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Manu Mathuru

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 Manu

 

Manu [looking frustrated and angry at the same time]: What the … I just don’t get what people are thinking at times!

 

Latha “LG”: Why? What’s up?

 

Manu: It’s this story I’m following from back home. The Kausalya-Shankar murder case? Don’t know if you guys are clued into it ...

 

Sam: Yea, … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... latest?

 

Manu: It's the caste system in India, you know. Recently an oppressed-caste boy was killed because he married a dominant-caste girl ... the girl, Kausalya, is from the powerful Thevar community. The boy, Shankar, was a Dalit ... A few months after their marriage, they were attacked in the market in the middle of the day, and Shankar was murdered.

 

Lisa: Seriously?

 

Manu: Both of them were brutally hacked with knives. And guess what was the twist in the tale? Kausalya’s parents confessed that they had killed Shankar, in order to reclaim their “honour” in the community. Can you believe that?

 

Lisa: An … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... movies!

 

Manu: This phone [shaking his phone] tells me that even though Kausalya’s parents had confessed, the local High Court has just acquitted them for lack of evidence. Blows my mind how that can happen!

 

Lisa

Hari

Akki

Latha “LG”

Hari

Latha "LG"

Lisa

Hari

Latha “LG”

Sam: Guys, … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Indians.

Manu: What about violence from the justice system? They’ve let Kausalya’s parents go free despite their confession. Can you believe that? That was Shankar’s family’s last hope for justice … and the courts have just killed it.

 

Latha “LG”

Hari

Lisa

Hari:

Lisa

Sam: I mean, … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... lives!

Manu: And just try mentioning this to a White man or woman and see how defensive they become! There’s a term for it, you know: White fragility.

Latha “LG”

Sam: You know … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... fragility!

Manu: Thanks Sam – just adding to what you said, when it comes to elections, that’s all savarana folks do: Who will the Jats vote for and who will the Thakurs vote for? Which candidate will be acceptable to the OBCs? If no one practises caste, then why even consider these questions? No one asks “Who will all the tailors vote for”! Gah! Please don’t anyone tell me you don’t believe in caste.

Lisa: There’s … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Whites!

Manu: It’s similar in India …  take the case of Manisha Valmiki, the Dalit girl who was brutally raped and who died as a result. Look at how her body was cremated in the middle of the night by the police without the family’s permission. Would that have happened if she was a dominant-caste girl? … Or see how the pandemic in 2020 affected migrant labourers, mostly Dalits and Adivasis. They lost their jobs, many lost their place to stay …and with a sub-optimal public healthcare system … They had a really tough time. I wonder how many were vaccinated?

Sam

Latha “LG”

Lisa

Latha “LG”

Hari: Oooh, … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... complexion!

Manu: And what about those Amar Chitra Kathas we used to read as kids – “historical” graphic novels, you know … The “good” people are light coloured, while the demons, the “Rakshas”, are dark-skinned and for some reason I still can’t get, the gods are blue.

Lisa “LG”

Akki: 

Latha “LG”

Lisa

Akki

Sam

Latha “LG”

Hari 

Sam: You … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... us.

Manu: Hari, just think of your life back home, and you will see how caste is an unseen factor that you practise subconsciously …

Hari

Akki

Latha “LG”

Lisa:

Sam

Lisa

Latha “LG”: Couldn’t … … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... society.

Manu: That is so true! Great social reformers in India like Ambedkar, Phule, Begum Rokeya and others have all insisted that the only way to successful social transformation has to start with the liberation of women first. Babasaheb spoke of the need for inter-caste marriage as a tool for abolishing the caste system. A lot of Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule’s work focused on gender and caste discrimination and the intersectionality there.

Latha “LG”

Akki

Hari

Latha “LG”:

END

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