Sangam Playhouse






Thathastu

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.




THE CHARACTERS

ME
PUJARLI ROHRU
BIG MAN
WIFE
GOD / NIKHIL BHAI
Chorus / Voices in the Meeting / Birds

SCENE 1

CHORUS (chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.
So I’ve been told.
And though I did not look forward to being born.
When I was born I was the tenth one.
On the tenth day of the tenth month.
I was born with ten hair on my head.
There were ten incisions on my stomach.
To mark me for life.
Ten times I’ve tried to remove them.
Ten times.
There are ten avtaars.
There are ten planets.
Ten of my teeth have decayed.
And today, there is me.

Fade out.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, don’t. Don’t do it, I say. You’re committing suicide.

Me:
Pujarli Rohru I want to. I have to. It’s pre-ordained. It’s my kismet, my fate.

Pujarli Rohru:
This is mumbo jumbo. They have entranced you with their lies.

Me: Its not lies. This is religion. Pujarli Rohru, you won’t understand. Ever since you ran away to the city, you have forgotten the traditions of our village.

Pujarli Rohru:
I did not run away.

Me:
I’m so nervous. Have you got any betel nuts with you? Tobacco?

Pujarli Rohru:
Here. Listen to me, one last time, are you certain, you want to become a Brahman? You’ve tried to become a Brahman for nine times? You’ve risked your life on this mountain, nine times? Has it changed anything? They won’t let it happen.

Me:
May be the stars were not in their right place, you know.

Pujarli Rohru:
It has nothing to with the stars. These people will not let a pariah like you become a Brahman. Don’t you comprehend? It will disrupt the thousand year old, caste system.

Me:
I like to believe in the power of the stars. Look, at that star. So pretty. A star which has been crossed by another star. How old they appear! Each day, ages them, further. Have you noticed, except humans, we all love to age. Stars, constellations, other worlds, civilisations. All of them playing out their dreams, hallucinations. Ssssh. Can you hear? The fairies, the monstrous rakshasas who float around making a noise. It is the sound of unhappiness. Have you heard, the sound of unhappiness? I heard it in my mother’s womb. And to this day, I’ve hoped for a reincarnation.

Pujarli Rohru:
You’re talking total nonsense. Have you been smoking that rotten stuff, again?

Me:
Below. Down there, I can see the people have gathered.

Pujarli Rohru:
Don’t be swayed. It’s just a tamasha for them. Most of them think it’s time-pass.

Me:
The feasting, ceremonies, the rituals have begun. The offerings have been readied.

Pujarli Rohru:
This little performance is not going to change your pariah status and transform you into a Brahman. Believe me.

Me:
The Big Man is coming. Pujarli Rohru, hide. Over there, lest the Big Man take offence. Big Men are always taking offence.

Pujarli Rohru:
He is not a Big Man. He is a crook, a swindler.

Me:
How can you say that? Just hear the sound of the bells on his feet. Look at the Big Man huffing and puffing with a brilliant presence. His eyes shine like sapphire. His tongue is red. His face glows like a full moon. When he speaks there is silence. Everyone bows their head and listens to the voice.

Pujarli Rohru:
O’ Cock Eyed One, they have hypnotised you. Wake up.

Me:
Hide, Pujarli Rohru. Hide.

A Beat.

Big Man:
(roll of drums, etc)
O Cock Eyed One, you were born. Now you want to be reincarnated.

Me:
Aho! Big Man, Aho!

Big Man:
Reincarnation is not an easy thing to do. The Gods have to be appeased. The Goddesses have to be humoured. These days the Gods are not in good mood. There’s too much of sin. Their priorities have changed. They have to save this race of humans. Do you understand, or like the rest of your stupid clan, are you simply shaking your head?

Me:
Aho! Big Man, Aho!

Big Man:
I’m going to speak to this God. Send him a letter. How do you do and all that! It is not cheap to send letters to God. But you must know that by now. What to do, I’ve to keep reminding you. My job is to remind you. Small man, small brains. Correct, no.

Me: Aho! Big Man, Aho!

Big man:
Pay attention. Today is a big day for you. So help me. After all, I’m your well-wisher. Always have been. Why even when I was born, instead of doing WHA-WHA – I took the name of the Holy One. Even whilst eating, sleeping and defecating, I take God’s name with utter devotion. If you want to be like me, you will have to do the same …

Me:
Aho! Big Man, Aho!

Big Man:
So repeat after me …

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.
So I’ve been told.
And though I did not look forward to being born.
When I was born I was the tenth one.
On the tenth day of the tenth month.
I was born with ten hair on my head.
There were ten incisions on my stomach.
To mark me for life.
Ten times I’ve tried to remove them.
Ten times.
There are ten avtaars.
There are ten planets.
Ten of my teeth have decayed.
And today, there is me.

The chant overlaps into the next scene.
SCENE 2

Rhythmic drumming.

Me:
Aho! So that was that. The Big Man began his dance and prance. The people who gathered were quiet. The dirty-red dust swirled in their eyes, noses, mouths. There was the barking of dogs which sounded like ghosts in a cemetery. In the stillness, I heard the buzz of mosquitos. The Big Man had burnt some herbs on a stick to disperse them. The smoke from this herb was having a curious effect on the people who have gathered. Their shape and sizes are changing. They are becoming more and more deformed. Eyeless. Noseless. Earless. Their expressions and movements are non-human. They seem like a galaxy of strange spirits. Part-human, part spirits. I say spirits because spirits want to be like humans. It is a fact. They want to laugh, cry, get drunk, run around, make love, indulge in human folly.

Big Man:
Wake up! Your eyes are about to open to the new world.

Me:
Aho! Big Man, what is happening? Where have all these spirits come from?

Big Man:
Ha! From here, there, everywhere. They are necessary. Spirits are the messengers of God. The postmen. They will have to say good things about you, if you have to be reincarnated as a Brahman as per the rules of the cosmos. I need some more money. Now.

Me:
Aho! Big Man, money. But I gave you two bundles, last fortnight …

Big Man:
Hrmph. Money should not be a consideration. Money is an obstacle. Paisas and rupiyas are a man-made thing. The Gods are not concerned by it.

Me:
Aho! Big Man, but my wife does not think so.

Big Man:
Your wife? Which one?

Me:
My fifth wife. One day, she returned from praying to the Sacred Rock in the Waterfall. I asked her

Wife:
O Cock Eyed One, I’ve returned from praying to the Sacred Rock in the Waterfall.

Me:
The Big Man says, we must not pray to rocks. It is pagan.

Wife:
Here, have these leaves. I’ve washed them in the Sacred Water of the Waterfall.

Me:
But the Big Man …

Wife:
Fuck your Big Man. He is making a fool of you. He is stealing your money from you, to sustain his ill begotten lifestyle. Here chew this leaf. You will get proper sleep, instead of tossing and turning, and having weird thoughts about becoming a Brahman.

Me:
What’s wrong in becoming a Brahman, ya?

Wife:
O Sacred Rock in the Waterfall, let all our troubles and misery go, and the kingdom of the Bali the King come. Get rid of the Cock Eyed One’s stupid obsession.

Me:
What stupid obsession …

Wife:
This obsession of becoming a Brahman. No, matter how often you try, the Big Men will never let you become a Brahman.

Me:
Says who?

Wife:
Says Bali the King.

Big Man:
(spits)
YEOWHGH. Enough, O Cock Eyed One. How can you utter such profanities? How can such a kingdom arrive on earth, if you praise Bali. Don’t you know, the Holy Texts say Bali is Evil.

Me:
But my fifth wife says …

Big Man:
If you want to be a true Brahman, you’ve to piss and spit on Bali, everyday. Bali is a Rakhasasa.

Me:
Aho! Big Man, Aho!

Gust of wind. Wailing. Loud cries.
SCENE 3

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything. I’m told.
It is time for a celebration.
A Bhunda celebration.
They need 32 lambs.
One brand-new axe to cut their heads.
A cook. A priest. Lots of palm-wine.
Festivity, fun.
And Me …

The chant fades into the background.

Me:
In the distance, trees are being chopped. It’s a strange scene. A man has removed his leg from the knee and is cutting the tree with his foot. A woman is dragging this dead tree with her hair. Children are dancing up-and-down on their heads. A harsh wind is passing through the forest. The trees are weeping. It hurts. The wicked wind wants to steal their roots. It wants to uproot the trees. The spirits like it. They make a lot of noise. They begin to sing silly songs which have no tunes. They speak a language without words. They communicate with the sun and clouds. It becomes dark. Suddenly. Everyone is whispering my name. The trees, even the animals who have discovered speech, the spirits, the Big Man. The people scream my name. I try to run, but my stink chases me. What to do. It is an odour I was born with. Even as I lie on the treetop, balancing my stomach on the stem, Pujarli Rohru is standing beneath the tree. He has come with an earthern pot to hunt for snakes. There’s a hole in the tree. Pujarli Rohru keeps vigil near the hole, reading a book. I say, AHO!

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, why are you on a tree?

Me:
I was sleeping. What are you doing?

Pujarli Rohru:
I’m reading a book. It’s an upper caste book inhabited by upper caste people and called: Bhagwata Purana. This chapter has the story of our King Bali. It says, Monster Vamana who was one of their gods, disguised himself as a beggar and tricked our, King Bali.

Me:
Pujarli Rohri, you know to read. Since when?

Pujarli Rohru:
Babasaheb told our people to read. Fifty years, ago …

Me:
Babasaheb? Isn’t he the photograph that is hanging on your wall? Is he a God of some sort?

Pujarli Rohru:.
He is not a God. He is a Big Man. But he is our big man.

Me:
Tell me, this reading, is it any good?

Pujarli Rohru:
It depends on what you read …

Me:
I think reading is a big mistake. First you read these big books with big-big words, and then waste your time trying to understand it. It’s better to sleep or drink toddy.

Pujarli Rohru:
That’s what you people are capable of, sleeping and drinking!

Me:
Ok. Ok. Don’t get angry. Read something interesting from your big book.

Pujarli Rohru:
Ok. The book says, God Vamana asks our King Bali for a portion of the earth which he can cover with three steps. Our kind and benevolent King Bali grants God Vamana his wish. Then God Vamana becomes huge and covers the earth and sky with two steps.

Me:
Oh no.

Pujarli Rohru:
What happened?

Me:
Think about it. If the Monster Vamana covered the earth with one step, how many villages and simple people he must have crushed. And if his second step was in the sky, he must have collided with the stars and planets.

Pujarli Rohru:
Stop your childish prattle, O Cock Eyed One, and listen to what the book says …

Me:
And so, Pujarli Rohru went on and on. Talking was a family thing. Pujarli Rohru’s father was a day dreamer, a singer and a dancer and a talker. Couldn’t stand properly, except on his head. You see, Pujarli Rohru’s father was drunk all the time. But he was not bothered. Not at all. Doing his bit at funerals, famines, festivals. You should have seen the way, the women used to look at him. Opening their mouths and gaping. WHOUH-WHOUH. He took advantage of the fact. Spread his family far and wide. It’s a well-known secret. No one knows, how many brothers & sisters, Pujarli Rohru has in every little village & town. Thousands & Thousands. One-number scoundrel! Who? Pujarli Rohru’s father. But then what to do. So are others. The world is full of such people. It thrives due to their doings. And the doings include this, that and the other. Pujarli Rohru was still talking about Monster Vamana.

Pujarli Rohru:
Aho, then Monster Vamana asked our King Bali, where do I put my third step? Our kind and considerate, King Bali offered his own head.

Me:
Aho! What a kind and considerate soul?

Pujarli Rohru:
And yet, this upper caste book labels King Bali as Evil.

Me:
Pujarli Rohru, tell me, if God Vamana’s head was in the sky, and up above the heavens, he must have had to shout very loudly for King Bali to hear his voice. Then surely, the Americans, the Russians, the French, the Pakistanis must have heard the shout. And how did King Bali reply? Surely he could not yell, as loudly as Vamana?

Pujarli Rohru:
That’s not the issue.

Me:
It isn’t …

Pujarli Rohru:
The point is, Monster Vamana lifted his foot and crushed King Bali into the nether world, where we live our lives, no? Now, you tell me, is this religion, or is this a badly narrated, fairy tale to belittle King Bali?

Me:
Hmm. Forget all this religion? It will get you into trouble. I heard you have been in trouble.

Pujarli Rohru:
Not trouble. Its injustice.

Me:
Aho! What is it, Aho!

Pujarli Rohru:
These days, I’ve to go the magistrate sir’s office every week to attend a case. 64 kms. Walking both ways. The case is false. They are doing it to teach me a lesson.

Me:
What happens to your daily wages at Bhau Saheb’s sugar-cane fields?

Pujarli Rohru:
I can’t cut. So I do not earn any money for four days of the week.

Me:
And the rest of the days …

Pujarli Rohru: The rest of the days, my sons sit and press my feet. If they are not available. I make the cow’s calves lie on my feet.

Me:
You must not do it. Cows are holy, no?

Pujarli Rohru:
Cows are holy for people who can afford them. Me, I’m waiting for the cow to stop being useful, then I hope to cook a proper feast.

Me:
Aho!

Pujarli Rohru:
What happened, now?

Me:
The thing is, you know to read and all. So I want to ask you your opinion?

Pujarli Rohru:
Ask?

Me:
I am planning to be reincarnated. Become a Brahman.

Pujarli Rohru:
Forget it, O Cock Eyed One. They wouldn’t let you become a Brahman.

Me:
The Big Man says it can happen.

Pujarli Rohru:
The Big Man wants to earn easy money. His funds have dried up. No one visits the temple, any more.

Me:
Big Man says my fate has been inscribed in the Holy Text in Sanskrit.

Pujarli Rohru: And so, you’re going to skid down the 1000 feet mountain with heavy gunny sacks around your shoulders. All tied up. You’ll die. Everyone who has attempted it has died. Don’t be a fool.

Me:
Ah, Pujarli Rohru, you think I cannot have ideas. You think I cannot do these things. You’re jealous of my brains.

Pujarli Rohru:
Shhh, silent. The snake is coming out of the hole.

Me:
Aho! He is a big snake. Play your shennai and put him in a trance.

The melodious sounds of a shennai.
SCENE 4

CHORUS (chanting):
Everything has a beginning.
It’s true.
Everything.

Fade out.

Me:
Sitting on the tree, I watched Pujarli Rohru try to capture a seven-feet snake. I thought to myself. I thought about the human snake, we had met.

Pujarli Rohru:
You remember?

Me:
Of course I do. You and me traveling in a jeep. It’s the first time, I had the courage to sit in Sharmaji’s Trax. He is a Big Man, Sharmaji.

Pujarli Rohru:
You liked it, the jeep?

Me:
Yes. The thing is, I like a bit of dignity, self-respect. And we never got it. In school we had to sit outside the classroom.

Pujarli Rohru:
Watching the upper caste children, eat from their lunch box.

Me:
The best part was, eating from their lunch box when there were left-overs. Vijayan Sir used to insist. He was a nice man, ya.

Pujarli Rohru:
Like the others, he left.

Me:
All nice teachers leave. That’s our destiny, no?

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, don’t you understand anything? Our school was a laboratory. A training ground. We were guinea pigs for their experiments.

Me:
Ha! Speaking of pigs, do you recall, the flock of wild boars rushing into the classroom? It was such fun, no?

Pujarli Rohru:
At least those wild boars didn’t differentiate between us and the rest. It had more brains than humans.

Me: You cannot criticise all humans. There are good humans, too.

Pujarli Rohru:
Such as …

Me:
There’s the Marwari Seth. He gave me a job without bothering about my caste status.

Pujarli Rohru:
There must be a dark conspiracy.

Me:
What dark conspiracy can there be in a job of a watchman?

Pujarli Rohru:
I hear the place is haunted. When you sleep in the night, the ghost carries you, and throws you into the bottom of a well.

Me:
Really?

Pujarli Rohru:
Of course not. O Cock Eyed One, you’re so innocent, believing in ghosts and ghost stories.

Me:
I need your help. Marwari Seth has told me stitch a smart uniform.

Pujarli Rohru:
Hmm. Ok. I know a tailor. You remember that lame boy in our class. He has a shop.

Me:
Ah, Ganna.

Pujarli Rohru:
Is that his name?

Me:
Pet name. That’s because his father was a Ganna – sugarcane cultivator, till he sold his property.

Pujarli Rohru:
I see. Wasn’t Ganna’s legs maimed by the wild boars in our class?

Me:
So, it was. Pujarli Rohru and I traveled in Sharmaji’s Trax. Ganna did not want to stitch my uniform at first. Said he was busy. That was a lie. The fact of the matter was, Ganna did not want to touch me.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, its ok.

Me:
No, no, it’s not OK. I understood.

Pujarli Rohru:
Don’t worry, I’ll give Ganna an advance payment. See, the thing is, Ganna will loose his upper caste customers if they know he is stitching for people like us. He has agreed to take your measurements in the forest in the middle of the night. Ok?

Me:
Why, what’s wrong with me?

Pujarli Rohru:
Technically, nothing.

Me:
Look, here. I’m employed. I’ve a job. This is my ID Card. Marwari Seth made it for me.

Pujarli Rohru:
You look different in the ID Card.

Me:
Yes, it’s an old photo. Those days I had a massive moustache. I had to cut it, when one day I woke-up to find that white ants had built a little nest in it. Here. That’s my name.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, that’s not your name, it’s your village name.

Me:
And that …

Pujarli Rohru:
Name of ancestor and their occupation.

Me:
Oh!

Pujarli Rohru:
It says their job was to keep things clean. A family tradition.

Me:
After giving measurements to Ganna, we walked back to our village. I asked Pujarli Rohru, will things, change? Ever? Will this job with Marwari Seth make a difference to my status? Pujarli Rohru said …

Pujarli Rohru:
It’s a long story. For thousands and thousands of years our father’s father and his father’s father have kept this planet clean. We clean-up other people’s mess. We clean-up anything. Whilst others carry water on their heads into the village; we carried other people’s shit on our heads outside the village. Water comes in. Shit goes out.

Me:
Funny thing about it is, nobody gives us importance, no? Not even a little bit. No one understands us. We keep the environment in a proper condition. We have built mountains on which the Big People and their Gods have built their homes. On our collections.

Pujarli Rohru:
True. Quite true.

Me:
Aho! I said. Pujarli Rohru said, Aho! Together we said …

Pujarli Rohru & Me:
Aho!

Echoes of Aho in the middle of the night.

SCENE 5

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning.
And everything does. Doesn’t it.
I have wandered
Through the forests
Passing time on tree tops
Collecting
Leaves, buds, decaying birds
Mud dolls,
Discarded necklaces
Rusty keys
Some soil for the soul.

Fade out.

Me:
Look, look, look. The moon has returned to its anointed spot. The clouds are parting. The stars are shifting in their constellations. My ancestors are seated in the skyline.

Chorus:
Talk. Talk. O Cock Eyed One.

Me:
It is time to talk. Dear Ancestors, salutations. Have you had some tea?

Chorus:
No.

Me:
Ah. I see. You cannot have tea because the tiger bit your neck? The enemy slit your throat? The …

Chorus:
Bzzzz. A bee penetrated into our gullet …

Me:
I know about that. But I thought in the afterlife, throats can be repaired.

Chorus:
How? How? Aho!

Me:
I suppose because of magic. May be God might help?

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. How?

Me:
How do I know.? The Big Man says so.

Chorus: Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
Don’t Aho the Big Man. I’m telling you this straight – the Big Man is a genius. Just tell him to talk, that’s enough. He will talk and people will listen. That’s the how it is in this country.

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
Dear Ancestors, he opens your brain. Pours hot liquid into it. Thanks to the Big Man my mind wanders. Here. There. Everywhere. It’s fun. Sometimes I sit on air and float away. Sometimes I walk up-and-down on a sun-ray. Sometimes I bathe inside a dewdrop. Sometimes I marry. Remarry. Let me tell you this, there is no limit to this apparatus. The mind. A little bit of triggering … it goes anywhere you want it to go. No license. No permit. The world is yours …

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
Dear Ancestors, thanks to the Big Man, God and I share a good relation. We have become friends, you know. So one day I went to meet God. There he was sitting. One feet over the other. Refused to give me an appointment.

God:
No. NO! NO!!! I, God refuse to grant you an appointment.

Me:
So I sent some palm-wine inside God’s room. The fucker, he sent for me.

God:
Good Stuff. You made it?”

Me:
No, Mister God.

Chorus:
Aho. Why did you say so?

Me:
Yes, I know. Normally, in public I tell all & sundry that I prepare this. But in front of God I told the truth.

God:
Who made it?

Me:
My wife, my lord. Is it OK?

God:
Excellent.

Me:
Saying so, God finished it off – three portions of palm-wine in one shot and said …

God:
It’s good. Bring some more. Regularly. I’ll give you a season pass to heaven. You and your wife. Bring her too. Is she good-looking?”

Me:
I went to meet God more often. To collect my wife in the early-mornings. For some reason, God took a liking for her. May be she prepared palm-wine potions for him, may be they conversed through the night. I didn’t care. I’m a busy man, you know. I have other work, you know. Not like God. He did not have to earn for his living. Just sitting there and giving half-kilo of rice to people like me.

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
One morning, when I went to collect my wife, to my utter astonishment, she walked-out looking aged. She had become an old woman. Two-Hundred-And-Thirty-Years-Old. Her bones were creaking and cracking. Her ears were infested with fleas and bugs. The black beads which I had bought for her were no longer around her neck. She undid the cloth around her head, and bowed in no particular direction. She lit a lamp and then with some shells and conches started to pray. She asked God – why he made this world? Why? Her voice scared me. She sounded soooooo old. I ran away from her.

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
My timing was hopeless. At that time God emerged from his bedroom in a lungi and kurta and let go one lightning.

God:
KRAKABOOOOOOOM. KABOOM.

Me:
There was sweat on my buttocks. He let go one ball of fire at me.

God:
WOOOOSH.

Me:
I burnt on the spot. Totally Finished. The Gods can get very crazy. Big Men. Big Egos. Thinking no end of themselves. Making my wife into an old woman. When I looked carefully she did not even have any blood in her veins …

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
I wanted to cry out, and appeal to God, but I was told, beware of Gods, they can do anything. A God can kill a rat or a bloodsucker or lizards or frogs or skunks or pigs or people like me. A God can do no wrong. God can commit any sort of falsehood, there is no sin it. God can sleep with my wife but I cannot even dream about sleeping with God’s wife. The punishment for dreaming is – the next seven generations of my family will be born as female donkeys without eyesight.

Chorus:
Aho. Aho. Aho.

Me:
Everything is Fate. Aho!

A chant of Aho, Aho, Aho fill the air.
SCENE 6

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.
In the beginning there was darkness which swallowed this world
And children who didn’t have proper names
Because names attract the attention of ghouls & banshees
So the children were named
Big boils.
Spider’s skin.
Dirty dust.

Fade out.

Me:
One day, Pujarli Rohru and I were bathing in the river. We could see the Sacred Rock under the Waterfall.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, this is the thing, I enjoy most. In the river, all of us are equal.

Me:
Unclothed and nude?

Pujarli Rohru:
What’s wrong in that? We were born unclothed and nude?

Me:
That’s true. Where were you born, Pujarli Rohru?

Pujarli Rohru:
I was born in one part of the world. When I was born, it was believed that I was a mischievous child. Up to no good. I would try to change my fate. Try to chart my own life.

Me:
With me, it was different. Unknown to the rest of the world, my grandfather shot an arrow into his own toe. He wanted to shoot his foes. The enemies of these land.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed Ones, and who were these enemies?

Me:
I don’t know, ya. My father till his dying day told people all kinds of tales about his grandfather who said this land does not belong to this country. He says our land is independent. No one believed him. They told him he has had too much of palm-wine. Even my grandmother. She didn’t believe grandfather.

Pujarli Rohru:
I’ve heard about your grandmother. Isn’t she the one who poured cow piss on your father?

Me:
Yes, yes. Father got all mad. He was about to beat her, but he couldn’t. Grandmother had a red hot iron rod in her hand which she shoved right up his right nostril.

Pujarli Rohru:
A complete bitch-woman, your grandmother. But foolish and stupid.

Me:
I disagree. I think father was foolish and stupid. He was making a big noise about nothing. After all, if this country was not in existence, where would we go? A land is not a bird which can migrate. It has to settle down and compromise with the surroundings.

Pujarli Rohru:
You’re talking nonsense. You know nothing. You’re an illiterate. Your brains are in stored in your mother’s big-boobs.

Me: What you saying?

Pujarli Rohru: Instead you should have asked your grand-mother to ask your father’s grandfather. It seems your father’s grandfather knows everything. About how our own people betrayed these lands.

Me: Grandmother says the British Rule was the best thing for our people. It freed us from the venomous hold of the Big People. Our people could walk on the same roads, drink the same water, speak the same language. No longer was the shadow of our people considered a taboo.

Pujarli Rohru:
Ha!

Me:
Pujarli Rohru said, HA! And walked off. Aho. Totally confusing, I tell you. The whole thing has always been confusing, and so, my father’s grandfather became cock-eyed. That’s where I get my eyes from.

Sings a song.
SCENE 7

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

The chant continues.

Me:
Let that be. All this is the usual village chit chat. One day, we gathered in the morning durbar-court of the Narmedh-man. You know, Narmedh. It’s a big thing – the cult of Parsurama – one of the avtaars of God Vishnu. I have to convince Narmedh-man to help with my reincarnation. I’ve to plead for his blessings. He will order the Panchayat to bless me. And the Panchayat will request the temple deity to bless me.

Big Man:
TATHASTHU! So be it!

Me:
So I go to the Panchayat. There is a crowd there. All Big Men. With knowledge of holy texts and a paunch. I do not have both. No knowledge, no paunch. I sit at the door and stare at Narmedh-Man, who is talking to the crowd. Suddenly a bat comes into the room. One. Two. One Hundred. The crowd grows restive. The bats start flying low. Whistling. Soon the whistles become a song. The crowd is very scared. What to do. The bats started chewing onto pieces of cloth, fruits, slippers, hair. Then they become upside-down and drop their excreta on the crowd. It is very hot. Everyone runs out of the doors. The Narmedh-man is furious.

Big Man:
Listen, Ye Mere Mortals, The end of the world is here. Right here.

Me:
Narmedh-Man is right. The other day, my sixth wife saw a lizard without a tail, walking on the floor.

Wife:
O Cock Eyed One, look a lizard without a tail, walking on the floor. It’s not a good omen.

Me:
How do you know?

Wife:
I know. Must you question everything I say. Men! Oooof!

Me:
I should have known. That night my sixth wife goes to Gondia-Tuku’s house for four nights.

Wife:
Correction, O Cock Eyed One, it was three nights. You are prone to exaggerations.

Me:
My dear sixth wife that’s not the point.

Wife:
Really? What is?

Me:
You spent three nights with Gondia Tuku. How could you?

Wife:
It should be ok for you. After all, Gondia-Tuku gave you six ounces of goat’s milk, and six carrots, as compensation.

Me:
So what? Now, he is asking you to stay with him for three more nights.

Wife:
In return he is willing to double your compensation, no? He is so sweet and considerate.

Me:
That was that. My eyeballs roll with anger. But I could not do a thing. It is after all the decision of our Community Chief that a husband should be compensated thus. I bribed the Community Chief with and pleaded for justice.

Wife:
Oh. You spent my hard earned money on mollifying your giant ego! I should have known. So, it was you, who had instigated the Community Chief.

Me:
We were locked in a room. Gondia-Tuku and me. For seven nights. On the seventh night Gondia-Tuku developed scabs and disease. I’m healthy. Not even a headache. This means Gondia-Tuku is wrong and has broken the law. The evening, the Community Chief has to make a pronouncement, he has a paralytic stroke and cannot speak. My wife tells me …

Wife:
Let Gondia-Tuku have your wife. In return you take his wife for three nights.

Me:
In theory this is fine, but Gondia-Tuku is not married.

Wife:
Dear Husband, it’s a fair and square deal. Don’t I put up with all your nonsense? In return, can’t you let me sleep with another man, eh?

Me:
I agreed. Reluctantly. Surely, a man’s pride has some place in our constellation. And this woman – my sixth wife – she was the one to first cast her eyes on me. Stitch this shawl …. Yes. This embroidered shawl for me. Says she sat-up for six months. Clasping it close to her bosoms. That’s why there is so much passion in it. And sweat. She came to my house before she had a full set of teeth. My great-grandmother tried to throw her out. But till the seventh-crescent of the moon – she remained. And that was that, she became my wife. I had to feed her. Breed children. Feed them. Feed myself. Aho!

Temple bells, etc.

SCENE 8

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
It was full moon night. My meeting with the Narmedh-man – took place. I was totally scared. A Panchayat of eight, sit uncomfortably wherever possible.

Chorus:
Ssssshhh.

Me:
Full silence has to be observed. These are all Big People. This is the Local Chief. Pay obeisance to him. Properly, like the others are doing it. Today’s meeting has a big agenda. It’s very important. Pay attention. And don’t snore when these people talk, they get upset and chop your little finger off. The Panchayat starts to talk. It’s a babble of voice.

- Temperature is very hot. My sweat is boiling.

- Everything is Maya! Everything is Maya!

- Pass the Betel Leaf, the Lime, the Betel-nuts, the Marijuana.

- Something is Maya! And Nothing is Maya!

- Shut your mouth before your false teeth fall-off ….

- Look, there was no need for that comment, you son-offa-cockroach.

- Very well then. (louder) Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Time is very short – so I request you to let me to continue.

- On the agenda is the visit by the Maha-Panth from the Bushair area. As agreed by all of us, I informed the Senior-Panda that the coming of his Holy Highness – the Maha-Panth – here at such a critical juncture would be detrimental to our interests. That we need time to prepare for the festival season. And the marriage season …..

- Correct-Correct.

- But Senior-Panda feels, Maha-Panth cannot alter his busy schedule. They ….. also want him to conduct two prayer ceremonies in the temple ….. and collect some money for the trust.

- Bed bugs, just because they sit in the temple-city, they think no end of themselves.

- Correct-Correct.

- Nothing can be done about that.

- We can poison the fucker’s food, so that he’ll be laid-up in bed throughout his stay.

Me:
Then all of them nodded in my direction. My sweat started to flow like a river. TIPAK-TIPAK. Narmedh-man spoke about me. But nobody looked at me. They covered their mouths and their noses – and stared at me with their eyes. Very empty. Hollow. Like marbles. I felt like a small creature. A zero. Useless and insignificant.

Chorus:
Ssssh.

Me:
Then Narmedh-man opened his mouth. He said:

Big Man:
Hmmm. So our cock-eyed friend …

Me:
That is me …

Big Man:
… our cock-eyed friend wants to do the Beda-Ritual. For the tenth time when the moon is in the fourth quarter. Do we all agree?”

Me:
Everybody said: OH-HUM. Narmedh-man continued. He said …

Big Man:
Hmmm. He will slide down the mountain From the riverside. Blindfolded. He will be tied by eight gunny sacks. Correct.

Me:
Everybody said: OH-HUM. Narmedh-man continued …

Big Man:
His wife has already been declared a widow. She will continue to remain one. In return she will serve God and above all – we, the Panchayat. Does everyone agree?”

Me:
And everyone said: Ho-HUMMMMMMM! The Narmedh-man continued …

Big Man:
His family will be supported by the temple-trust. They will get leftover meals. In return, they will keep the temple premises clean. Does anyone have a suggestion?”

Me:
Nobody had any suggestion. So, the Narmedh man continued for the last time …

Big Man:
And so, if this man can climb down the mountain as per the requirements of the ancient Narmedh text – we all swear to appoint him as a Dwij. That is – a twice born Brahman. Agreed?

Me:
Just then God who was dozing up and enquired …

God:
What about the holy fees? Hmm. What about that, eh???

Me: The Narmedh-man said …

Big Man:
The holy fees have been taken care of.

Me:
And then God said “TATHASTHU”.

God:
Tathasthu.

Me:
Then everybody said “TATHASTHU”.

Chorus:
Tathasthu.

Echoes of Tathasthu with prayers, etc.
SCENE 9

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.
Once you begin.
There is no turning back.
The wind rushed through my splintered skull,
I saw monsters.
Savage beasts.
A black sun.
A new birth. An old death

Me:
That evening, I took a detour to the cemetery. It was the day for the Ravens and Magpies, Hawks and Raptors. They are my friends. They talk to me. Sometimes they tell me tales.

Chorus:
KOOOOO-HOOOOO-KOOOO. You are still alive? How do you manage it? We were hoping you would be dead this time – so that we could eat you. Remember, we ate your ancestors. So, we have first priority. KOOOOO-HOOOO-KOOOOOO. Did you know that there are other lands on this planet. Some good. Some not so good. Do you want to hear about the good ones? Or the other ones? KOOOOOO-HOOOOOO-KOOOO. Very well then, its your wish. Things are not this bad elsewhere. We know that. We have just crossed seven seas. There’s the sun. The same one which is here. There’s water. The mountains. And so on. But what we miss are the smiles. We miss them. Where have they gone? To a distant land? Never to return. Or have you eaten them? YOU? YES YOU? KOOOOO-HOOOOOO-KOOOOOO.

Me:
And then we cry, till these birds fly away in search of a smile.

Chorus:
KOOOOO-HOOOOOO-KOOOOOO.

Me:
These birds leave me at the cemetery. Alone. I count the stones which are the tombs of my dead ancestors. Ignore the ghosts. Jump over the dead ones. And the ones who are dying. It gives me great solace. A man might not live well. But he should have a comfortable place to die. I would like do sit, still, at the cemetery and die. But time is short. There is money to earn, you know. Lots of rupees. Aho!

Sounds of Koooo-Hoooo-Kooooo. And other birds.
SCENE 10

CHORUS
(chanting)
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
By the time I reach my village, news has travelled. My great-grandmother says that the Narmedh-Man is the Narad Muni of this story. I wonder where the old bitch, has heard about Narad Muni. We don’t believe in Narad Muni like the Big-People. Or Narmedh-man. We have our own Gods and Spirits. I ask Pujarli Rohru who this Narad Muni is …

Pujarli Rohru:
…O Cock Eyed One, Narad Muni was a schemer. He made everyone believe he had magical mantras and super spells. Then he visited the homes of the great kings like Rama and Ravana, Krishna and Kamsa, Pandavas and Kauravas. He pretended to be wise and all-knowing, but he was full of deceit, he gossiped and spread lies. Naturally, the rival kings began to quarrel with one another; and Narad Muni composed millions of verses, smrutis, shastras, puranas, about all this.

Me:
Hmm. I don’t think great-grandmother is talking sense. It’s all blatant untruth. When I say this. Everyone is angry. They refuse to feed me, or talk to me. Even Pujarli Rohru says …

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, you know nothing of anything.

Me:
I prefer to ignore him and his loose talk. We young people cannot listen to everything. In any case, great-grandmother is in her deathbed. Waiting for the Guardian of Death. Yearning for some palm-wine. Swearing at injustice. Pujarli Rohru spits in my direction and curses …

Pujarli Rohru:
Too much injustice. Nothing has changed. The Big People will always remain the Big People. Whatever the colour of their skin. Whether they have traversed the seas or they have crossed the mountains. We were Pariah then, we are Pariah now. And our own people still betraying us …. do you know O Cock-Eyed One, your great-grandfather was one of the leaders of an armed rebellion. We beat the hiding out of them. Ask your great-grandmother, how those white rascals were frightened of our tactics. They used to never cut trees. They knew, we would break their white legs and squeeze all the white juices from their white testicles …

Me:
Aho!

Pujarli Rohru:
When the Raja flexed his biceps, our people had a revolution. They couldn’t touch our single hair. Didn’t dare to. Until one of us signed that contract. He sold-out. Very cheap. The price of salt. That was that. And now you, O Cock-Eyed One ….

Me:
I stared at great-grandmother whilst Pujarli Rohru’s lips moved. He talked for hours. Until there was silence. The words were stuck. Suddenly, great-grandmother’s head started shrinking. Then it popped and split in the centre. Green fluid flowed out and poured onto the mud floor. It stayed there, charred and smelly. Someone came and scooped it from the ground. They asked me to throw this foul smelling liquid into a pit. I did not find one. So I ran to the river. Some shrimps were being dried. I tripped and fell, the green fluid fell on the shrimps. The shrimps sprung to life. The shrimps swayed gaily like dancers on fire, and ran into the river. No one believed me when I told them this thing. They said, there are no shrimps in the river. Aho. That’s how my grate-grandmother died. Pujarli Rohru said …

Pujarli Rohru:
It was all, your fault, O Cock Eyed One.

Me:
Aho?

Death hum.
SCENE 11

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
Pujarli Rohru left the village. I didn’t see him for weeks, months. There were so many things, we shared. I remember the way we used to wait for someone to die in the village. The ambulance used to take the body for post-mortem. In the night, when the ambulance returned from the town, it would be stocked with alcohol. Our stock would last for days and days. One day, there was an election meeting. The Bada Saabs emptied the general ward in the hospital, and conducted the meeting, there. It was crazy. All the mutilated patients with snake bites, dysentery, TB were rotting in the sun, while the Bada Saabs gave their speeches. Pujarli Rohru was angry. He did a fast unto death. It worked. The official candidate, lost the elections. Pujarli Rohru said …

Pujarli Rohru:
It was not because of the fast unto death. For people like us, life is a fast unto death. The election was lost due to higher principles: alcohol. I made sure everyone who votes for the Official Candidate was rendered drunk. That way, they couldn’t go to vote on election day.

Me:
Gone are the days of fantasy. Of hope. I know the reality. If the Big People want Timber from our forest, then they will get them. By hook or crook. There is no point making a big deal about it. Better to twist their hands about other things.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, the basic problem with you is, you’re a coward. You’re scared.

Me:
May be. But how can a small person like me challenge the might of Big People like Nikhil Bhai. He was a Big Man among the Big People and he had big connections. If he did the right things then all of us would be able to live. Properly. And happily. So as soon as Government people came to know about Nikhil Bhai’s visit to our village, there was a curfew. The venue was fixed. The DFO deployed their soldiers around our office. They were spying and arresting troublemakers. There was fear. What would Nikhil Bhai’s strategy be? He is as slippery as a snake.

Curfew announcement:
“Attention. Attention. We regret to announce that an indefinite CURFEW has been declared in your locality. I repeat – a CURFEW has been imposed under Section 144. This is an order to remain indoors till any further notice. Anyone found outside will be considered a threat – and shot-at-sight. To prevent any such occurrence – we request – all inhabitants to co-operate with us – and prevent any untoward incident ….”

SCENE 12

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
The secret meeting began. I noticed there was one Munshi, and one Bhatt. I remembered my friend, Pujarli Rohri. I had not seen him for weeks, months. He hated Munshis and Bhatts. He used to say …

Pujarli Rohru:
Since time immemorial, they have polluted the minds of our people.

Me:
I banish such thoughts from my mind. The meeting begins.
- Salaam.
- Time is precious, so lets get started right away.

Me:
Munshi starts to talk.
- Hmmm friends, as you know the situation is very serious. Everyone is informed about the implications it has. But just for background’s sake, let me briefly touch upon a few points …..
- Yes-Yes. I agree. Who second’s it …..
- ….. as everyone is aware, the news about the Forest Bill has been received with concern all over the country. Yesterday, there was a Morcha in New Delhi. I’m informed it was a success, with a turnout of 11 lakhs …
- … 13 and a half lakhs.
- ….. well, yes. We are also in touch with other organisations. But to-date nothing concrete has emerged. As usual there is no unity. Nikhil Bhai’s presence could change that …..
- Nikhil Babu Zindabad! Baaki Sab Koi Murdabad!.
- Aree, Munshi will you read the relevant excerpts from this Report compiled by the PS Group of Environmental Studies. Page 71
- The Report says “our forests are still subservient to industry and commercial profits. In 1952, India had 22% forest cover. Thirty years later, the tree cover is a meagre 11%. Even today, the country loses 1.5 million hectares of forest every year. Industry-oriented growth is fast leading to depletion of forests, the state policy is intolerant to Adivasis and the original inhabitants of …..
- Yes-Yes.
- ….. the government looks down upon these tribals as Pariahs – and blames them for degradation of the forests …..

Me:
I’m distracted. I don’t hear the next argument because Pujarli Rohri has arrived. He sits next to me and whispers …

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, these are empty words. Mere jugglery with phrases.

Me: Eh? When did you come?

Pujarli Rohru:
This lot used to make our people drink the dirty water with which they washed their holy feet. These days instead of dirty water, they make us eat words. Nothing will come out of this thing.

Me:
Be silent. Look, the Bhatt is going to speak for the first time. He is so pure, so beautiful, so clean. No? The Bhatt says …

- Nonsense. I object. This is really a simplistic rendering of the argument, I say …..
- Look …..
- You look. My NGO has come upon instances of forest-abuse by the tribes in this district.
- Sir, what we’re talking about is not some stray instance, but a concerted-organised destruction of forests. Surely, you don’t expect tribals to fell 4 lakh tonnes of teak with their bare-hands.
- I’ve heard this argument before. It is a typical manoeuvre to embarrass the Government of India. To slow down the development process.
- Whose development?
- ….. I’ll tell you whose development – because at the Rio Conference, and at the WTO meet in Doha when this issue came up for …..

Me:
Then Pujarli Rohru says, loudly, gaand maro Rio and Doha ko.

Pujarli Rohru:
Screw you, and fuck your Rio and Doha. This is a farce.

Me:
My head was buried in my lap. There’s a hushed silence, Pujarli Rohru shouldn’t have returned. But he has returned and now he is enquiring, quite politely …

Pujarli Rohru:
My good men, why are you Big People letting the government fart on your face!

Me:
There was pandemonium.

- Order-Order.

Me:
Bhatt is hurt. He says …

- Nikhil Bhai, I came here on your personal invitation. I thought we called this meeting to discuss and debate, like civil gentlemen …..

Pujarli Rohru:
Nothing of the sort. I say on behalf of all of us that we have gathered to chalk-out an action plan. Enough of talking and mediating.

- Look Mister ….. Mr Pujarli Rohruji I can understand your anger. But there is no point in getting angry with me. After all, I haven’t formulated these policies.

Pujarli Rohru:
Behenchod bik gaya. You’ve sold your bare bottoms to the devil. May your grandmother’s teats be bitten by red ants.

- What utter nonsense …..

Me:
By which time, Pujarli Rohru is uttering some more profanities …

Pujarli Rohru: May a cricketer hit a sixer into your father’s arsehole …

Me:
… When I shoved a ladoo into his mouth. Pjurali Rohru started waving a piece of paper. It said something about Nikhil Bhai allowing paper millwallahs inside the district! To which Nihkil Bhai responds …

- Allow. You speak as if I’m the Collector or the Minister ….

Pujarli Rohru:
Arre, Nikhil Bhai, There wasn’t a squeak of protest from you. Not even a petition.

- Mr Pujarli Rorhuji, I think you’re reading too much into the situation. You see, one has to be flexible for the sake of the larger national interests. I mean the economy has to be strong … a paper mill in the area generates employment, schools, hospitals, electricity. You forget that..

Me:
Then Pujarli Rohru says to me …

Pujarli Rohru:
Aho, O Cock Eyed One, do you remember these are the same words deployed by Monster Vamana about our King Bali. And Monster Vamana’s word mattered because, the Munshis and Bhatts brainwashed our people with their poojas and prayers. And since then, the Munshis and Bhatts have been exploiting and swindling, King Bali alongwith our people at every opportunity to further their own cause.

Me:
Nikhil Bhai screamed …

- But can’t you see this afforestation is for your own benefit. These companies have a long-term interest there.

Me:
On cue, Bhatt shouted.

- Yes-yes, this is part of the scientific management scheme. Even the World Bank approves of it.

Me:
Somewhere around that time, Pujarli Rohru, stood upside down. He started chanting the sacred Gayatri Mantra. The Big People were aghast. He then proceeded to stuff cheroot leaves in the mouths of the Munshi and Bhatt, and poured pig’s milk on Nikhil-Bhai’s face. Later, when I asked Pujarli Rohru, why he did it, he said …

Pujarli Rohru:
I wanted to end the stupid meeting.

Me:
Naturally, there was trouble. I don’t understand these shirt-and-pant men. One would assume that wearing shirt-and-pant would make them sensible. But no. Look at these jokers, they couldn’t even put forth their case. Disgusting. Everyone abused everyone else. Real good abuses. Blows were exchanged. DHUPPA-DHUB. They broke chairs. The police gate-crashed into the meeting and put me in jail. The Big People escaped. Me and some of the others were beaten and chained. There would be a huge case on us. And for hundred and one days we would have to go to the Magistrate in the neighbouring district. Aho!

Police sirens, etc.
SCENE 13

CHORUS
(chanting)
Everything must have a beginning. And an ending.
Especially an ending

Me:
For me, it was the end. I sat in the jail. There was no light. Only the moon. There were lizards on the walls. The ceiling was a mess. It was almost unrecognisable with bloodstains. There was vomit on the floor. The bench was upturned. The one bed was tattered and torn. In the corner there was a heap of fish and chicken bones. The stink of palm-wine. Flies. White ants which were going about their task quite calmly.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, are you worried?

Me:
I don’t worry about all this. I had done everything I could. I mean how much can one man do against the Big People. They will crush me. They have.

Pujarli Rohru:
We must not give up.

Me:
It’s all very fine for Pujarli Rohru to say so. In any case, what has he done. He was a good-for-nothing. Never worked all his life. He lived on ideals, dreams. Literally. He prefers that to reality. All stupid notions.

Pujarli Rohru:
O Cock Eyed One, what is this I hear? After your father’s death, you sold the piece of ancestral land to Nikhil Babu. For ten-thousand and one rupees.

Me: Yes. With ten-thousand rupees and one, I’m going to have some dignity in this world.

Pujarli Rohru:
Dignity?

Me:
You tell me what is ten-thousand rupees and one, if I can become a Dwij. Atleast I’ll not be a nobody. To be a Brahman is a big thing. It gives meaning to life. I can become a new man. A better man. Not all this rubbish. But a Big Man, who will be respected by the world. Land may be land. But ultimately a man looks for some respect, some dignity.

Pujarli Rohru:
So be it.

Tathasthu chants, echoes.
SCENE 14

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
So here I am. On top of this mountain. On cue, my seventh wife enters …

Wife:
Wait, O Cock Eyed One, wait!

Me:
What are you doing, here? Don’t you know the time is inauspicious.

Wife:
Why?

Me:
My dear seventh wife, this is a Holy Mountain.

Wife:
This is not a Holy Mountain.

Me:
What do you mean?

Wife:
I know the truth. This is the mountain that has been built with all the baskets our ancestors carried. Little-little. Everyday. It has become hard and solid over the centuries. If you scratch – the surface – then a different smell emerges. It is your smell. Here, doesn’t it smell good???

Me:
I want to escape the stink.

Wife:
You cannot. That’s the point, isn’t it, O Cock Eyed One? They won’t let you. This is just a charade.

Me:
A time comes, when a man needs to do something. For himself. For his survival.

Wife:
O Cock Eyed, think rationally. They didn’t let you become a Brahman, nine times. Why will the Big People let you enter their sacred club? It is a negation of everything they represent, no?

Me:
I’m all confused. I don’t know whom to trust and whom not to. Why, even now I don’t trust anybody. Even myself. And that’s the problem.

Wife:
Here, I’ve got some dried fish and coconut pieces for you. Eat. It will calm you.

Me:
You’re much to kind. What will you do if I don’t survive the test?

Wife:
According to the pact you’ve made with the Big People, I’m a widow.

Me:
If you’re in trouble, talk to Gondia Tuku. He is a first-class man. He’ll help you.

Wife:
What about you?

Me:
Don’t worry about me. There are other people who are with me. Not one. Not two. But big crowd of twelve-thousand. They shout, they cheer. They moan, they pray. Look, look, look – over there – hundreds of feet below – who can I see. The Narmedh-man is chanting his mantra. The Big People. Ha-Ha – all of them are there. Waiting for the moon to enter the fourth-quarter.

CHORUS
(heightened chanting … overlap)
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
The prayers begin. My wife vanishes. I fall asleep on top of the mountain. Behind me I can see a witch and a wizard. They wave their wand and glide over the ground. Everything is peaceful. They pass by forests without the trees. The river without the water. Instead there are machines. There is cement on the paths. Ant-hills, beehives, rat-holes. All of whom are watching me with bated breath. Beggars are tearing off their clothes. I cannot recognise anything. Things are changing. The earth shudders. The sky shakes. Suddenly, I see a monstrous beast with ten heads. It leaps onto my shoulder and devours me. Its foul breath makes me unconscious.

CHORUS
(heightened chanting … overlap)
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.

Me:
I know all this. I have done this nine times already. Yes, nine times. This thing is in my blood. I remember who told me to do the first time? Was it Mister God? No-No – it was the birds! Who else? At the tombstone, when they were feeding on father.

Chorus:
KOOOOOO-HOOOOOO-KOOOOOOOO. So you are still alive? Are you not ashamed? Especially when everyone else around you has died? Your grandmother. Your father. We hear your wife hates you. All seven of them. Your children curse you. You are all alone. KOOOO-HOOOO-KOOOO. Don’t look for friends, acquaintances. They are all gone. Thrown-out from here. To the neighbouring lands – where they cultivate unknown crops. Cursing their fate. And – YOU. KOOOO-HOOOO-KOOOO. We cannot look you in the eye anymore. WHY? Because your soul is missing. Haven’t you noticed it? Hooo-Hooo. You’re now like us. A being without a soul. Isn’t it funny? Very! Ah, look – look at you, you can’t fly. You can’t smile. KOOO-HOOO-KOOO.

Me:
Then they fly away. Singing a song. Leaving behind a feather for memory. And me. All by myself. Scratching my scrotum. Digging my nose. In the stomach of a monstrous creature with ten heads … unless I become a Dwij … a twice-born Brahman …

CHORUS
(chanting):
Everything must have a beginning. Everything.
So I’ve been told.
And though I did not look forward to being born.
When I was born I was the tenth one.
On the tenth day of the tenth month.
I was born with ten hair on my head.
There were ten incisions on my stomach.
To mark me for life.
Ten times I’ve tried to remove them.
Ten times.
There are ten avtaars.
There are ten planets.
Ten of my teeth have decayed.

And today, I’m attempting to be born-again
The tenth time.
And today, I’m attempting to be born-again
The tenth time.

(THE END)






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