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Ajay

1. People in the play

Sutradhar

The narrator

Dr V Ajay Sree Chandra (Ajay)

Student at Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru, India. Ended his life on 27 August 2007. 

 

Dr Balmukund Bharti

Student at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, India. Ended his life on 3 March 2010.
 

Jaspreet Singh

Student at Govt Medical College (GMC), Chandigarh, India. Ended his life on 27 January 2008.


Manish Kumar

Student at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, India. Ended his life on 6 February 2011.


Payal Salim Tadvi

Student at Topiwala National Medical College and B.Y.L. Nair Hospital, Mumbai, India. Ended her life on 22 May 2019.


Rohith Chakravarti Vemula

Student at Hyderabad University, India. Ended his life on 17 January 2016.


WITH
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 university friends are chilling out on a warm Saturday night after a day out in the city.


Acknowledgement

Some of the dialogues in this skit are reproduced or paraphrased excerpts from the documentary series Death of Merit. This series of documentaries was prepared by a team of Insight Foundation, New Delhi. We thank Insight Foundation for their permission to use the excerpts.

 

2. Script for Ajay


Ajay [proudly]: My father has a good job. He is a lecturer in a polytechnic in Hyderabad. I topped the district in my inter first year. My dad was so proud of me. When I scored the 12th rank in the general category for admission to the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, we were so happy … [pause, and then continue sounding confused] But IISc didn’t declare me as a merit student, they still declared my candidature in the reserved category … 
 

Jaspreet
Rohith: I want … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... education.


Ajay: How can I describe the day to day feeling of hopelessness, when I realised just why I was being treated differently at such a prestigious institute? Some of my teachers just stared at me. Ghoor ke dekhte the. All “upper”-caste teachers. Aa thadekangaa nannu bhayapettindi. That stare scared me … Teachers experiment ka result dekhne se pehle hi hard words use karte the ... Phir mera fellowship cut kar diya. Ek practical mein fail kar diya ... Woh teachers ka naam sun ke hi mere ko bahut terror aatanazar se hi daraate the … I am sorry dad. The world is not for me and I cannot live. It is too much for me. I cannot take it.


Balmukund:
Akki:  
Manu
Sam
Hari
Sam
Latha “LG”
Manu
Akki:
Sam
Manu:
Latha “LG”
Sam:
Hari
Lisa
Hari
Lisa
Latha “LG”
Manu:
Akki
Lisa
Hari
Sam
Manu
Latha "LG":
Sam
Manu

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Jaspreet
Manish:
Jaspreet: After … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... with?

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Ajay: I am Ajay’s suicide note. I mysteriously disappeared, despite being seen by a friend. Even though I am 7 pages long, I did not feature in the police report. But I shall not allow a minor detail like this to silence me. I shall speak with Ajay’s voice … The IISc authorities told my dad there was no suicide note. The institute connived with the police and gave my father a document to sign, saying it authorised him to take me home. A document in Kannada. My father does not speak Kannada. He still hadn’t seen my body. With his disturbed mind, he unthinkingly signed an affidavit that said I was committing suicide because of “family problems” … 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Payal: They … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... leave me. 

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Ajay: The affidavit that said I was committing suicide because of family problems is full of lies. All lies. They took away the truth of my life, they shall not take away the truth of my death. They forced me to commit suicide, they might as well have killed me themselves. What name can we call this, this authoritarianism that even in a moment of crisis like a death, only thinks of minimising their own liability? By forcing my father to act under false pretences, it shows that IISc is a part of this cover up.

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Balmukund:

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Rohith:

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Balmukund

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Payal:

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Rohith: I heard … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... was he? 

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Ajay: I am Ajay’s diary. They forgot I could also tell a tale … . Ajay wrote, “Those eyes, they scare me, they look with such inferiority/superiority complex @ you. Those eyes scare me. Those eyes make me a fool everytime. Those eyes scare me a lot. My legs are paining” ... They tore out some pages and threw them away. Who knows how damning those pages would have been? But I still managed to tell Ajay’s tale of humiliation and disregard. Tale of merit that would never be recognised … 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Rohith:

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

 

Sutradhar

Video to play

Sutradhar

END

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