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Sandip 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 Ramakrishan

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 Sandip

Hari

Poonam:

Hari:

Poonam

Hari: Oh okay … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... you.

Sandip: Well here they are … hmmm … an African? Maybe a friend he’s showing around India …

Salman

Venkat

Gopal: Namasteji,… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Fernandes.

Sandip: That’s a very odd name for an African. Is one of your parents Indian?

Gopal

Venkat

Salman

 ----- Silence for 2 seconds -------

Poonam

Venkat:

Hari

Salman

Venkat

Salman: I’m curious… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... through.

Sandip: Weavers? Isn’t that like SC-ST?

Gopal

Poonam

Hari: That’s really… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Mughals …

Sandip: Why not? They destroyed India’s glorious past …

Venkat: Thanks … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... legacy …

Sandip [laughing sarcastically]: Secularism and Mughals … whaaaat appa?

Venkat

Salman: Well I … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... with that …

Sandip: Shaheen Baag women? You know they were paid to sit there.

Salman:

Venkat

Salman

Gopal

Venkat: Oh well,… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... that …

Sandip: You know, I quite like the idea of one nation, one religion, one culture. So while I appreciate there are other religions in India, I think those Indians who converted to Islam should really do a Ghar Wapsi to Hinduism so we can all live happily together again. There’s too much communal tension nowadays.

Poonam

Gopal: Mrs Ramakrishnan … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... need to.

Sandip: Gopal, my mother is a very experienced teacher, she has lived in Delhi all her life. She doesn’t need to meet everyone to know what they are like here.

Venkat

Salman: Yes, both… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ways!

Sandip: I’m sorry to cut this short, but my wife’s just messaged – she’s not feeling very well. Mummy, I think we’ll need to call a doctor. Salman, we'll be in touch tomorrow if you don’t mind.

Salman

Gopal

Sutradhar:

Venkat: Sandip, … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... call?

Sandip: C’mon appa you know I was making it up. I just wanted them to leave. A gay couple, one Christian and one Muslim – that too from a lower-caste family – and I have two daughters who’re nearly teenagers. I can’t believe you actually agreed to meet them appa. I mean didn’t Salman tell you his full name on the phone? And he actually had the cheek to check you out as a judge? Who the hell is he? Of course we aren’t going to rent to them. Are we, appa?

 

Hari

Venkat: 

Poonam

Jayati: Actually … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ignored…

Sandip: Jayati – where did you come from?

Jayati:

Hari

Jayati: Yes, but… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... theory.

Sandip: Jayati, you are twisting history – don’t fill Hari’s mind with fabrications. This is all the Britishers’ fault. They clearly wanted to keep Indian society divided so they could keep ruling. You know they introduced the caste system – we didn’t have the word caste before they came.

Hari

Jayati: The reason… ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... back …

Sandip: What about the Dharam Sansad? Muslims are dangerous to us. You know they will turn our country into an Islamic nation if we don’t rein them in. See how many children they have. They come in illegally from Bangladesh and steal Hindu jobs. We must increase our national security and preserve our culture and our national identity.

 

Hari: I don’t … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... victimhood.

Sandip: Oh I see, now this infant brother of mine thinks he can teach me just because he is going to a foreign university? Do you know what it costs to send you to Bristol?

Jayati

Poonam

Jayati

Hari

Jayati

Venkat

Poonam

Venkat

Sutradhar:

Salman

Gopal

Salman

Gopal

END

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