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Jayati Ramakrishnan

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 Jayati

Hari:

Poonam

Hari

Poonam

Hari

Sandip

Salman

Venkat

Gopal

Sandip:

Gopal

Venkat:

Salman

 ----- Silence for 2 seconds -------

Poonam

Venkat

Hari

Salman

Venkat

Salman

Sandip

Gopal

Poonam

Hari

Sandip

Venkat

Sandip

Venkat:

Salman

Sandip

Salman

Venkat

Salman

Gopal:

Venkat

Sandip

Poonam:

Gopal

Sandip

Venkat

Salman:

Sandip:

Salman

Gopal

Sutradhar

Venkat

Sandip

Hari

Venkat: 

Poonam: Venkat, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... but …

Jayati: Actually Hari, there’s a fascinating part of history that is often ignored…

Sandip: Jayati – … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... from?

Jayati: I’ve been reading in the verandah as usual and listening to the conversation, [softly] also as usual!. Hari, you must’ve heard about the Muslim League that Jinnah led, right?

Hari: Wasn’t their … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... partition?

Jayati: Yes, but did you know that in those days only educated men and those who owned land or paid taxes could vote? So actually only about 12% of Indian Muslims could vote! And God alone knows how many out of them voted! How did the British conclude that a majority of India’s Muslims wanted Pakistan? I suggest you read about the All India Momin Conference, the party of the oppressed-caste Muslims, very much local people who converted to Islam. It was much bigger than the Muslim League. See whether they believed in the two-nation theory.

Sandip

Hari: But what … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... discussions ...

Jayati: The reason this history doesn’t get taught in our schools is that it suits the people in power – secular folks keep talking about “good” Muslims and how we need to save them, while the more communal minded ones keep bandying about the “bad” Muslims. As a result, the common man keeps talking about Hindu-Muslim rights and forgets about the real issues like unemployment, education, health-care, women’s rights and so on. We’re hearing the same thing now, again and again. That “Dharam Sansad” in Haridwar some time back …

Sandip:

Hari

Sandip: Oh I see, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Bristol?

Jayati: Sandip, that’s really hitting below the belt. Tamma, I’m very interested in hearing more about why you got reminded of White victimhood. Do tell me.

Poonam: Jayati, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... that.

Jayati [very sweetly]: I’m not scolding him mummyji, of course not, I would never do that. Hari tum bol rahe the 

 

Hari: Basically, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... privileges.

Jayati: Exactly! Like Trump had his “Make America Great Again” campaign to get people believing that USA was once a great White power, but now that identity is under threat. In the same way we’re saying India was once a great Hindu nation, and it’s Muslims who are brewing trouble. All the time in both countries, inequalities continue to increase, climate change is in crisis mode, while the rich keep getting richer.

Venkat

Poonam

Venkat:

Sutradhar

Salman:

Gopal

Salman

Gopal: Yeah! … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... tomorrow … 

END

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