top of page

Manu Mathuru

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 Manu


Ajay:  
Jaspreet:
Rohith:
Ajay
Balmukund
Akki: Theek … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... based students … 


Manu: Akki, with all your “merit”, why are you ignoring the fact that caste-based reservations and caste discrimination go hand in hand? We need the discrimination to end for the reservations to go. And what does the goal of a 5-trillion dollar economy mean to the masses of India ? How will the lives of our villagers, and our small farmers, who are mostly from the marginalised communities, improve? They’ll continue to be stuck in the same place while the rich get richer …


Sam
Hari
Sam
Latha “LG”: Oh that’s … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... percenters?

 
Manu: Look folks, I agree that nation-building has to be a collective exercise. But I disagree with Akki and Hari on the rest. How can we work together collectively unless everyone has equal opportunities right from the cradle? It was to reduce those inequalities that reservations were instituted! And think of what both Ajay and Balmukund just said, that they’d scored top ranks in the general quota, but were still granted admission under the reserved quota. Why? Is the general quota reserved for the privileged castes?


Akki
Sam: Eat into … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... privilege.


Manu: Yep Akki, better you don’t consider the general quota literally as apne baap ki jagir! Actually only 6-8% of India’s population is Brahmin, but their representation in what I call “influencer” jobs is at least 60% +. You know judges, doctors, teachers, politicians, bureaucrats, etc. If we had equal opportunities for all, this figure wouldn’t be more than 8-10%. So who's eating into whose quota? This disproportionate resource accumulation is in fact the unspoken “reservation” of privileges for savarnas! I was shocked when I found this out myself. I didn't know this.
 

Latha “LG”
Sam
Hari:
Lisa
Hari
Lisa
Latha “LG”: My understanding … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... reservations. 


Manu: Absolutely. And the Supreme Court tried to do that by talking about “cultural capital” in their judgment. 
 

Akki
Lisa
Hari
Sam: Obviously, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... hierarchies.


Manu: Oh yeah. The Indian Supreme Court actually has said that exams are an exclusionary method of resource allocation, that one needs to instead focus on the importance of individual character, lived experiences and hands-on training …


Latha "LG"
Sam: Yeah, Manu, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...  race … 


Manu: Hey Sam, please share that report with me, I’d seen it in a WhatsApp group but couldn’t find it later … but, but, but tell me, if one’s concerns with reservations is all about merit, then why are teachers scaring away merit students from the oppressed castes? They should be encouraging them. Instead, they’re failing them deliberately. Why? And none of the institutions are taking any action … Just listen to all the voices around you …

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

Jaspreet
Manish
Jaspreet

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

Ajay

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

Payal:  

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

Ajay

---- 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:

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

Ajay

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

Rohith

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

 

Sutradhar

Video to play

Sutradhar

END

bottom of page