Sextet : Six Performance Texts by Mukherjee. P : The Theatre of Dissent

 




Saat Chinar or Katha Kafka: Seven fragments from a private somewhere/nowhere written between 2005-2014


By Mukherjee. P



Opening lines: Someone must have slandered Joseph K, for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested." From The Trial by Franz Kafka.

There we are: there we were..frozen and transfixed like a chinar against the greyscale sky. Looking up towards that nether zone. What then is Kashmir: tear-drop, ether, tinder box and also a story of decay. Decay coming from a complex web of machinery as a machination and also a cultivated narrative of diaspora locals playing up their victimhood making the narrative jaded to the point of being pointless. The narrative is more nuanced and needs more locally rooted voices.

I am oscillating between the beauty of Gurez, the stone pelting narratives of the misinformed in Baramulla and the students who are looking for a way out after yet another session at Altaf Chemistry Classes.

And on the other end of the spectrum lies the dried up tears of APDP.

From 1994, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) have regularly pressed for detailed information on these unmarked graves that dot the J&K landscape and has even published some of its findings. The number of nameless graves have been alarmingly on the rise. Everywhere. You name the place: Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Pattan, Sumbal, Kunzer, Pulwama, Ganderbal, almost everywhere unmarked and largely unknown graves have popped up. 

At the Atta Mohammed run graveyard, almost all of them who are buried are blessed with words like unidentified militants, encountered militants, Pakistani terrorists, words trail off..

An investigation by J&K police on the case of Abdul Rehman Pedroo, a missing carpenter revealed the deepening rot in the system. The network of fake encounters that included senior army and police officials including a Colonel and Senior Superintendent of police. Investigations revealed that how innocent citizens were picked up and killed and declared as foreign militant to gain promotions, medals and rewards.

Very recently, Atta Mohammed had to open up a grave of an unidentified militant after court orders. It was found to be the graveyard of Bashir Ahmed Dar from Jalshiri village, 10 kms away from Tchahal. Dar had left home to bring back his wife from the in-laws place but never came back.

Many never comes back. Some dead bodies are lucky to be identified and later has a plaque announcing their death. Others lie in unnamed mounds consigned to history. Everything is becoming extinct in Kashmir. From the vision of peace to the Bakarwali dogs.

Next time when you are in Bimyar, 20 kms away from the Baramulla town dont forget to meet Atta Mohammed. 

Navigate the undulating terrain. Walk through its landscape and many Atta Mohammeds pop up. On June 26, 1995, when Mohammed Akbar Sheikh was handed over four dead bodies of alleged militants for burial the Regipora village graveyard of the Kupwara district turned into a Martyrs Graveyard. 

Ask APDP. 

The story of Kashmir is also a story of nameless graves, story of parents meeting 10th of each month in various public parks carrying a photograph of the disappeared,  story of excesses perpetrated by all quarters, the dilemma of people like Abdul Rehman Gujjari the caretaker of the Regipora graveyard as he has to raise resources to buy shroud for the deceased and the long unending wait of the near and the dear ones for the disappeared.

Hoping against hope that the dear disappeared will turn up some day. 

Next time in Kashmir, walk into one of these graveyards. 

But then you will ask why on earth should I/we go there? 

You are right. So, what do we do? Do we ignore? 

Or engage in a non-partisan manner The questions posed by the land of claimed and the unclaimed will always remain valid. Here are some chinars that stand tall.


Chinar Shunya: Lost lullaby in found transcreation 

hukus bukus telli wann che kus

onum batta lodum deag

shaal kich kich waangano

Brahmi charas puane chhokum

Brahmish batanye tekhis tyakha.

Itkayne ne Itkayne

Tse Kus Be Kus Teli Wan su Kus

Moh Batuk Logum Deg

Shwas Khich Khich Wang-mayam

Bhruman daras Poyun chokum

Tekis Takya bane Tyuk.



Who is that you in I and I in you? 

Who is the creator that intermingles within us? 

Between the eyebrows, another eye pops up. 

As one puts water on the face, the centre of consciousness gets aroused and I waft to another space.

The divine is deep within me from breath to cleansing, drenched in spiritual love and  I have no confusion about it. 

Then I become the sandalwood paste on the body. And indeed I have understood the cosmic.


Chinar Ek-2011: 

This time around..the day before I landed..May 6, 2011..SaturdaySyed Ali Shah Geelani-the chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) participated in Gaibana Nimaz-e-Jinaza (funeral prayers in absentia) at Batamaloo. For whom. Osama Bin Laden.

He followed it up with his now-going-nowhere-fiery speech.

Meanwhile, the government officials apart from tackling Geelani and his now predictable rabble rousing was busy shifting the Darbar to Srinagar. What does this mean? This is a 139-year-now-should-be-defunct-but-isnt-defunct-tradition of keeping the civil secretariat in Jammu for six months during the winter and then shift it lock-stock-and-barrel of course to Srinagar. This is a huge exercise of moving about 40 offices of more than 3400 employees and a load of paper work at the cost of about Rs 5.5 crores annually.

There you are Kafka. Seize the moment.

Darbar was to open on Monday. May 9, 2011. Meanwhile in Europe(read Brussels), chairman of Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq  was meeting all and sundry discussing everything from stone pelting to water treaties in Kashmir.

Kashmir University had a quieter day, today, May 8. There was a painting competition, symposium and a musical concert dedicated to the 150th birth celebration of Rabindranath Tagore. 

Monday-May 9, 2011. Rasm-e-chahrum of Naseem Akhtar is happening at her ancestral graveyard in Magarmal Bagh from 10am. Born: 1931 at Mirpur (now a part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir), Naseem was a magical voice that mesmerized countless listeners with her Kashmiri songs especially in the hey days of All India Radio. 

Cut to May 7, 2011.

Afternoon.

Kafka as the boatman. A Maggi in my hand. Airtel works in Dal lake and Vodafone toothe boat meandered across the waterscapes, across the tears of  many who disappeared, got maimed and some of them suffering from insomnia, depression, sleep disorder, anger outbursts, retreating into a shell with blank looks across an all-encompassing vaccum (and trying to find solution in codine phosphate, spasmo-proxyvon, cannabis, alcohol)

 

Evening:  I am in Café Robusta in Lal Chowk 

What next ? 

Roganjosh, roti, salt tea (nooncha), sleep.


Chinar Do: Pin Code 193213 - lost letters of Uri 

Aslam Mir

is

like a rock

He has this huge bag

the Khaki bag

for 40 odds years braving landslide, thunderstorm and disappearances that are normal and surreal

His colleagues Nand Lal Sudan and Abdul Majeed - the postmaster

still perform their chores

Aslam Mir is like a rock

He has this huge bag

the Khaki bag

from 1971and the bag still remains intact

tattered but intact…torn but intact..faded but real 

Between September to October, 2005

Uri has received 6,791 letters including 57 money orders

Many don't have recipients any more

The earthquake consumed them

From Kamalkote to Dullanja

From Dachi to Sultan Deki

many dead

150 homes, 40 homes, 60 homes

numbers don't add up

bodies do

Ask those tin-shed inhabitants of Baday Sarai


Aslam Mir is like a rock

His son Afzal was trapped by the debris

Afzal was killed by the quake

He was studying in Class VIII

His elder son who is physically challenged was not in the house

He survived

Afzal died

He wipes his glasses

He still carries this huge bag

the Khaki Bag

for decades of bloodshed and lost years and months that disappeared from the calender


Some send cassettes with voices inside the letter

Some re-live the irony 

and 

for others it is a wait for letters that get re-routed through Delhi

Whose Line and whose Control

Unclaimed insurance

disappearing homes

villages razed to dust

a new moon across a new mountain

new cracks

new ridge

new fault-lines

across the mountains

piles

piled up

further piled up

A staircase of letters


Aslam Mir is like a rock

He has his huge Khaki Bag

that traverses the landscapes created by four decades of trust and 

an appetite for ceaseless walking 

and the desire to carrying the load of the living and that of the dead

Aslam Mir is like a rock

his tears

get merged with Jhelum

and at some corner of the world

a Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel croons

that sound of silence


Reading out letters

calligraphic patterns

blue LoC envelopes with faded photographs

from Gujjarbandi in Hatiyan at the PoK

to the arid trenches of Baramulla

life goes

families divided by 1947

families divided by a problematic AK-47

divided all along the watchtower


Aslam Mir is like a rock

He has this huge Khaki bag

he has been carrying

for 40 years

40 long years


Aslam Mir is like a rock

The rock that stays put in real towns, in real cities

                         

Chinar Teen: Curfew Amongst Blocks Of Ice


February 19, 2005: the Waltango Nar, a sleeply Gujjar village erupted into a tragedy. 128 houses were destroyed. The Gujjar and Bakerwal Advisory Board has complained about the pace of development.


Slabs

and slabs of snow

almost like

stones, bricks and more stones and more bricks at

Uri and Tangdhar

90 families staring at a homeless expanse

as white flashes gnaw into your flesh

The canvas tents are flooded with snow

Pace of development finds no locomotion

From the azure blue sky

as more and more flakes fall

Bashir Ahmed Deedah

looks helplessly all around

The blizzard consumed six of his family members

And now  

the long wait for further blizzard

transfixed gazes at nothingness


In life we move on from hurt to another


from one hurt to another hurt..some hurt are national and others are trans-national.or shall we say some hurt are borderedsome are cross-bordered..some are across-bordered and some more luckily are borderless


Chinar Char-2008: More than a half million of security forces in a valley almost 9.5 million of residents. 

From meetings in Pratap Park and Sher-e-Kashmir Park to an office in Hyderpora in Jammu and Kashmir. Yes, 15 years is not a long timenot a landmark like 50. But the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in its 15th year of existence is more significant than many other initiatives in the country, especially in the light of the nationwide celebrations of the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

As they register their protests across tricky domains of a battle scarred landscape, unanswered questions like unidentified bodies keep popping up. Yet, they fight a battle which needs to be fought. 

Whose battle? 

Ask 67-year old Atta Mohammed. Since 2003, he has buried more than 235 dead bodies in a graveyard besides his house in Tchhal village of Jammu and Kashmir's Uri district which is about 100 kms away from Srinagar. Who are these people? 

According to human rights groups more than 10,000 people have disappeared in the state. The cases have increased since Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) was invoked in 1990. At the Atta Mohammed run graveyard, almost all of them who are buried are blessed with words like "unidentified", "encountered", "perpetrators"words trail off.

An investigation by the J&K police on the case of Abdul Rehman Pedroo, a missing carpenter reveals a deepening rot in the systemof fake encounters, random picking up and no trace left behind, declaring them with different sobriquets to gain promotions, medals and rewards.

Very recently in 2008, Atta Mohammed had to open up a grave of an unidentified militant after court orders. It was found to be the graveyard of Bashir Ahmed Dar from Jalshiri village, 10 kms away from Tchahal. Dar had left home to bring back his wife from his in-laws place but never came back. Many never come back. Some dead bodies are lucky to be identified and later have a plaque announcing their death. Others lie in unnamed mounds consigned to history. Everything is becoming extinct in Kashmir. From the vision of peace to the Bakarwali dogs.

Next time you are in Bimyar, 20 kms away from the Baramulla town don't forget to meet Atta Mohammed. Navigate Kashmir. Walk through its landscape and many graveyards and unnamed graves emergeBaramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Pattan, Sumbal, Kunzer, Pulwama, Ganderbal. 

Ask APDP. Since 1994, they are consistently demanding information on many of these unmarked graves and publishing some of their findings. The APDP is largely a campaign driven group and is fiercely independent about its role to bring justice in this region. As a founder member of the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) which was launched in May 1998 in Manila, it now tries to link the larger cause of the disappeared. AFAD is playing a larger role in trying to enforce international instruments like the United Nations Declarations on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNDPAPFEID) and the Draft Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. 

The story of the valley can be told as a story of nameless graves; a story of parents' meeting on the 10th of each month in various public parks, carrying a photograph of the "disappeared"; a story of excesses perpetrated by the Anti-Militancy Special Operations Group; the dilemma of people like Abdul Rehman Gujjari (caretaker of the Regipora graveyard) as he has to raise resources to buy shrouds for the deceased; and, the long unending wait of the near and the dear ones for the ’near disappeared’ and the ’dear disappeared’ to turn up some day. Next time in Kashmir, walk into one of these graveyards. 


Chinar Paanch: I am back at the same boat. Myself and Kafka as a boatman. Kahwa. Heated discussion. I am loudly reciting my favourite Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali's poem on Satyajit Rays Pather Panchali: 


Listen,

Durga dies in the rains,

her tongue bitter with stolen

fruit. Beyond the field, trains

escape a boys dreams, run

into the air. A necklace chains

him to the waters bones, turns

his reflection sour. Wherever

Apu goes, to the temple or the river,

he carries Durgas smile to the depths of the air.

The floating vegetable market glides by. Mist and the lake make love to each other. 

Paanch Chinar-2011: A few days laterlater to some date...earlier to some other date. The shikara by now is mid-lake.this was an aimless ride across corridors of noiseless ripplesthe air seems to carry the message of the loss of 118 lives in the summer unrest of 2010..for example the case of Wamiq Farooq of Ramawari; killed in January 2010; by this teargas shell fired by the police near the Ghani Memorial Stadium Rajouri Kadal in old Srinagar. The police report dubbed him as miscreant but fails to explain how a teargas shell fired in air hits the head of a person. 

Now there you are Kafka. Dont worry your moments of déjà vu they are also moments of a sinking feeling. Living paradox.

A few days later, I would be passing by the newly created transit camp for the Kashmiri Pandits at Vessu Qazigund, in south Kashmir nearly 100 kms away from Srinagar. No, there arent any celebrations. Not that the numbers who came back are huge. You are in the midst of a sense of hope. Hopefully.

How many times will you emigrate and immigrate in a land where you are the half-of-the-secular-sky. You arent the colour of rainbow any more. Pandits are an elegy, dirge and a metaphor.

And what do you do with rows of charred houses that you left behind. They have been further charred or have become outposts or are awaiting buyers who want it cheap.


You are in this Kafka land. The valley that is staring at the crossroad of the crossroads. Jammu grappling with its brand new conscience keepers and Ladakh  recovering from an earthquake, is a little tired of yuppie Enfield-headbangers, nature-lovers with a tripod and this unending list of volunteers who need a sexy summer placement for their curriculum vitals(vitae)


When your flight..takes off the airport.you are grappled with bizarre dreamsa dream in which you want to set up a hospitalonly for retired guns..where the guns will turn into flowers in the hand of trained nurses or that Camus-esque dream of some fatigue clad wannabe pointing to a motionless  body  and grinning on a handy cam and saying: If this is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.


Even death dies. If you kill death too many times.

Dont believe me.


Ask Kafka


2014: Chinar Six


Puking Paani:  the Khatambundh, the kangri and some deaths 

The crows shouted

for

they knew not how to spend the leisure;

the nightingales adorned their nests,

the hay became stacks.

The nightingales hatched,

their breaths were visible.

One flight --

and the world knew the newborn.

Suddenly all shouting stopped.

From The Crows Shouted by Dina Nath Nadim [Translated by Arvind Gigoo] 

Silence. Let's roll it on.


Preliminary Data: 12.5 lakh affected families

There you are raising funds

Preliminary official Data: Damaged 3.50 lakh structures

There you are playing occupation, occupier, occupy, occupied and then falling silent

Initial Data: Damaged 83,000 pucca houses 

There you are watching the pheran with checks on it in Haidar as Hamlet grimaces 

Initial Official Data: Damaged 21, 162 kachha houses

There you are the cyber-revolutionaries burning the urls with your informed criticism and lack of ground involvement

Official Data: Partially Damaged 1.5 lakh houses

There you are with numerous photo-ops of slow death

Data: 10,000 milch animals perished 

There you are busy pointing fingers at the nation state and the state of the nation..when you needed to move your bums and jump in

Also the official data states that: 33,000 sheep perished

There you are seminar junkies..you theorize numbers. as makeshift tents increase

The data screams: Losses over Rs 1 lakh crore 

There you are playing the victimhood or the savior depending which side and sight you are on 

Data: Almost a month after rains, residential areas are still inundated with stagnant water


There you are brewing your kahwa 

as 

the shit scared ruffled hair, dug in cheeks and the sunken eyes try to figure out what is aid and what is self-respect

who occupies the Facebook space and who faces the book 

who spouts Frantz Fanon and who really knows the agony in the lines of Dina Nath Nadim


the disappeared fragrance of bakerkhani, sheermal, girda, krip, choat, teliwor, katlam, lavaas and kulcha 


the bread isn't baking


the bread isn't breaking  


Silence.


Let's shut down the bakeries.


the bread isn't baking


the bread isn't breaking  


Silence.


Let's shut down 


Lets wait for the slow burn…


(Saat chinar or the Necessary postscript: This is a tribute to the memory of the deceased photo journalist Pradip Bhatia. 

A tip of the hat to the resilient pens Yusuf Jameel and that of Muzamil Jaleel and his tale of Aslam Mir. 

The name Saat Chinar is a riff from the Chaar Chinar island which stands in the middle of the Dal Lake and makes for a lovely view especially that time of the evening when the sunset is over and the pitch- black darkness illuminates the lake. The lights of the houseboats and the bright lights of the shore make the Chinars glisten…The Chinars frames the the expanse of the all-enveloping darkness-that shimmers)





Ms. Jinnah, Ms. Gandhi: a play 

Mukherjee. P 


Ms. Jinnah, Ms. Gandhi: a play by Parnab Mukherjee Prologue 

Prison is essentially a shortage of space made up for by a surplus of time; to an inmate, both are palpable. Naturally enough, this ratio – echoing man's situation in the universe – is what has made incarceration an integral metaphor of Christian metaphysics as well as practically the midwife of literature...It’s not that prison makes you shed your abstract notions. On the contrary, it pares them down to their most succinct articulations. Prison, is indeed, a translation of your metaphysics, ethics, sense of history and what not into the compact terms of your daily deportment. 

Joseph Brodsky, The Writer in Prison 

Ruttie was and will be a phenomenon. A confluence of combative memory and gritty metaphors. A waste of talent. As Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s wife, a fascinating person to study and write about. Confessions of Ruttie Jinnah was a long performance text which I wrote when Sampark published my first book of performance texts and later a selection of my plays. However, I felt that the piece needs to be worked upon further and this play was born. At a time when Jinnah House in Mumbai is at the centre of controversy. The Ministry of External Affairs, India says that Jinnah’s sister Fatima was the inheritor of this property according to his will. Daughter of Jinnah, Dina has staked her claim. 

In all this media covered din, what is being forgotten is Ruttie. This building could have been her prison. Her liberation. A little of both. History has been unkind to her. Though, this play is not and does not intend to be a faithful re-construction of her varied life, it intends to map the alert mind of one of the most original Mumbaikars – Ruttie Jinnah. The first ever play on her. 

Writing about Ruttie was not easy. The cultural and political Bombay of 1900 to 1929 was probably one of the most challenging periods in the life of the city. On one hand Dadasaheb Phalke of the almost 100 films repertoire was making Raja Harishchandra, Mohini Bhashmashur, Lanka Dahan and Birth of Shri Krishna, while on the other hand Baburao Painter was busy making the subversive Sairandhri which was banned for an attack on Lord Curzon. Still on the other side the audience was busy gobbling up released footage of the bonfire of foreign cloth led by Gandhiji, the last procession with the body of Lokmanya Tilak, extracts of Parsee plays like Pijam's Tehemuras and Tehemuljee and Pherozeshah.J. Marzban's Aflatoon. 

It was the time when the electric tramcar ran from Crawford Market to Muncipal Office, when Calcutta's singing sensation Gauhar Jan gave live concerts and acted in Suchet Singh's Shakuntala along with Dorothy Kingdom and when the Bombay Triangular cricket tournament drew packed houses at Gymkhana ground, Fort. 


Page 2 of 41 

Contrast this with political upheavals of that time from Gandhiji's imprisonment in Yerwada jail in Pune in 1922, to the all party conference of 1924 and the turbulent three years culminating in the Simon Commission agitation of 1928. Bombay was charged in all spheres. 

Politically, creatively and ideologically. 

Writing about Ruttie is writing about all of these and yet none of these apparently. It is a difficult and delicate balance to achieve and I am probably not the best person for the job. Yet, reading about it all these years. Being fascinated by the Bombay that nurtured The New Parsee Victoria Company doing King Lear (in Murad Ali's version called Har Jit) and the same Bombay where Congress began an employment bureau on January 1923 to help those who resigned from the government to get jobs in firms that had expressed solidarity to the nationalist cause. 

It was Bombay that excited me, still excites me. 

Ruttie was a bridge to writing about that Bombay, and hence the play. Like all my plays, this one has its share of dedications and acknowledgments. This play is dedicated to the memory of Avantikabai Gokhale who along with six others on April 6, 1930 marched with vessels filled with water from the sea to Haji Ali Park and boiled the same to break the salt law. 

And to the memory of 

Rachel Coorie – a young martyr from the USA who stood between Israeli bulldozers and the Palestinian settlement and was crushed to death on March 16, 2003. 

Hopefully the play embodies their spirit. 

Here's the play: 

Narrator, who could be a narrator or Ruttie or both. 

Ladies and Gentlemen. This evening must start like any evening starts. With an introduction. Yes, this is an evening when I will talk about a Bombay I know. The Bombay of 1904 when the Congress of Pherozeshah Mehta decided that two persons will go to London and campaign with the liberal party on the issue of greater autonomy for India. One of them was Gopal Krishna Gokhale and the other was Mohammed Ali Jinnah. 

Of July 22, 1908 when Tilak was sentenced for sedition. For six days, workers in 76 of the 85 mills of Bombay and employees of the Mulji Jetha Market,Kalbadevi began Asia's first anti-colonial strike in solidarity with Tilak. 


Page 3 of 41 

Of 1917 when the Home Rule League meetings were addressed by Joseph Baptista lovingly called Kaka, Umar Sobani and that brilliant Irish journalist Benjamin Guy Horniman. 

Yes, the same Horniman of the Horniman Gardens. Remember in April, 1919 he was deported over his editorials against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and in 1926, he defied the regulations against him to come back to Bombay and head The Bombay Sentinel. 

Of October 31, 1920, when 801 delegates formed the All India Trade Union Congress with Kaka Baptista and N.M Joshi as the vice-presidents. 

Of the Backbay Scandal of 1926 when Khurshed Frang Nariman in a legislative council session accused the government of fraud in it's blueprint to reclaim 1, 145 acres of land between Backbay and Colaba. The engineer Thomas Harvey sued Nariman and lost the case. 

Of the 1928 protests against Simon Commission. 

Of the December 12, 1930 memories of a British policeman driving over a 22-year old millworker from Mahangule near Pune called Syed Babu Genu. Genu was crushed under the wheels. Yes, the Genu portrayed so well in Shafaq Khan’s play Shobhyatra. The same Genu who was standing on the road trying to stop the truck with foreign clothes reaching a warehouse in Kalbadevi. 

And of 1929

When Ruttie Jinnah died 

We start the evening with Ruttie, me, my tape-recorder

You are asking my age.

Don'’t ask Bombay of her age

She is ageless. I am that ageless Bombay media of Ruttie's time I am that ageless journalist of the Bombay of now 

Dear tape-recorder, 

It's raining today in Mumbai and Kalina has turned into a tunnel of dirt in this torrential downpour. Let me record my testimony about a lady who was a part of the city of memories... 

(Switches the tape recorder on.) 

What else will a retired journalist do? 

Go over lost bylines and locate forgotten history Smoke 


Page 4 of 41 

drink

and then drown in memories tattered torn emaciated

There's a city of my memories drowned in the multiplex madness as our lives become a progression 

from one parabola to another 

Born: February 20, 1900. This is a story of a remarkable lady who died under not so remarkable circumstances. 

We'll begin with a story of two Lords and a lady. Mr. Jinnah along with Mrs. Jinnah had gone to Shimla. They were there because he was to participate in the summer session of the Central Legislative Council. As a part of the proceedings, the Viceroy Lord Chelmsford had organised a dinner party in honour of the couple. 

On this occasion, when Ruttie was formally introduced to the Viceroy instead of bowing to greet him, she joined her two hands and did a ceremonial namaste. This offended the Viceroy. After the dinner, he signalled his ADC to call Ruttie. Fairly miffed he told Mrs. Jinnah, "The political future of your husband is very bright. You shouldn't spoil it with your behaviour. You should behave according to your position. In Rome, you must do as the Romans do." "Just what I did, your Highness! It is India so I greeted you as Indians do," she replied. Lord Chelmsford had no answer. 

After this incident, Ruttie never attended any function organised by Lord Chelmsford. 

Former Chief justice of England, Lord Reading arrived as Viceroy of India on April 2, 1921. Lord Reading's distinguished legal past and his passion for law brought him close to Mr. Jinnah. His tenure as the Viceroy of India came to an end in 1928. 

In 1921, at a formal lunch organised by Lord Reading, Ruttie was seated next to him. During the conversation, Lord Reading expressed his desire to visit Germany but he said diplomatic compulsion tied him down. 

Ruttie asked, "But why, Your Highness? Why can't you go there?" 

"The Germans don't like us, that is why I can't go," replied Lord Reading.

With a deadpan face, she told Lord Reading, "Then, Your Highness, how

come you came here?" Lord Reading immediately got the drift of the cutting edge sarcasm and changed the topic.

So there I am, an ageing journalist talking about 

a lonely lady who passed away 


Page 5 of 41 

in a room of the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai in 1929. 

And a man who died in 1948 suffering from tuberculosis 

or as some say lung cancer. 

Ruttie Jinnah, wife of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, passed away at The Taj Mahal Hotel. Lonely. Unwept. Unsung. 

Sometimes your hair touches my consciousness at other times it does not. 

Just a strand of your hair as my bookmark. 

Crumpled bed sheet testifies modern bed time stories. 

She was 16 when they fell in love. And she knew what home rule was. She firmly believed that India belonged to the species called Indians. 

The summer of 1916. A hill station which is the queen of hill stations called Darjeeling. 

The whole Petit family along with Jinnah went there to escape the Mumbai heat. 

It was a different Darjeeling then.

No cluttered malls.

No sky threatening buildings.

Lots of chalets, chateaus and quaint Nepali huts. 

One day over tea Jinnah asked Sir Dinshaw Petit his views on marriages cutting across small religious boundaries. He then asked for his daughter's hand in marriage. Taken aback Sir Dinshaw Manockjee Petit responded angrily and immediately forbade his daughter to have anything to do with such a man. 

But love. But 

In February 1918, Ruttie turned 18. She was free to marry. She left her house, her father and on April 18, 1918 Ruttie converted to Islam at the Jamia Mosque in Kolkata. 


Page 6 of 41 

On April 19, 1918, The Statesman wrote: "Miss Ruttenbai, only daughter of Sir Dinshaw Petit, yesterday underwent conversion to Islam, and is today to be married to the Hon. M. A. Jinnah." 

Ruttenbai was only eighteen and the Quaid was then forty-one but she had resolved to marry the man of her choice, who had kindled in her heart the spark of true love. The next day Jinnah and Ruttie got married in Mumbai. The Raja Sahib of Muhamdabad and a few handpicked friends attended the wedding. The wedding ring was a gift from the Raja. Needless to say, for the Petit family, the wedding never took place, even in their minds. 

Another hill station. This time the honeymoon at the Muhamdabad lodge in Nainital followed by a stay at a plush hotel near Red Fort in Delhi. 

They were the page 3 couple of that time.

A woman draped in jewels

and a handsome 40-plus man finally finding contentment. 

They had a child – Dina. 

I like touching your eyebrows.

It's actually a lame excuse to look into the blueness of your eyes. 

Let's cancel the dinner there's too much inflation in the economy. 

There was loneliness. Beyond the parties and whirling in the social set, Jinnah harboured to be the bridge in the Hindu-Muslim rift and spread the secular agenda. Not that Ruttie did not want that, but her demands were different. 

They fell apart. Piece-by-piece. 

In 1922, she packed her bags and took her daughter to London. She wrote a letter to her friend Kanji: 

"It will always give me pleasure to hear from you, so if you have a superfluous moment on your hands...you know where you will find me – if I don't lose myself. And just one thing more – go and see Jinnah and tell me how he is – he has a habit of overworking himself and now that I am not there to tease and bother him he will be worse than ever." 

She returned from London. But by then he was consumed by electoral politics. And she by spirits, shamans, mysticism and de-coding dreams. She wrote to Kanji: 

"There is nothing I would welcome with greater rejoicing then an experience of a sort to which you refer in your letter...there is no redeeming feature...a restive mind and correspondingly restless physical state...I don't dream...My soul is too clogged. And 


Page 7 of 41 

though I aspire and crave, God knows how earnestly, my researches to remain uncrowned – even by thorns." 

When you sit sideways

I cannot see you whole

Those times I think a part of me is missing 

Too similar

Too overlapping Let's just fall apart 

For a 25-year old with a husband whose legal and political career was at the zenith, this was a brilliantly bad phase of life. In 1925, Jinnah was appointed to a subcommittee set up to study the feasibility of establishing a military college like Sandhurst in India. He had a five-month trip to Europe and North America scheduled. Ruttie went with him. 

But the gulf increased. Around this time she wrote: 

"No shoes are large enough to accommodate my elegant and lily-like feet." By 1927 it was almost quits. 

The Muslim League office shifted to Delhi. Jinnah was more often in 011 than 022.

By February 18, 1929 she confided to Kanji 

that all that she could look after were her cats. 2 days later

she turned 29. 

On February 22, 1929 she was buried according to Islamic rites. Justice Chagla writes that when the body was lowered to the confines of earth: 

"That was the only time when I found Jinnah betraying some shadow of human weakness." 

He wept for the only woman in the world he had smiled for.

Gone were the days of the romanticism of Muhammad Alibhai Jinnahbhai Khojani.

Gone were the lost lines of his favourite play Romeo and Juliet.

Gone were those ambitions that wanted to make him play the part of Romeo at the Globe. 


Page 8 of 41 

So who was Ruttie? 

The most head-turning occupant of the Jinnah House in the Malabar Hills. Built in 1936 at an exorbitant price of Rs. 2 lakhs on Pleasant Road. The building is an amalgamation of Italian marble and walnut woodwork conceived and designed by Claude Batley. 

Of course, the building never smiled when Ruttie left it. Who was Ruttie? 

The subject of Sarojini Naidu's ire who once had a huge crush on Jinnah. Subsequently, she wrote to Syed Mahmud, son of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan that, "...Jinnah has at last plucked the Blue Flower of his desire. The child has made far bigger sacrifices than she yet realises." 

But history was to repeat itself. After Ruttie's death her sister Fatima had a vice-like grip over Jinnah's life. Dina, his daughter, was slowly getting alienated. Barrister Akbar Ali was seen by her father as a fit candidate to marry Deen Bai Jinnah. Instead she married a Parsi who was born Christian – Neville Wadia. Jinnah tried to dissuade her. He said that there were millions of Muslim boys in India and she replied: "Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?" 

The relationship became just a formality and he called her Mrs. Wadia. Dina and Neville lived in Bombay and had two children, a boy and a girl. Shortly after that they separated. The boy is Nusli Wadia. 

What a turn of history! Jinnah was a Muslim who married a Zoroastrian, and Dina married a Parsi who was of part-Irish descent and hence a Christian convert. To convolute matters further, Nusli Wadia, born a Christian, decided to convert back to Zoroastrianism, settling back into the industrially wealthy Parsi community of Bombay. 

I keep blanking out the tomorrows Yesterdays disappear

Verbal jugglery bores me

What do I do in these troubled times? 

Blank page

The politics

of words drying up 

Who was Ruttie? 

Manto in his short story Mera Saheb (based on the oral history of one of Jinnah's chauffeurs, Muhammad Hanif Azad) writes: 


Page 9 of 41 

"Sometimes more than twelve years after Begum Jinnah's death, the Quaid would order in the dead of night, a huge ancient chest to be opened, in which were placed the clothes of his dead wife and his married daughter. He would look raptly into those clothes, as they were taken out of the chest and were spread on the carpets. He would gaze at them for long in articulate silence. One could clearly see him overwhelmed with emotions as his eyes would moisten spontaneously with tears." 

Whose rainfall do you collect? Whose tears do you collect? Whose water do you drink? Whose blood is it anyway? 

Why did Jinnah desperately want to keep the house after partition? The famous South Court. 

A conversation between Dr Sohrab Dinshawji Ankleseria, the leading ophthalmologist of Karachi between the 1950s and 1970s and Haji Bhai Esmail Dossa. Mr. Dossa's son recalls that once in September 1969, over a cup of tea, two of them discussed Ruttie Jinnah. The two got involved in a discussion on a property called South Court on Malabar Hills, Mumbai. Here's what Mr. Dossa's son wrote: 

"There was agreement that the titles were in the name of Ruttie Jinnah and that the mansion had been acquired in 1912 from Sir Victor Sassoon. Contention between my father and Dr. Ankleseria arose when the latter asserted that South Court was never Mr. Jinnah's. Sir Dinshaw Petit had purchased this house for Ruttie in 1912, in conformity with the traditions of wealthy Parsis where a bungalow was bought for the daughter, because in the Parsi community the parents of the girl formally solicit the hand of the prospective groom. Mr. Jinnah was staying in a Taj Mahal Hotel suite up to 1914 to 

be near his chambers at the Flora Fountain and the Bombay High Court where he used to appear before the British judges. 

Mr. Jinnah was engaged by Sir Dinshaw to teach English to his Francophile, French- speaking younger daughter Ruttie. To facilitate Mr. Jinnah, he gave him petrol rationing in Mumbai, and to avoid motoring to and fro from the Gateway of India to Warden Road to provide tuition to his daughter Ruttie. Sir Dinshaw accommodated his friend in the vacant, downstairs portion of South Court so that he could be within walking distance of Petit Hall. My father took exception to the fact that the movement for a separate homeland for the Muslims should have begun from South Court, a bungalow owned by a Parsi. To which Dr. Anklerseria replied, "You are a rich businessman, an industrialist. Have you not purchased the house adjacent to Mian Mohammed Bashir next to your own Falak Numa for your daughter Munira? Human nature is the same all over the world, whether we are Muslims or Parsis. Sir Dinshaw was only providing for his daughter Ruttie when he bought South Court in 1912. How was he to know that almost four decades thereafter the Pakistan Movement would be initiated from South Court?" He put this question to my father while leaving." 


Page 10 of 41 

So was Jinnah looking to keep Ruttie's memory alive, albeit privately? 

Satiate is word I keep confusing with satisfaction. 

Destiny says it is all pre-determined. Logic asks who determines all this... 

Who was Ruttie? 

That young girl on the P&O Steamer Razmak. Bombay-Marseilles. April 1928. 

Who was Ruttie?

A sentence in a clutter of disjoint words. 

I could be the answer to the question

I could be the comma in your half-formed sentence

I could be the lost lipstick

lost shades

lost pink

lost jewels

lost smell

lost shape

Lost girl rushing in to the room in a leopard skin leotard 

Facts don't cease. 

Blacked out from official Pakistani history Ruttie fascinates me. What more can a journalist do?

My fading eyesight

Mr. old rickety Remington typewriter 

and a bagful of memories 

Since I began with Lords, let me end with one such. In 1928, for his extra-ordinary efforts for the Central Legislative Assembly, Jinnah was offered knighthood. He refused. When Ruttie was asked whether she rued the lost opportunity to become Lady Jinnah, she curtly replied: "If my husband accepts the title of Sir, I will break all ties with him." 

Nursing the bruises Moving on 

Implosion is piecing together loss of a further loss. 


Page 11 of 41 

Ruttie and Jinnah's daughter, Dina, was born on August 15. She never went to Pakistan except for her father's last rites. On August 14 and 15, 1947

she put out both the Pakistani and Indian flags 

on her balcony. 

Give me some water.

Has the tape run out of time?? Is it working?? 

(Fiddles with the tape-recorder.) 

(Then walks to a zone within the audience and wistfully says: Fragments and more fragments. The numbers denote different slides that can play on the slide projector. They can be historical or even shots of contemporary Mumbai with memories of Ruttie.) 

1. 

Dates

Dates

More dates

More years

More datelines More anniversaries More deaths 

More commemoration As age becomes me As the interest groups become 

multiple

quadruple

life oscillates from the epical to the epochal 

The trombone player has gone home.

The make-up man removes the shine from the caked face The shehnai player has stopped playing

Lost strains of melody 

The air is thick, heavy, nostalgic and distant Here galaxies talk to galaxies

Stars talk to stars

It stopped raining in Mumbai today. 

And I feel like talking more. Interior monologues. 


Page 12 of 41 

Internal rants

of years gone by. 

More about Ruttie. The Ruttie I could never crack. The enigma. The mysterious life force. The long winded conversation that was abruptly stopped even before she reached 30. Not that 30 is the cut off age. But at least three decades is a fair enough time. 

Am I being a seller of dark secrets? At my age sense and sensibility

are one and the same thing. 

Quirky. Questioning. Quest. 

(Wipes the reading glasses.) 

Born: December 25, 1876 Died: September 11, 1948 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah's birth and death co-ordinates have been intriguing And Ruttie's death adds to the enigma. 

2. 

Gone were the days when she was chaperoned by her aunt Mamabai Petit

Marriage was a whole new ball game. Silence and more silence. Between her and Jinnah the game of silence played itself out. 

Words were hardly exchanged. Words became rare.

Became strange sounds. Words became amorphous. Silence was a sanctuary which both of them inhabited. 

It was the only noise that they could tolerate. It wasn't so always. 

(Drinks water clumsily.) 

3. 

I remember the image of Ruttie during marriage. Ruttie during marriage was this beauty dipped in silk smoking long firang cigarettes’

Ruttie could sense voices screaming 


Page 13 of 41 

inside her head.

Her eardrums were bursting with the sounds of Mumbai’ 

(Moves from one chair to another. Paces up and down.) 

No words.

No sentences.

No sounds.

No half found images.

No extended lullaby.

Words became a mirage.

A distant cracked mirror showing multiple images in a soundless landscape. 

In the background

deafening sound and silence alternately played out in her head

like a strange loud concert

which became occasionally serene. 

It was a mixed up time. It was a mixed up trip. 

She imagined him talking.

But she never heard him doing it really.

It was a strange relationship of stoic silence. 

4. 

(Finally, sits in a rocking armchair.) 

Ruttie had a strange determination. A strange resolve.

May be strange is the wrong word. She was always through and through a determined woman. 

Somebody who never shirked to face the odds. Somebody who would look into your eyes and etch the most obvious emotion

out of you. 

That of attraction and protectiveness both at the same time.

She was your window to the world. But what if your world changes? 


Page 14 of 41 

She always thought of that day. 

Memories of the Willingdon Memorial Committee. 5.00pm. December 11. Ruttie coming in with a basket of sandwiches. Then the protest. And finally after a lot of shouting especially at the time Sir Jemsetjee Jeejeebhoy moved the resolution to appreciate Lord Willingdon's contribution. J rose up to shout. 

J and Ruttie were whisked out of the premises by the police. Outside in front of the swarming mob, they received heroes’ welcome. 

Where were those heady days? Those heady nights at Shantaram Chawl where within hours Rs. 65,000 was raised and P.J Hall was born. People's Jinnah Hall.

That was 1918. 

5. 

(Pours a drink slowly. Keeps staring at the glass.) 

Ruttie and shamanism

Ruttie and would-be memories Ruttie and yellowed past

Ruttie and the floodgates of the past Ruttie and triumph against all odds 

Ruttie and locking horns with eternity Ruttie and looking face to face with death Ruttie and her relationship with the cat Ruttie and her fight with Mariam

Ruttie and her intense loneliness

Ruttie and her final tryst with life

Ruttie and her art of dying 

It was 1921. And the loneliness only deepened. For a while he was out of the ambit of public demonstrations, rallies and politics. Justice Chagla recalled an instance (which appeared in Wolpert's Jinnah): "I remember her walking to Jinnah's chamber while we were in the midst of a conference, dressed in a manner which could be called fast by modern standards, perched herself upon Jinnah's table dangling her feet and waiting for Jinnah to finish the conference so that they could leave together. Jinnah never uttered a word of protest, and carried on with his work as if she were not there at all." 

6. 

(Stands up. Uses a walking stick. Follow-spot as he walks to the audience.) 

Ruttie where do you go from here? Sometimes 


Page 15 of 41 

tears dry up

Sometimes

history takes its own detour

across lanes, by lanes, small sharp turns and forgotten alley ways

Sometimes history becomes lost folklore Sometimes anecdotes become lost urban legends Sometimes incidents become lost faint whispers

I remember the attractive Ruttie

I remember a tremendous vitality

I remember a paragon of beauty

I remember somebody who I cannot flush out of my memoryscape

I remember because I cannot forget

I cannot 

(Whispers.) 

One of Ruttie's closest confidantes was Kanji. He was the brother of Jinnah's former Home Rule secretary, Parsi Jamnadas Dwarkadas. In a number of dreams in May 1922, he saw Ruttie asking and beseeching him for help. She was lying in a typically old fashioned sofa. Kanji rushed to meet her. 

In September that year, Ruttie had left for London. Kanji's roses from Pune's Empress Gardens were a refreshing gift for her. In the P&O Cabin, she looked at the horizon. Fast fading. Fast receeding. 

From Aden, she acknowledged Kanji's gift and thought if only the roses came from J... 

7. 

(Comes back mid-stage.) 

Ruttie

Can you

Can you tell me

how long are distances that cannot be bridged?

Tell me 

how large pauses breed immediate and future silences Tell me 


Page 16 of 41 

how to exist when everything tears you apart churns you from inside

Tell me 

how to retain a smile at

one corner of the lips in times of cynicism and distrust Tell me

how to conquer this cynicism

Tell me

how to conquer

these living dead that inhabit the planet 

8. 

(Lies on the floor) 

For Ruttie the old J 

was a distant dream Ms. J by 1924 

had other interests.

Probably, morphine, opium, hashish, cocaine and with a little bit

of depression and insomnia thrown in

the abyss wasn't far

Dark circles

around her eyes

replaced the kohl 

That old image of 

well-defined cheek bones low cut gown

dapper suited husband 

was replaced by 

talking to ghosts 

voices in her head 

failing to come to terms with the way

freeze frames of her life changed from blue to sepia 


Page 17 of 41 

Life indeed played itself out and

Her love for theosophy

His love for cigars 

Her love for Annie Besant His love for legal council took over 

A doomed zone of silence that became the central catalyst to an abject surrender 

9. 

(Gets up and leans towards the chair. The stage washed in blue.) 

Dates

Dates

More dates

More years

More datelines More anniversaries More deaths 

More commemoration

Here galaxies talk to galaxies stars talk to stars 

Discourse, dialectic

Dissent, dichotomy

Memory, silence

Landscape, shaping framed visuals Pixels, digital frames 

Dry documents 

Wet documents Scrap heap of history 

Battling amnesia Ruttie stands tall and challenging 

Memory, forgetting

and the business of the memory of forgetting 

Yes, let me repeat some lines I have quoted before 


Page 18 of 41 

She writes: 

"My Dear Kanji...Yes, I know of the dream travels which you speak...But I do all my dreaming in the waking hours...There is nothing I would welcome with greater rejoicing than the experience of the sort which you refer in the letter, but in my heavy drug-like sleep there is no redeeming feature...five or at most six hours of rest... a restive mind and a correspondingly restless physical state...I don't dream excepting very rarely...My soul is too clogged! And though I aspire and crave, God knows how earnestly my researches remain uncrowned, even by thorns! I am feeling peculiarly restless and wish one with psychic powers could come to my assistance." 

10. 

(Limps and paces up and down. He is dog tired and drained out.) 

She began with occult. Seances.

Spiritual circles.

Spirit Communications. Psychic Powers. Seances. 

Clogged souls.

She talked about

Boscombs murders.

H.P.B's Secret Doctrine

Her coaxing and bullying J to read The Spirit of Irene. All these words started appearing in her letters to Kanji. 

In one remarkable postscript Ruttie writes: 

I have written to Chatterjee, the artist for whose address infinite thanks. I have asked him to do three reproductions for me in varying sizes. I am waiting the answer with impatience and hope he accepts my commission. By the by, I am very excited and equally happy as at last I have two manifestations, one was a most extraordinary luminance – a sort of a perpetual flash suspended midway at the corner of Hughes Road and Sandhurst Bridge. 

11. 

(Tries to light a cigarette. Fails. Gulps the earlier peg he had poured for himself and then screams.) 

The questions

Repository of shlokas memory and experience Silence is merely a panacea 


Page 19 of 41 

Woman is a boulevard

Woman is her own point

of resistance

Woman is her own shifting past shifting present 

shifting future

Ruttie, the dragon slayer of tradition Ruttie, the standardised romantic Ruttie, the survivor

Ruttie, the vanquished 

12. 

(Use of red in the cyclorama. Only the shadow talks.) 

What do I see

Where would I go

The indecision

The unrequited

The deepening loneliness 

What do I see Where do I go 

The gaping crowd The fawning bitches and the loneliness 

What do I see

Where would I reach out

It’s what you saw

It’s what you have

Tangled up

in this phonetic universe Hyperphony of

auditory imagination bursting forth Reforming

Renaissance 

The doors open

The doors close

There's no Michelangelo Only a blank space

and some loneliness

too 


Page 20 of 41 

By 1925 a little bit of reading.

Especially Noel Coward plays.

She met Annie Besant at Adyar at the end of the year. She looked after one of her loyal cats when the cat fell ill. But the free fall in the abyss continued. 

1928

The Taj Mahal Hotel phase had started liquid lines

slithering down her lonely street Strange sounds

She was sinking

and sinking big time

into a physical quagmire 

1929

February 21, 1929

at Taj Mahal Hotel

on her 29th birthday Ruttie passed away.

Jinnah was at Western Court, Delhi.

He came by Frontier Mail.

He received the news from his father-in-law.

He told Chaman Lal. This was the first time they had talked since marriage. 

In Mumbai's Muslim cemetry on February 22

Ruttie was submerged in earth.

Kanji drove Jinnah down from the Grant Road station. In that five hour long ritual

Jinnah sat stoic

and

then as the body was lowered

he cried. 

Mohammed Ali Jinnah cried. 

13. 

(Use of two footlights. Streaming the stage with pathways. The figure still in darkness.) 

Dates

Dates

More dates

More years

More datelines More anniversaries 


Page 21 of 41 

More deaths

More commemoration 

Here galaxies talk to galaxies Stars talk to stars

And Mohammed Ali Jinnah cried 

In 1927

after a 1926 tour of London, Canada, Paris and the United States where they failed to recreate the old magic

Ruttie fell almost fatally sick .

syringes

needles

x-rays

swollen feet 

And her admission to Kanji: 

"Tonight I am going to cinema in bedroom slippers as no shoes are large enough to accommodate my elegant, lily-like feet..." 

Ruttie and her cats and dogs

Her pets

as Dina was in school the whole day and had her own circle of friends 

Why am I so loopy? Same things Same things

I say over and over again Number of times 

Same bloody anecdotes

Same infatuation for the lost flower girl 

It is drizzling outside

Bombay looks alternatively pretty

bizarre and demonic in the monsoons

It's time for a cat-nap

It's time for Ruttie to become Mariam Mariam, (Ruttie's Muslim name) sleep well Sleep well, Mariam

Sleep well 

Sleep Well 

(Sleep well. Mariam. Sleep well: this can be used as a refrain throughout the play. However, that is just an advice. It is purely at the director's discretion.) 


Page 22 of 41 

14. 

(Switches off the tape-recorder. Switches on a torch. A small ray of light on his face as he motions to exit.) 

MIDSTAGE: 

Ladies and Gentlemen it is time for an interval. On the other end of the interval lies another story. Another story of another Bombay. The Bombay of Arthur Road Jail on August 9, 1942. The Bombay of Lamington Road, Wadala Salt depot, Fanaswadi, Alexandra docks, Muzaffarabad Hall in Wadilal Patel Road, Sandhurst Road, Gowalia Tank, Azad Maidan Rajabai Clock Tower, Empire Cinema Hall and the Bombay of a family that SS Arabia brought back to India on January 9, 1915. The Bombay of Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi. 

Before I break for interval, I am sorry before we break for the interval. I keep thinking of a place in Gujarat where Gandhiji and Jinnah had once jointly appealed for peace. The place was called Godhra. 

Yes things have changed. The secular fabric is constantly under attack. Yet I yearn for that Bombay. 

That Bombay of physician's like Bhau Daji Lad, nationalist doctors like R.H. Bhadkamkar, D.D. Sathe and A.P Khotatre, it was a Bomaby of the Khadi Bhandar at the Morarji Gokuldas Market, it was Bombay where N.M Lokhande agitated for the fixed working hours of the mill labourers. It was mill workers' Bombay. A Bombay where Wilson, Elphinstone, Ruia, Khalsa, Podar and Grant Medical College responded to every twists and turns of the freedom movement 

It is 150 years of 1857. In all these so-called official celebrations let us not forget those two sepoys gunned down by British canons. 

In today's times that Godhra appeal keeps coming back to me. I am the ageless narrator called Bombay and on the other half of this production lies a man who wrote on July 6, 1921: "Bombay is beautiful, not for it's big buildings...not for it's wealth...but for it's world renowned generosity." He was talking about Bombay rising up to the challenge and donating Rs. 60 lakhs to Tilak Swaraj Fund. He was also talking about a spirit that refuses to die. 

And who embodies that spirit better in Bapu's personal life than Kasturba. The driving force behind Bapu's march from a father and husband to the father of the nation. On the otherside of the break is Kasturba. She is waiting for you. 

The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within. – Gandhiji 


Page 23 of 41 

There are two characters. Here is a suggestion to the director. If the wounded man in the play doubles up being the live musician-cum-live light designer/operator of the play then the spirit of the writing will be upheld. This is just a suggestion. A director should end up editing and blocking the play exactly the way he/she sees it. 

SCRIPT:

The scene begins with lines from the Bhagvad Gita: 

For a man who is fasting his sense Outwardly, the sense-objects disappear, 


Leaving the yearning behind; but when He has seen the Highest

Even the yearning disappears 

Mixed with the lines is a chant 

Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya Asatoma Jyotirgamaya Mrityuma Amritamaya 

Dear audience, 

I am a performer. I am here to ideate about Kasturba. Yes, Kasturba the laboratory. The servant of truth. I would like to paint this magical space with her words. Or shall I say mine. 

Just those words from the deepest recesses of memory about an actor performing Kasturba. I am sitting inside a mosquito net. Outside, mosquitoes circumnavigate the small cubicle. In this dimly lit room, through one hole, mosquitoes come inside and I keep thinking should I kill them or shouldn't I? 


One small hole

One entering

One rotating

One revolving

Some being killed

Most I am allowing to survive One on one 

Who versus who 

Now,

I am sitting inside the chair

Yes,

Not on it but inside it

Because the chair is an extension of my flesh 



Page 24 of 41 

Because the chair like the mosquito net is my co-actor My presence

My theatrical presence

My personal presence 

It is always the eternal question can I make the chair, the mosquito net talk I am or have to be the object of inversion 

Now,

I am back

inside this crumpled mosquito net I am stranded inside the island 


On my hand is this floating, detached head of mine Million memories flutter 

That night he told me let's abstain

In the middle of a river he said throw the ornaments

It was never about the letting go

but the abruptness with which I had to adjust with history 

For me and Bapu, our fight was more than just a fight against slavery, freedom, race and colour 

Our fight against shapes, sizes and dimensions kept happening Yes, we are still alive, still fighting

Because organised forces of globalisation

will turn the world into a mass of shapes, sizes and dimensions Your hypodermic needle looking for the right vein 

Your alluring nose ring Your backlash

Your niptuck

Your greasepaint 

Your enhancements 


Your whips

Your disease

Your inevitable pent up anguishes

will become broadly and specifically classified into more and more pigeonholes

and inside there will be this desolate space like a Beckett cardboard 

Talking walls

Silent walls

There is a positive stillness An invisible mobility 

There's loneliness 



Page 25 of 41 

This lonely figure with a bandaged body

Layers of bandage

Textures of bondage

Body filled with bandage having conversations with leaking wounds 

(Points to a bandaged body slowly coming out of the tub.)

Voice: She was slightly older than Gandhiji. Older by a few months. When they 

married both of them were thirteen. Amongst the memories of Ba: 


In September 1913, she led a party of across the border in Transvaal. In Sarojini Naidu's words: "brave, frail, hard-worn hands which must have held aloft the lamp of her country's honour undimmed in one alien land..." 

On her way back home in 1914, she toiled at weaving rough garments for wounded soldiers 

What happens if the shackle breaks free Air

Water

Wind 

Fire

A soothing reservoir as a balm for the wounded or

a raging cauldron causing boils all over the body or both

And of course there are crops not organic but real Very real

shadows chanting death

"Crucifixion of flesh" 


(From a cauldron a wounded figure moves and says I am a victim of Krakow, of Jallianwala Bagh, of Bhopal, of a truncated Bhagalpur, Mahesh and Sarua deaths' near Gaya, of a wounded Beirut.) 

Voice: Snapshots of Kasturba's life reveal an extraordinary zeal. A true fighter she grappled with moral re-armament with all her fortitude.

Cut to September of 1924, Gandhiji undertook a 21-day fast for communal harmony, the Non-Co-operation and the Civil Disobedience campaigns. In April 1930 and a series of strikes. 

She led a batch of ashram women to gherao liquor shops as a part of the 1932 movement; she suffered a series of imprisonments and was re-arrested at Bardoli. In 1933, she tasted imprisonment again. 



Page 26 of 41 

As a comrade, she went to prison with Bapu and her example spurred many to tread the zone between silence and mass action. Once again, in 1938, she leapt into the save Rajkot movement. She was sentenced to solitary confinement. When Gandhiji joined the satyagraha and began a fast without consulting her she mildly rebuked him. However, her inner strength told her he would be protected by the Almighty. The Supreme power who had always guided them through the paths of fire. 

In this large diagram which we have drawn more and more sub-routes tend to branch out from the corridors of neutral escapist memory 


to the memory of a loss

I am trying to move on

from the regime of escapism and forgetting

to the regime of

engagement and action

I

am still seeking

the perfect sunset

the sun that goes down is not smeared with blood and all along the sounds

of

air

wind

water

fire

crops

chanting

death

real death

death without preservatives 


Yes,

death

will keep haunting me 

I was and always will be the laboratory The laboratory

Where truth

Will be tested 

Set on fire

And then

that truth will come out

Galvanized Unscathed 



Page 27 of 41 

(The bandaged person now bandages a gun and says Mokokchung, Nellie, Malom, Soweto, fractured Palestine, burning Sudan and bleeding Basra.) 

Between the search

for orbs and more orbs

between many halos of many divinities

between obvious stereotypes, not-so-obvious generalisations, clichéd one-liners, marketed spiritualism and the greatness-seeking brigade

we

keep moving 


looking for a life beyond our ever expanding universe of formulae 

Let's look for real air

real water real fire 

real stones

real crops

real criticism

real mud

real stream

and a very very real death 

(The bruised, wounded person puts a gun inside the mouth and says swimming shadows, fecund universe, altered contexts, crawling tapeworms, disappeared forehead, polymorphous days, sculpted jaws, androgynous nights and re-configured maps.) 


VOICE: 1942 was a litmus test. It was the morning of August 9 when Gandhiji along with a number of Congressmen were arrested. They were supposed to have addressed a rally at Shivaji Park that evening. The rally was one of the key programmes that would have explored the future mass action connected with the Quit India movement. Kasturba decided to address the rally in Gandhiji's absence, but the British promptly arrested her. Her health slipped and she was shifted to the Aga Khan Palace in Pune where Gandhiji was detained. Exactly a week later on August 15th, Mahadev Desai passed away. Mahadevbhai was a brother to Kasturba and his death was a severe blow. During the period of March and December 1943, she suffered a 

series of heart attacks and on February 20, 1944, she was on the brink.

On the evening of Holy Shivaratri which was February 22, Kasturba passed away.

It maybe more than a co-incidence that exactly a year before her prayers had delivered Gandhiji from the brink of death on the 12th day of his hunger strike in prison. 

I see Birnam wood

with all it's neon signs

and graffiti on a wall that has words and phrases like:

ferret, self-flagellation, groping, pessimism, mechanical suavity, Antigone-opening-her- fingers-and-sand-falling-from-the-spaces-in-between-those-very-fingers, gravediggers- 


Page 28 of 41 

pulling-dead-dolls-from dug-earth, portions-of-our-soul-lying-uneaten-in-the-dish, artificially-flavoured-yawn, anointed-crucifix, trifurcated-tongues, a-Toba Tek Singh- like-lonely-figure-reading-aloud-gibberish-benches-smeared-with-blood, austere-black- figures-moving-about-with-a-shotgun 

more words

are scrawled

innermost, thin air, skeletons-kissing-the sky-segregated, desolate, companionless, intense, non-violence

that walls are closing in

fighting the body

I let go of a stream of words, a flood of words, a litany of words, a spiralling process of 


scrambling and unscrambling words that are sculpted-chopped stripped-pounded

fabricated, grounded 

nomadic yet sacred

frontier-less, profane

welcome, unwelcome

clinging, clanging, clashing insider-outsider, faith-fate

words are shards of memory inverted now I am 

the wall

I am the starting surface and the endpoint of all graveyards

I am now the hunter, the hunted down, a man in stilts trying to recover his body parts from the pile of metal scrapyard junk

I am the lab

The truth lab 

(The bandaged, wounded body now arranges some photographs taken from the zones of conflict.) 


I am the wood

I am the wall

You can blot out the image of mine

You can blur the image

You can use words as masks and reduce the intensity of the experience

You can use blue-cross-lights criss-crossing from two stands and intensify Hamlet's pain in the proscenium

You can keep a suicide note in the left breast pocket of your ink smeared kurta and deny my existence 

But,

I will remain the wall The floodgate

that allows in 



Page 29 of 41 

real air

real water

real ether

real cloud

real rain

real handkerchiefs

real paper boats

real canvas

real mud

real hugs

and of course real, very real death 


(The wounded, bleeding, bandaged man in the bathtub says keep your hand on your left bleeding breast;

and then keep the other hand on our right bleeding ear

and then stand erect 

become a pillar

and there you are almost the wall the talking wall that says – 

I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills) 

(The wounded man has now crawled out of the cauldron and says Boer War, Zulu rebellion. You were once detained at Tramba. Now they call it Kasturba Dham. At a busy cross-section near Connaught Place they have named a road after you. But then you never wanted to be a name, a nameplate or a visiting card. You wanted to be a shadow. A perfect shadow.) 

Yes,

We were talking about non-violence

while you were standing rock solid with your hand on the breast and the other hand on your ear 


the wounds gave way

and blood fell on the floor

Yes

the blood fell on this huge transparent white plastic sheet which is the new earth of the wired globalised universe

replete with brands

Falling

blood makes

a regular sound

drip

drip

dripping

rip

rip 



Page 30 of 41 

ripping

strip

strip

stripping

lick, lick, licking blood 

Are we Raktabeej licking blood from the streets of Nandigram Are we allowing the brick kiln workers of Moga to die

Will death continue in Barnala and Sangrur

Fragments of a loss 

Shards of memory 


Contaminated conflicts Sponsored dissent 

The wall has holes

Small, miniscule, huge, large, gaping, yawning, tiny yet significant holes

Yet, it is a sturdy wall

For I am the wall

and nobody is co-dependent

Everybody is a co-worker

Equal partners in unequal times 

(The wounded man climbs inside another circular enclosure.) 

The tree has huge gashes Porous tree

Streaming thick spurts of blood Inside the bath tub I lie prostrate Outside the bathtub 

stands a figure

In between there is a screen 


The undressed shadows trying to figure out Identities

Prototypes 

Stereotypes Clichés

Revolve

through the screen 

In the dark bathroom

a lonely lantern flickers disarmingly 

Nude to nude 



Page 31 of 41 

Waist to waist

Hip to hip

Breath to breath Blackness to blackness Smell to smell Distortion to distortion Face to face 

Yet not eye to eye 

We met yet we did not mate 


We were shadows that danced with stillness 

He wrote:

"She had no objection. But I had great difficulty in making the final resolve. I had not the necessary strength. How was I to control my passions? The elimination of carnal relationship with one's wife seemed then a strange thing....Even when I am past fifty six years, I realise how hard a thing it is. Every day I realise more and more it is walking on the sword's edge, and I see every moment the necessity of eternal vigilance." 

The vow was taken in 1906. The execution was life-long It was a serum

The truth serum 

(The wounded man mumbles softly Upanishad, Hind Swaraj, The Chronicle, Young India, Navjeevan, Indian Opinion, Kheda Satyagraha, Chauri Chaura, Champaran, and the Dandi. Each step. Back and Forth. Forth and Back. Each leap.) 

I am the wall

the shadow of the wall too I am the body 


the shadow of the body too

then who's the wall

who's the body

who's the shadow

Sixty-two years of being a resolute shadow 

Voices clamoured inside my head

incessant rainfall beating inside my body

the drenched inside fights back with a question Who's the wall?

Who, who, who, who, who and who

Who lets in the

real water

the real sweat 



Page 32 of 41 

the real mud

the real fuse

the real wind

and the surreal death who 

who? 

(THE WOUNDED MAN COMES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SPACE AND SAYS: what do you do with bi-polar realities, multiple perspectives and interpretations. When re-claimed memories rebel. When you rub your body with soap...recurring images of desire and dread keep playing out.) 


The performer says: Five quick image floats in mind. 

(The wounded man will now respond to these images with non-verbal tools.) 

Image 1: 400 farmer families of Koovagam standing on the mud-baked road in front of the 200-year old Aravan temple on the last full

moon night of April with pamphlets saying take precautions against AIDS. 

Image 2: Lady Macbeth packed in a cardboard and she is trying to take out her head from any one of the two circular openings that were already there and says: Come to bed. Come to bed. 

Image 3: Othello praying in a Muslim skull cap 

Image 4: A large bathtub in which needles float on water and a person sitting at the side slowly putting bandaged guns on water. 

and 


Image 5: And the face of Haseena who spurned the advances of her ex-boss Joseph Rodriguez and was drenched in sulphuric acid in Bangalore. After twenty-seven plastic surgeries and losing her sight, she has to face an uphill battle every day. Her disfigurement complete, best friends have maintained their own distance; relatives have maintained an i-told-you-so look and even the kids in the neighbourhood are scared. 

(The wounded man holds a placard saying: In a mentally divided nation-state, let's join the dots. The second placard says: Bring them back. The third and the last placard says: Flip back those gullible pages.)

The images will also dry up 

A freshly baked sun will rear its head

somewhere in the middle of some sky

The sun is giving out light like beaten eggs spewing yellow yolk on the frying pan and then the evenings will come 



Page 33 of 41 

the intensity of the pairs inside the theatre-of-life canvas will diminish fresnel days, fresnel nights and an afternoon sandwiched in between

I am the wall

and the shadow that merges 

I can soak all my bleeding inside my fragile body 

You pound nails in my hand

I walk with those bloodied palms and try to liberate landscapes I fail and I don't give up

because I'm a sucker for everything real

Real juice 


Real sun

Real spots on the sun Real crop

Real water

Real floodlights Real halogens

Real rain

Real chants

Real mantras

Real nightmares Real slogans

A believably real Chillingly real Purifyingly real Justifiably

real

visage of death 

(The wounded man in a crucified posture says: I am trying to remember recipes handed over by my grandmother, lullabies and sound of childhood hailstorms.) 


I kept peeping in and out of history

Between Tagore, Andrews, Indian National Congress, Bhagat Singh, Ghadar Party, Irwin talks

I was just a figure behind the figure head

A kind of anchor rooted in history, civilization, paradigm

Ah Harilal

Ah yes Harilal

I think some people used him to garner their publicity

He was my waylaid son

But a son all the way. He lost a battle deep within himself. What he was seeking was just a father. But you have to look at Bapu differently. Much more than a father, friend, comrade, he was pre-occupied with a notion of liberation. You have to respect the notion. Before you leap in the air. You have to be knotted. You have to be all bottled up. All the 


Page 34 of 41 

earthy senses have to be tied to a rope. The rope is holding you steadfast. You have to keep a mental count. Break free.

One

Two...three... 

And then take a leap of faith across history...Harilal did not take that step...I wrote to him 

Reads a letter to Harilal. 

[The eldest son of Gandhiji and Kasturba, publicly announced his conversion to Islam. Kasturba wrote a letter to Harilal on 27 th September, 1936. Some fragments of the letter.] 

"Every morning, I rise with a shudder to think what fresh news of disgrace the newspapers will bring. I sometimes wonder where you are, where you sleep and what you eat. Perhaps, you take forbidden food. That and other similar thoughts give me sleepless nights. I often feel like meeting you. But I do not know where to find you.

I do not know why you changed your ancient religion. That is your affair. But I hear that you go about asking innocent and ignorant people to follow your example. Why will you not realise your limitations? What do you know about religion? What judgment can you exercise in your mental condition? People are liable to be led away by the fact you are your father's son. You are not fit to preach religion. In time to come if you go on like this you will be shunned by all alike. I beseech you to pause and consider and turn back from your folly. 

I did not like your conversion, but when I saw your statement that you had decided to improve yourself, I felt secretly glad even about conversion, hoping that you would start leading a sober life. But that hope too is dashed to pieces." 

I also wrote a letter to his friend. 

Reads out a letter written to Harilal's friend, dated September 27, 1936 

[Kasturba wrote to a friend of Harilal, who helped him to convert to Islam.] 

"I am only referring to those of you who are taking an active part in my son's recent activities. I have not been able to understand your action. I know and I am glad to think that a large number of thinking Mussalmans and all our life-long Muslim friends condemn the whole episode. 

Instead of redeeming my son I find his so-called change of faith has actually made matters worse. Some people have even gone to the length of supplying the title of 'Maulvi' to him. Is this fair? Does your religion permit such persons as my son being called Maulvi? 

I do not understand what pleasures you find in sometimes lionising him. What you are doing is not at all in his interest. If your desire is mainly to hold us up to ridicule, I have nothing to say to you. You may do your worst. 


Page 35 of 41 

But the feeble voice of a stricken mother will perhaps quicken the consciences of those who may be in a position to influence you. I feel it my duty to repeat to you what I am telling my son, namely, that you are not doing the right thing in the eyes of God." 

Actually, innumerable times

I wanted him to just hug me

Just a hug

Just a normal long extended hug

Maybe I could have put the demons in his head to rest

I had to tell him that Bapu was more than his father and my husband He was the father of the nation 

I don't think it was his nature to hate anybody

Anybody

Let me clear the air

Especially to all these scholars of sub-altern odour, post-modern odour Talking about passive resistance 

There was nothing passive about him in terms of giving it back to a person who's caused wrong;

Who has meted out a sense of injustice...I think more than passive the word is mental resistance; 

Yes, mental resistance if you have to scratch him

Bapu will allow you to scratch and bleed;

He will show you the blood falling on the ground

Drop by drop, drop by drop, drop by drop by drop by drop

As the blood falls, in his halting feeble yet strong Kathiawadi accent Bapu will show you the wound 

You will see your reflection in that blood

In that droplet of red

You will see how you bared your fangs

He will entreat you to not to do something that is not so downrightly unjust anymore If you still don't then he will repeat it all over and all over again 

He'll enter your insomnia

He will get into your nightmare

Just by doing nothing

In all this passivity, there is something very active that is in his efforts to make you wrestle with your conscience

He will just show you the manifestations of violence

Till you throw up your hand and say enough

(The wounded man who has been silent but restless for long is climbing the ceiling and different elevations of the room chant lines of Rumi: If you would see a sign, my friend in this pathway/obliterate all signs of yourself that you may see the sign!) 

It took me a long time to understand as a Gujarati child bride what is the whole notion about liberation of the body, mind and soul, the eternal triveni

I took my time 


Page 36 of 41 

I piled up the pillars of reservation...my pent up angst got filed night after night into thick folders and was stacked away in wooden cupboards of memory

But later when I opened the cupboard

The incidents tumbled out 

Fell in a heap

Day after day, night after night, dusk after dusk

I found some of my earlier misgivings juvenile and some of them valid I was in love with the man

For all that he was

For all that he wasn't

Much later I started liking the mind more than the man

Because the man

His frame

His stick

His round glasses

Were all about

the mobility of a mind

and not the triumph of an appearance 

And mind you that the mind was not only of my husband but that of the father of a enslaved nation 

The doomsday clock has stopped

The hour hand and the minute hand have stopped their tango

No more servitude across real time

Birds chirp, rain lashes in

Winds blow

Mohan Rakesh is still lost in his locked, bolted room with a bottle and a typewriter

In the hospital bed with the tubular socket inside his nose Mahendra Borthakur smiles Badal Sircar sits at one end of the universe looking at the sky

There is no make-up

No sets

There is no third-bell

There is no canned-background music

There is no forced silence

There is no sticky arguments, lurid gestures, drones of a praying wheel, smell of the language crematorium, cemetery filled with dead youth, military march past on the bridge, sepia-tinted-moth-consumed photograph, there is no dress rehearsal, no unflinching assertions, there's no sterilized mud, no mental arithmetic of grants 

Improvised

Autobiographical landscape

I am the first wall, second wall, third wall, fourth wall, fifth wall, sixth wall, only wall, solitary wall

Letting in real emotions 


Page 37 of 41 

(The wounded man climbs down saying: real shadows, real foodgrain, real water, real sand, real storm, real seas, real chants, real slogan, real warmth and yes the real warm coldness of death.) 

The real death

The death that leaps The death that lives The death that breathes The death that dies 

(The wounded man slowly unwraps himself saying: rest-in-peace, rest-in-unrest, rest- inside-rat trap, rest-in-harmony, rest-in-revolution, rest-in-peace, rest-in-silence, rest- the-rest.) 

(The wounded man has now almost unwrapped. He's shedding his last vestiges. He says: Close the coffin

Fill the mud

There are bodies that will be charred 

Eagle gnawing

Dust in the wind

Air blows everything

The visage of wordless silence

Only strains of memory remain

Real earth

Real sun

Real sand

Real water

Real chants

And the very immediate reality of death The absolute finality of death

The death...

of dying

Saying hello to death) 

(The wounded man is now standing on the centre of the stage...he has a choice between the spinning wheel and a gun.) 

The performer playing Kasturba says:

behind those thick round glasses

there are torn clouds of desire, vulnerability, life

I am the pillar, the alcove, the sanctuary, the shelter, the last resting place Death opens up its black cover

Voices are heard

Trapped

Death trap

Death trapped 


Page 38 of 41 

Life trap

Life trapped

Clap trap

Rat trap

Trap, trap, trapeze 

Both the characters: 

(The wounded man chooses the charkha..the charkha starts spinning. He talks. The performer playing Kasturba joins him.) 

You have to walk You have to trek Walk the talk Talk the walk Keep walking Walk the death Death walk 

Walk nevertheless Shunya Shunyabad Shunya 

From Bardoli to 9/11

A long walk

You have to bypass the mouth of the snake in this huge ludo-board of the world 

The performer playing Kasturba says: 

Dear audience, my notes are over

All that remains is bed-roll and box

And a spinning charkha

As a native American saying goes:

Only when

the last tree has died

and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money 

I am the memory

The refuge

The sanctuary

The last stop

Where the train has halted And will be re-watered again 

Yes, 


Page 39 of 41 

I am the lab

I am a small experiment

In this large project of truth 

Dear audience, Performances never end 

do they?

After 62 years of marriage, my body gave way and died in his lap. And on February 23, 1944, the day after my death, he said: At this moment, how can I separate myself from my old and faithful companion? .....I cannot even imagine life without Ba. She was a part and parcel of myself. Her death will leave a permanent void in my life.” 

Yes, Bapu did overrule, Devdas’ suggestion of giving me penicillin injection. But then Bapu always had the power to do anything with my life. That was not my weakness. It was my strength, 

(The wounded man walks away as Kasturba/the performer performing Kasturba remains frozen...while walking out the wounded man says: Abhimanyu you have successfully penetrated the chakravyuh...you have torn apart their web...their machinations...now return to Uttara...return to your mother...to your motherland.) 

Kasturba is busy clearing the stage

And guiding the audience towards the gate. She mingles with them.

She becomes them 

Outside on the road. The wounded man shouts out a Gandhiji quote: 

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at His feet. 

Acknowledgements: 

1. Jinnah by Stanley Wolpert and Time Out Mumbai’s 60 Steps to Freedom for linking the past with the present 

2. Kanji Dwarkadas' India's Fight for Freedom and Ruttie Jinnah: The Story of a Great Friendship 

3. Sudhir Mishra for a great conversation during Durgapur to Kolkata train journey. Sudhir's anecdotes on Ruttie were a great triggering off point for the play. I was sure about the plot but that conversation acted as the necessary catalyst to write Ruttie's story as I see it urgently 


Prescribed/Proscribed : A duologue


By Mukherjee.P


A white cloth. Two characters inside. Both emerges. With a strip of cloth covering their eyes. A red and a green strip.


Voice over: Under my battlements. Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood.Lady Macbeth..Act 1,  Scene 5



The duo-logue begins: 



Don't tell me not to be dark

Don't


I come from the  land of burning skin

where the earth is parched

and vandalised day segue into errant night 

Between ghettos, gates, clock tower and maidans



Don't tell me not to be dark 

because the water I wash my face with every morning 

is laced by your arsenic solutions


Don't tell me not to be dark 

Because my tongue is on fire  

The last time it tasted food 

was the waste lying on the road

after a local higher caste marriage ceremony


Dont tell me not to be dark because 

I told Chuni Kotal not to be educated

but work towards being a dark mistress 

for a local politician

She did not listen

She had to commit suicide


Don't tell me not to be dark 

because your civilised civil society is filled

with lords of lip service

self-serving bastards of the worst hue


Don't tell me not to be dark

because I never could look into the eyes of my own child

they reflected hunger

that endemic, intrinsic, innate twinge in the stomach


Dont tell me not to be dark because

I have only known edges, fringes

Where puke and collective farts abound as a mark of choreographed solidarity


These are places where I have lived all my life

These are places where I shall die

And then rot like a non-entity

like some arsehole who was born

to fill up the annual census


Don't tell me not to be dark

because I have never seen success

not even failure


Because my kind has always been told 

You are special

Special enough to be studied by anthropologists for their subaltern projects

Special enough for support groups to get grants

Special enough for us becoming global desktop calendar marker material

Special enough for us to become subjects for endless documentaries

Special enough for us to be a sexy screensaver


Don't tell me not to be dark because I have lived

In the dark dim cells of the local police station

Dying endless custody deaths


Don't tell me not to be dark because

I know how the police beats me up


Don't tell me not to be dark because


I am Rabari

I am Shabar

I am Karbi

I am Dimasa

I speak Nagamese

I speak Dakhni

I speak Kokborok

I speak Santhali

I am Pardhi, Chhara, Banjara

I am Pangal


I am North Cachar Hills 

I am Jaffna

I am Nandigram

I am grappling with seeds of distrust been put in my loins

I am the other in the large global majority phenomena of

Manufacturing otherhood faster 

Than brotherhood, sisterhood or even a socialist version of a Robin Hood



Don't tell me not to be dark


and show me prime time television advertising spots that reiterates 

Fair cleanliness

Fairness cream

Fair justice

Fair numbers

Fair contract

Fair property

Fair opportunity

Fair permits

Fair chance

Fair Internet

All these words

Suck


I want to be dark

Dark as hell

Dark as darkness


I want to puke 

into substances that make me milky white (or any kind of puritan)

because dark to me is the only continent

where I belong


For heaven's sake


You

be fair

You

be

lovely

You

become

the

no marks

person


I

shall remain

with the scars

of my pock-marked

refugee

face


Don't tell me not to be dark

Don't tell me that fornication needs two white bodies or for that matter two white minds or for that matter two white fingers

Just don't tell me that

Don't tell me not to be dark

because I

give a damn

to what you say


Don't tell me not to be dark

because

your collective speech bubbles 

pollutes my nostril


don't tell me not to be dark 

because

whiteness to me

is a colour of negotiated distrust


Don't tell me to be dark

because you know

fuck all about what darkness

is

was

and

will be




Let me get the pleasure in this biting cold

 to shiver, shudder, suffer 

Yet 

Watch

the globalisation of solidarity; as if empathy can be outsourced


Or maybe even that is a put-on


know the texture of curated silences

Believe me

You are all

That type

Those types

Those

Typically shitty

Typically puritan 

Typically propah 


Dont tell me not to litter

Dont tell not to bark 

After all what would you know about a stray dogs life 

By now you would have understood the Hamlets in Tower Hamlet 

But you dont; you wont 


C2: Therefore cling on to your eyes. You must be tired of seeing so much that you have stopped seeing. 


The living dead.


Lear. 

Leer. 

Real.


King Lear. 

King Real.


In 

Dystopic

Utopian

Globalised

Hyper-local

Withered away paper 

Homeless

Flood affected.

Strobe lights.

Installed art objects.

Vanishing forest covers.

Copyright.

Copyleft.

Creative Commons.

Third bell.

Clever Curators Note.

Pitch Perfect.

White Noise.

Disjointed.

Unsexed.


Our times. King Lear in a mirror. King Real times. Time is out of joint. So here we are in the no mans land between freedom, fear, security,  uneasiness, boredom, flux, flow, adrenaline, undead juxtaposed with our the lives inside and outside the superimposed grid.


Deadlocked. Unlock. Deadlocked. Unlock. Deadlocked. Unlock.


C1: What is nation? A community-a huddle, a cluster, a giant unpeeled orange, a combination of stray lego pieces that makes an artificial wooden whole, or just a majority versus minority or a minority versus majority 


C2: Or a collection of the aspirations trying to fit into a large cardboard box called life


C1: I would not be defined by my faith or redeemed by it. I would explore within my faith my idea of a private salvation or a quiet moment of liberation 


C1: But no quite moments of my so-called legality


C2: Fortify the fortallow the inhabitants to know that  once already in means an opportunity to exist


C1: Ensure those who disrupt should face due procedures but dont manufacture seeds of unbelonging 


C1: Remember Gandhari could sense the wind from her covered eyes 


C2: sense the wind 


C1: I am neither a digit nor a lack of it 


C2: I am neither a floating wave of current nor an  undercurrent 


C1: I am neither chronology or anthology 


Chorus of 2: We are lifes aspiration of wanting to exist ; we not the world but a self-contained universe of being singular and plural at the same time. Walking on the pathway refusing to becoming the path


BOTH THE PERFORMERS WALK OUT OF THE SPACE AS THEY SLOWLY OPENS THE SHROUD FROM THEIR EYES AND TAKES THE PATHWAY INSIDE THE AUDIENCE. 

ONE OF THEM CHANTS/SINGS THE ENTIRE SHOLKA: Asato ma sadgamaya

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya

Mrtyorma amrtam gamaya

-Taken from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad  I.III.28.





Shakuntala Spellcheck: In Three Movements and one afterthought


By Mukherjee. P


Movement 1

Miss Shakuntala. 

Wife of King Dushyant

Daughter of sage Vishwamitra and apsara Menaka

Left in the forest. Pushed by Durbasha. Fickle fate. Dancing with death. The diseased amnesia. The insistent insomnia. 

Mother of Bharata.

The smell: you can locate a slice of it in Kanvashram-about 10 kms away from Kotdwar now in Uttarakhand.

Miss Shakutala. Unvanquished. Unending.

Then you hear that sound from a distance. Inching forward. And then you hear the sea. 

You hear the sea, the one that is next to your walls. From you window panes, you can see a still colourless light. Slowly expanding itself into the sky. The black sea is still. The body consumed by sleep. Inside a room there’s a stranger

And then you do exactly that. I don’t know why you did that. I keep seeing you doing all that, probably unknowingly. You could probably have left this room, this body. This figure of sleep. Yet you did that. Well, it was different. And that being different is what makes you different. You did that and came back to your body. 

Body embody. Body towards a body. Body propelled towards the body in such a way, that one does not kill the other body. One does not eat it up. You go back to the night, you go back to being consumed. 

*****

You keep staying back in the room. You keep crying. You think what you don’t know, is what you know. You think you are the only repository of everything that is tragic in the world, of one particular kind of ill-luck. You think all that is happening now, you are the master of that. You think all incidents have their own life. 

The stranger sleeps, there’s a slight smile on the lips, waiting to be assassinated. 

Your body inside the room of that other body

Sleep on sleep is a full circle. Deep inside, imagination turns to semi-whispers, those whispers climb inside the body and become clearer by the day. Can one man complete the circle of contentment, the idea of being whole, or maybe another man. Maybe many other men. 

You cry.

*****

What did you remember of this whole relationship? All that you can remember is a collage of a few sounds which were whispered inside your eyes. Those whispers kept hammering, asking what was wrong with you.                     

Death. Disease. A lost ring. A found ring. A fishersman. Reclaim. Renege. Renew. Residue.

Very soon you give up and you don’t really search for the other person. Not in the city. Not in the night. Not even during the day. Even after all this, the fact that you’re alive with a lot of love in your heart, is because you can only do this. But each time a relationship knocks at the door, love disappears. 

*****

You don’t really need to know her. You’ve seen her at many places. Maybe at the same time. Hotel. Roads. Train. Bar. Books. Cinema. Inside yourself. Inside that you inside you. Inside the heat of your lust when you need to satiate yourself. Inside the vortex of your desire. Or even when you just need a place to cry.


Movement 1 has been inspired by and is partly transcreated from Margurite Duras’ La Maladie de la mort’ (The Malady of Death). 

Movement 2: Shakuntala: memory of my memories

What is Shakuntala? 

An interplay of memory. A critique of a historical forgetfulness...

What then would be memory?

Fragments of a still life

A semi-historical narrative of some delicate moments

A transcript of the sepia yesterday

Blurred at the edges, a little burnt and chipped off

Some shards lying at the edge of a hazy narrative

Or the silent moan of a chair without one leg..still trying to get it up…still trying to be relevant 

For a moment Shakuntala looked at her empty fingers

Long ones

Almost like a chiselled radish

These fingers can walk

Climb trees

Pluck grass from the toxic soil

 

What then would be memory?

Juggling old collections of passport size photos 

(largely black and white)

Taken in that locality studio by a friendly/ hawkish photographer

Brandishing his Agfas

Or sometimes an imported Minolta, Olympus, Nikkor, Cannon or even a spycam

Or found footage from CCTV, bugs and camera deeply embedded inside harmless objects

For a moment Shakuntala flipped at these albums of black and white with a black border-non-photoshopped stills-some posed, mostly candid

These were much before the manicure/pedicure days

These were hers -- many Hers – 

Yes she did contain multiple multitudes..Shakuntala In Shakuntala Out 

 

What then would be memory?

That old bed-sheet

Returned by the cleaners

Crumpled paper napkin from yesterday’s dinner

Dushyanta -- his distinct body odour

The trail of his smell cannot just disappear from the sheet

Even if the cleaner used Super Rin bar

Shakuntala held the bedsheet close to her nose

And tried to smell the memory of that mad night

That nocturne turn of the screw

That private decision of his to allow her on the top

That moment of patriarchy coming to terms with lust 

 Huffing puffing 

across beneath amidst

Someone did reach the pole position

-- She

 

What then would be memory?

A discreet my-fingertip-touches-your-fingertip type old romanticism of the seventies

Or the prehistoric cave-painting depictions of a hug where your inside out gets sucked by his outside in

Or a curved line wanting to be straight

Or a blurred picture refusing to be photoshopped  

What then would be memory?

All personal is always political

New sunlight is neon

And yes your bottom hurts when somebody pushes you across some digital landscape right in the middle of an active Facebook page

Pings to your left. Pings to your right. Ride the husband. He’s lazy. He wants you on the top. This is postponed, slowomo version of pleasure. Inch by Inch. Your posture is determined by his comfort zone. 

Shakuntala has many friend requests pending -- she’s undecided -- about one tangible mind or multiple mind-partners

 One night that reflects a snapchat story or a persistent fling that merits a photo-essay

What then would be memory?

That tongue trail across the body

Till your tongue hits the metallic ring on the navel

Memory isn’t just a joystick 

or an up to 64 GB expandable memory card slot

Or a 4TB external hard disk memory

Where each folder neatly re-organises the path of the private dilemma

Mostly open

Some password protected

Shakuntala used iPad pro-- she likes to go oral -- through Skype

What then would be memory?

The realization

That all things must pan the fetish of listening but not listening attentively

The real/reel time reading of what went in Rodney King’s mind when he was being pounded

Or which page from How to Win Friends and Influence People popped up in Dale Carnegie’s mind when he committed suicide

 Or the last thoughts that went in 45-year old Dongria Kondh activist Drika Kadraka’s mind as he took his life in Niyamgiri

Outside her child played

Love child; old child; wild child; blind child; initiated child, child, child; child who never sleeps and yet refuses to wake up 

That afternoon when He-the supreme Royal could not recognise her

She didn’t feel bad

After all your looks do change

And when you have hung around that long in forests as a Gandhian, civilian activist trying to make sense (and failing) to understand the cult of sustained violence from all corners

Not surprising that you failed to comprehend, Not Surprising at all

As for the ring that she lost

Jungles are jungles

Rings are rings

Sometimes they do slip off

As if to remind you that obscurity and anonymity are strange bed fellows

They do want to share your bed

They do want to be the only fellow that shares the bed and bod, the pea and the pod

 

What then would be memory?

Idea of a long-term loss

Of an imaginary scorecard of childhood book-cricket games

Playing truth or bare

Or recalling name, place, animal, things

Even vain love poems

Scribbled along the luscious curves of the folded paper napkin

Or a magical sequence of favourite songs in dialogue with one another

Or your 128GB ishuffle

Or the smell of new paper much before the pdf days – 

those days when you could not download attachments…just felt hopelessly attached 

 

What then would be memory?

Remains of the residue

The residue of the closure

The closure of the future

The future of the apocalypse

Continuous

Or that fatal continuity

Which is doomed

Claustrophobic

Insomniac

Dated

Remembered

Profited

Castigated

Rejected

Ejected

Non-plural

Just a room –

where the windows and doors vanished after you entered

 

What then would be memory?

Champagne glass curve in sociology classes

Neon-bathed streets of Shanghai

Or that late night stillness of Buriganga in old Dhaka

Where the evening and darkness crisscrosses the canvas

the bobbing boats become a black eerie of curves floating mid-water –

strangers out of a Sultan painting

Awkardness of an abandoned bastard left in a forest guarded 

by birds and raised by a sage

 

Memories don’t morph into metaphors

They make themselves available as a temporary tease

a world, which Shakuntala knows -- is a large capital market, a supermarket of spiritual solace, a repository of errant memories representing the credit card childhood 

the world of bubble and the babble

Movement 3

Memory is not what we would like to remember or what we would like to forget. It is not even about what  stays in our mind space or what doesn’t stay. Memory is like a lost smell, about which we are not sure, whether to keep it or to wish it away. Refuge or the Last Refuge. Sanctuary or Wilderness.

Sometimes it is palpable. I’ll give you an example. You are in Amritsar, going to Jallianwala Bagh, and in that park where the British Police had gunned down Indians, you find bullet marks, still embedded on the walls. All of a sudden, the memory leaps out of your history books and enters your blood stream. Or when I’m in Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s house in Dhaka, which is now a museum, I find old stains of blood still on the wall, remembering the moments of genocide when the whole family was killed, including the young son. 

So what is memory? Shards? Shreds? Is it the remains of walls and mud after a bulldozer has bulldozed a slum? The next time I stand in front of the multiplex where the slum was located, do I remember those lost faces? Maybe I forget. Because I have learnt to forget. Even that forgetfulness is memory.

Shakuntala is about an idea about a woman on crossroads. We cannot criticize her love for Dushyant, her subsequent falling for him, and her conceiving a son. Because love, in whatever and whichever form, is still an inexplicable emotion. We are concerned about the fallout. And the lessons  we learn from the fallout. So the missing ring of Shakuntala, could be that missing piece of paper by which an exile will always have to prove their citizenship, their land right, the reason why they should not be thrown out of the country, the reason why they shouldn’t rot in jails, the reason why their sons and daughters should demand a better life than just having a manadatory plastic sheets over their heads. The reason why, however dirty it may look, it is important to have them on footpaths, stations, municipal markets, in dharnas, chakka jams and selling cheap items in front of our expensively obscene malls.  They are the evolutionary and we are the ones who are stigmatised.    

Hey! Don’t pout

Come on don’t pout

Your insta lips look overarched

Biting them tastes of real cigarette..licking them tastes of stale lip balm sensation 

Time for real lips…real lisp                                            

Let me tell you a story. There’s a young girl who lives next to the Dashwamedha Ghat in Banaras. Her family sells wood for a living.  Before you ask which wood, let me tell you, this is the burnt wood from the wooden pyres from the Ghats. The more people who come to get cremated and come to get burnt , the more money she makes. Because, then, she can sell more wood. Her income is dependent on how many are burnt everyday. So let me ask you a simple question. Is she eating death, or is death eating her? Is death delicious? 

Footnote: The man sitting next to me looked too large one day. So tall. That he almost touched the sky. So lanky , that he’s most definitely unreachable. The same man sitting next to me today, looks very small today. Smaller than a safety pin. I don’t even need a palm to cusp him, fingers will do. So he’s too tall one day, and too short the other. Is it because while noticing him I forgot my height, or is it because he’s changing shape depending on my perception of him? Shapeshifter huh !

Postscript of the Footnote: The rock is stagnant. The pool is stagnant. Memory runs free in unmemoried times. Can you see the stretch marks…in your Mascara box, midriff, metaphors inside your mind and the mindful act of being consistently mindless.

Stitch in time. Saves nine-and-a-half. I am Miss Shakuntala: Mother-Menaka flew back to heaven in half rage, Father -Vishwamitra went back to his meditation, Status-Abandoned, No ID proof, Half Wife, Half Widow, Full Mother. Full-time Humanist. Touchwood.









Almost King Lear – 11 Overtly Operatic Overtures 

by  Mukherjee. P 


Inspired by the original poetry published and written by members of Blind Opera, this play owes a debt of gratitude to a slim book, Opera Kavya, published in May 2001 by Subhash Dey, Subrata Mondal, Rajdeep Mukherjee, Samir Ghoshal, Shibshankar Prasad Verma, Sukumar Santra . This book and some stray images from the plays performed by Blind Opera juxtaposed with original lines of the Bard inspired me to write the text 

I have nothing much to offer but these two quotes: 

Words have become a barrier, an alibi. It is so easy to justify a war on the words, but if you are there on the battlefield, confronted by spirally bloodshed and horror. How can you? We are not rejecting the use of words in the theatre, so much as the use of words to create an alibi....It is important to reflect in our lives what we are trying to say on the stage. We are trying to solve our individual lives as community! 

Julian Beck 

If we could once again become feelingful people and not shut ourselves from one another then we would not tolerate injustices in this world. It is a part of our process to try to unite mind with body to heed to the intimations within ourselves of the immortality. That’s all ladies and gentlemen please read on. There in lies our crux. The touchstone. 

Peter Brook, The Empty Stage 

The play begins now...you can, of course, recite the preface. 11 Person Chorus 

Hi!

Welcome to my ragged non-tuneful, distant, distorted landscape. We are like those broken pieces of mirror lying all over the place Blind bodies climbing atop each other

The ceiling beckons

And those diagonal boats

rowed by blind poets 

Page 1 


Always oversized props

That mirror where you cannot see your reflection But still chisel out words

And from those words

poetry peeps out

and the chronicle of silence is about to be recorded through the fairy tales of darkness 

One Person Chorus 

See better, Lear, and let me still remain The true blank of thine eye. 

10 Person Chorus 

Hi!

We are a theatre group

We dress up every day

Powdered faces, arched eyebrows

Almost like you but not exactly

We play mother, wife, sister,

Shadow, song, breath, megalomaniac,

Hungry Mona Lisa or even a startled actor stuck between a half-dream and

yet-unfinished nightmare

We could even play the blue river

the wave, the flower, the metaphor

Maya or even our thirst to lust at the sun Welcome to my ragged, non-tuneful

distant, distorted landscape

I die here

I cry here

I oscillate between the-dead-while-living

and the-living-while-dead 

Two Person Chorus 

Gloucester 

I have no way and therefore want no eyes;

I stumbled when I saw. Full oft 'tis seen, Our means secure us, and our mere defects Prove our commodities. Oh! dear son Edgar, The food of thy abused father's wrath; Might I but live to see thee in my touch, 

I'd say I had eyes again. 


9 Person Chorus 

Hi!

Did you say somebody stole my light? Somebody is drawing a straight line with words Making boundaries on all four sides

Black hands

Eyes covered with dark shades of metaphors And nothing permeates inside

No purnima!

No sunlight!

But rows and rows of human fences

and that Black Hand enters my bag

and starts talking about

words that reflect-like-diamonds

Word after word, syllable after syllable

and then words morph into letters and suddenly it all turns to sheer poetry

Like that purnima light

Aha! That one...

Did you say somebody stole my light?

And that’s why that ragged, distorted, non-tuneful landscape becomes bleak

The horrified stench of dark school politics Stinking topography 

Three Person Chorus 

Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,

That slaves your ordinance, that will not see Because he does not feel, fell your power quickly; So distribution should undo excess,

And each man have enough. 

8 Person Chorus 

Hi!

We’ve all inherited stories

There’s this king and a queen of course They come to this terrace

The weather looms large

Lightning!

Wait a second!

No, No they don’t end up embracing, Instead they crave for wings...

But instead of wings 


The world becomes a fairy which swoops down

nobody cared to find out whether the fairy took them away or not 

Four Person Chorus 

Lear 

What, art mad? A man may see how the world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? –Thou hast seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar? 

Gloster 

Ay, sir.

No eyes in your

head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you

see how this world goes. 

Gloucester 

I see it feelingly. 

7 Person Chorus 

A sky creates a route

The evening envelopes their consciousness

Red star turns into a pattern

Clothes hanging on to the wire

Turns the terrace into a proscenium

Were they practicing for a play?

Were we preparing for a drama?

Silence

Meteorites don’t light up my path anymore

I could be that king or queen

Stuck in a chaitra catastrophe

Night’s almost over

Excited sun knows

Whether there’s blinding light or a manicured rainbow

I won’t be able to see

Play’s over

Audience is leaving

And my distant, distorted, not-so-tuneful large landscape laughs at me with a deafening non-roar

Hello!

Welcome to my blackness

Be careful

Don’t trip 


there’s a rope in front of you 

Five Person Chorus 

Oswald 

A proclaim’d prize! Most happy!

That eyeless head of thine was first fram’d flesh To raise my fortunes.—Thou old unhappy traitor, Briefly thyself remember:—the sword is out That must destroy thee. 

6 Person Chorus 

Hi!

Every girl has a mother trapped in her dream Locked in that vault

And the coastline of life

can’t withstand the violent winds

More dreams

More darkness

More secret desire to light within,

More disappointments 

Six Person Chorus 

Lear 

We'll no more meet, no more see one another: But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter; Or rather a disease that's in my flesh,

Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,

A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle,

In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee;

Let shame come when it will, I do not call it:

I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,

Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove:

Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure 

Lear 

Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour'd, When others are more wicked: not being the worst Stands in some rank of praise. 


[To GONERIL] 

I'll go with thee:

Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty, And thou art twice her love. 

Lear 

No, you unnatural hags,

I will have such revenges on you both,

That all the world shall -- I will do such things, -- What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be The terrors of the earth. You think I'll weep

No, I'll not weep:

I have full cause of weeping; but this heart

Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,

Or ere I'll weep. O fool, I shall go mad! 

5 Person Chorus 

Hi there!

Now let me explain

All this is getting too bloody poetic!

Even our plays

Mansamangal, Sanskranti, Halla, Raja

Death of Chaitanya or even the latest...about this marginal girl

Played by a bag of bones with indomitable spirit reflects our stance

And our simplistic poetry has no other outlet but self-published 4-page-Rs.3 pamphlets Our festival, our green rooms, our local train

There is this edgy realism

Like that dried up wood

waiting for the bonfire

I can try to float into unknown, unseen and unheard of obscurity

But I can’t

I’m tired

Tired of all these clouds

whose looming shadows

distort my landscape

Globalization, trafficking

catch phrases, tandoori chicken...

Can the sky ever be a ground for us to walk on...well, upside down.

Believe me,

darkness does not irk me

But what irks me is that

I have a lot of light out there

in my routinely normal retina 


But you can’t see it Look close

Up close and personal 

Seven Person Chorus 

Fool 

Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way. Fathers that wear rags

Do make their children blind;

But fathers that bear bags 

Shall see their children kind.

Fortune, that arrant whore,

Ne'er turns the key to the poor.

But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year. 

4 Person Chorus 

Hi!

Welcome to my landscape

Here Behula to Badal Sircar ,

Manasha to Mohit Chattopadhyay,

Blindness to Buddhadev Bose,

Raw realism to Rabindranath,

Satire to Sudhir Chakraborty,

they all get installed like

chiselled words hidden in that unfinished sculpture. 

Eight Person Chorus 

Fool 

...All that follow

their noses are led by their eyes but blind men; and there's not a nose among twenty but can smell him that's stinking. 

Gloucester 

'Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the blind. Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure;

Above the rest, be gone. 

3 Person Chorus 


Hi!

Just one last request

Please don’t call me visually challenged

I’m that category of blind

who have too much light

Too much to see...I mean lust at

Can

I

please

borrow your blindness

I

need

to put my blinkers on

I am a method-acting freak

real method

I’m preparing for King Lear

Of course, you are those scrupulous daughters dotting the landscape...

Like ants crawling out of a chassis

Or maggots on a dried-up Spielbergish dinosaur 

Nine Person Chorus 

Lear 

And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a

dog's obeyed in office.

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!

Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back; Thou hotly lust'st to use her in that kind 

For which thou whipp'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener. Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;

Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,

And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks: 

Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw does pierce it.

None does offend, none, I say, none; I'll able 'em: Take that of me, my friend, who have the power

To seal the accuser's lips. Get thee glass eyes;

And like a scurvy politician, seem

To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now: Pull off my boots: harder, harder: so. 

2 Person Chorus 

Hi!

Do come to my show 


Do go overboard with fake sympathies

I’ll laugh with my eyes

Eye-popping eyes, piercing

non-existent gaze which is laced with non-deafening laughter I love to laugh 

Ten Person Chorus 

Edmund 

Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take More composition and fierce quality Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed, Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops Got 'tween asleep and wake? 

1 Person Chorus 

Are you game?

Let’s look at each other Let the blindness spread We have too many eyes And too few eye-banks 

Eleven Person Chorus 

Lear 

And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,

And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never! 

Pray you, undo this button: thank you sir. Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, Look there, look there! 

The Bonus Track 

So are you game? 

The Re-Mixed Track 

Game enough to rape the retina? 

Chorus Lear 


A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yon simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? 



Fire(s): A Triptych 


BY MUKHERJEE. P


Freedom is not a downloadable pdf 


or a torrent link 


or a few emojis to lighten up the burden 


Freedom questions the unending safe spoof of our pathetically repetitive silent supposedly apolitical selves 

the failure to un-create and recreate 

 

freedom lies in folds, creases and wrinkles 

lies in not so supple wrists 

and jawlines that got disfigured after chanting revolution for an incredibly long time 

across centuries 


and meaning every syllable of what was being uttered 


freedom lies in the unfreedom that lies in heart of this triptych 

and world that shall be fairer 


hopefully 



Voice 1: FOOTPATH of Stephen Court fire-Park Street Kolkata-March 23, 2010


Here are the flakes

                      embers 

humans mid-air 

floating parts 

fleeting breath

they are 

all one and the same 

where do you float in choked smoke 

of institutional apathy or the fate of the in-betweenness of the construct and the constructed  

The fire rages on in the mind as a metaphor, in the hands as a charred coal and in the mind as betrayal 

The real, corporeal and the physical heat 

left them gutted 

lives us gutted 

gutted for an eternity 

as we carry on with our physical lives

our fragile lives 

our lives in that in between in-betweenness


Into that fire 

i move from corridor to corridor 

image of running across staircases 

Falling off 

Falling down 


Mid air 


the heat inches forward 

years

months 

moment

seconds 

there 

then 

centuries 

light years

here 

NOW 


THIS INSTANT 


Onlookers

Camera 

Gaze 

Curiosity 

Unfolding reality between the TRPs and soap opera


the impermanence of a ticker tape news displaying body count 


panels, screaming anchors, finger pointing ..words fly thick and fast, thin and slow, jumble and mumble, name and blame, shame and game 


charred id proof 

charred LIC certificates 

charred memorabilia

charred lives 


I climb down down the staircase that finishes nowhere 

between graveyards of smoke 

lengthening black soots


A footnote is born

birthed in a midwife called fire 


2: Voice 2: PARKING LOT of Uphaar Fire Tragedy during the show of the film Border-June 13, 1997


You are running out 

you are running amok 

from spaces in between spaces 

as the screen blares out the film "Border"


Choke in 

choke out 

vice-like grip on your throat 

grips you into asphyxiation 

in that stampede another 103 injured


bodies look fresh 

bodies look now 

faces with grin, shock, laughter, awe and an eerie calm nestled in the corner of uncharred lips 


June 13 1997

4.55pm 

the cable of the transformer was repaired in the morning 

yet


the same day

this leaks oil


the parking area on the ground floor was set ablaze

smoke meandered, bellowed, gushed through the first floor and air conducting ducts 

smoke

carbon monoxide and burning oil 

conjoined 


film 

went on

no announcements 

no staff intervention

the film raged on 


seats like maze 


fire gobbles up the breath

the breath gobbles up the body

the body gobbles up the space


the space of absence 


23 long years of seeking justice 

February 2020

case closed 

justice awaited 


For Neelam and Sekhar Krishnamurthy, they go to sleep every night hoping that they don't wake up in the morning 

hoping that a room in their Noida flat overflowing with case papers did not happen at all 

hoping that their children's room recreated with same mattress, clothes, books, toys did not happen at the first place 


between memory, splinters, long nights, longer mornings, unending dusk, incomplete rainbows

there is a de-tuned flute playing on 


in that shrillness

someone howls: the youngest to die in tragedy was one month old


someone whispers: Sandese Aate Hai 


3: Voice 3: CHORUS OF DUST during Rana Plaza Collapse: April 24, 2013 -Dhaka


You will be choked in the dustbin of time, memory, necessary mourning and unnecessary nostalgia and the still unfolding merry-go-round of indifference 

you will be that part of the present 

present of the future

future of the future 

that shall not be 


You will be

shelved 

benched 

cleared

annihilated 

vacuum cleaned 

zoned out 

deleted 

burped 

vomited 

vapourised 

choked 

served fresh and raw -

wounds in all it's dripping form acts an appetiser 


Get set go

here we go 

there we come

Tomorrow shall become a mirror of fractured today


can't you get the obvious exploitation of the industry called warp and weft 

can't you see the shape of the beast 

curvature of the ridiculous low wage arc

of the u-turn 

of the round bend 

of the torque

of all the angularties of deprivation 

of the small of your collective amnesia 



potent doses of a planned bloodshed 

executed with such disdain

that the distinction between the smell and the stink 

can't be delineated 


silence is rewarded 

coerced

curated 

cooked 

compliant

collaborate 

chilled out 


The garments that loves your body 

is made by the fringes, errata of our so-called terminology


the real workforce 


garment factory

april 24, 2013

1, 134 deaths

half of the victims were women  

7 days later fire broke out 


crumbling building 

dead falling with their hands clutched 

cracks widen in the building 

bodies. bodies, bodies 

bodies falling on bodies 

the cracks widen 

debris become gaping, yawning holes of an industrial apocalypse


the television screens have gone silent 

we have moved on 

our business is about moving on 


never moving with 


mourning is a TRP 


stitching clothes is not 


POSTSCRIPT:  REST IS A DAMNING SILENCE 

























































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