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Gopal Fernandes

1. People in the play

Hari Ramakrishnan

A young man from an affluent family in Delhi studying law at Bristol University, UK. He is currently back in Delhi for a summer vacation. In the time that he has been in Bristol, he’s been part of a socially conscious group of friends. Oftentimes, after their animated conversations, he’s been questioning some of the deeply held notions around India’s caste system and the shastras that he has been brought up to believe justify his family’s own good fortune. He has been seeing some value in the arguments put forth by his new friends.

Venkat and Poonam Ramakrishnan

Hari’s parents. Venkat is a retired judge of the Delhi High Court. He sees himself as a secular Indian, increasingly uncomfortable with the growing anti-Muslim sentiment. But he doesn’t speak up out of a fear that challenging the status quo would shake his social standing among his dominant-caste/upper-class peers, the majority of whom are Hindus. Poonam is a graduate of Lady Sriram College, Delhi and taught history in Delhi Public School before retiring. Venkat and Poonam live in the family’s inherited property, a sprawling house with a massive garden in Gulmohar Park area of Delhi. The house has two floors: Venkat and Poonam live on the ground floor, and their elder son lives on the first floor. The house also has a two-bedroom annexe that the Ramakrishnan family rent out, preferably to young married couples.

Sandip and Jayati Ramakrishnan

Hari’s elder brother (anna) and sister-in-law (attige). Sandip is a lawyer, with the eventual aim of becoming a judge like his dad. Jayati has a faculty position in the history department of a prestigious university. She was Poonam’s pet student in school but is having trouble adjusting to Poonam’s somewhat orthodox expectations from her daughter-in-law. Sandip and Jayati have two daughters (11 and 12 years). Because Sandip and his parents desperately want a male heir, Jayati is pregnant again. Sandip’s pressure is new, influenced by the traditionalistic memes on a WhatsApp group of school friends that he has recently joined. He’s particularly fond of the messages sent by Anita, which are full of beautiful sayings that remind him of India’s glorious past when everyone knew their place and was so much more content.

 

Salman Syed

A lawyer in his late 30s. Salman was born in India to parents who lived on either side of the fluid India - Bangladesh border. Salman’s mother was forcibly separated from her husband while she was visiting her family in Bangladesh, and she was not allowed to rejoin him due to changes in the border regulations. Unable to cope, she gave up Salman for adoption when he was five years old to an affluent Muslim couple in America originally from Lahore. Salman studied in a private school and later completed his law degree from Harvard. However, flash memories of his early years led him to come to India in search of his birth family. He is currently working with an international corporate law firm and has been posted to their office in Delhi. He also does some pro bono work.

Gopal Fernandes

Salman’s partner. Gopal belongs to the Siddi community of Yellapur (Karnataka), born to a Christian father and a Hindu mother. Gopal’s parents were poor labourers, but they encouraged him to get an education, which he did. When he was just finishing school, his father was injured at work, but there was no compensation or help from the contractor under whom he worked as he was an informal worker. Gopal took a couple of years out of education to pay the medical bills but then he realised that his athletic prowess could get him scholarships. Between “all sport and all study, and no time to play” as he explains it, he eventually graduated with top honours in law from Hyderabad Central University. He was working as a lawyer in Yellapur when he met Salman and then he moved to Delhi so they could be together. However, Gopal is finding it difficult to get a job as a lawyer in Delhi. Salman and Gopal have been wondering why, given Gopal’s sharp legal knowledge and excellent communication skills. In the meantime Gopal has joined a collective of lawyers doing pro bono work.

Sutradhar

The narrator.

The setting

Front garden of the Ramakrishnan home. Six chairs and a table are laid out on the manicured green lawn, under a bright yellow garden umbrella. Venkat, Poonam and Sandip are sitting and talking when Hari joins them – he has just returned home after a leisurely lunch with old school friends at the Delhi Golf Club.

2. Script for Gopal

Hari

Poonam:

Hari:

Poonam

Hari

Sandip

Salman

Venkat: Yes, yes, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... you are …

Gopal: Namasteji, I’m Gopal Fernandes.

Sandip: That’s a … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Indian?

Gopal [laughing lightly]: Oh I’m very much an Indian. Both parents. We’re Siddis.

Venkat

Salman

 ----- Silence for 2 seconds -------

Poonam:

Venkat

Hari

Salman:

Venkat:

Salman:

Sandip: Weavers? … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... SC-ST?

Gopal: Yes it is Sandip. Isn’t it interesting that so much of the crafts that we are proud of, and display in our homes, are made by the same oppressed-caste people one would not normally socialise with! But sir! [Turning to Venkat] You were talking about being accepted as an Indian. Funnily enough, the Siddis have had nothing to do with Partition and have lived in India for generations, but we’ve always been considered foreigners because of our hair and skin colour.

 

Poonam

Hari

Sandip

Venkat

Sandip

Venkat

Salman

Sandip

Salman

Venkat

Salman: We’ve been … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Noida.

Gopal: It’s made us rather worried and wary too, it’s really humiliating to be treated like this. When we heard you were looking for a tenant, I must admit we checked out your judgments, Judge Sir, and were hopeful seeing how you’ve been one of the strong supporters of minority rights.

Venkat:

Sandip

Poonam: Sandip, what … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... them ...

Gopal [interrupting]: Mrs Ramakrishnan, with all due respect, but have you met these women? [Poonam shakes her head, raising her eyebrows at the question] I talk to them practically every day and I can say with full confidence that some of them may wear burqas, but that doesn’t mean they can’t think and speak for themselves. They can assert themselves when they feel the need to.

Sandip

Venkat

Salman

Sandip

Salman: Not at … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... leave now.

Gopal: Wishing Mrs Sandip all the best.

Sutradhar

Venkat

Sandip

Hari

Venkat: 

Poonam:

Jayati

Sandip

Jayati

Hari

Jayati: 

Sandip

Hari

Jayati

Sandip

Hari

Sandip

Jayati

Poonam

Jayati:

Hari

Jayati

Venkat

Poonam

Venkat

Sutradhar

Salman: Hey sorry … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... of them?

Gopal: I was itching to pull Sandip up by his tie and give him a piece of my mind. Privileged brat -- speaking for his “modern” mother and for the Shaheen Bagh women -- she knows what they’re like just because she’s lived in Delhi all her life! What bs! Which Delhi? Does he know there are many Delhis -- that one part of Delhi is totally unrecognisable from another? And I’ve lived here like what, two months? And that message from his wife was clearly an excuse -- did he think we’d fall for it?

Salman: Very pretentious … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... himself.

Gopal: Yeah! All thanks to that typical liberal conceit of like only “we” can save India, only “we” know what’s best for India, we’re liberal and secular and apolitical -- ha, bet Mr Judge never thought he’d actually have to walk the talk one day. Young Hari though – he’s definitely trying to make his own space, understand that everything is political. Let’s wait to see what happens tomorrow … 

END

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