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Akhilesh "Akki" Jha

1. People in this play

 

Akhilesh “Akki” Jha

The only son of an Indian land-owning (zamindar) family, Akki has always been pampered. While he grew up shuttling between Patna and New Delhi, home was always the zamindar ki haveli. Akki has two elder sisters and a younger brother, but he knows that he will have to take on the responsibility of the family, the business and the family lands one day. But for now, he is enjoying studying Management & Economics at this British university. Akki’s family has a conservative outlook, steeped in the mainstream patriarchal culture of Bihar, which Akki has never questioned. He revels in the respect and perceived adoration as the “zaminder’s son and heir” both from his extended family who look up to his father and grandfather, and all the people in his district.

 

Hari Ramakrishnan

Hari is from New Delhi and doing a MA in Big Data Studies. His career goal is a tenured chair at a university, teaching and researching. Hari is a proud Hindu Indian and believes in the superiority of his religious beliefs. He visits the local temple in the university town as often as he can. But he also has made a small temple on a table in a corner of his room so he can seek God’s blessings every morning. Hari is comfortable with the social norms he has grown up with but loves the freedoms he experiences in the university, now that he is no longer living under his parents’ eyes. So Hari’s favourite pastime is debating and a member of the same student association as Sam. He frequently participates in campus discussions around life in India, which he defends to the best of his ability.

Latha “LG” Guruswamy

LG is a third-generation non-resident Indian (NRI), the youngest of two daughters of her doctor parents. Her family and Sam’s are neighbours in a small tourist-attraction town close to the university. She has been friends with Sam and Lisa since high school. LG is studying law but takes a keen interest in sociological topics and belongs to a sociology study group. Latha is in a live-in relationship with Zara, a journalism student at the university she met in the study group. Latha’s parents are unaware that she is a lesbian, or that she is in an existing relationship, and are scouting around for a suitable boy for their beloved daughter.

Lisa Holmes

Lisa is studying sociology. She is Black British. Her grandparents came to Britain from the Caribbean on the Windrush. Lisa grew up in a single parent household, with her mother working two low-wage jobs to keep the family together.

Lisa is well clued into the social pressures and concerns that come with her background and is determined to fulfil her grandmother’s dream of having an academic in the family. But she knows how to keep her life well-balanced and has been together with Sam since high school. They live together in rented student accommodation. Lisa also loves gospel singing and is part of her local church choir.

Manu Mathuru

Manu is from New Delhi and came to this university four years ago for his MA in Anthropology on a scholarship and has stayed on do to his Doctorate in Development Studies as he was won a grant for it. He did his Bachelor’s rom St Stephen’s College in Delhi. Manu enjoys debating and that’s how he met up with Hari on campus. They hold opposing views on many subjects, but their mutual respect and common Indian background has resulted in an unlikely friendship.

Samir “Sam” Kulkarni

Sam is a second-generation NRI with a liberal upbringing, doing his MA in Management Science and Engineering. Sam’s father is a wealthy corporate and his mother is a society lady, on the board of many charities. Sam has bolstered his limited first-hand exposure to India with reading, watching films/documentaries. He loves discussing many aspects of India with his friends and family back home. Lately he has joined many WhatsApp discussion groups, which he thinks helps him understand current affairs quickly.

​The setting

In a space in the university town of Bristol, UK. The six friends are chilling out on a lazy Friday evening. Manu is checking his newsfeed on his mobile, while the rest are having a friendly banter.

 

2. Script for Akki

 

Manu:

Latha “LG”

Manu

Sam:

Manu:

Lisa

Manu

Lisa

Manu:

Lisa

Hari: Oh yeah … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... caste …

Akki: Manu, how are you assuming this story is a caste thing in the first place? Aaj kal everything is made up to be about caste. Yaar just think - which parents would want to harm their own child? The police must have put pressure on Kausalya’s parents and got a false confession. That’s why the High Court has set them free. I believe in the justice system. [Pause] I think that the reason society is in such a mess today is because it’s become fashionable to disregard the wisdom from our Vedas and all.

Latha “LG”

Hari:

Latha "LG":

Lisa:

Hari:

Latha “LG”

Sam:

Latha “LG”

Hari

Lisa

Hari

Lisa

Manu

Latha “LG”:

Sam:

Manu

Lisa

Manu

Sam:

Latha “LG”

Lisa:

Latha “LG”

Hari

Manu

Lisa: When I … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... of age!

Akki: But white is like the neutral world over. We always need a default starting point for most things … it’s like the international date line and GMT …

Latha “LG”

Lisa: Of course … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..., inferior, bad.

Akki: Hold up yaar. What is wrong with the caste system, batao na? I don’t believe Sam’s conclusion about the Aadhar card thing being a caste issue. She’s poor, that's it – could be any caste. You know it’s a competitive world and this is why marriage within castes, to someone from a similar background helps keep the family’s wealth secure. Inter-caste marriages fragment wealth and then someone can end up like that woman, can’t remember her name. Any woman – hasn’t just got to a be Dalit woman.

Sam:

Latha “LG”

Hari

Sam

Manu

Hari

Akki: Yaar, it's fashionable to criticise everything to do with Hinduism aaj kal. Makes me so angry. We’ve got this really glorious culture and ancient history ... you guys are just hell-bent on dissing it for nothing.

Latha “LG”:

Lisa:

Sam

Lisa:

Latha “LG”:

Manu:

Latha “LG”: Oh yes, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... intertwined.

Akki: There you go again with your Phule/Ambedkar thing … as if Malviya ji, Veer Savarkar ji, Golwalkar Guruji don’t matter!

Hari

Latha “LG”

END

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