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.]
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
Main Character: Finally,
all set. Ready to roll. (Stepping away from the bicycle he
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
(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 me go.
(Pa and Ma enter as if in a melodrama.
Ma is sobbing and with a hanky wipes away her tears. Pa has a
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
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
Pa: But you must be home
for supper, boy!
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 her.)
MC: What's this now? Am
Pa: Wretched kid. Is that
the way to speak to your mother, your own flesh and blood, boy,
who looked after you…
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
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 cycle's bell.
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 it again.
(The Man disappears into the imaginary
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,
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 city…
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 goes too.
(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,
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 both sides.
Passer-By: Worry not.
I'll toss it well. Heads this road, Tails that one.
Main Character: Stop!
But the third road?
Passer-By: Let that go.
A coin has only two sides.
Main Character: But there
are three roads.
Drop dead! Who has a three-sided coin? Stay here. Don't go
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
a finger at him) Watch it, don't call me names. I am no one's
Character: I didn't say Mother. My Dad, My Ma…
Main Character: I was
saying …Ma…something about mother.
Passer-By: Still Ma Ma,
Main Character: But…
patience) Get going man, before I….
(Frightened, Main Character gets on
his bike and pedals away. The passer-by walking backward disappears
into the wings.)
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 Sage "appears")
Main Character: Who's
that? I can't see anyone.
Sage: That's only if you
really look for…
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.
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
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
Crowd: (Angrily shouting)
Down! Get down on the ground!
Main Character: But…I….
Crowd: You son of a bitch!
Return the bird, the turkey!
Main Character: Turkey?
A: You motherfucker What
B: Your ma' s turkey,
your pop's turkey!
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 turkey bird?
A: You. Who else?
Main Character: But I…I'm
a vegetarian -- turkeys, birds, rabbits, cows -- I don't eat --
why would I kill…
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 the bike)
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 your neck?
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 me…
A,B,C, and Z: (Glaring
at him) Blame?
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
(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 Main Character)
Both: Yes, we are. The
landlords -- the Lords of the Earth below and Heavens above!
First: I'm Lord of the
Second: I own Heavens
-- Sun, Moon, Stars…
First: The Lord of all
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 or what?
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 so.
Second: This is our path,
not for everyone. It is our proper property. From that rock over
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 one arrives.
Main Character: Excuse
me, but -- trespass… there must be some mistake. I was just enjoying
the view, the scenery…
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,
Second: Such transgression
cannot be tolerated.
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
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, in court.
First: The case could
run ten years.
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 -- you cheated!
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
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
(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
…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? But…
Bandit: You called. The
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, Not true.
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 the alarm.
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
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
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
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 sense--
(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
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
Lion: Long, oh so very
Main Character: Einstein?
No -- what would he be doing here? Must be someone else. Another
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!
Lion: We are…uh.., meat-eaters.
Main Character: Bulowski
is a veggie. Do you drink sir?
Lion: No. Sometimes.
Do drink blood.
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 tom cat.
Lion: What? Cat? That's
Main Character: No one
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
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 terrible fight.
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.
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
(Takes out the flashlight from his
backpack and clicks it on. Shines the light around, then points
it towards his watch)
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 Heavens…lion…
(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 stop.
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 the audience.)
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
Figure: A Simpleton! He's
seen too many Dracula movies.
Main Character: 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
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
Main Character: Never.
Even if I became a ghost, I wouldn't die. I mean if I died, I
wouldn't become a ghost.
(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
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 tomorrow.
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
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 diet.
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
Main Character: Tell me
that clever gimmick.
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,
Main Character: Pa --
What do I 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 but surely.
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
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 by itself.
Main Character: But the
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
(Disappears. The lights return to normal)
Main Character: …What's
So? Ready now to lock-in. Hey Mr. World Traveller I'm talking
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)
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,
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 glides down)
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
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 disappears)
Main Character: Such ease.
(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 cry) Pa..a..a.
(Pa appears shirtless and without a
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
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.
(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 you Dorothy?
Mermaid: Dorothy is in
Wizard of Oz silly. I'm the princess Madalasa.
Main Character: What?
Main Character: Mad-Al-Sa?
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 Sindbad.
Mermaid: So what is your
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 that!
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
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!
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 of mine…
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!
(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
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
(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
(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 head.
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
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 in Hindi.
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 (1998).
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
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