top of page

Samir "Sam" Kulkarni

1. People in this play

 

Akhilesh “Akki” Singh

Akki’s the pampered only son of a Rajput, dominant-caste land-owning (zamindar) family. While he grew up shuttling between Patna and New Delhi, home was always the zamindar ki haveli. Akki has two sisters and a younger brother, but he knows that he will take on the responsibility of the family, the business and the family lands one day. For now, he is enjoying studying Management & Economics at this British university. Akki’s family has a conservative outlook, steeped in the mainstream patriarchal norms of Bihar, which Akki has never questioned. He revels in the respect and adoration he gets as the zamindar’s son and heir, both from his extended family and all the people in his district.

 

Hari Ramakrishnan

Hari is from New Delhi and is doing an MA in Big Data Studies. His career goal is a tenured chair at a university, teaching and researching. Hari is a proud Brahmin (although he prefers to call himself 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. He has also made a small temple on a table in a corner of his room to seek blessings every morning. He loves the comforts and clarity his traditions provide but equally enjoys the freedoms he experiences in the university, now that he is no longer constantly under his parents’ eyes. Hari’s favourite pastime is debating and he is a member of the same student association as Sam (see below). 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 second-generation non-resident Indian (NRI). Both her parents are doctors who had migrated from India after gaining their medical degrees. LG’s father, Keval, is from a Brahmin family of temple priests in Andhra Pradesh. Keval met LG’s mother, Shalini Gupta, in medical school. Shalini’s family was in the cloth retail business in Uttar Pradesh for some generations, and she was the pampered ‘rebel’. Their inter-caste marriage had been accepted on both sides despite the north-south divide: for the Guptas, having a Brahmin son in law raised their status even more. And they lavished a generous dowry on their daughter that was well received in the temple priest’s household. The Guruswamys live in a sprawling detached house in a small town close to the university. LG has been friends with Sam and Lisa (see below) since high school. She is studying law but also belongs to a sociology study group. She is in a live-in relationship with Zara, a journalism student at the university she met in the study group. Her parents are unaware that she is queer. They are focused on scouting around for a suitable wife for her brother, their beloved son.

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. This includes the British colonial racial oppression of the Caribbean’s Black people and her own Black working-class and gendered experiences. She is determined to fulfil her grandmother’s dream of having an academic in the family. She has been in a steady relationship with Sam since high school. They live together in rented student accommodation. Lisa loves gospel singing and is part of her local church choir.

Manu Mathuru

Manu is originally from Madhya Pradesh, his father is a clerk in a state government department and his mother is a housewife. He came to this university on a scholarship four years ago for his MA in Anthropology. He stayed on to do his Doctorate in Development Studies as he won another grant for it. He did his Bachelor’s from Hindu College in New Delhi, having gained admission on an OBC reserved seat (although his school-leaving exam marks would have easily gained him a general seat). 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” Delhi background has resulted in an unlikely friendship. [OBC: Other Backward Class]

Samir “Sam” Kulkarni

Sam is a second-generation Indian British 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. Both had been born in Uganda and came to the UK when all South Asians were forced to leave that country. In Uganda, the Brahmin caste status of both families along with their business interests had enabled a privileged life in households employing several local Ugandan Africans as domestic servants. Sam has bolstered his limited first-hand exposure to India with reading, watching films/documentaries. He loves discussing many aspects of the country with his cousins in India. Lately he has joined a few WhatsApp discussion groups, which he thinks helps him understand current affairs quickly, although sometimes the messages in a couple of them directly contradict each other.

​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 Sam

 

Manu

Latha “LG”:

Manu: It’s this ... ... ... ... ...  into it ...

Sam: Yea, I remember seeing something in a WhatApp group about this story, really crazy … What's the latest?

Manu:

Lisa:

Manu:

Lisa:

Akki

Manu:

Lisa:

Hari:

Lisa

Hari:

Akki

Latha “LG”

Hari:

Latha “LG”:

Lisa:

Hari:

Latha “LG”

Lisa: Oh sorry ... ... ... ... ... Yep, me.

Sam: Guys, Lisa’s right. This is all about caste pride – humiliation is not something that those higher up the order expect to feel as part of their caste experience. Kausalya’s parents obviously felt humiliated in this way which then, sadly, made them feel this need to seek revenge. Clearly when society isn’t – that’s us by the way, at least most privileged Indians – aren’t standing up for Kausalya and Shankar even now, what else could be the reason but caste violence?

Manu:

Hari:

Akki:

Latha “LG”:

Lisa:

Akki:

Lisa: Akki sorry ... ... ... ... ... slightest pretence.

Sam: I mean, just look at the facts man – if a Black guy and a White guy are convicted of the same offence in the US, in all probability the Black guy will get a longer prison sentence than the White guy. Anyone seen Ava Duvernay’s docufilm called simply 13th - it’s about the 13th amendment in the US that abolished slavery. Actually it had an exception -- if Black people were convicted of crimes then they’re okay to remain slaves. In fact even more generally, any person of colour -- Black, Brown, Hispanic is more likely to go to prison in the US.

Lisa:

Hari: No that’s ... ... ... ... ... fragile …

Sam: Actually you were Hari, I must say that. We keep saying that “those” people mustn’t talk about caste, that we’re all one human race … I’ve seen a lot of such messages in a couple of WhatsApp groups and Insta accounts I follow. We’re all Indians – until our privileges are threatened. That is savarna fragility!

Akki

Lisa

Manu:

Latha “LG”:

Akki: Not at  ... ... ... ... ... backward …

Sam: Wow! That’s crazy …

Latha “LG”:

Lisa

Akki:

Hari:

Manu

Lisa

Akki:

Latha “LG”:

Lisa

Akki: C’mon ... ... ... ... ... lot of progress.

Sam [disbelievingly]: Akki, c’mon – you do realise only privileged people like us have the luxury of saying that caste doesn’t exist or isn’t an issue or maybe even is a good thing … What about the fact that even today Dalits are ostracised for riding a horse in their own baraat or using footwear like slippers, and even killed for growing a moustache? Or that in the part of India where my family comes from, a Dalit bride had to spend her wedding night with the zamindaar, the thakur. The village sarpanch was clearly not going to make the effort to ensure some poor Dalit woman got her Aadhar card or vaccination. Even when surely it’s in everyone’s interest that she was vaccinated?

Latha “LG”:

Hari [shaking his head]: Come on! ... ... ... ... ... with them!

Sam: You are already doing that effectively Hari. As LG pointed out to Akki, think of your social circle Hari – how mixed is it? Your caste is so much a part of you, you don’t even realise it! Nothing unusual among “liberated” savarna folks.

 

Akki

Latha “LG”

Lisa:

Latha “LG”:

Manu:

Latha “LG”:

Akki:

Hari:

Latha “LG”:

END

bottom of page