Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Gift From Me

I should like,

To sneak into your room
Unnoticed,and place it on the table.
Leave it lying carelessly
In tune with the rushed clutter.
Then suddenly one morning
Detect it in your hands
With the look of a thing
Of which
A natural posession has been assumed.

I should like.

Very much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A For...?

Scene I
A teacher is sitting on an armchair and correcting papers.
Gets up, utters an expletive and angrily thumps the entire set on an adjacent table.

Man: Why Mary?
(louder)Why MARY for crying out loud!?
Thirteen compositions written by brown children of the subcontinent and…
Every single one of them abounds in Johns and Peters and Marys
Of course there is the adventurous one who has included a Tara.
And look at this one (picks up an answer script).Her own name is Subalakshmi but the cat she writes about is called Emily.
Why this fixation with anglicized names?
Or, for that matter, anglicized anything?...

Woman:I don’t see why you’re getting angry. It’s quite natural in fact. Think about it -most of the names they’ve seen in print have been western ones. So naturally when they have to write they draw on their literary vocabulary. Hardly fair to blame the children. I’m sure you’ve done the same yourself as a child…

Man:*snort* You seem to be taking for granted that most children nowadays read. Wishful thinking…
No. It’s the system.

Woman: What system?

Man: Social …education... all of it.
Education actually…
*sits hunched on his chair frowning about something*

Woman: You academics can’t let up an opportunity to blame the system. The root

Man:*cuts her short*You just said it. The root. Of course! The root. That’s where the trouble lies…

Woman: Maybe I’m just stupid but I don’t know what on earth you’re on about…

Scene II –
Kindergarten school. A Montessori teacher is introducing the alphabet to some children.
The teacher walks in.

M T- Sir, you? All of a sudden?
Oh. Is one of them related to you?
Children, where are your manners. Stand up and wish sir!

[Children stand up in chorus and wish.]

Man: Good morning, good morning.

M T-Yes sir, so you were saying that one of them is related to you..

Man-I was saying nothing of the sort. Never seen any of them before.

MT-*a little confused* Er… Then…What…

Man-Will it be a problem if I just sit around and watch for sometime?

MT- No, no sir. Of course not! You are most welcome... anytime *still a little confused*
But may I ask why…if you don’t mind sir…

Man-You could I suppose but I’m not sure I know the answer myself.

MT- Oh…*even more confused now*

Man-You carry on, carry on. I’ll just sit at the back and watch.

[MT walks hesitantly to the board, picks up a chalk and traces an A on the board.]

MT- A, children, makes the aah sound.
A is for? *Traces an apple on the board*


[A crashing sort of music which sounds in the mans head.]

MT- B. This makes a buh sound. So B is for? *Traces a bat this time*


[Same music again]
[Teaching continues in mime]

[Suddenly the man stands up, almost involuntarily. Very agitated.]

MT-*Stops, a little scared*.Is anything the matter?

Man- Plenty. But never mind that.
Can I ask a favour of you?

MT- Of course.

Man-Will it be a problem if I take one class tomorrow?

MT- You? Teach them?
Surely you’re joking…

Man- No. I’m dead serious. Could you tell them that tomorrow there will be no formal class. So no books and none of those slates required. We’ll just…. play a game.

MT-A game?*looks at man as though he is completely insane*


MT-*effects this chirpy voice*.Right children tomorrow there is no class.

[Cheer goes around the classroom]

MT-But ..but ..that doesn’t mean you don’t come to school.

[A groan in chorus.]

MT-*continues oblivious to the reaction*.
Sir here wants to play a game with you.

[A sound in chorus which is equivalent to a- huh?]

Yes. So that’s all for today. You can go home now. But be here tomorrow or you’ll miss out on a lot of fun…

[Children troop out as does the man. The MT is alone on stage packing his things and muttering.]

MT- Nuts these chaps are. Absolute nuts. Like I don’t have enough on my plate as it is without him coming around wanting to play games. Anyway let him try and handle these children for one day and he’ll never want to see them again in his life…

Scene III-
Man walks in with with a football.

Man-Good morning class.

Chorus-good morning

One child-Sir we’ll play football today?

Man- Not exactly. Wait a bit, I’ll come to that.

Alright. I’m Mr _____.And the game that I’m going to play with you ..is actually not as much fun as football.*grins*
This game (like all games teachers promise) is basically to trick you into studying.*Grins again*

[Class laughs.]

Right so this is how it goes.You’ve been taught I’m sure several times what sound each alphabet makes.Now all of you will have to form a circle and I’ll sit somewhere near the centre.Now when I mention an alphabet I’ll suddenly throw the football at one of you.And that person will have to catch it and at the same time tell us the first word that comes to his mind beginning with that letter.Do you get it?

[Children nod a little uncertainly.]

Okay so lets begin.

[They form a circle like he said .

And he hold the football in his hand looks this way that way and suddenly shouts A and hurls it at a surprised kid. The kid manages to catch it but shouts out- achaar!

Everyone bursts out laughing.]

Man-*Grinning widely*Why are you laughing?Thats excellent.*gives the kid an approving pat on the head.*
That’s exactly what I want you to do.Forget the associations that you’ve been taught for now.Just say the things that you’re comfortable with.The stuff you’ve grown up with.Saying..seeing.They’re just as good as any apple or bat.So-
B!*And hurls it another kid who involuntarily yells-banyan!

[Roar of laughter from the class.]

Brilliant brilliant.
Okay next person ..I’ll skip some alphabets so don’t think up your answers from before.
So E!
[And the kid who catches it says- Yuck!]
That’s actually with Y.But good.Good anyway..

[Music begins and and this game is played in mime.]

[Pages of a calendar are turned.Have to somehow symbolically show that he tries similar methods with children of all ages in the school]


Scene IV-The room of the first scene. Man and woman again.

Man-They can be untaught.They can be untaught. I knew it!

Woman-Oh so your plan is a brilliant success?Now all the children wear their indianness on their sleeves..

Man-Yes.Almost all.There were of course some who couldn’t overcome all their original teaching..But I’ll work on them.

Woman-Should you?I mean work on all them.I really wonder…

Man-What do you mean?Anyway…Those children need to learn who they are.Be proud of their true identity…Not acquire a borrowed one.

Woman-If a child doesn’t typify his country does it necessarily mean that his identity is borrowed?

Man-You always see problems when there aren’t any.Now what the hell do you mean this time?

Woman-I’m not very sure yet. But something tells me…. you’re right..you’re right .But not entirely so…

Scene V-

A classroom. A boy is standing there with the football in his hand.
The professor looks annoyed.

Boy-But that IS what came to my mind spontaneously.

Man-But that is... that’s unnatural. Why should an Irish word come naturally to you?I’m assuming it’s the new thing in your peer group.
(Boy tries to say something but the man rushes on)
I’m not saying that theres anything wrong with the language,But should you…and reason this out yourself..give up all that you’ve got behind you for this..

Boy-You mean my father..and Sanskrit..and everything..

Man-Yes!!Do you even know ..
Of course not.You children never realize the worth of what you’ve got.
Students from abroad spend their entire lives here to learn the language ..hang around just to be tutored by him.
And *sighs* then there’s you.

Boy-I don’t like my father.

Man-*exasperated*How is that even relevant?!

Boy-It isn’t?Maybe not.
My nanny was Irish…one of my fathers *a little bitterly* students actually.When I think of my childhood its mostly her I remember..*smiles reminiscently*
My peer group has nothing to do with this.

Man-Alright.I concede.But I still think that you shouldn’t make it the language of your mind because at the end of the day..well..it doesn’t belong to you.


(Uncomfortable pause)

Man-*flustered*Wha..What do you mean why?
*changes tone*Listen.You do realize that its important to think about who you are..and for that you NEED to know where you come from..Believe me.

Boy- I am thinking about it…

*looks a little pensive* See… I .. know what I like.. I like butterscotch icecream and samosas… and I’m thinking about what I want to do… Physics or maths as my major…
as in... which I’m better suited for..

Man-*again impatient*Yes, yes. But what has that to do with what we’re saying? We were talking about roots.

Boy-Why? Is it really more important than…
If I figure out which it is –physics or mathematics-I think I’ll be a little more sure of who I am.
*thinks for some more time*
Says yeah to himself.

[The man is silent this time. Says a loud But!yet doesn’t continue…
Goes and flops on a chair.
Then suddenly gets up and announces- I’m going home.]

Scene VI

The original room. Woman is there again.
Man walks in frowning, looking very confused.

Woman-Is anything wrong?

Man-*shrugs*I don’t know ..I don’t know..

Woman-Would you like to talk about it or would you rather just have dinner straightaway?

Man-I need to think…this thing over. I don’t even feel like sitting down to dinner with the family now... Can you just rustle up a pasta or something and give it in my room?

Woman- Pasta?

Man-*uncomprehendingly*Yeah. That should do. It’ll save you trouble too, won’t it? And why are you smiling?

Woman-*continues to smile*No, nothing. I’ll bring it for you.
Then goes out of the room.

[Man stands on stage watching her leave.]

End play.

P.S.Shalmi since you wanted to see.

P.P.S-Credit (discredit?) ought to be shared with Jit who apparently wasn't just pretending to think.