Friday, November 9, 2012

Parivartan in the Palace


Introductory Note:  The following short play was written by me for the Annual Day of my school.  It has been staged today, the Annual Day, whose theme was PARIVARTAN. 

The Cast
King
Chatterjee - Minister
Mrs Pandey - Minister
Patel - Minister
Sharma - Minister
Patnaik - Leader of Opposition
Nath - Opposition Member
Mrs Nanda - Opposition Member
Beggar
Soldier 1
Soldier 2

A view from the play



The King’s Palace.  There’s a throne in the centre.  Chairs on sides.  When the curtain rises all the ministers and opposition are standing on the stage talking among themselves softly.
Drum beat.  Bugle call. Silence on the stage.  All stand at attention.
Soldier 1: (from side) Attention, attention!  The Great King, the Champion of champions, the Warrior of warriors, the Conqueror of the world, the Eliminator of enemies, his Excellency, the Mighty Shatrughna Vikram Singh Bahadur is on his royal waaaaay.
Royal music as the King arrives in royal robes attended by Soldier 1 and Soldier 2. 
All:       Hail the King, His Excellency!
King sits on the throne and waves hand for others to sit.  All are now seated. But all will stand soon as the drama unfolds.
King:    My loyal ministers and members of the Opposition, Ladies and Gentlemen, We wish to congratulate you on passing the Bill to allow foreign direct investment, FDI, in our country, India.  We are informed that our Opposition has some objections to the Bill. 
Patnaik: Yes, your majesty.  Bringing FDI into our country will ruin many of our small shopkeepers and retail dealers. 
Nath:   Your Excellency, from the time we started liberalising our economy, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer.  Thousands of farmers and other poor people commit suicide every year. 
Mrs Nanda: Regarding food availability, 75 percent of the country’s population do not eat a healthy diet.
Patnaik: It was only 58% in 1993-94, when we started liberalising the economy.
Nath:   It rose to 68% in ten years.
Mrs Nanda: And now 3 out of every 4 citizens of this great country do not get proper food.
Pandey: Your Excellency, the members of the Opposition are trying to divert our attention.  We are discussing FDI, not poverty. 
Chatterjee: FDI is meant to bring in more wealth.  More wealth means less poverty.  [Pointing at the Opposition] Why don’t you understand that?
Sharma: Ye log badmaash hai.  They want to stop the flow of foreign wealth into our country.
Patel:   They are enemies of the country.  Gaddar.  Gaddar.
Patnaik: Don’t use unparliamentary language, you semi-literate country bumpkin.
Patel:   [Moving toward Patnaik with clenched fist as if to hit him] You dare to call me names, you silly foul-mouthed thief.  I know how much money you have already received as bribe from a foreign company for passing the FDI Bill without opposition.  Why do you pretend to oppose it now?
Chatterjee: Because he wants to fool the people.  He wants the people to see him on the TV opposing the Bill.  That’s all.  Just showing off.
Patnaik: Your Excellency, these ministers are raising false charges against me.  I can prove that it is they who have received huge bribes from foreign companies...
Sharma: Chup, chup!  Don’t speak another word.  We all know that bribes are part of politics.  There is no rajniti without rishwat.
Nath:   But the ruling party always gets more rishwat.
Pandey: So your problem is that you are not getting enough rishwat.
Mrs Nanda: Your Excellency, stop this nonsense.  These people are forgetting that they are leaders of a great country.  They’re behaving like petty thieves on the streets.  And for the information of all of you, I must say that I have never received any bribe. 
Chatterjee: Do you want it?  We can find some foreign company for you.
The ministers and members of opposition laugh.
King claps his hands twice.
King:    Order in the durbar!  Behave yourselves.  Don’t think I am a fool just because I don’t speak much.  Hazaron jawabo se achchi hai khamoshi meri, na jaane kitne sawalo ki aabru rakhe. 
A moment of silence.
Then Beggar’s cry is heard from outside.
Beggar: Bread, bread.  Give me bread.  I’m hungry. I’m dying of starvation.
King:    What’s that?  Who dares to make such noise in the palace premises? [To soldier 1] Go and see.
Soldier 1 goes out.
Chatterjee: It’s a beggar.  A mad man.  He goes around shouting that he’s hungry.
Pandey: He’s always hungry. 
Patel:   I wonder why the people of our country are always hungry.
Sharma: People are always hungry.  First for roti.  Then kapada.  Then makan.  Then naukri.  Then mobile phone, TV, computer, car... Ha! Their hunger will never end.
Mrs Nanda: Is that why you’re giving them foreign retailers?
King:    You mean to say that you knew this beggar for a long time?
Chatterjee: Yes, your Excellency. 
Pandey: Very long time.
Patel:   Very, very long time.
Sharma: From the time of Independence.
Patnaik: From the time of the Mughals.
Nath:   From the time of the Vedas.
Mrs Nanda: From the time of evolution.  From eternity. 
King:    Why didn’t you do anything about it then? 
Chatterjee: We did, your Excellency. 
Pandey: We cut off his tongue, your Excellency.
King:    How can he speak then?  Can’t you hear him?
Patel:   He grew another tongue.
King:    What!  It is treason to have more than one tongue.
Patnaik: Yes, your Majesty, we must arrest him for treason.
Nath:   And hang him to death.
Enter Soldier 1.
Soldier 1: [Bows] There is no one outside, your Excellency. 
King:    No one!  And he grows another tongue!  From eternity!  What’s all this?  Is he a ghost?
The cry of the Beggar is heard again.
Beggar: Bread, bread.  Give me bread.  I’m hungry.  I’m dying of starvation.
King:    [To Soldier 2] Go.  And don’t come back without getting him.  It’s an order.
Exit Soldier 2.
Mrs Nanda: Do ghosts eat bread?
Sharma: As far as I know, ghosts drink blood.
Mrs Nanda: I can understand.  There’s no blood left in the veins of people.  Haven’t you people sucked it all already?  That’s why the ghost is asking for bread.
King:    If there’s no bread, can’t he eat cake?  Oh’ he’s giving me a headache.
Enter Soldier 2 with Beggar in chains.
Soldier 2: [Bows] Your Excellency, here’s the beggar.
King:    Are you the beggar who was crying for bread?
Beggar: Are you the king?
Sharma: Don’t ask questions to the king. 
King:    I am the king.  And I order you not to beg.  Don’t you know that you are living in a country that is going to be an economic superpower?
Beggar: I ... I don’t understand.
Chatterjee: The king commands you not to beg for bread anymore.
Beggar: I ... I don’t understand.
King:    [shouting] DO NOT BEG FOR BREAD ANYMORE.
Beggar: I ... I don’t understand.
King:    Ah!  He is as deaf as a stone. 
Soldier 2: Pardon me, your Excellency.  He is not deaf.  He understood me easily when I spoke to him outside.
King:    Are you deaf?  Can you hear me?
Beggar: I can hear every word perfectly.
King:    Why don’t you take my order then?  Are you pretending to be deaf?
Beggar: King...
Pandey: Call him, Your Excellency.
Beggar: [looks puzzled at Pandey] Your Ex... Ex – lens...
Patel:   [cynically] He’s not only hungry, but illiterate too.
Mrs Nanda: What an achievement of an economic superpower!
King:    Quiet, all of you!  [To the Beggar] Why are you always hungry?
Beggar: King, you have taken away our lands.  For building national highways.  For constructing shopping malls.  For special economic zones.  For resorts.  We were left with a little land after all that.  There you asked us to cultivate foreign seeds.  Then you asked us to buy foreign fertilizers.  Foreign insecticides and pesticides. Our lands took all that poison and lost their fertility.  Our lands died.  Nothing can grow in them anymore. 
King:    This man is a traitor.  Hear what he says.  We brought development to the country.  And he says we killed his land.
Chatterjee: He must be punished.
Patel:   Throw him in the prison.
Pandey: Torture him.  Break his hands and legs.
Nath:   Hang him to death.
Sharma: Organise a party rally and burn him to death in public.  His death must be an example to everyone.
Beggar: You can do anything you wish with me.  But there are millions out there.  Millions who will rise in revolt.  Millions who will demand Parivartan.  Parivartan. Change. Revolution.  You can kill me.  But there will arise a million in my place.  There will arise Anna Hazares and Arvind Kejriwals, Medha Patkars and Teesta Setalwads.  How many murders will you commit in order to stay on in power?
King:    Quiet!  [Calmly] Parivartan!  He says parivartan.  What’s that?
Sharma: Kranti.  Rajya kranti.  He is a militant.  He should be executed.
Mrs Nanda: Your Excellency, he’s demanding a paradigm shift.
King:    Para- what?
Mrs Nanda: Paradigm shift.  A shift, a change.  A change in the way we see and do things.
Chatterjee: What’s wrong with our way of seeing and doing things?  We are becoming an economic superpower.  We are doing what America is doing...
Mrs Nanda: Why should we do what America is doing?  Why should what America does be right?
King:    What do you suggest, Mrs Nanda?
Mrs Nanda: Your Excellency, what we now have is a system based on wealth and only wealth.  That should change.
Sharma: Without wealth, it is death. 
Chatterjee: Your Excellency, don’t listen to this woman.  She’s crazy.
King:    Never mind.  I want some crazy ideas now. [To Mrs Nanda] Go on.
Mrs Nanda: Let us create a new social system.  One which is based on the old values of compassion and cooperation.  Let us show people that it’s not merely wealth that keeps life going.  Let us show people we can live together happily, helping one another, sharing what we have with each other...
Patnaik: This is insane!
Nath:   This is not politics.
Patel:   This is religion.
Pandey: This is communism.
Sharma: Foolish ideas from a silly woman!
Mrs Nanda: Your Excellency and my friends, how long do you think we can go on fooling the people?  How many spectrums, 2G or 3G, or anything, will we go on selling stealthily, before the common man sees through the darkness of our deeds?
Beggar: How many times can you turn your head pretending that you don’t see?
Mrs Nanda: How many thousands of acres of forest land will we steal from the tribal people and forest dwellers in the name of development?  How many millions and billions will we stash away in Swiss banks before we see the people starving below our nose?
Beggar: How many times should you look up before you see the sky?  How many ears must you have before you hear the people cry?
Mrs Nanda: We have been cheating, Your Excellency.  We have been cheating the people all along. 
Beggar: How many times will you raise prices of everything from cooking gas to transport means before you see the thousands committing suicide in this country?
Mrs Nanda: How many scams and scandal must rock this palace before we open our eyes to the truth?  How many...
Chatterjee: Stop this woman, Your Excellency. She’s in collusion with this beggar.
Patel:   She’s calling us thieves and scoundrels.
Beggar: What else are you?
Sharma: People like her and this beggar should be killed.  They are rebels.
Patnaik: Yes, death to rebels. Kill them.
Nath:   Kill them.  Let’s avert a rebellion in the country.
Pandey: Your Excellency, I think Mrs Nanda has a point.  Why not listen to her fully?
King:    Silence!  Silence! Mrs Nanda, don’t you know that people are selfish and they don’t like to share and care.  They only care for themselves.
Mrs Nanda: It’s because of the system, Your Excellency.  Change the system.  What do we know about the people?  We live in air-conditioned palaces.  We travel in air-conditioned vehicles.  Have you ever seen a poor man like this [points at Beggar], your Excellency?  Have you felt the pulse of his veins?  Have you experienced the love that flows in his blood?  Have you ever stopped to touch a person with love?  Even to smile at a person with concern?  What did we do?  We made economy the basis of everything.  Money, money, money.  What about relationships?  This is the parivartan that is needed, Your Excellency.  Build a system founded on relationships. 
Beggar: [elated] Hurrah!  There’s someone with sense in here!  Listen to her, Your Ex – Ex – lens.  Listen to her.  Throw away your shiny robes and golden crown.  Get out of this stuffy room that smells of foul air.  Go to the open fields and listen to the birds chirruping.  See the sun shining and the moon beaming.  Stand in the falling rain or jump into the gliding river.  And then clean the earth.  Clean it of all the filth that your old system created.  Wash away the greed.  Then there will be a new earth beneath our feet, and a new heaven above our heads. 
Mrs Nanda: A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH.  Yes, Your Excellency.  That’s parivartan.  A new heaven, and a new earth.
King:    Yes, I want a new heaven and a new earth.  [Taking off his crown and handing it to one of the soldiers] I want parivartan.  And I start it with myself.  I am going to be the change that I want to see in the country. 
Mrs Nanda: Thank you, Your Excellency.  Here, today, at this moment, let us begin the parivartan.  This is the moment of a new beginning.  The beginning of a new era in this country.  Let us celebrate this new beginning with a song.  I’m sure, you, Mrs Pandey, will be happy to join me in this song, I’d like to build the world a home.  I’m sure, your Excellency, that you, and all of you gentlemen, would like to join in.  Please do.


I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land

That's the song I hear
Let the world sing today
A song of peace
That echoes on
And never goes away

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company






Curtain falls slowly as the song ends.

Acknowledgement: This play was inspired by THE BEGGAR AND THE KING (a play in one act) by Winthrop Parkhurst.  

2 comments:

  1. It is a beautifully written play and a mighty satire that spares none from its sweep. The end is Utopian, however, apt for an Annual Day function of a school. The characters, theme and language are just perfect and very, very impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, Umashankar, the end is too idealistic. As you say, I kept the audience in mind: school children and their parents.

    Thanks for the appreciation.

    ReplyDelete

Historical Distortions

18 th century French naturalist the Comte de Buffon wrote that the people of America had small and feeble sex organs so much so the...