A Play by Vijay Tendulkar©
English translation and adaptation
by Balwant Bhaneja©
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This translation
is from the Hindi text entitled Cyclewallah (Translation: Vimal
Deo). The original play, like most of Vijay Tendulkar's works, is written
in Marathi and entitled Safar (The Journey). Balwant
Bhaneja's translation was first produced by the BBC World Service in
its "Play of the Week" program on December 12 and 13, 1998. A staged
reading was presented by Maya Theatre at The Harbourfront Centre in
Toronto on the August 7, 2004. The photos accompanying this text are
from the 1999 Hindi production of Cyclewallah.]
For Balwant Bhaneja's
introductory essay on The Cyclist, click HERE.
A detailed bio of Vijay Tendulkar, as well as
copyright and production information, follow the play.
Main Character (MC)
Man (Uncle Harry)
Crowd (A,B,C, and Z)
First (Lord of the Earth)
Second (Lord of Heavens)
(The stage is dark and there is no curtain.
There is a shape in the middle of the empty stage, covered with a white
sheet. The shape should be clearly seen by the audience so that they
are curious about the mysterious object beneath.
A stagehand enters, casually removes the
sheet and walks away.
Under the sheet, one notices an "exercise"
bicycle. There are pedals, speedometer and a bell.
Slowly, the stage is lit. You can now see
that the bicycle has no wheels.
The Main Character enters.
He is a plain looking, ordinary, lean man,
with thinning hair in his late thirties. He is wearing travel clothes,
as if borrowed from friends -- a maroon or thick blue un-ironed shirt,
old jeans, heavy travel boots, a baseball cap and sunglasses to protect
him from the sun and a backpack.
As the Main Character enters we notice he
is well prepared and eager to commence a long trip. He looks lovingly
at the bicycle and then begins to inspect it. He pats the seat, moves
the pedals back and forth and rings the bell once or twice. He is pleased.
He turns toward the audience and removes
his sunglasses. He is about to speak but stops suddenly and with effort
pulls his heavy backpack from his shoulders. From the backpack he takes
out a banner with three XXXs marked on it, and next to them"Expedition/Trip
200-". He unfurls the banner on the handle of the bike. He then turns
back towards the audience.)
Main Character: (Questioningly)
The year? Which year is it? The year is?
(He remembers. Happily he takes a marker
from his pocket and writes the current year on the banner. He puts the
marker back in his pocket, then, satisfied, rubs his hands.)
Main Character: Finally, all
set. Ready to roll. (Stepping away from the bicycle he moves downstage.)
Main Character (MC): When you
are starting out, there's always some last minute hitch…And if you are
starting out on a major trip, well -- there's no end to things to take
into account. One or two things wouldn't matter, but you must think
about a thousand and one things. This is especially true if you are
travelling far…particularly on a cycle, everything should be in perfect
shape. In spite of all this attention, there's always something missed
that should have been done, but was left undone… (He goes through
a mental checklist trying to remember) … One, the backpack; two,
the bicycle; the cap, the goggles? They're also there. Shoes -- the
two of them. Whistle? It's there. There's the rope, the diary, the water
bottle, anti-diarrhea tablets -- Kaeopectate… (He counts the remaining
items on his fingers). There's still something missing. It should
have been here. Forget about it. It would be no fun if everything was
perfect on a trip. Even on "that" trip, you never have that total sense
of completeness. (Admiring his insight, he chuckles.)
So this is the trip. What kind of a trip? (Pointing
to the banner on the bike). The Xs … three Xs. Each refers to the
type of trip I have in mind. A geographical journey -- across an island,
a sub-continent, a continent, across the ocean. Or a journey of mind,
Or just a bicycle trip. But the Xs must be three, not two. Meaning,
this is the trip. (A hollow laugh.) My dream voyage
is about to be fulfilled! I am thrilled. Many years ago, I had dreamt
this dream…that…I should pick up a cycle, the bicycle. Get on it, and
ride. See unexplored places -- mountains, deserts, water. Have new experiences,
make new friends. Have friends! Have "girl" friends! No, no girl friends
-- we don't get along. But then, dreams are not always perfect. There
are other things to be done, much to be learnt and relished -- arts,
crafts, books, languages, hamburgers, hotdogs, unfamiliar tacos, delicious
samosas…! Oh God, it's all about to come true! The voyageur is ready
to take off. (Returning to the bicycle.) This bike. It and
I, will follow the grand route.
(Takes out a harmonica and plays a popular
song. He suddenly stops.)
I'm scared. A silly fear! What will be outside
the door? And then thereafter, then after that, and after that…yes,
after that in that unknown…Is there really danger out there? I have
never been out. Pa and Ma never let me go. The only child! My older
brother lived only two months. Then died. Did not let me go. That's
why they said, "There's everything in this house. Why go out and waste
yourself?" They got me a tricycle. I'd wheel it around, everywhere --
but only inside the house. Would race, have fights, dash from one room
into the other, but only inside (chez nous). Sometimes with Ma, sometimes
Pa. Couple of times, Ma asked the neighbourhood kids in to play with
me. They wrecked everything. They never came back. Mind you, they also
scared me. Weren't like Ma and Pa, uh-huh! Pa, a real gent. Once in
a while he would slap me across the face. Just a habit. Ma, totally
safe. Never hit me. If I made a mistake, she'd cry instead. Then I'd
say, "Ma I am sorry, I won't do it again". She was the one who taught
me to say that. But…all this to say, that I never rode outside those
rooms. Just kept riding my trike round and round (chez nous). That's
when I started dreaming. Ordinary dreams first -- like, opening the
door, I see the outside. Then the dreams start expanding --
I cross the door. I am on the landing, near the stairs. I ride down
the stairs. Then, I can see the road outside our front door. And in
the distance, the bridge across the rail tracks, and running along the
bridge, the highway! There, I am standing proud over my bicycle. (While
saying so he feels a tension within as in his childhood. He tries to
free himself of the momentary tension.) Dreaming so, I grew older.
In fact, I am gutsy. But it takes so long to convince Ma and Pa to let
(Pa and Ma enter as if in a melodrama. Ma
is sobbing and with a hanky wipes away her tears. Pa has a somber look.)
Ma: (controlling herself)
My baby…must you go?
MC: Yes Ma, I must.
Pa: If you have to go, go around
the block. And come back.
MC: Pa! I'm talking of going
around Canada, around the continent…around the world!
Ma: But down South, they are
so tough…violent. No medi-care. They would rob you. Kidnap you. Even
in the US of A… (Blows her nose)
Pa: Hurricanes, floods, snow
-- they have speed traps in the Adirondacks. Radar's, laser guns…
Pa: The Klan
MC: Stop it! Both of you! I'll
be back safe and sound. Must I never see my dream realized? Can you
guarantee if I go tomorrow it will be alright, different than now? Tell
me Pa, can you guarantee? Say Ma?
Ma: (Blowing her nose)
Guarantee? Who do you think I am? Chairman of General Motors. I am Madame
Prime Minister and your Pa is President of the United States? Nobody
gives guarantees. All I say is: Baby, not now, go next Spring. March
break. I won't stop you.
MC: No mother, I'm going today.
Pa: But you must be home for
MC: I'm grown up now! Why must
I be home for supper?
Ma: Look at Pa -- even he is
home by supper.
MC: I don't care. I am telling
you I won't be home this evening for supper, neither today, nor tomorrow,
or the day after…
(Ma starts to cry without restraint. Pa consoles
MC: What's this now? Am I dead?
Pa: Wretched kid. Is that the
way to speak to your mother, your own flesh and blood, boy, who looked
MC: Ma, I must catch my dream.
Can you understand? If I don't, I'll be sorry forever. Pa, you agree,
eh? Do you, Pa?
Ma and Pa: (Controlling
their sorrow) Do what you want, son. Our blessings will be always
with you, wherever you ride.
Ma: So often you went and stood
in the balcony, or outside at the front steps. Did I stop you?
Pa: And the toilet training.
Who taught you to sit on the potty?
MC: Alright, alright, you're
right…I'm in your debt forever. For all you've done, I'll never repay
enough. But the time's come now to get off the potty and smell the world.
(Kneeling, formal) Blessed mother, bid me farewell! And thou,
dear Dad, wish me god speed!
Ma and Pa: (Choking with
emotion) Go if you must. Go. But don't fall off the bike. Don't
go on the highways, just back roads and bicycle paths. Go. You know
the signs? Stop, Yield, Go. That yield sign is tricky, boy. Watch the
deer sign, the bear sign, the sign, the signs that say careful the skunks
are crossing. And careful when getting off the bicycle. Go. And don't
sneeze while racing it. Sneeze only when you're off it. Go. You'll come
across trucks, tractors, horses, sheep, donkeys, cows. Meet politicians.
Keep away from them…See how difficult it is to let you go.
MC: (Stands up) Thanks
blessed mother. Thank you dear dad!
(He puts the backpack over his shoulder,
straightens his cap, and gets on the cycle.)
Main Character: I'm going --
chase my dream. Mummy, Bye! Daddy, Good Bye!
(He starts to pedal. Ma and Pa wave. Ma and
Pa facing the audience wipe their tears, and retracing their steps backwards
disappear into the wing. The Main Character continues to pedal with
great care. He maneuvers to save himself from on-coming traffic.)
Main Character: So (swallowing
a lump in his throat) now the journey has begun (he stops pedaling).
Is it real or am I just imagining? (He gets off the cycle and pinches
himself.) No, it's real. The dream is being fulfilled. (He
looks towards the back of the stage.) Home is behind, far behind,
can't even see it. Can't even see Mom and Dad. Even Main Street is gone.
I think. Can't say with certainty -- never went round the block. But
there was something that passed by -- must be the Main Street. (He
is so nervous he almost falls off his bike but manages to balance himself.
Then with great enthusiasm he increases the pace of his pedaling.)
How wonderful! (He pedals on for a while. Then is a bit apprehensive,
but continues to pedal.) Oh so refreshing! Feel the breeze! Yippie!
Dipping into fresh air, my cycle's taken off on its world travel. When
I push the pedals, it feels like I'm gliding -- Whee …! ( Continues
to pedal, rings the bike bell in elation. He feels very light. While
opening an imaginary door, a man enters and shouts at him.)
Man: Oye…what are you ringing
the bell for, eh? Why did you ring my door bell?
Main Character: (Getting
off the bike) I only rang this bell (rings bell)-- my
Man: But it sounded like the
doorbell. Just don't do it again!
Main Character: Do what, sir?
I never rang it -- your doorbell.
Man: Can't you hear? Don't ring
(The Man disappears into the imaginary door)
Main Character: (A bit surprised)
Strange! Harry Cramp, our neighbour. Uncle Harry's not able to see the
difference between a doorbell and the bell of a bicycle!
(He rides the bike again) Wow! Wonderful!
Even my imaginary bicycle trip was not this enjoyable. "Real" is so
much more fun.
(Starts to sing a line or two of a pop song
on beat with his pedaling. He notices something strange ahead.)
Oh-Oh- problem! (He slows down the pace of his pedaling). From
one road, there are three roads coming up. This one, this is the second,
and that's the third one. Until now there was one. There was nothing
to worry about. Now there are three? What's the right one? (Worried)
Wish there was only one. I could then close my eyes and keep on going…
(A stranger enters and passes by)
Main Character: This guy may
know. Let's ask him. (Gets off the bike to approach the passer-by)
Helloo! Sir..! May I ask one question?
Passer-By: Sure. Why one, ask
Main Character: (Quickly)
No, not three, one is enough -- where do these roads go to?
Passer-By: This one this way,
that one that way, and that one that way.
Main Character: That's not the
point. Which one of these take me out? Outside -- that's out of the
Passer-By: All three.
Main Character: All three?
Main Character: (He shares
a look of confusion with the audience). (To the passer-by) That's
right. But which one goes the farthest…out of the city? Just one…Just
one…which goes further than the other two.
(The Main Character rides on the bicycle)
Passer-By: But, then, this one
(Main Character is baffled)
Passer-By: This one is also
quite interesting. This also goes outside.
(Main Character is really confused)
Passer-By: Okay. Then take each
one three times. I don't know what's bothering you. All three roads
go outside. And you want to go outside. So?
Main Character: But I have to
choose -- I want only one road!
Passer-By: Why didn't you say
so first? Take this one here, right under my nose.
Main Character: (As he gets
on the bike) Are you sure? This isn't a trick? Something I may
be sorry for later?
Passer-By: Since you ask, you
Main Character: May what?
Passer-By: Be sorry. Later.
Anyone can make a mistake.
Main Character: (Worried)
So what am I to do?
Passer-By: What more can I tell
you? Toss a coin. Heads or tails.
Main Character: Alright! Here's
a coin. Toss it for me. But do it well -- otherwise it will fall on
Passer-By: Worry not. I'll toss
it well. Heads this road, Tails that one.
Main Character: Stop! But the
Passer-By: Let that go. A coin
has only two sides.
Main Character: But there are
Passer-By: (Irritated) Drop
dead! Who has a three-sided coin? Stay here. Don't go anywhere.
Main Character: Impossible!
I've left on a world tour and you say I shouldn't go anywhere? You're
ruining my trip. Same as Pa and Ma
Passer-By: (Pointing a finger
at him) Watch it, don't call me names. I am no one's mother!
Main Character: I didn't say
Mother. My Dad, My Ma…
Main Character: I was saying
…Ma…something about mother.
Passer-By: Still Ma Ma, Moo
Main Character: But…
Passer-By: (Losing patience)
Get going man, before I….
(Frightened, Main Character gets on his bike
and pedals away. The passer-by walking backward disappears into the
Main Character: (continues
to pedal for a while) You come across all types, that's what Dad
said…I didn't want to listen…then I thought, why worry, who has time!
…Anyway, did find out the way to go outside…So, what was I saying? Yes,
...to travel round the world on a bicycle, as I'm doing now, it's crucial
to study the bicycle first, which I've done. Go on, ask me -- where
and when was the first cycle built? Eighteenth century. France. From
France, it reached England. Didn't have any pedals then. You pushed
it with your feet on ground, like Fred Flintstone. Problem with that
was your shoes wore out quickly. So only those who could afford unlimited
supplies of shoes could ride a bicycle. The rich. (pedaling, he
looks around) Hey, finally! we're out of the city. There's the
city, left behind. One by one, all connections are peeling off. The
world tourist is on his way to becoming free! What's this sign? (Gets
off and reads the sign. Bit doubtful. He reads again.) No! How
can this be? Why should this road which is going out of the city, again
go back into the city. Am I back where I started from? You leave the
city, and still you're on the way to it? It's clear -- this must be
some other town. But it has the name of our city. How come? You leave
home, and you get in a muddle. Let me ask someone, (looking around).
There's no one around.
Sage: (Only voice)
(Suddenly there is celestial music and the
Main Character: Who's that?
I can't see anyone.
Sage: That's only if you really
Main Character: (Startled)
Oh, you gave me a fright. One moment there was nothing but air around
me and the next --
Sage: It metamorphosed into
a shape -- me. A sage, guru, ascetic, on my way to Indiaah -- from which
path, I have to say, your cry deviated me. So ask your question and
let me resume my journey.
Main Character: As it happens,
I too am on a journey -- a world tour -- on my bicycle…
Sage: Walking is better. More
Main Character: (Relieved)
Oh, so nice to meet you. Yes, I agree but I am on this bike. As I was
saying I too am on a journey, but have hit a quandary. The name of the
city, which is written on this sign, is the city where I live. I had
taken the road going out of the city. This should have automatically
brought me out. Isn't that correct? But what I find now is that I am
on the road, which instead is going back into the city. Strange. I've
been pedaling all this while. Came so far. And suddenly there's this
sign which shows I haven't pedaled at all. Taking me back to where I
began! Huh, Is this not some kind of magic?
Sage: It is. When did you come
of the hospital?
Main Character: Hospital?
Sage: Loony Bin.
Main Character: Loony Bin?
Sage: Yes! Do you see?
Main Character: What?
(Sage takes the Main Character by his shoulders
and "about turns" him)
Sage: Look now. This is you.
Behind you, the sign board. So you have now come from the city. And
now, in that direction, is the way to the outside (of the city). (Pointing
in the direction of the outward bound path). Clear now. Right?
Main Character: Yes, You're
right…but…listen! I…where did I come from?
Sage: (Slightly annoyed)
From your mother's womb! Ignoramus! (He walks away.)
Main Character: Why would one
not want to understand? I may be curious, agreed, but this doubt is
honest. (Examining the sign again) This is the sign, This is
me. This is the city. (Suddenly having figured it out.) Yes,
Yes, Yes! Such a simple thing. I get it now. So why did I doubt? …Such
doubt should not happen again. Come on, let's move. I'm already behind
schedule. No more time wasting! (Mounts the bike and starts pedaling
again) On a journey, you learn a lot. Name the man who built the
first bicycle after the one which had to be pushed around the ground?
Kirkpatrick McMillan, a blacksmith. First bike with pedals. Kirkpatrick
would hop on his bike and go for miles, forty miles in one ride. (suddenly
remembering) How many we done so far? This speedometer will tell
(pointing to the speedometer). Six miles. Not bad. Just the
beginning. We'll pick up the speed as we go along. One day, Kirkpatrick
was just moving along the same way. Suddenly what happened? Accident.
He hit a child.
(Suddenly from backstage, inside there are
loud noises. The Main Character nervously gets off the bike)
Crowd (A,B,C,Z): Thief! Smash
his head! Break every bone in his body! Kill the bastard!
Main Character: What's the commotion?
Crowd: (Angrily shouting)
Down! Get down on the ground!
Main Character: But…I…. Kirk…Kirkpatrick…
Crowd: You son of a bitch! Return
the bird, the turkey!
Main Character: Turkey? What
A: You motherfucker What turkey?
B: Your ma' s turkey, your pop's
C: We'll beat the shit out of
you! Give us the bird!
Main Character: But… but..
B: Can't just run off after
knocking over the bird.
Main Character: Who killed the
A: You. Who else?
Main Character: But I…I'm a
vegetarian -- turkeys, birds, rabbits, cows -- I don't eat -- why would
C: Cut the bullshit. We know
the turkey was run down by your bike.
Main Character: My bike? My
friend, nothing was run over by my bicycle.
B: We're no friends of yours.
Our turkey was run over.
Z: And it's dead.
Main Character: (Pleading)
But…ask Pa…there has been nothing run over by this bike so far.
A: Fuckoff. Give us our turkey
back or we'll smash this bike. (holding on to the handlebars of
Main Character: No. Not the
bicycle. Please…I mean …cycle…world tour…Americas
Z: Fifty bucks!
Main Character: Fifty….?!
A: It was a special one. Butterball
turkey. Thanksgiving special.
B: A thoroughbred.
A: Want this bike wrapped around
Main Character: No…No …
(Main Character hurriedly removes items from
his backpack, then a bag, within a bag, within a bag and finally a small
pouch. Counts the notes and reluctantly hands over the money)
Main Character: Here you are
-- fifty it is. But I didn't kill the turkey or chicken or …why blame
A,B,C, and Z: (Glaring at
Main Character: (Scared
but diplomatic) No, no…
A,B,C and Z: (Jovially,
patting him)The fact is, you didn't. Your Pa killed it!
(Laughing they disappear into the wings)
Main Character: (Scared,
but disgusted) How dare they accuse Pa? I'd have punched him, everyone
of them. Well…every journey of the world is peppered with such incidents.
The worst part's that one has to spend so much time on things no one
could have foreseen. (Fixing his clothes he gets on the bike again
and starts to ride.) On we go!
(He starts singing the pop song from earlier
on. Then to the audience).
Yes! So we were talking about?… the topic?…Yes,
about the bicycle. The funny thing is that after the beating Kirkpatrick
received that day, from the people on the street, it led to the stoppage
of making of two-wheeler bikes. Just because someone's turkey had been…no,
not a turkey, but a child had been run over by the bike. So then cycles
were made of three or four wheels. But the thrill you get from riding
a three or four wheeler is not the same. (Pointing to the bike)
The real thing, (suddenly gets off the bike) Oh, O,O, … How
wonderful! Ahhh…! While talking, completely forgot…such a wonderful
view! It beats even the scenery they show on the Discovery channel.
The Sun is ready to set over the blue hills in the West…the sky is draped
in crimson red…the birds are returning to their nests…exactly like the
shows on TV. (Takes a deep breath of fresh air, almost intoxicated
by it) O'God, the Lord of the Earth below and Heavens above, the
Lord of Sun, Sky, and Stars -- a thousand, million, billion salutes!
We'll meet again on this world tour, at a new place…tomorrow! (Takes
again a deep breath). My sweet Lord!
(Two persons appear and are standing behind
Both: Yes, we are. The landlords
-- the Lords of the Earth below and Heavens above!
First: I'm Lord of the Earth.
Second: I own Heavens -- Sun,
First: The Lord of all you survey.
Main Character: (Looks at
them with an air of disbelief, one after the other) Fine…fine…fantastic.
I just say the words, and here you are. (Swallowing a lump in his
throat). Mr. Land…Mr. Lord (whispers) -- Am I blessed
Both: Very blessed.
Main Character: Nice day for
a walk?…How come you decided to come this way? Lose your way?
First: You did, if we may say
Second: This is our path, not
for everyone. It is our proper property. From that rock over yonder
First: …And you have trespassed.
First: We can file a case against
you. Brother Lord, should we get the case going?
Second: That we shall, but first,
we'll have to keep him under surveillance.
First: Put him in a cell until
the lawyer comes.
Second: Damn lawyers! The land
is full of them, scurrying here and there after cases they make up.
You can never get one on time. It could take two-four-six days till
Main Character: Excuse me, but
-- trespass… there must be some mistake. I was just enjoying the view,
First: Look there -- see the
board? What does it say? Trespassers will be prosecuted. In plain English.
Bit of rust on the board, but it's still legible. And you butted in,
without so much as a glance at the board.
Main Character: I didn't mean
to…I swear I never saw it.
First: Seen it now?
Main Character: I can see…now,
it is seen…
First: Good. So how come you're
still on our property? Simple -- you've come to trespass, deliberately,
Second: Such transgression cannot
Main Character: What?
Main Character: I…not knowingly…inadvertently…stepped
on your property…surely
First: Say all that in court.
Come on, inside that house. Move, move.
Main Character: Please no. I've
no time to be put inside…I'm on a world tour…on the bicycle.
First: Yes, you could do all
your world travels in that barn. On top of that bull…it's there!
Main Character: (Scared)
In the barn! No. No. I've in fact no time. Not even this much. Will
see you again…on the way back…(He tries to escape, but the second
Lord has his bike in his hold. Despondently.) I…not knowingly,
stepped on your property… and you can't even…
Second: Say all this in court,
First: The case could run ten
Main Character: Ten years? But…my
world adventure…bicycle tour…
Second: What say you Lord, this
lad's world cycle trip or a stint in court?
First: Court will bring us money
-- we're bound to win. The money will come in handy for you to pay what
you lost to me at cards.
Second: Lost? I never lost --
First: Cheated! Me, Lord Almighty
of the universe stoop to cheat like some common mortal?
Second: Good Heavens! Don't
belittle yourself -- your cheating's on a cosmic scale!
First: This is intolerable!
Come on lift up your puny golden orb, let's see what you are made of!
Main Character: Uh, excuse me…uh…what..have
you decided about my case…
Second: Oh stop being an irritating
fly! Can't you see there's a universal fight about to ensue?
(Lords of the Earth and the Heavens retreating,
disappear into darkness)
Main Character: Hey! Where…?
…(A huge sigh of relief). How was I to know I needed permission
to enjoy the natural scenery. Pa said, there's nothing free any more.
Air, water, even the sunset -- has to be paid for, permission sought.
Only a bicycle trip is cheap.
(Main Character mounts the cycle and starts
…As I was saying, due to lack of adventure on
three- and four- wheeler cycles the two-wheeler returned. When? In Eighteen
Hundred and Sixty. A huge front wheel, with a tiny rear wheel following
behind like a pup -- tied to the front wheel by a chain. The "bone rattler"
it was called, because -- its motion shook every bone in the body. When
three persons riding this bone shaker mouse-trap covered 53 miles in
14 hours; the newspaper praised them to sky. But when two men covered
the same distance in 11 hours on foot, walking, then the same newspapers
mocked the three men on the bike. Instead, they praised the men on foot.
What that shows is that the newspapers were the same as they are now.
Its not new ideas, Pa says, sensationalism is all they run after…(Suddenly,
he realizes) It's getting dark. I was wondering what was the matter;
why can't I see clearly? It is a lonely road. In those travel stories,
it's at such moments No! I didn't say that. Just a thought that shouldn't
have been given air. But in case of emergency -- man how I love the
sound of alarms. I've taken all necessary precautions, therefore I'm
in no danger. The steps taken cannot be revealed. That's what they do
when big people travel, Presidents and Prime Ministers! There, confidence
is re-doubled. I've my burglar alarm. The alarm goes off at the sight
of a burglar.
(He takes out a battered old alarm clock
and tests it. A bandit with a Lone Ranger mask enters and stands on
the stage. Main Character with difficulty is able to stop the alarm.)
Main Character: (On seeing
that the alarm has finally stopped, he turns towards the audience).
As soon as a burglar would appear, this alarm would start to ring.
Bandit: And here I am!
Main Character: See, it works!
(Abruptly he stops cycling. Startled. Searching in the darkness.)
Who are you?
Bandit: El Bandito!
Main Character: Band…No? A burglar?
Bandit: You called. The alarm
Main Character: Me? No. You
don't understand. Mine only goes off when a burglar intrudes. Just now
it went off by mistake. A test. I was testing the alarm.
Bandit: No, it was an invitation.
See the sun? Once the sun sets, the alarm goes off, it is a signal that
it is time for us banditos -- goondas to rob. If we don't appear at
the scene to rob, we lose our licenses.
Main Character: Licenses? No,
Bandit: You think just any screwball
can set himself up as a robber? No sir, strictly controlled this profession
is. We have rules, guidelines. When an alarm goes, a special feeling
is aroused, the voice within says: you should go, you must go.
Main Character: Weird! You sound
more like a philosopher.
Bandit: Mind your tongue! (Takes
out his gun) See this shotgun, I can shoot you. I won't. I am a
psychologist bandit (Puts the gun in his pocket). Your alarm
which just rang is a good subject for a study -- the way it has roused
a peculiar sensibility is inexplicable.
Main Character: Impossible.
It clearly states in the instruction manual that my burglar alarm is
made to warn me about an invading robber. Nowhere does it say in print
it is to invite a robber.
Bandit: Flawed circuitry. Whenever
an alarm goes off, instead of running away, I have an emotional arousal
of sensitive empathy. Now, I must rob you and take away the alarm. (Pointing
the gun again) No noise please, I request you to kindly pass on
Main Character: An alarm-clock
bandit. Unbelievable! (To the bandit) Why don't you rob me
of money …eh, take my watch, it's automatic,.. digital, …it also rings.
Bandit: One last time, hand
over the alarm or I'll cock the shot gun.
Main Character: (To the
audience) This is unfair. If the alarm is gone, then what will
happen to the warnings needed during the rest of the journey. A life-saving
device. Should this be given-up? Life or Alarm, that is the question.
(Suddenly remembering) Mr. Bandit, there's one more interesting
item, if you will allow me to show you. (From his backpack he takes
out a brownie box camera). Look at this. This is a camera -- a
special camera. In light, it takes pictures of feelings and emotions
in the deepest of darkness inside. When you get tired of the shotgun,
you can shoot people with the camera. Exactly the type of thing you
would find useful.
Bandit: (Lowering gun)
Let me see…(Snatches the camera and then pointing it at the Main
Character) Come on, both hands up in the air. Stand still. I am
going to shoot you. Steady. Absolutely study. (Clicks camera. The
bulb flashes. Burglar disappears with the flash.)
Main Character: Blind, blind!
I've gone blind! (Pause) Oh, that's better, Pa always says
rub your eyes whenever you feel low. There's two little suns in the
back of my eyes, but I can begin to see in front -- hey! Where's the
Bandit? Well, well, my quickness of mind did the trick. A camera for
an alarm. The camera was borrowed. So it's not mine to lose. Let the
finder keep it. A laser-sharp mind, I have. So camera lost, confidence
gained. In fact, confidence doubled. I may allow myself a moment to
stand here, in the fast-gathering darkness, full of confidence.
(Puffs his chest and hits it with his fists
belting a Tarzan-like cry as a sign of bravado. A purr of a lion is
heard as the Lion enters.)
Main Character: A strange sound?
Main Character: Again? Must
be gas inside. Let me take a "Rolaid" (He takes out a bottle of
tablets from his backpack reading the label) -- perfect for gas.
(Gulps the tablet down with water from a bottle and belches.)
Wonderful! What a relief!
Main Character: This can't be
the sound inside my tummy. Does gas sound the same outside, as within?
Can't see a thing. The Darkness doesn't matter, but not able to
(The Lion roars)
Main Character: (Frightened
he falls down, then slowly rising) Good God! Looks like some wild
animal? Darkness so thick you could poke your own eyes with a finger
and still not see a thing.
Lion: But we, ah…can see you.
Main Character: Must be a thing
who can see in the darkness. But without a sign, how's one to know?
Knock, Knock, who's there? …I need a sign.
Lion: We have a …humph…moustache.
Main Character: Must be vicious.
Lion: Long, oh so very long
Main Character: Einstein? No
-- what would he be doing here? Must be someone else. Another clue please.
Lion: Sleep we during the day,
and are awake at night.
Main Character: Night-shift.
Must be Mr.Bulowski -- in our building. He's the one who moonlights
at the Gas Station. A real hippy, with long hair and a moustache! Eh?
Lion: We are…uh.., meat-eaters.
Main Character: Bulowski is
a veggie. Do you drink sir?
Lion: No. Sometimes. Do drink
Main Character: What? You drink
blood. Holy Drac! Can't see a thing in the darkness. (Thinking quickly)
May I touch you? If tickled, let me know, I'll stop pronto.
Lion: Alright… (Main Character
strokes the Lion's coarse hairy hide) Tickles--
Main Character: Mary, Mother
of God! This is a LION! (Nervous, whispering) If he ate me
up…wouldn't be able to continue this world trip… (Trying to get
control of the situation.) No -- I know you're a cat. At most a
Lion: What? Cat? That's news…
Main Character: No one told
Lion: Not a body.
Main Character: It's the darkness.
I know you won't eat me. You only gobble mice.
Lion: Does he really think I'm
a cat -- a tom cat -- or is he trying to sneak by me? (To Main Character)
We think we are a LION. We are. We may be. It seems that way.
Main Character: Very interesting.
All cats think the same way. For example, sometimes, I think I am Superman.
Lion: Sometimes, we feel we
are the Chairman of the Lion's Club.
Main Character: Hey -- and I
think I'm Tarzan.
Lion: Met him once. We had a
Main Character: Then?
Lion: Ate him up.
Main Character: (Awed)
Lion: Went into the cave, and
had a nice siesta afterwards.
Main Character: (Trying
to control himself he covers his mouth from a shriek. Facing the audience,
but talking to himself) Must find a way out of this. (To the
Lion) Show me how you fell asleep. Only then will accept you really
are a lion.
Lion: (Aside) Thinks
I'll fall for that old one! His intelligence is matched only by his
skinny body -- the little runt. There's hardly any meat on him -- no
fun eating him. He'll only stick in my craw.
(Disgruntled, the lion exits)
Main Character: Hey, what's
the decision then? (No answer) say -- Royal Highness? (No
answer) Hey, Mr. Lion! (More confidently) Hey Lion! (On
not hearing any sounds, repeats) Hey, you silly ol' lion! (Confidently)
Scared the shit out of him, didn't you?! Bravo, you son of gun! I was
not afraid at all…It has gone very dark.
(Takes out the flashlight from his backpack
and clicks it on. Shines the light around, then points it towards his
Perfect time to write my travel diary. In any
journey, a diary is a must. Especially, when it's a journey on a bicycle
and the day has been so eventful. All great travelers maintained a diary
-- Huang Tsing, Marco Polo, Livingstone…
(Takes out the diary from his backpack. Under
the flashlight he writes with great effort)
This morning, exactly seven-twenty …left on journey…Ma,
Pa, farewells…Three paths….Turkey…Bandit…Trespass Lords of Earth and
(On stage it is now dark. The Main Character
is busy writing his diary by flashlight. Next to him, there is a dark
cloaked and hooded figure who is also busy writing but without a flashlight)
Figure: Exactly eight-thirty,
the cemetery…under the slabs, heaps of skull and bones…dust to dust…ash
to ash…the raven, the owl, the ghosts…moonless night…
Main Character: (Interrupts
his writing) Who was that? No… no, the battery must be running
out. (Resumes writing) Must buy new battery-cells at the next
Figure: At the next stop, suck
the blood from the jugular vein throbbing on his throat…
Main Character: Will suck blood…but
why…must buy a blood cell. There's something wrong here.
Figure: (After writing)
blood for cell…wrong…cell for blood.
(He pauses, contemplating his eerie surroundings,
then both of them, unaware of each other, share a puzzled look with
Main Character: (To the
audience) I'm really beginning to get confused.
Figure: (To the audience,
expressionless) Because there's a ghost sitting next to you.
Main Character: (To the
audience) Is there anyone else around?
Main Character: (Quickly
turns off flashlight, in the darkness looks around with wide eyes)..Who's…that?
(Looking at the audience) …Gh..oo..st!! Ghost! Where's my cross?
Figure: A Simpleton! He's seen
too many Dracula movies.
Main Character: Pa! Pa! Pa!
Figure: Even his Amma is not
scared of his Pa.
Main Character: (Addressing
the Ghost, but speaking to audience) But mother is no ghost…
Figure: And the ghost is not
your father either.
Main Character: (Facing
audience) This pretending ghost, how did he appear on the scene.
What's he doing here?
Main Character: (To the
audience) This is serious. Any end to these problems? Nothing seems
to be working. Total darkness. Got rid of the Lion, and now this ghost.
Did any of those world travelers meet so many perils.
Figure: (To the audience)
Did anyone ever meet a ghost who wrote diaries on moonless nights!
Main Character: (Discouraged)
So what should be done?
Figure: Die, and become a ghost.
Main Character: Never. Even
if I became a ghost, I wouldn't die. I mean if I died, I wouldn't become
(Main Character hops on the bike trying to
escape, starts to pedal, but loses his balance and falls off. He tries
again, but falls. The ghost stands by, observing.)
Main Character: This must be
the Ghost's "roll of the dice." Exactly what Pa had said. Plan needed
to find a way out. Ghost!
Figure: I'm here.
Main Character: Wherever you
are, whoever you may be, I've nothing to do with you. There's no need
for you to come in my way.
Figure: You're in my
way. This is a cemetery. And a cremation ground. See there -- the grave
being dug. On the other side, bodies waiting to be cremated. For those
who want to be buried, tombstones. Feel how cold they are.
Main Character: No, I don't
want to feel them…
Figure: But they want you to!
Anxiously, they wait to hug the next arrival. Come on, shake hands,
be a buddy…
(The Main Character passes out)
Figure: (To audience)
He's passed out. But the fact is, I'm no ghost. I'm not even a fake
ghost. (Removing his black hood), I'm a human who must pretend
to be a ghost. Why I do that? Long story. An incredible story, totally
unbelievable. In my previous life, in the last Century, early Twentieth
Century, I was a successful businessman. Everything I touched turned
gold. Milk. White. So easy. Keep adding water, and it remains milk.
Same price, less cost to me. Made a fortune. Then, I had burn-out. Yes,
even back then it was common. Stress. Sleepless nights. Finally, one
day my heart gave way -- Badaam Boom!.. Next incarnation, I came back
as a politician. That was worse. Everyone laid claim to me -- businessmen,
unions, religious nuts, pensioners, actors. I had to be everyone's man,
told lies galore to get re-elected. Didn't wait for no Badaaam Boom!
This time -- ate a bullet, shot myself. But only faked it. Became a
ghost of an actor-politician. So now I rove. On location here -- there
Main Character: (While laying
down) I'm listening to his story. In fact, I've not really passed
out. Pa used to tell such stories when I was young. These things did
happen in those stories. This is called doing things… appropriate to
the situation. (Suddenly standing up) I was merely testing
you -- I didn't faint. (Quickly shakes his hand, and as if hit by
electric current he falls on to the ground.)
Figure: (With melodramatic
stereophonic laughter) Ha, ha, ha! I knew it, knew from the start
you would pull a cheap stunt like that. The point of fact is, I am a
Ghost. The phantom! The demon! Ha, Ha! Want to be cocky now boy! For
my reward, a free-style wrestling match…
Main Character: (Taken aback)
Wrestling! Without any training, preparations -- no, it's not possible
-- I need a coach, a referee, an agent…no one said I would need to wrestle
on this trip -- I haven't trained to fight demons. Pa! Pa! Help!
(Suddenly Pa appears in divine light)
Pa: Didn't we say? Down South,
they are so tough, violent. The dangerous passage through the forlorn
valleys and scorching desert? But would you listen? Must go out! "I
have to go out!" So go out. Go on your journey. I was the same when
I was young. Built up a solid physique. The house was full of all sorts
of weights, dumbbells, bars. I had muscles hard as stone. Every day
took a full carton of milk, porridge, muesli, granola. A rich nutritious
Main Character: So what should
I do Pa?
Pa: Relax. Be calm. Patient.
Let me find a way out of this. Am thinking…Everything was cheap then…dirt-cheap…milk,
25 cents a litre. Pure and fresh produce -- no chemicals, no additives.
One enjoyed a good work out. No steroids, no tricks. Now it's not the
valour, just some clever gimmick.
Main Character: Tell me that
Pa: Didn't I say -- Wait. That's
all which is left now. It has to be a shrewd stratagem. Opposition,
that's the Ghost! He could be a kindred spirit or a Demon. There's several
ways to exorcise them. But only for the have's who can arrange to have
so easily everything done. Have-nots, cannot!
Main Character: Pa -- What do
Pa: Patience, son. For any plan,
thoughts, words and deeds must be in unison.
Main Character: Pa!
Pa: Yes, yes. We'll solve this
problem of yours. Stay calm. Don't think hard. Just think clever. The
very first time you leave home, you run into a ghost. Son, you must
be on guard…these ghosts..
Main Character: Are you going
to tell me the way out or not?
Pa: I'm coming to that -- slowly
Ghost: (In a stereophonic
thundering voice) Your turn to wrestle! Must hurry.
Main Character: Pa…
Pa: Worry not. In crisis, the
brave never lose courage!
Main Character: There's a ghost
sitting next to me, that's all you can say. What do I do Pa?
Pa: (Seriously) Nothing!
On such occasions, the best solution is to do nothing.
Main Character: Nothing?
Pa: Yes. In this life, the worst
possible tragedies happen -- individually, nationally, globally -- these
occur, and their solution: DO NOTHING. Every problem ultimately resolves
Main Character: But the ghost…
Pa: Even the ghost. Play the
game, and face up to the demon. That's what Grandpa did during the Great
Depression -- did not budge -- got on the horse and rode west into the
sunset. No. Damn the ghost. Let it do what it wants to. After all what
can it do? In the end, nothing will happen. That's the secret. Follow
this, and the victory will be yours!
(Disappears. The lights return to normal)
Main Character: …What's the
So? Ready now to lock-in. Hey Mr. World Traveller I'm talking to you.
Main Character: (Fearful,
to the audience) If something should happen to me…please…send this
bicycle…these clothes…this back-pack …everything to Ma and Pa...please
tell Ma…tried my best…but.. (Biting his nails)
Figure: (Roaring) Hey
Chicken, stop biting your your nails? Defy me. (Suddenly there is
a sound of a cock crowing)
The cock crowed!? Shit, shit, shit! The night's over! (To Main Character)
Must return. Escaped this time, Chicken, but next time you won't be
so lucky! (Disappears, excited, quickly)
Main Character: (Surprised,
but happy the Ghost has disappeared) Thank you Mister Cock. Gone?
Without doing anything -- Gone. Forever. Pa was right. Pa was right.
Pa you're really great! Eh! What was that -- a dream, nightmare or was
it real? The cock crowed. So it's Good Morning. That means the first
night of my dramatic journey is over! It's another beautiful day. The
bright sun, the blue sky, the hills and the river. More new material
for my dairy.
(Takes out his dairy and scribbles for a
short time. He then stuffs it in his backpack and moves to the bicycle
to begin the next phase of his journey)
Main Character: (Feeling
his head with his hand) Something's missing. My cap? Where did
the cap go? (Quickly looks around) Forget about it. Gone is
gone. At least, the head is there. (Takes out a colourful handkerchief
from his backpack and ties it around his head.) One must have protection
from the Sun and wind.
(He hops on the bike, but the right foot
slips off the pedal)
Ooouch! Scraped my ankle. (To audience).
Lucky, it didn't fracture. A world-traveler is like an arrow shot, never
meant to stop. Pa, I'll keep on moving ahead, march forward, ahead…No
looking back. There's no turning back.
(He carefully starts to pedal, admiring the
surrounding scenery. The bike climbs with effort up the slope and then
Main Character: Wow! Foot's
still hurting. No wonder that first bike was called a bone-rattler.
Then, nobody thought of accessories like protective mud-guards for bikes.
Not only the mud--splashed on the cyclists clothes, but the person pedaling
the bike had the back of his heels bruised and cut, and blood splattering
all over his clothes as well.
(Looking tired, he keeps on pedaling. Suddenly,
there's a sound of thunder, a flash of lightening and the rain begins
to pour. He pedals through the storm and is drenched)
Thunder! Storm! Lightening! The elements have
launched their attack! Blow, wind! Crack, heavens! I will go on! Forward.
See the whole world, the universe!
(The Roar of thunder increases in ferocity.
His shouts and cries are seen thorough movements of his face but there
is no sound heard. Now, fully drenched and pedaling with great effort
it becomes gradually impossible to move the bike. Limping, he dismounts.)
Main Character: (Shivering)
Impossible! Impossible to go any further.
(He takes off his shirt, wrings it dry, then
his shoes and pours water out of them. His socks are wet and he throws
them away. The storm has ceased.)
Main Character: (In his
shirtless body, surprised) Gone! The thunder, the lightening, the
rain gone!!! Man can't be destroyed. No one can destroy my will to complete
my journey! Nature must submit. Pa, you didn't say anything about Nature,
but your son figured it out all by yourself!
Above the blue sky, below after God's bountiful
rain -- the lush greenery. Caught in between the two, Man -- that's
I! (Wrings the wet shirt in his hand and splashes it to dry)
If I wore it the way it is, I'd catch cold, and who knows maybe the
flu. Bronchitis, Pneumonia, even. (Rummaging in his backpack)
Let me see, if there are any medicines. Must be always prepared. (Looks
around. Suddenly he remembers and instead of medicine he takes a rope
from his backpack which he extends from one end of the stage to the
other. With his injured foot he walks with a limp.) Pa says, dry
your shirt. (Hangs his shirt on the rope to dry. Then looks towards
his trousers.) Why, are the trousers wet? Off with your trousers
(Hangs the trousers next to the shirt.) Pa says dry your trousers
too. (Looks at his underpants. He looks around to see if anyone
is there) This too is wet. The underwear too, Pa says (takes
off the underpants and hangs it on the rope).
Main Character: (Cheerfully
rubbing his hands.) Whatever you may say, this is nice…never felt
so light. During childhood (limping around the stage.)…this
is wonderful. No worries about clothes…let the clothes dry and then
I'm ready to move -- with a new spirit, a new resolve…
(Behind his back, the shirt on the rope slowly
Main Character: Such ease. Batteries
(This time, his trousers disappear)
Main Character: I can feel the
breeze. Oh! Look, a rainbow!
(Now the underpants disappear)
Main Character: God's colourful
bridge joining the earth and the sky, the whole world. (From the
wet backpack he takes out a map, unfolding it). Hum! The map says,
over there are the Rockies and the Pacific and on the other side Atlantic.
O' Canada -- from sea to land to sea! Where am I? Who knows, where am
I. Standing or sitting. But where am I. This is where I started, my
town? But why this hard work? Does it matter? Come from any direction,
go in any direction, some city is bound to come your way. When there,
just ask its name. That should be in this map. So simple.
(A voice of woman from backstage)
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: (Startled)
huh? What did I hear?
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: The voice?
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: Dear?
Woman (Off Stage):
Don't do that dear… look here Dear!
Main Character: (Nervous)
Wh..Who? (To the audience) Map! (Wraps the map around himself
like a towel)
Woman (Off Stage):
I like you very much.
Main Character: (To audience)
Again Sindbad! The sailor!
Woman (Off Stage):
Shall I come?
Main Character: (Frightened)
Woman (Off Stage):
Shall I come?
Main Character: No…come some
other time. I am in the map. Later.
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: No, No. I told
you. The map…it's torn here…there, its old…torn
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: (About to
(Pa appears shirtless and without a hat)
Main Character: (Encouraged)
Pa, you? You really came.
Pa: No. Only in your consciousness
Main Character: Pa, now…this
torn map…clothes were wet, so I had to (Pointing to the rope)
put them there to dry; suddenly, there's a voice from nowhere, saying,
I am coming…am coming. What should I do now, Pa?
Pa: Now he asks -- what should
I do now? How many times did your mother and I say, sweetie, honey pie
stay home. But would you listen? No, we're just old fogies, silly pappy
and mammy. Now do this.
Main Character: What?
Pa: Shut your eyes tightly.
(Main Character raises his hands to cover
his eyes but they are busy holding the map. Helplessly he looks at Pa)
You don't have to raise your hands to shut your eyes.
Main Character: (With shut
eyes) That's true! Done. Eyes are closed.
Pa: Okay. No need to get jittery
now. Let her come. As I always say "eyes closed, mountains gone." If
you don't see her, she doesn't exist.
Main Character: (Opening
eyes) Pretend she's not here. How true, Pa. She is not here. Where
is she? Here, she is not.
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: (Jumping)
See Pa! That voice again…
Pa: Don't worry. She's not there.
You are there. Keep your eyes shut.
Main Character: (With eyes
open) Yes. No, she is not. I'm not. If that's the case, then how
come I'm seeing you?
Pa: Because I'm in your consciousness…But
I must leave now. I have an appointment. Must go. (Disappears)
Woman (Off Stage):
Main Character: (Confidently)
I am NOT. And my name is not Sindbad.
Woman (Off Stage):
I am coming.
Main Character: You can't come.
Because you aren't here and my eyes are closed. (Opens eyes)
Once the eyes are closed, the mountain is gone. (Suddenly looks
at the rope) Jesus! What's this? My clothes? Clothes are not there…m.my..trousers,
my shirt…my underwear…I'd put them here to dry; and (As if he has
figured it out) Yes. How would I see the clothes? The clothes cannot
be seen, because my eyes are closed. (Eyes are open) They are
not here. I'm not here. Pa is not here. Closed eyes -- no mountain.
Clothes are there, but can't be seen. (Enjoying this new logic,
limping, he circles the bicycle once or twice.) I'll open my eyes
as soon as the clothes are dry, then I'll get dressed, and then I'll
move on my world -- tour.
Woman (Entering): Sindbad!
(Main Character jumps with fright, and hastily
tries to wrap the map around his waist. A mermaid walks on stage)
Main Character: What…who? Are
Mermaid: Dorothy is in Wizard
of Oz silly. I'm the princess Madalasa.
Main Character: What? Salsa?
Main Character: Mad-Al-Sa? You…?
Mermaid: I'm under a curse…the
curse of an evil king. I am a princess. I can sing, dance, speak 53
languages. You have won my heart, Sindbad!
Main Character: My name is NOT
Mermaid: So what is your name?
Main Character: I …can't remember.
Wait. Why isn't it coming?…Can't …
Mermaid: Let it go. Name or
no name, does it matter? Sinbad went on long voyages. On the land, on
the sea, in air on his magic carpet…So I'll keep calling you that --
my dear Sindbad!
Main Character: But I am not
Mermaid: You'll defeat the demon
and free me of the curse.
Main Character: (Holding
the map tightly, plaintive) Let my clothes dry first. After I put
my clothes on, then we'll see…
Mermaid: My foolish Sindbad!
Main Character: Stop that…don't
Mermaid: Your clothes are not
on the rope.
Main Character: They are so!
I can't see them because my eyes are closed.
Mermaid: Your eyes are open.
Main Character: Huh? (Towards
audience, keeps on opening and closing them)…They are open…looks
have to accept the rumour. So the clothes? Where're the clothes? (Mermaid
laughs) Why are you laughing?
Mermaid: Because your clothes
are in my stomach?
Main Character: Where? Stom…No.
This can't be!
Mermaid: (Regretfully admitting)
If you got back your clothes, you'll run away from me, somewhere far…thinking
that I swallowed your clothes.
Main Character: (Not believing.
Frightened) Swallowed them? (A bit pathetically) Ridiculous…I've
to go on my travel…the world journey…by cycle…Oh, such an old dream
I will guard them for nine months in my womb…your clothes. Then I'll
give birth to a lovely child. A child in your clothes, handsome as you.
He will call you Pa, Pa. Papa, and me, Ma..Ma.
Main Character: Please go away!
What's happening? Mother, lady, you swallowed my clothes…what right
did you have to do that? Who allowed you? I'll call the cops. Someone
please call the cops!
Mermaid: That's no way to talk
to one of your own.
Main Character: My own? Listen,
just give me my clothes at once, or I'll tell Ma your name. I'll call
Pa. Whenever I call him, he comes at once. (Shouting) Pa! Pa!
(Pa does not. The Mermaid lost in herself
dances around the stage)
Main Character: Give me back
my clothes. I say again, my clothes back!
(Opening the imaginary door a Man reenters.
He had appeared earlier in the play and looks as if he has been awakened
from his sleep)
Man: Uh! What the hell's this
racket? At this late hour? Always the same, day or night… shouting,
quarrelling…What's up this time? Go on, to your bed. Quiet now. If I
hear one more word, I'll whack your face.
Main Character: But Mr. Cramp.
Uncle Harry. I am not…you are our neighbour.
Man: Yes I am. You doubt that?
Main Character: Who called you…
in my consciousness…?
Man: Conscious…? What consciousness?
In the dead of night you shout as if the house's on fire and now you're
getting cute? Go on, and sleep over there. Otherwise you'll get such
a beating. Go as told…Quietly.
Main Character: Sleep? I am
on my journey…journey of my world…on this bike.
Man: (Moves towards the
cycle looking at it from top to bottom) On this?…On this bicycle?
There are no wheels on this bicycle, you stupid son of a bitch. Did
your father ever ride a bike without wheels? How can one travel on a
cycle with no wheels? Idiot! If I hear that racket again..! Enough of
your world tour and our sleepless nights! Okay, look, the rest of the
journey, do it in the morning. Tomorrow morning.
(Hastily returns to his apartment, slamming
the imaginary door. During his speech the dancing mermaid has disappeared.
The Main Character is alone on stage. He no longer limps. Loneliness
eating at him.)
Main Character: (Dejected)
He said, he will whack me…smash my face…there're no wheels…says did
your father ever ride a bike…one without wheels? Ma, …see…did you see
uncle Harry, the way he was swearing. I didn't do anything, still …calls
my bike…without wheels. Ma, there're wheels on my bike…true? Yes, the
wheels are there? They're there. Yes here. Then why does he say that.
Ma, Uncle Harry is bad…uncle Harry, uncle Harry. I'll tell Pa about
him. Then he'll come and push Uncle Harry down the stairs. Then Uncle
Harry will be dead. His tongue will hang out of his mouth. His eyes
will be open for ever. Then I'll cut open the fish's stomach…take out
my clothes to go on my travel…the world travel…the journey of the world
on the bicycle…
(While saying this, the Main Character looks
younger and younger in age. His last few sentences are spoken like a
child. No longer limping he wanders close to the bicycle, lies down,
curls himself around it with eyes closed like a frightened child. There
he begins to fall asleep, with his back to the audience. Gradually,
the stage darkens, with a spotlight on the bicycle and the Main Character.
In this light, one can see a bald patch at the back of the Main Character's
Then: Full darkness.)
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
© Copyright -- VIJAY TENDULKAR, MUMBAI, INDIA
© Copyright -- English Translation and Adaptation
by Balwant Bhaneja. For production information, please contact Balwant
Bhaneja, 381 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6M6, Canada. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
and phone: (613) 244-1979.
VIJAY TENDULKAR is a leading
contemporary Indian playwright, screen and television writer, literary
essayist, political journalist, and social commentator. For the past
four decades he has been the most influential dramatist and theatre
personality in Marathi, the principal language of the state of Maharashtra,
which has had a continuous literary history since the end of the classical
period in India and has nearly seventy-five million speakers today.
A lifelong resident of the city of Bombay, Mr Tendulkar (b. 1928) is
the author of thirty full-length plays and twenty-three one-act plays,
several of which have become classics of modern Indian theater. Among
these are Shantata! court chalu ahe (Silence! The Court
Is in Session, 1967), Sakharam binder (Sakharam the
Bookbinder, 1972), Kamala (1981), and Kanyadan (The
Gift of a Daughter, 1983). Ghashiram kotwal (Ghashiram
the Constable, 1972), a musical combining Marathi folk performance
styles and contemporary theatrical techniques, is one of the longest-running
plays in the world, with over six thousand performances in India and
abroad, in the original and in translation.
Mr Tendulkar's output in Marathi also includes
eleven plays for children, four collections of short stories, one novel,
and five volumes of literary essays and social criticism, all of which
have contributed to a remarkable transformation of the modern literary
landscape of Maharashtra and of India as a whole. He is an important
translator in Marathi, having rendered nine novels and two biographies
into the language, as well as five plays, among which are Mohan Rakesh's
Adhe adhure (Hindi), Girish Karnad's Tughlaq (Kannada),
and Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (English).
He is the author of original stories and screenplays for eight films
in Marathi, including Samana (Confrontation, 1975),
Simhasan (Throne, 1979), and Umbartha (The
Threshold, 1981), the last a groundbreaking feature film on women's
activism in India.
Vijay Tendulkar has also worked as a screenwriter
in Hindi, India's majority language and the preferred medium of the
world's largest film industry. During the 1970s and 1980s he wrote the
original scripts and dialogue for eleven Hindi films--among them Nishant
(The End of the Night, 1975), Manthan (The Churning,
1977), Akrosh (Rage, 1980), Ardha-satya (The
Half-Truth, 1983), and Aghat (The Wound, 1986)--which
define the paradigm for the "middle cinema" movement in India, positioned
between the art cinema of such film-makers as Satyajit Ray, and the
commercial cinema produced by Bollywood. In addition, he has written
and directed discussion-shows on current social issues for Indian television
Mr Tendulkar's dramatic output and theatrical
activities in Marathi and his work in Hindi cinema have received wide
recognition over the past three decades, bringing him the Maharashtra
State Government Award (1956, 1969, 1973), the Sangeet Natak Akademi
Award (1971), and the Filmfare Award for the best original screenplay
(India's equivalent of the Oscars, for Akrosh in 1980, and
for Ardha-satya in 1983). His lifetime achievement in the literary
and performing arts has been recognized by the Government of India's
Padma Bhushan (1984), the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1990), the Janasthan
Award (1991), the Kalidas Samman (1992), the Saraswati Samman (1993),
the Maharashtra Foundation Award (1998), the Pandit Mahadev Shastri
Joshi Award (1999), and the Dinanath Mangeshkar Award (2000). Among
his other honors are a Nehru Fellowship (1973- 74), an Honorary Doctorate
from the Ravindra Bharati University, Calcutta (1992), and a Lifetime
Fellowship from the National Academy of the Performing Arts, New Delhi
Mr. Tendulkar is the co-founder and president
of the experimental theatre group, Avishkar (Bombay), and has served
on the Board of Directors of the National School of Drama (New Delhi),
and the Bharat Bhavan Rangmandal (Bhopal). He has been a member of the
Advisory Council of the Shriram Centre of the Arts (New Delhi), a trustee
of the National Book Trust (New Delhi), as well as the president of
the National Centre for Advocacy Studies (Poona).
In 2002 the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted
Mr. Tendulkar on its campus as a Brittingham and Halls-Bascom Visiting
Scholar. In October 2004, the Indo-American Arts Council sponsored a
monthlong Tendulkar Festival in New York City, including lectures, film
screenings, readings, discussions, and a production of Sakharam
Binder by the Play Company. While in the United States, Mr. Tendulkar
wrote his first play in English, for the Lark Theatre Company, a one-act
entitled His Fifth Woman.