Sangam Playhouse






COMBAT – A Comedy of Terror

A Play by



The entire dramatic text. Please contact the author (rramu.ramu@gmail.com) for rights to perform, publish or use this text in any form.




COMBAT – A Comedy of Terror

 

Silence, signifying nothing.

 

Even as the audience is settling down, there are by-standers who pass-by a statue. The mandatory cleaner who dusts him. And so on.

 

Finally the statue is alive.

 

SCENE 1

 

The Statue:

I’m a statue. But I’m not a real statue. Not that I aspire to be one. Perish the thought. It is such an immobile, inactive sort of profession. And yet, here I am from head to toe. Occupational hazard being what it is, I have no better place to go. In fact they have specified my present location at an appropriate spot of honour. Right next to the Shulabh Shauchalaya. Oooooh.

 

Have any of you given any thought to statues, especially in this country. Mahatma Gandhi has the maximum number of busts in this country. One per district. The district may have little else, no health centres, no school. But a statue of Gandhiji is a must. And if not a statuette, then there is at least one street in each town named after him. And if not Gandhiji, it must be Ambedkar, or Lal Bahadur Shastri or Subash Chandra Bose or Periyar … depending on which part of the country the statue is installed. Hmmmm. Strange as it may seem, there are very few statues of Nehru. Only photographs. Smart man. That way he prevents desecration from passers-by. Which is more or less my fate. I mean god forbid if a complete nobody like me becomes a statue. People use you for a variety of purposes which range from sleeping, wiping their snot, cleansing the cow-dung from the sole of their slippers, propping the shamiana of their tea-shop, writing crude messages of love … Actually, the list is endless. In short, the humiliation is complete. That’s why I maintain, we lack a sense of history. I mean, would you find the Italians urinating on their Michelangelos or the French making funny faces at Cezanne. Not a chance. Hmmm. Ah, history.

 

SONG (with chorus, dance and flourish)

 

I can’t say when Columbus sailed

To find the United States!

I don’t know when Shivaji was hailed

(You see, I’m not good at historical dates)

If you say ‘Raja Chola’ to me

The answer in my gullet sticks,

And when you mention Gandhi at Dandi – ha!

My head starts to spin, and I’m in a fix.

 

Can anyone’, the Class Teacher asks,

Tell me when Ravana’s Lanka was burnt?’

Well, there you are, you know! That’s just

Another thing I haven’t learnt.

The Battle of Panipat?’ Oh, not for me!

The Jalianwallah Baug?’ I’ve seen the pics

And when I’m asked ‘Who Phirozeshah Mehta?’

I furrow my brows and get into a fix

 

I’m clear that Vijaynagar had a big empire

But did it perish?’ through war or fire!

When did Ashoka at Kalinga create a big bang.

Again! Instead of an answer my heart has a pang.

Washed out by the historic floods,

Mohen-ja-daro sank with its bricks

Oh dear, oh dear, why does history

Always put me in such a fix???

 

Anyways, so here I am rubbing my sole on the same spot day-after-day. And no one is concerned about me. My friends, my family, my wife. Ssssh. Yes, at this precise juncture, my wife is in the neighbouring room watching TV. Oh yeah, she is a big-time TV buff. Her wakeful life is dedicated to the TV. She knows the weekly TV schedule by heart. She mouths lines from her favourite show. She is totally hooked. At times, she watches four-five channels simultaneously. When I ask her why she surfs incessantly, she replies that switching channels is the only way she can stay abreast with what is happening. Hmmm.

 

If one presupposes that there are 500 channels, a thing our cable-wallah is promising, it would take a human being 49 minutes just to scan through each of them. Imagine. And perhaps our cable bill would exceed our monthly mortgage payments. And all that time and money for what. Daily soaps, weekly soaps, and MYTHOLOGIES. It’s a heady concoction. There’s just no logic. We are becoming a nation of schizophrenics. In the evening: sex & debauchery. And in the mornings, it is prayer & piety. It is a heady formula: religion and sex!

 

But let that be. JAI SRI KRISHNA! Please teach this humble servant the subtle art of manipulating women. Arre, forget 16,108 wives … give me advise about one. Oh Krishna, I simply cannot manage my wife. She is … too difficult. For her life is one TV Drama. A daily soap, a weekly thriller … sssssh … here she comes …

 

A whoosh. A buzz. A nubile-young wife woman enters with a REMOTE CONTROL.

 

Wife:

Ah, there you are …

 

Statue:

SCENE 1. THE SCOLDING BY THE SULLEN SPOUSE … IN THE HOUSE.

 

Wife:

… day-dreaming and yak-yakking to yourself again instead of working harder and moving into the six-figure bracket … you know, they should make day-dreaming, the official national hobby of this country.

 

Statue:

SCENE 2. THE INITIATION & INTRODUCTION OF THE SPOUSE.

 

Wife:

Get on with it.

 

Statue:

Look how pretty she looks. How motherless & sisterless, brotherless & childless, odourless & noiseless, characterless & tasteless.

 

Wife:

Today is my wedding anniversary.

 

Statue:

Our wedding anniversary.

 

Wife:

When will things improve? Oh, will my search for a high-quality, first-class husband ne’er yield results?

 

Statue:

I’m her third husband.

 

Wife:

And the search continues. My first husband – he was the best – is dead. He lost his money when his bank went bankrupt. My second husband ran away with my mother … And so, by nature, wives are solitary. Like the virginal banshee.

 

Statue:

Except, they cannot sing. Nor are they virginal.

 

Wife:

We like to breathe. And we like to breed.

 

Statue: For copulation is pristine. And babies are conceived through sacred reproduction.

 

Statue:

SCENE 3. A BIT OF SILENCE. ALSO KNOWN AS THE SCENE OF CONTEMPLATIVE CALM …

 

Wife:

Is that enough?

 

Statue:

What?

 

Wife:

Nothing.

 

Statue:

Strange, I thought you said something.

 

Wife:

No!

 

Statue:Ah.

 

Wife:

Oh.

 

STATUE:

SCENE 4. OH BABY, I WANT A BABY

 

Wife:

(a beat)

I think, I want to have babies.

 

Statue:

What!

 

Wife:

I want to get pregnant.

 

Statue:

Perhaps later. Not when so many people are hearing.

 

Wife:

Don’t you want to be a father? Ever.

 

Statue:

It’s not that.

 

Wife:

Then….

 

Statue:

The idea of having all those babies and bringing them into such a nation. The entire notion … it is horribly frightening.

 

Wife:

Why should you be frightened, I’ll be delivering the babies?

 

Statue:

Yes. But I mean… how-how will I be able to support them. Imagine, those hungry mouths to feed. Then there’s their housing, schooling, clothing and what not.

 

Wife:

O dear oh dear … everyone is delivering babies. Manasi. Kkusum. Tulsi. Parvati. Etc …

 

Statue:

Who are they? Your girl-friends?

 

Wife:

Ooooof. Your GK is so poor. These are people on TV!

 

Statue:

SCENE 5. An EXQUISITE ELUCIDATION ABOUT EXISTENCE.

Breath-in- Breath-out! Repeat. Breath-in- Breath-out! Repeat.

 

Wife:

Oh, stop it. Tell me, what has breathing to do with us?

 

Statue:

SCENE 6. THE GENESIS OF AN ARGUMENT.

Look at you, you want us to breed a family of one lakh and one. That means, according to my rough calculation, that by the time I become a grand-father, I’ll have a billion grand-children. How can I provide for them with my meagre returns. I mean, forget food supplies, how am I to remember their names, their birth-days …

 

Wife:

So? Does that mean you plan to remain childless all through your living life… Do you realise what Manasi. Kkusum. Tulsi. Parvati. Etc will have to say about it …

 

Statue:

Lets not rush-things up. How about giving it further thought?

 

Wife:

I hope you realise, I’ll soon be past the baby-bearing age.

 

Statue:

Yes, I know that…

 

Wife:

(jumps up-and-down)

OH YEAH SO WHAT U GONNA DO ABOUT IT. SO WHAT U GONNA DO ABOUT IT

 

Statue:

But can’t you see, I’m trying to do my best.

 

Wife:

Oh yeah?

 

Statue:

Yeah-Yeah

 

Wife:

(sulks)

Oh I see.

 

Statue:

SCENE 7. A COMPROMISE OF SORTS FOR THE SAKE OF FREEDOM FROM STRIFE. Ok, so what do you want me to do?

 

Wife:

Become a big man, earn a living. Move into the six-figure bracket

 

STATUE:

SCENE 8. SOME MORE SILENCE. ALSO KNOWN AS THE SCENE IN WHICH MATTERS ARE BEING MULLED …

 

Statue:

It’s too much of a responsibility.

 

Wife:

What’s that you said? Are you whining about life? Again? So you are wallowing in self-pity? Again?

DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND I WANT A BABY …

 

Statue:

SCENE 9. THE THROWING IN OF THE TOWEL.

Ok, so what do you want me to do?

 

Wife:

ANYTHING. I want to be better than Manasi. Kkusum. Tulsi. Parvati. Etc. I want o be much-more well-known than Manasi. Kkusum. Tulsi. Parvati. Etc.

 

Statue:

SCENE 10. Divine Intervention. His Master’s Voice.

 

THE BAGOOLA BHAGATS ENTER AND CHANT …

 

Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow-Pretty-Rainbow.

Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow-Pristine-Rainbow.

 

You need a rainbow to earn a superior livelihood

You need a rainbow if you prefer caviar instead of food

You need a rainbow when you are a geriatric who is alone

You need a rainbow if a presidential suite is your home

Perhaps you won’t feel so forlorn, if you had a rainbow to take home

 

You need a rainbow when you’re driving a brand-new sports-car

You need a rainbow when you discuss deals over scotch at the bar

You need a rainbow to make a million a minute, instead of a buck

These days, you need a rainbow to procure old-fashioned luck.

And if you’re scum of the earth, a rainbow will take you out of the muck

 

You need a rainbow if you want your name for a street

At times, you need a rainbow to stand-on-your-feet

You need a rainbow if you want a high instead of a low

But if your existence is full of woe

Just ignore everything and go, and get your own rainbow.

 

Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow-Pretty-Rainbow.

Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow-Pristine-Rainbow.

 

Wife:

Listen to me, carefully. This is a golden opportunity. A MEGA-OFFER to find a pretty-pristine rainbow. This is bigger than KBC … KKK … Thank heavens. I was sick-and-tired of dialling those stupid numbers. Now, we’ve a personalised invite to the hugest game-show in town … and you’re going to be the winner.

 

Statue:

How?

 

Wife:

Run after the rainbow, and get to the end. Once there, you’re bound to come across a treasure cache. It will contain fortune and wealth. Our prayers shall be answered. We shall be rich famous. I can stop wearing sarees from Nellis and you can fritter away your time reading India Today & Outlook.

 

Statue:

I prefer Kabir.

 

Wife:

Whatever. Just find the treasure trunk. OK?

 

Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow.

Ignore everything and go get your Rainbow.

Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow-Rainbow.

Ignore everything and go get your Rainbow.

 

Wife extols the Statue to leave, and so, the man begins his search for the rainbow.

 

Music.

 

SCENE 2

 

Blustery weather.

 

The man is perched on a ladder searching for a rainbow with binoculars, etc. Men at war. They enter to an army-beat. They look de-motivated and dispirited.

 

Bum-Bum-Bum

Bum-Bum-Bum

 

Chief:

Combatants, companions, numskulls of the Pacifist Regiment. We are at war. A crusade. A battle of wits. A combat for what is right. All right? This is not just any war. It’s critical to the future of the nation. Our homeland. The land of our birth. ATTENTION.

 

Everyone stands-up in spite of the cold and frost.

 

Chief:

Stand-at-ease. Ah, softly. Or else I’ll cancel your subsidy on the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana. So bear in mind, ours is a clandestine operation. In fact it’s most undercover, underground and covert of maneuvers. Concealment and confidentiality are of utmost importance. No one knows we are here. Not even our Regiment HQ, not even the flora and fauna and leaves and grass … and even the clams. Yes, clams, since we have to be as secretive as a clam. We have to maintain top secrecy, since its critical to the future of the nation. Our homeland. The land of our birth. ATTENTION.

 

Everyone stands-up.

 

Chief:

ONE-TWO-THREE. FACE THE NORTH-WEST. AIM.

Longitude 33. Latitude 43. FIRE!

 

Everyone consults their compasses, and shoots in random directions.

 

Chief:

Combatants, companions, numskulls of the Pacifist Regiment. That’s good, very good. When you don’t know where the enemy is, remember the ageing adage, the Enemy is Everywhere. Stand-at-ease. It’s time for a break. It’s time for a moving, stirring, heart-rending war story. Anyone.

 

A dim-witted … Man 3 stands-up stiffly. He narrates a war story in an alien language. There’s silence. Man 1 applauds. Others follow.

 

Chief:

Anyone else?

 

A slow-on-the-uptake … Man 5 stands-up stiffly. He narrates a war story in an alien language. There’s silence. Man 1 applauds. Others follow.

 

Chief:

Most exquisite … hmm, this chronicle transpires near the Indus and is about Mahmud Ghazni. Is that accurate?

 

Man 5 interjects, gesticulates and waves arms.

 

Chief:

In this tremendous, prodigious war story, after Ghazni crossed the Khyber Pass, he plundered & looted, and carried-out his conquest of the lands. Year after year, Ghazni swept through the plains of the sub-continent, capturing castles and destroying down temples and idols, earning himself the title of Ghazni, the Idol-Breaker.

 

Man 5 interjects, gesticulates and waves arms.

 

Chief:

In all his battles, besides his own troops, Ghazni was abetted by Jats and Meds and Hillmen. And Ghazni’s Core Committee constituted of Brahman Advisors and Kshatriya Chieftans and Inventive Baniyas. Ghazni called these folks, the Naturally Dim-witted Alliance. Mind you, all that The Naturally Dim-witted Alliance shared in common with Ghazni was a percentage of the treasury, inside information about imminent scams, and a laal batti on their chariot. Which goes to show, that power is a heady business. And there is no such thing as principles.

 

Man 4 stands-up stiffly. He narrates a funny story in an alien language. There’s silence. Man 1 applauds. Others follow.

 

Chief:

Ah, for this one, we go to the Court of Ghazni. This Court was adorned with scholars, specialists and even poets. All civilians, as you can well imagine. Among this lot was a poet: Firdausi, the Persian Homer, in whose Shah Nama, the heroes of old Persian legend live forever. Is that correct?

 

Man 4 interjects, gesticulates and waves arms.

 

Chief:

Anyway, Ghazni and The Naturally Dim-witted Alliance promised Firdausi, Sixty Thousand Pieces of Gold for penning an epic, which could be tabled at the Convention of the International Mahasabha. Instead because of a faulty budget, they could present Firdausi, with Sixty Thousand Pieces of Silver. This enraged Firdausi and he spurned the Pieces of Silver, throwing it loftily among the menials.

 

Man 4 interjects, gesticulates and waves arms.

 

Chief:

And instead Firdasui rewarded, Ghazni and The Naturally Dim-witted Alliance’s kindness and support with a scathing satire. Hmmm. This was the beginning of a literary category known as GENUS IRRITABLUS or DESHUS DHROHUS. Since that day, Wise Rulers have stopped trusting poets, intellectuals and other non-patriotic persons.

 

Man 5 interjects, gesticulates and waves arms. On cue, a crackle is heard on the wireless. Everyone stands-up sharply.

 

Chief:

Pandora’s Box here … Over. Crops … B7 hybrid seeds … one more girl-child??? That’s the 11th one. Oh no. Ha-Ha. It’s the wife! KAEMO NACHE? KI BHALLO? (rest of the dialogue in BENGALI) Good day. How did you get through our secret transmission wireless code? Over and out!!!

 

Chief:

… What’s that you say? Eh? … (he attentively listens) … Long live Ram Rajya. Glory to the Nehru Model. Power to the Adi Shudras. Victory to the Bali Raja. Over and out.

 

Man 1 does a fantastic dance along with the others.

 

Chief

My dear … Combatants, companions, numskulls of the Pacifist Regime. According to available reports, we have advanced into enemy territory by … (pulls-out a shortish foot-ruler) … by 3 centimetres. No-no, 2.7 centimetres precisely. This is a great conquest. A true triumph. All the people in the nation are speaking about our gallantry. Lets praise ourselves. Lets heil our troupe.

 

VICTORY DAY SONG

 

Happy Victory Day … to Us

Happy Victory Day to Us

Happy Victory Day … Dear Pacifist Regiment

For what … we wish we knew

For what … we wish we knew

 

War – its ideals are ingrained in our glorious genes

And why not. For war’s – the world’s only hygiene

Miltarism, patriotism, nationalism and heroism

Are noble ideas to die for, instead of humanism

We will destroy homes, museums, libraries and academies

And we will fight peace-mongerers, and utilitarian cowardice

 

Happy Victory Day … to Us

Happy Victory Day to Us

Happy Victory Day … Dear Pacifist Regiment

For what … we wish we knew

For what … we wish we knew

 

Pause.

Just then, a bulbous balloon floats into their space.

 

Chief:

It’s a balloon … with seditious material!

 

Chief:

My friend in the neighbouring ward, Anthony Gonsalves, told me about it. Hmmm. Earlier they used to brain-wash us, by sending smoke signals and pigeons. But I see that with consolidation and economic development, they are using technologically superior strategies.

 

The balloon settles down. The Chief starts to read.

 

Pause.

 

Chief:

The horror of it. This says, that according to the Manusmriti, along with the practise of SATI by women, there existed the Hush-Hush Act of SATO by men. Ah-Ha. They are trivializing our existence.

 

Pause.

 

Chief:

War! Full-fledged, covert war!

 

The Statue enters singing the refrain from the RAINBOW song. The soldiers run away.

 

Chief:

(dives for cover)

… who is that … a friend or foe …

 

Statue:

… move out of my way … the rainbow … the rainbow …

 

Chief:

Eh, what?

 

Statue:

Would you, by chance know the way to the next rainbow … on the horizon?

 

Chief:

(recovers)

Combatants, companions, numskulls of the Pacifist Regiment, arrest this man. He is a treacherous secret agent. He is an ace enemy mole. Handcuff him.

 

Statue:

No, but … I’m only searching for the end of the rainbow.

 

Chief:

Ah, he’s part of Operation Rainbow!!!

 

Statue:

You’re mistaken … it’s just that my wife wants me to procure the treasure cache at the end of the rainbow …

 

Chief:

I see, you plan to plunder and loot the national treasure. But my dear chap, we had received information about your activities from our remote-sensor tracking satellites. No one can pilfer the nine metre beard and two metre moustache of the Supreme Monarch of the Land. No should know that our Wise & Doddering Leader has a Jaipur Leg. Or else, we will become a laughing stock. Everyone will say that Our Wise & Doddering Leader cannot stand on his own feet. No one can steal the samples of Holy Theorems from the Holy Shrine, which contains the Holy Formula to manufacture Holy-Bombs.

 

By now the Statue (who is blubbering quite futilely) is arrested and gagged.

 

Chief:

Sir, you’re now a Prisoner of War. Your rights are according to the Geneva Convention. We seek your co-operation. That way, we won’t have to torment & torture you.

 

On cue, a crackle is heard on the wireless.

Everyone stands-up sharply.

 

Chief:

Sir … we have made a strategical break-through in our operation. We have captured, the most dangerous, the most dodgy, the most diabolical, secret agent, whose secret name is: DEEP DAS GUPTA.

 

Statue reacts to this bit of information.

 

Chief:

Oh, thank you, sir … (to the boys) I’ve got a promotion. Some more badges on my chest. Yippppeee … and free passes to the Navy Ball every year …. Yippppeee … Over and out. Sir!

 

Pause.

 

Statue tries to speak.

 

Chief:

What?

 

Statue:

(muffled sounds)

 

Chief:

OK. Under the Geneva Convention, I’ll permit you to speak a few words. But make sure you do not utter another poem.

 

Statue:

Firstly, I request you to release me.

 

Chief:

Denied! Next!

 

Statue:

I was thinking … you know … about this war. Why don’t you settle your conquests with a differently. You know, you can use, wrestling or head-butting or some such quasi-dueling which is common in Eskimo society. Or better still, you can even have a song duel. A kind of Antakhsri. That way even the public are involved in the war. They can applaud and cheer. The victor can be the team with the majority support. At the moment, we – the public – have no clue about the comings-and-goings of war. And so, you guys have all the fun. That’s so unfair. After all, we are law-abiding tax-payers …

 

Chief:

Ah-Ha. He mocks us with his pseudo-chatter. This won’t do. It just won’t. Ah-Ha.

 

Everyone hears attentively. And then Chief breaks into the army song.

 

ARMY SONG

 

War’s a thing I’ve begun to find

A critical faculty of the mind

Bum-Bum-Bum-

Bum-Bum-Bum-

 

I seem to have this empirical gift

If you get my spiel, my basic drift

I pooh-poohed the philosophy of Nietzche

So that I could remain fighting fit

Today – I’m superior to the best of men

Because of my analytical acumen

 

Gentlemen, Gentlemen

Pay heed to my superior acumen

 

Peace-Peace-Peace

Peace-Peace-Peace

One thing in the world

The army cannot appease

 

Now, peace they say is a curious thing

It has no bite, no lethal sting

According to Supreme Emperor His Holiness Ming

It sucks out your breath, and crushes your zing

The seeds of peace have caused great grief

And so, I’ll combat it as an army chief

 

To do a good deed

To do a good deed

In the avtaar of

- army chief

 

So here I’m with my benumbed feet

Which march in time, which match the beat,

So arise my soldiers, Ye eaters of meat

Off with your stupor, out of your seats

 

Bum-Bum-Bum

Bum-Bum-Bum

Fight this peace

With all your DUM!!!

With all our Dum!!!

With all our Dum!!!

 

Chief:

My knights of the night, from hereon we must be very careful. We must commit to memory the occurrences of June 28th 1914. Yes-sirs, on that fateful day, Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire arrived with his wife Sophie in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovnia, Sarajevo. His visit, which was a show of strength to the rebellious Serb Nationalists was cut shot by a bullet from the gun of an idealistic Gavril Prindip who assassinated the Archduke and his wife. Hmmm. THEY say THAT event led to a series of events, no one knows why, and finally to WORLD WAR I and later to … WORLD WAR II.

 

But as all of us know there was no such thing as WORLD WAR II. Yesssirs! That WORLD WAR II was a figment of the imagination of the English Media. WORLD WAR II was a creation of the Parliamentarians and Democrats. WORLD WAR II was a concoction of the various Commissions & Committees. Today, it is a well-known fact that it was THE AFORE-MENTIONED who gave WORLD WAR II such a bad name. BEWARE! We must remember the lessons from the past, which is a great fornicator. Attention.

 

Chief:

You may be seated. Ha-Ah. But not for long. In a short time, we have to cross the Rubicon; cut the Gordian Knot; evolve the Sho Plan with total annihilation, decimation and destruction of the enemy. More power to the future of the nation. Our homeland. The land of our birth. ATTENTION.

 

Everyone stands-up.

 

Chief:

ONE-TWO-THREE. FACE THE NORTH-WEST. AIM.

Longitude 33. Latitude 43. FIRE!

 

Everyone consults their compasses, and clumsily shoots in random directions. Most undesirably, they shoot at each other. The Statue raises his head and collapses. And dies a heroic death.

 

STATUE:

And so, I’m dead. Right here. Bulls-eye. And if you look carefully, this is a curious-curious spot. It’s bang in the centre of no man’s land. That’s right … no man’s land. It does not belong to any country. (he moves to the left). So this is our side. (he moves to the right). And now, this is their side. (repeats move) Ha-Ha. Our side. Their side. Isn’t this fun? Big fun? This side. That side. And that side. This side … ho-ho … crossing over boundaries, stepping over lines, hopping over borders. It’s a little game we play in our childhood. “what are you doing, my child” – “I’m jumping over the line.” – “and why are you jumping over the lines?” – “because otherwise, the wicked crocodile will eat me.”

 

Strange as it may seem, I had a friend who played this game. He was wordly-wise. At the end of his life-time he was always on the run. Crossing over boundaries. Stepping over lines. Hopping over borders. It became a compulsive habit with him, every time he saw a line, he jumped over it. Sometimes single-handedly, sometimes with an air-ticket, sometimes just for the fun of it. It became an obsession with him, to cross every line he saw. Finally, they tell me, he died in an airport lobby, suffering from jet-lag. Completely mystified by the change of time. Hmmm.

 

Freeze Tableau.

SCENE 3

 

The corpse of The Statue strikes a stoic pose on a stool. The two crows arrive caw-cawing and sing a refrain of the song:

 

Caw-Caw. Caw-Caw. …

 

1:

Caw-Caw. So here we are. Here we are. On top of this brittle, wintry glacier. Ooooh. Where’s the said “body”? Hmmm. Here it is.

 

2:

It’s so icy and cold. I wonder why this chap had to die on top of a glacier, which is unapproachable. I mean all said and done, we – crows – are temperate-climate birds. They should depute someone else for such assignments …

 

1:

How can they? That would be sacrilegious. After all, aren’t we the dead ancestors of this deceased person, eh? I’m greater than the greatest of his great grandfathers. I died a heroic death on the battlefield in Kalinga? An arrow, laced with scorpion-poison penetrated my chest. Instant death.

 

2:

And I’m the greatest of his great grandfather. I died at Panipat. TB and pneumonia. Don’t you remember?

 

1:

Of course I do. After all, I attended to your death. Attending to the dead has been my only worthwhile profession in the after-life. An ancient ritual, handed-down from century to century, which I’ve performing like a pro …

 

2:

But surely, we cannot be despatched for every errand? Do you know, I’ve been doing over-time for the past three weeks.

 

1:

Ah, relax my friend. After all, the moment, the spirit exits the body, our arrival is augured, so to speak. You know, I had once posed this query to Shah Alam, and he replied … caw caw. “from Delhi to Palam / is the realm of Shah Alam / from Siberia to Hind / you will have to eat a pind.”

 

2: That’s the other thing I hate about this job. Eating those pinds. Remember what happened during the Indo-Sino War, I single-handedly ate a ten-thousand-and-one pinds. And each-and-every pind was made of puffed second-rate, low-grade rice from Deccan.

 

1:

That’s why I keep telling you to develop a bit of class consciousness. Did you know, Krishna Menon used basmati rice for the generals in the Indo-China War. And they served kheer-payasam for the pinds of the colonels and captains … it was super. Slightly fattening, but delicious.

 

2:

But that’s a rare exception. Generally speaking, ever since man discovered rice, we have had to endure it. I mean why should we have pinds made of rice … instead of say, wheat and barley … or for that matter paratha churma with paneer palak and mango pickles … eh???

 

1:

It’s a good idea. Slightly revolutionary. But good …

 

2:

(jumps up-and-down)

So what we gonna do about it? What we gonna do about it?

 

1:

Perhaps at the next AGM, I can table this proposal. I could say that if the human-race wants a better after-life, or reunion with their dead ancestors, then we need 5 extra cls, t.a., and a re-worked menu for the pind perhaps we can even include choclate souffle for family get-togethers at funerals …

 

2:

(jumps up-and-down)

Meanwhile what we gonna do about it? What we gonna do about it?

 

1:

Caw-Caw. Meanwhile … I hereby certify that this thing – this greater than the greatest of my great grandsons – is dead and can now be officially addressed as a “body”. Caw-Caw.

 

Statue:

(groggily)

What? It’s so strange but why is the body described as “the body”? I mean one moment, I was a living embodiment, the next I’ve been baptised as a body.

 

1:

Caw-Caw. This greater than the greatest of my great grandsons speaks.

 

2:

Caw-Caw. Mr persona non grata speaks.

 

Statue: A moment ago, I was alive and I had a name.

 

1:

Caw-Caw. And now, you’re dead. We crows call it: a reward for living. Caw-Caw.

 

2:

Caw-Caw. Life’s last practical joke. The thing no one can survive. Caw-Caw.

 

Statue:

I’m dead and a body with no name. So strange.

 

1:

True-true. You humans are so uncaring with your epitaphs.

 

Statue:

Who are you? I cannot see you? Where am I? Can you see me? Are you the god of death?

 

2:

Ah, questions, questions, questions. It’s a nasty habit, which began during the middle ages and will continue till its dying day.

 

Statue:

But what-we-gonna-do. I mean, what-you-gonna-do …

 

All:

Gonna-do-gonna-do!!!

 

THE CAW-CAW SONG

 

Exciting-sexciting, the famous words in writing

Others desire living, but we prefer dying

Caw-Caw. Caw-Caw

 

Capitalism & Socialism & Anarchism & Feudalism & Trivialism-ism & Ridiculous-ism,

This ism &, that ism & instead of ism-ism-ism-ism. We prefer fatalism-ism.

 

Exciting-sexciting, the famous words in writing

Others desire living, but we prefer dying

Caw-Caw. Caw-Caw

 

Government & Parliament & Law Enforcement & Increment & House Rent & Capital Punishment

The gent in power never says what is meant. You buy dreams but he sells death

 

Exciting-sexciting, the famous words in writing

Others desire living, but we prefer dying

Caw-Caw. Caw-Caw

 

Heer-Ranjha, Romeo-Juliet, Samson-Delilah, Majnu-Laila, and Ophelia

May have been in love. But ultimately … they were victims of necrophilia

 

Exciting-sexciting, the famous words in writing

Others desire living, but we prefer dying

Caw-Caw. Caw-Caw

 

Statue:

What happens now?

 

1:

We don’t know and we don’t care. Initially, it disturbed us, profoundly, that we were present at almost every battle-field. But now, we relish our job. It gives us a certain kind of job-satisfaction. From pre-historic battles to thermo-nuclear wars. From the Incas to Chandragupta Maurya. Hey, wait a sec … was Chandra a Gupta or a Maurya? As you can see, the past is sooooo fascinating, you know. And we prefer to live in it. It’s our philosophy of life. Ha-Ha. The dead rule the living. The past dictates the present, and the future does not stand a chance. Our best section in the newspaper is the obituary. The best smell emanates from corpses. And black is our favourite colour. No prizes for guessing, why!!! Meanwhile till the arrival of the said pind, we are “pinned” down, here.

 

2:

Caw-Caw-Caw.

 

1:

Did you know, greater than the greatest of my great grandsons, you must be thankful for the honour and fame bestowed on you, posthumously.

 

Statue:

Honour and fame …

 

2:

Caw-Caw-Caw.

 

1:

If it was not for the war, nobody in our family would have gained honour and fame? In peacetime, our family was a mess. Running around trying to make ends meet. It took a war to bring out the best in us.

 

2:

Caw-Caw-Caw.

 

1:

Let me tell you, no war in the world would have been complete without someone in our family having died a valiant and honourable death. Our family gave war, a definitive edge. Just think about it. There’s a stupid skirmish in one remote corner of the world. How does this skirmish make a name for itself. Not because the army has fearless and efficient soldiers. I mean like it or not, all armies have fearless and efficient soldiers … the difference is us, and our family! And our willingness to die during a war!

 

2:

Caw-Caw-Caw.

 

1:

Actually, war and peace, are the same. Murder and rioting. A few rapes for good measure. Black-markets and unemployment and governmental deceit. But there’s one difference between war and peace … the honour and the glory of a war is missing …

 

2:

Caw-Caw-Caw.

 

1:

… and all that work during peacetime, when you know you’re not even going to be paid a hefty commission at the end of it. Eh? It’s just not worth the trouble. Why be a hero without rewards …

 

2: Caw-Caw-Caw.

 

 

1:

Wait-wait-wait. I’ve got a message on my pager. I’m wanted in Kathmandu. Big-time killings. That makes me ravenous, if you get my meaning. OK. Bye.

 

2:

Caw-Caw-Caw. Arre, wait-wait-wait. What a coincidence. I’ve got a message on my pager, too. I’m wanted in Jaffna. Even bigger killings. Travelling to Sri Lanka makes me Ravan-ous , if you get my meaning. OK. Bye

 

Statue:

What about me?

 

1:

You must stay on guard. Stay pind-up for the occasion.

 

2:

You die only once, you know.

 

1:

So pay heed. When the pind arrives, please courier it to us. We are busy. This is our visiting card. Soon, you too can join us, for all of eternity.

 

2:

And in eternity, we will keep writing & re-writing war stories. After all, the future is so uncertain. And so, the wars of the past remains our best preoccupation. It pinds one’s faith in the tomorrow, in perpetuity, in infinity …

 

The two crows exit …

Caw-Caw-Cawing and sing a refrain of the song:

Caw-Caw. Caw-Caw …

 

Statue:

Oh, I see. So this is the end. And … and I can no longer see a thing. Ah, and I was having such a great day!!! A great day. What’s that? A riddle? A trick question? Right now, I’m unsighted. Can’t make out if it is day or night. Completely escapes me. Day, if you like it that way. No sun, of course. And the light, shall I describe the light. There’s been a distinct improvement from the past. Obviously, the dust is all around. You know, the usual brimstone. It’s all the same. So much like the past. We ate dal-chaawal then, we eat dal-chaawal now. Nothing has changed. Oh dear, I’m already beginning to sound like them …

 

The Ghost of Babur enters with a compass in his hand.

 

Statue:

(screams)

OW! What is this …

 

GOB:

Salam-Wallikom, you know this compass, it has betrayed me then and it seems to be defective even now …

 

Statue:

Who are you …

 

GOB:

I’m the fifth in descent from the great Timur dynasty. I’m said to be a Moghal with Mongoloid features and a Turkish language with a mix of Central Asian Tribal traits that has Afghan nuances, which originate from an ancestral hometown in Samarkand. The name is Babur.

 

Statue:

You mean, Emperor Babur!

 

GOB: Yes-yes, the same. Soldier & statesman, poet & man of letters, emperor & fugitive … of course, right now a ghost … oh damn, this compass will be the death of me. Oooops, I’m already dead. Do you know anything about compass repair?

 

Statue: Well … er … let me have a look …

 

GOB:

Here. Handle this compass with care. For this defective compass, changed the course of history. You know, in 1513, according to the Roman Catholic calendar, as a compensation for the loss of my dear Samarkand, I embarked on an expedition. I reached the Khyber Pass and then instead of turning left to Russia I made a mistake and turned right into Hindustan. Oh, it was terrible, the mosquitoes, that ridiculous Lodi and the General Hot Weather. Oh, how I yearned for musk melons and the cooling streams of the Afghan Hills.

 

Statue:

What do you mean, turned right? What made you turn right? Shaibani Khan? Badshah Khan?

 

GOB:

No, this defective compass! It showed me the wrong direction. I never wanted to enter Hindustan. I mean have you read my Baburnama, in it I say “ Hindustan is a country that has few pleasures to recommend it. The people are not handsome.” Especially, the men. Look at you, pretty … that is, pretty ordinary. Then I state “Hindustanis are like sheep, who want be lead. They are always yearning for an all-powerful, all-knowing leader who can show them the path. And they show no ingenuity or skill to lead on their own.” Now, you tell me, why would I want to rule such a people? Eh?

 

Statue:

And so, you had your eyes on Russia …

 

GOB:

Yes, and mind you, if I had turned left in 1513, my dynasty would still be reigning over Russia. It would be a glorious empire. Today, instead of Karl Marx, the Russians would be abiding by Omar Khayyam. Instead of Lenin and Stalin it would have been Mullah Nasruddin. Instead of the Politburos, they would have had mushairas. And instead of Moscow, it would be known as Mosque.

 

Statue:

But you did rule India?

 

GOB:

Yeah right! But Hindustan is a tiresome place to rule. Too many intrigues, and too much of indiscipline. Then there are the communities, the castes, the creeds. Bloody complicated, if you ask me. Which is why, nobody could rule Hindustan forever. People came and went. But didn’t you notice, of late, nobody can complete their full term in office. Even Akbar, a good chap with good intentions, I bumped into him the other day, he was attending a talk by D D Kosambi, I asked him what he achieved, other than the manicured gardens, sound economy and the creation of babu-dom. Akbar mumbled something about the Legacy of the Historical Tombs. Hai Toba, those tombs, they were the death of me. For instance, I could never comprehend Shahjahan’s obsession with tombs. When I asked Akbar about it, he said, the people love public monuments. It casts a magical spell on them. Sab Bakwaas Hain. You know, when I was governing the Hindustani People, I had a simple thumb rule, if you want to have power over the people, grant them free subsidies & public holidays. Hindustani People love free subsidies & public holidays. The more the merrier. Are you making any progress with the compass?

 

Statue:

Yes … but everyone speaks of the contribution of the Moghals to the great Indian diaspora!

 

GOB:

That’s all stuff and nonsense. You tell me, besides the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and Bara Handi Wallah Paya what has been our contribution? In fact look at the other side, if I had ruled in Russia, Hindustan would have had no Khayal Gayaki, no Aligarh Muslim University, and no Communist Party of India. That’s what I told Akbar and he told me that mine is a typically Orientalist response. Ah! Never liked the chap, always taking recourse to words. I distrust people who use words. They are very crafty. Say one thing, today. And the exact opposite, tomorrow. That’s why, I prefer Aurangzeb. Saala, he was a man of action. But Nehru did not like him. He preferred Akbar. But what does Nehru know. Did you know, these days he hangs around with Tito.

 

Statue:

Who Akbar …

 

GOB:

…. arre, budhu, what do Akbar and Tito have in common? Pay attention. What I said is, Nehru hangs around with Tito. And Nehru is constantly lamenting if Hindustan will go the Yugoslavian way. And bechara-Tito, he has to tolerate Nehru because Nehru is his scrabble partner. And Nehru is good at scrabble. In fact very good. See, again, something to do with words. Not like Aurungzeb, he is always at the akhara … you know, with Veeru and Adolf …

 

Statue:

Who? Adolf Hitler?

 

GOB:

Much misunderstood and misaligned chap, huh. This Adolf fellow. .

 

Statue:

Really!

 

GOB:

Yes-O-Yes. Sometimes, this Adolf chap and me go out for these long walks. It is good for my health. Otherwise I get chest pains. You know, all that dust I swallowed in Hindustan. And so, during these walks, Adolf told me that the ‘Gas Chambers’ never existed; that the Genocide never really took place. And that, basically, he, Adolf was a good man who merely misunderstood Neitzche and Wagner.

 

Statue:

This is very interesting.

 

GOB:

Right now, the chap is distraught that he is hated and reviled. Poor fellow. He is repenting. He has even turned vegetarian, does not smoke or drink. He has also embraced Art of Living because of this Veeru chap. My Aurungzeb is not like that. He still loves his Gurda and Biryani.

 

Statue:

Yah. Right!

 

GOB:

Arre-Arre. Show me the compass. La-Wilakhuwat. You’ve repaired this thing? I wish I had met you in 1513. I would have appointed you the Tsar in Russia. Good heavens, according to this compass, we are in the Deccan, right now.

 

Statue:

The Deccan? But …

 

GOB:

Oooh, I better return to the north. You know, we Moghals don’t like the south. Too hot, too humid, too hostile. That’s why, we didn’t rule in the south. OK. Khuda Hafeez. Adios Amigo.

 

The Ghost of Babur exits.

The Statue is waving, etc.

On cue, enters The Ghost of Rajaraja, the Chola. Also known as Rajaraja The Great.

 

RC:

… er, excuse please, but was that Babur?

 

Statue:

Yes.

 

RC:

Oh no.

 

Statue:

And who are you?

 

RC:

I’m Rajaraja-I.

 

Statue:

What? Who?

 

RC:

Oh-Oh-Oh. Save this ignorant bumpkin. I Rajaraja-I am the most important ruler of Chola, one of the greatest kings of South India and also known as “Rajaraja the Great”. I, conquered nearly the whole of the present Madras Presidency. Defeated the eastern Chalukyas of Vegi, the Pandyas of Madurai and the Gangas of Mysore. My kingdom extended from Cape in the north to Comorin in the south. I conquered Sri Lanka, the Maldive Islands and Sumatra and other places in Malay Peninsula. And right now, I wish I could have some filter-coffee and Mysore Paak!

 

Statue:

I’m sorry, but I had never heard of you!

 

RC:

Yes, that’s how it is with us “madrasis”. Ignored by the historians, marginalized by the mainstream and mocked by the northerners. That’s why I wanted to settle the issue once for all. I wanted to challenge Babur, to a round of punja. Vanquish him, and prove a point to all those Cow-Belt wallahs. Are you a Cow-Belt wallah?

 

Statue:

No, I wear a leather-belt.

 

RC:

Did you know all the greatest things in this country have emerged from the south? Tamil is the oldest language in the world, older than Greek and Latin and Roman. And the Brihadeshwara temple of Tanjore, it is 180 ft. It is the longest vimana-tower in Asia. But no one knows about it! Arre, did you know, Shakespeare was a Keralite.

 

Statue:

A Keralite …

 

RC:

Yeah, right. Basically a moplah from Kerala. You know, Sheikh Speare. That’s not all. Gautam Buddha may have sat under a tree in Bodh Gaya, but Buddhism proliferated in the south. Even Christ was once seen wandering at Kovalam Beach. They say, Mozart was a disciple of Thyagaraja. Haven’t you noticed, Mozart’s kritis, and sargams, they are 100% identical to Thyagaraja.

 

Statue:

Yeah, right …

 

RC:

Have you heard about the Bhagvata Puranam? No? What-are-you-saying? Arre, there was this nice Chettiar boy of marriageable age, in our village, who interpreted the energy fields in the mantras of the Bhagvata Puranam from which he could manufacture nuclear power. All this, in the 11th century. But has anybody heard of him, No. Why, because he is a Southie! Instead everyone speaks of Enrico Fermi and Heisenberg and Vikram Sarabhai and Homi Bhabha. It really makes my blood boil. No one talks about this Chettiar boy who has done research in modern war-fare. He has a PhD on Samveda. Arre, do you know, if you read a mantra in the Samveda – backwards – you can make the enemy have a head-ache and a tooth-ache and loose motions. And if you skip alternate verses of the Upanishads on the Night of Chitra-Poornima, then your army can remain hungry & thirsty for 30 days at a stretch. Amazing brains, no? I’m planning to speak to Mani Ratnam about it, ask him to produce a commercial film on the subject with Rajani as the Chettiar Boy. Or better still Shekhar Kapur. Yeah, Kapur may be a north-Indian, but he is a first-class north-Indian. When you meet him, he speaks in English. He is not a Delhi-wallah, Hindi Patriot. Frankly, I don’t understand these Delhi-wallah, Hindi Patriots and their language. Especially, all that stuff about Stree Lings and Pu-Lings. YEH MAEZ ACHA HAIN. YEH KURSI ACHI HAIN. Arre, what difference does it make. Is the MAEZ going to wear a safari suit, or for that matter, is the KURSI going to wear a saree? Why waste your time-and-energy on such trivialities. Swami Nataraja, Swami Murugune. Oh Shiv-Ling save us from this Stree-Ling & Pu-Ling!!! Save us from these fellows, who demarcate everything, with their Ling-business. No wonder, they partitoned the land. It’s in their blood. I say, if Mountabatten had asked me how to Partition the land, instead of East-and-West, I would have partitioned it on a North-and-South basis. I mean, like it or not, there’s no difference between people in Karachi and Delhi. Even today, I can imagine Javed Miandad pinching female bottoms in a DTC bus in Karol Bagh. Ayyo. Murugne. Karthikeya. Bhagwati-Maate!

 

Statue:

(jumps up-and-down) So what you gonna do? What you gonna do?

 

RC:

I’m planning to draft a blue-print. A plan of action. This is a conquest to re- conquer Sri Lanka, the Maldive Islands and Sumatra and other places in Malay Peninsula! And I say, why confine ourselves to Land. Later, we can also conquer the High Seas and the Oceans. You tell me, young man, why should we expend our energy nit-picking about a solitary glacier with our foes to the North and West of the Himalayas. I mean, there is so much space down-south, across the border. I’m planning to build a massive 1000 feet diamond temple, under the water. It will be the first diamond temple in the world. And since it will be built with the blessings of the Chola dynasty. Instead of prasadam, we will distribute Chola-Bhatura. What Tambi, understood! Have you written that, down? No? Oh-Oh-Oh. Then write it, and e-mail it to all your friends. Say that Rajaraja-I, the most important ruler of Chola, the greatest kings of South India and also known as Ruler of The Golden Age has returned to re-claim what is rightfully his!!.

 

Statue:

Ok!

 

RC:

Now, I’ve to go. There’s a Kacheri by Madolin Srinivas, before which I’ve to attend an Arangetam. I hope they serve Hot Adais with Coimbatore-Butter. (in Tamil) POEETA VERANE!

 

The Ghost of Rajaraja, the Chola exits.

 

Statue:

I’m confused. This gives a new perspective to all the history that I’ve read. But then, I was not a very attentive reader of history … perhaps I ummm should not errrh read too much into what Emperor Babur said. That would be a grievous error. Or may be he spoke the truth … who knows … perhaps mine is a stereotypical response. But what about Rajaraja Chola, why did he have to have such a confrontationist attitude. That makes me uncomfortable. You know, I er, am all for co-existence. Then again, life on this planet has always been based on the victor’s belief. The superiority of man over every other living being …

 

Even before the Statue can catch his breath, Baburao Jaganrao Patil enters.

 

BP:

What terrific heat. It is as hot as a frying pan. Like hell without a table-fan.

 

Statue:

Who are you? Are you a ghost? Or yet another historical figure? You know, our theatre is replete with them. Ghashiram, Tughlaq, Ashwathama, Spartacus?

 

BP:

Ha-Ha. You’re making a joke like a cook who prepares a broth. Myself, Mr Baburao Jaganrao Patil, Class I Officer in service for 17 years. Myself, did graduation from Tanaji Malusare College, Correspondence Course, Distance Education. So no hanky panky. Everything as white as snow. In my young age, people tormented myself. People very unkind. Jealous of my success. But myself proved them wrong. Myself sparkled like wine. Not that myself drinks wine. Myself to be like icing on the cake, since ice and cake can be eaten by me. But cake without egg. How do you do?

 

Statue:

… Er …

 

BP:

Arre, you must be wondering what brings me here to meet a big man like you. You must be wondering. Correct? Myself to have important message for you. So what was the important message … (rummages through papers in a file, etc) … here it is. Ah. Big problem. Bigger than the Kutubh Minar. Deeper than the Indian Ocean. Taller than a Himalayan Blunder. Now myself read. So don’t daydream. Myself won second prize in elocution in Senior KG on the topic: India Is My Country … In that competition, myself to say India not my country. Ha-Ha. Because India is everybody’s country. Pandit Dubeyji who was the judge for competition gave me bloody standing ovation. Anyway … ah, listen “Influential-Important-Imperative Statue found missing. Stolen and exported to Italy.” So neah. Yet so far. Understood or no. “This is more serious than emergency.” Hmmm. This is disaster, a national tragedy.

 

Statue:

Right!

 

BP:

So this Influential-Important-Imperative Statue needs to be replaced. Urgently. So Special Working Group set-up by Parliamentary Board and they apply Nash equilibrium n-tuple. Very simple. Just a game theory to analyse possible candidates to become Influential-Important-Imperative Statue. Very-very-simple. This takes into account agenda manipulation in legislatures, actions by interest groups, equilibrium strategies. Everything. Perfectly clear, no?

 

Statue:

Yes … but what has all this to do with me?

 

BP:

Bravo! Arre, what a beautiful question. Simply marvellous. Like the seven wonders of the world. Ha-Ha. This has everything to do with your good self. That is the reason myself to be despatched . Immediately. ASAP. Do you know why? Don’t be frightened. Ask why?

 

Statue:

Why?

 

BP:

Arre, another beautiful question. Simply fabulous, stupendous, wonderfulous. You sir, really have a never-ending supply of beautiful questions? You must teach me – hahn – one day to ask such types of questions. So where were you? Yes, why? Because after the data was fed into database and real algebraic manifolds were examined according to Riemannian geometry, parabolic and elliptic equations … not to overlook 2 + 2 … and C isometric embeddings in Euclidean space, it was the unanimous opinion that YOU, yes sir, YOU, will be the Influential-Important-Imperative Statue.

 

Statue:

What? Me? How? When? Where?

 

BP:

So many questions? Arre Baba, at this rate myself will have to purchase an answering machine. Sir, can’t answer all your questions but let myself humbly, modestly, meekly, unassumingly … (good no, myself possess an excellent thesaurus, seventh edition) … so let myself respectfully say this much … there are many complex reasons for you to become the Influential-Important-Imperative Statue … like the many stars in the sky. But myself cannot give the reason to you.

 

Statue:

Why?

 

BP:

National Security.

&n






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