Monday, February 4, 2013
THE DECISION by Amjad Prawej
Two middle aged men are watching TV in a posh living room. This scene is set up downstage.
A Dalit girl Sunaina and her 70-year-old father, Ravichand, were killed as a mob set afire over 15 houses belonging to members of the Dalit community in Nachpur village of Kushal district on Friday.
Ramesh Jatav was allegedly killed after he demanded Rs 4, 000 for the work he had done in a Madhya Pradesh village on Sunday. He was a Dalit.
Ghatge, a Dalit farmer, was murdered last week by upper-caste villagers who did not want him to dig a well on his own property. It would have been the first well in Tilakjay village on land owned by a Dalit.
Keep watching LNC. We'll be back with more news after this short commercial break!
Father: (Switching off the TV) Did you hear that Mr. Mathur ? What do you make of this news?
Mr. Mathur: I don't know how to react. I was not aware such things existed in the present times.
Father: People say we are getting civilized. But these brutal news everyday indicate quite the opposite. People killing people, wars, riots and blasts. Where are we headed? Is it so hard for people to understand we are all equal? What has become of Human race?
Mr. Mathur: We are fortunate to have people like you around. But we need many more. Our organization runs solely because of your charity. We would have shut down long back without your donations. By the way, our 8th Anniversary is round the corner. I wanted to remind you in person.
Father: Oh yes, I remember. I hope the preparations are going well. Please don't worry, I'll have the money sent to you soon.
Mr. Mathur: Thank you very much Mr. Sharma. I shall take your leave now.
Father: Of course. I shall walk you till the main gate.
Exit Father and Mr. Mathur. Upstage, enters a young girl followed by a young boy. They are arguing.
Girl: Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. I don't want to hear this word again. It's been almost a year now and all you keep saying is tomorrow.
Boy: Don't be angry. Try and understand. I want to get a job first. That way I'll be in a strong position to stand in front of your..
Girl: No. I don't want to hear any more excuses. Job or no job, you'll have to do it today. In fact NOW. Come let's go. He'll be at home.
Boy: Listen. Let's not take any step in haste and regret later. Give me a week's time. I promise I'll get a job. Trust me.
Girl: You are a graduate. Why is it taking so long for you to get a job?
Boy: Don't be so naive. You know very well. No one wants to hire me to work in their offices. They want to hire me to clean their toilets. I think I am capable of doing better than that. They ignore my excellent marks the moment they see my last name on the certificates. Sometimes I feel it was a waste of time to have done my Graduation.
Girl: (Very concerned) No, don't say that. I am sorry for being so selfish. I am sure you'll get a job.
Boy: I don't know. And I am not sure if your family will agree to this relationship.
Girl: You don't have to worry. I can't say about my mom who is a bit traditional. But my dad is very open minded. He is against discrimination of any form. He is associated with several charitable organizations. He'll definitely be on our side.
Boy: Let's hope so. (Smiling) Hey, no matter what, I'll always love you.
Girl: I know. I love you too. (Mischievously) Are you scared of my family?
Boy: Of course I am.
Boy: Good?? What's good about it? The thought of being in front of your dad is so scary. I think I'll open my mouth and nothing will come out, not a single word.
Girl: I think you'll be fine.
Boy: Really? How do you know?
Girl: (Coming closer) Because..... you love me.
Boy: I am not so sure.
Girl: (Surprised) What? You are not sure if you love me?
Boy: That's not what I meant. I am not sure if I'll be fine.
Girl: You will. Love is the most powerful weapon.
The girl kisses the boy.
Boy: Wow. That was powerful. One more please.
Girl: After you've spoken to my dad.
Exits running, Boy follows. Enter Father, downstage left. He is on the cellphone.
Father: Oh not at all Mr. Mathur. I am a human being too. If I don't understand the need of those kids then who will. And it was not really that big amount (Listens) Really?... As a Chief Guest?.. Since you insist.... Will the press be there?.. Nice... See you there. Bye.
Enters the Boy, downstage right.
Boy: Hello Sir. My name is (Gibberish) blahft friest. Your daughter and I studied in the same college. We love each other and (Gibberish) freht hart maft harb drib.
Father: (Looks around) How did this dog get inside the house?
Boy: (Coming closer and still talking Gibberish) Nin tran shimka shimka..
Father: (Steps back) I don't see any color around its neck. (To the audience) It must be a stray dog. Shoo.. Go to the street. That's where you belong.
Boy: (Talks louder now) Hert bert shinshi marhan (Tries to touch him)
Father: (Screams) No, don't bite me. Please someone save me. I don't want to get Rabies. I am scared of injections.(Continues screaming)
Enters Girl, stage left.
Girl: What happened dad? Why are you screaming?
Father: That dog is trying to bite me.
Girl: What dog.? (Notices the Boy) Rupak! You came! (Hugs the Boy)
Boy: I had to come. I had promised.
Father: What's going on here?
Boy: (Whispering) I tried talking to him but he doesn't seem to understand what I say.
Girl: Dad. This is my friend Rupak. He wants to talk to you. And I don't see any dog here.
Father: That's the dog you are talking to.
Girl: Father please. (To the boy) Go on tell him.
Boy: Alright I will try again. Sir, we, I mean your daughter and I, love each other very much and we have decided to get married. (There is no reaction from the father. The Boy looks at the Girl and back to the father) I don't think he understood anything. (Tries again, screaming this time) Sir, I want to get married to your daughter!
Girl: What do you say?
Father: What do I say to what?
Girl: To what he just told you?
Father: You must be out of your mind. I don't comprehend Dog's language.
Boy: I told you. He doesn't understand a single word I say.
Girl: Dad, I am going to repeat what he just told you. We are madly in love with each other and we want to get married.
Father: I don't understand.
Boy: There you go. He doesn't understand you either.
Girl: Dad we want to get married. What is difficult to understand?
Father: Have you gone nuts? You want to get married to a Dog?
Girl: Dad!! Why do you keep calling him a dog?
Father: Because he is one! Look at him. Love has blinded you. You have lost your reasoning. But I haven't. You can't marry him and ruin your life, not to mention ours. Now, before I get out of control and do something nasty ask this dog to get going.
Boy: But sir, please....
Father: (getting hold of his neck) Get out before I kill you..
Father: (Pushing him towards the exit) Get out!
Boy: It's about my caste, isn't it?
Father: Get out!! (Pushes the Boy out) If I see you around again, I swear I'll kill you. (to the girl) And for you, your freedom ends here. (Calls out) Radha!
( Enter Radha, stage left. She is a traditional house-wife)
Father: Make sure she doesn't step outside the boundaries of this house. She wants to marry a dog.
Girl: Please stop calling him a dog.
Father: Shut up! What do you want me to call a dog? A cow? Listen, I have nothing against these dogs. In fact I speak for their rights. You know that. You may have dogs as your pets, feed them and feel good about it. But you can't marry them. Do you understand?
Girl: Yes I do. In fact, I never understood you better than I do now.
Father: Good for you. Radha, I know she wants to cry. So cry with her for sometime. Once you are done, try and put some sense in her head. And yes, tell her about our decision.
Exit Father, stage right.
Radha: I am going to be very direct. What do you want to do?
Girl: I don't know.
Radha: You heard your father. He will never let you marry, who he calls, a dog. Never. He has decided to have you married to a very successful NRI from Dubai. And I can do nothing for you. All I can do is advise you. Nothing else.
Girl: And what is your advice mom?
Radha: (Sighs ) In our society family always comes first. We sacrifice everything to save our prestige. And for your father there is no prestige, no honor in letting you marry the one you like. This is a fact.
Girl: There is another fact that you are missing mom, most of these sacrifices for the so called honor have to be made by women.
The mother is quiet.
Girl: There is one thing I don't understand though. Dad is always talking against discrimination. But today..
Radha: You are right my dear. He talks. He is never tired of talking against poverty and discrimination. There are many who do that. Talk. But there are very few who walk their talks. And your father is definitely not one of those few people. He loves his status. He knows what's wrong and what's right. But he is scared. He is weak. He lacks the confidence to walk the right path. And now, it's your turn to choose. When you are making your decision, remember your duties as a daughter and keep the family in your mind. This is all I have to say.
(Exit Radha, stage left)
Girl: (Walking towards downstage centre) Mother, my decision is not going to be any different from the decisions of thousands of other girls who come across the same dilemma. I surrender myself to the fate. (Moves to stage left and picks up a garland)
Enter NRI Groom followed by his Mother from stage right. He has a garland. Wedding Mantras are heard. The girl starts walking towards the groom. They exchange garlands.
Groom: I didn't know she was so beautiful. I love her. I love her. Yipeeeee (Jumps around with happiness)
Mother: Stop it. Stop monkeying around. Have you learned nothing. Don't let all my training go waste. I am going to be very angry. And you don't want me getting angry, do you?
Mother: Good. Now follow me, both of you.
They exit, stage right.
The stage is cleared. In the next scene, the girl is sitting center stage. Her eyes are closed.
Mother: Now listen! So far you have done really well. We got all the money we could from her family. This is the climax. It's really simple. I gave her sleeping pills before she went to bed. She is fast asleep. You just have to pour this Kerosene on her and light the match. We'll say it was an accident.
Groom: (shocked) But why do we have to kill her? We already have the money.
Mother: Because the money will not last forever you fool. It'll be over soon. Then we will play this game all over again. I have spent a lot of time and effort training you. Don't disappoint me.
Groom: I.. I don't understand. I thought you were..... your speech against dowry at college function last year...
Mother: Shut up! (with a smile) Of course I am against dowry. But who doesn't love money? And accidents happen all the time. (Firmly) Now do as I say or I shall drop you back on the streets from where I picked you. You will starve to death.
Groom: I wish you had left me there.
Mother: (Getting angry) You are making me angry you little beast. Just do it. It's no big deal. It happens all the time. Almost everyday. Don't spoil all my efforts.
Groom: I am sorry I... this is inhuman...
Mother: Inhuman? This is very human. Have you ever seen any animal burn another animal for money? No. Now do as I say. (Hands him the the kerosene can) Go!
Groom: (Referring to the audience) Aren't they going to stop me?
Mother: (Laughs) They love being silent observers.
Groom: I am sorry... I... I can't do this.
Mother: (Enraged) You gutless animal. I was wrong. You can't be trained enough to be a human. Give that to me. I'll do it myself.
She goes to the girl and stands her up. The Girl still has her eyes closed.
Girl: (To the audience with eyes closed) Help me.
(The mother keeps staring at the audience with an evil smile on her face, almost challenging them)
Groom: No, No. (Shaking the girl) Wake up! wake up!
The mother leads the girl off stage.
Groom: (Trying in vain to wake the girl) Wake up! Wake up! (To the audience) Wake up! Wake up! WAKE UP!
(He is interrupted by a long shrill scream from the wings. The Groom is shocked. He keeps staring at the audience)
Groom: (looking down, mutters) Murderers!
Exits slowly in the opposite direction, still muttering “Murderers”