujata

I heard it.

Mrs Chatterjee, whisky? sujata No, thanks. I don’t drink. d ib y a n a t h Feeling unwell? SUJATA No. m r k a p a d ia

As she moves away to her dark comer, she notices Bini beck­ oning to her. She moves to Bini. Strange woman! She wouldn’t tell me where she had been the whole day. When I asked her, she said, since I don’t have the right to question you about your affairs, you too don’t have the right to ask me anything. mrs k a p a d ia Strange! d ib y a n a t h That’s how it is, Madam, in my life . .. d ib y a n a t h

They move back to the rear, watching the dancing couples, and talking. What’s the matter, Bini? b in i There’s a friend of Tony’s outside. sujata Why don’t you bring him in? ( She suddenly totters.) b in i ( worried) What’s wrong, mother? sujata It's the pain. b in i Why don’t you sit down? sujata No, let me bring him in.


Sujata crosses the dark circle and takes a few steps before retracting violently with a muffled scream. She grips her throat to stop the scream from breaking forth. There is a stare o f disbelief in her eyes. The dark circle is lit up the moment Saroj Pal, a badge flaunting 'D.C.D.D.' (Deputy Commissioner, Detective Department) on his chest, steps into it.

M O “ £KN

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SAftGj pal rvoice on tape ot'fj I ve a tnccher jcc \o. ~ur ->:n never went ro Digha . No. * e ’i net Leave "iiese n 'Jie ncuse What your sor. did _s jrx'rsr- ir ie Nc vcu ■von * ¿er *_ne body No. not rhe hody

The tapeg'jes o(f Sujata and Sa^'j p ji face each :nitr ’ rr silence BrNt fcoming upj 'Xon r you come in? SarO) pal No I m on duty Mass action bevcr-s ;n Baorui^ux and Kashipvif today SLrjoks once at Sujata and uie rape some* :n > SAftOj p a l (vf>ice on tape, off) M errier or 108** M e t ie r >:r 3 ran Chatteriee. I k n ew I d h ave to face her. and :hat s * h v i j i c n r

(The tape goes off j