By Arjoyita Roy from Durgapur, India
Act I: CONTRAST
The living room of Mr. & Mrs. Ray in the heart of Kolkata, the adornment is opulent and well maintained. Upstage center is the couch and the table, upstage right is a giant piano accompanied by a violin. The chandelier and the music system add to the chimera, a large window overlooks the garden. The staircase leads to the bedroom of Nandita & next to it is the room of her parents visible through the screen light when it is backlit. There is an exit to the main door and an exit to the kitchen to its right.
The wall clock shows half past six in the evening, music can be heard “purano shei din er kotha” a popular Rabindra Sangeet, playing. Nandita is staring aimlessly out of the window dressed in her kaftans and probably humming along with the tune, occasionally sipping whiskey from her goblet. After a while her cell phone rings, the screen shows ‘DIDI’ she receives the call.
Nandini: Nandita, did you lock him up? Please hurry up! We will be there in an hour or so.
Nandita: But that is not fair, why....
(Call gets disconnected. Mrs. Ray enters through the main door and looks at Nandita)
Mrs. Ray: Why haven’t you dressed up?
Nandita: Can I not meet him just the way I am? Should I remain decked up in jewellery and formals all day long?
Mrs. Ray: (rebuking) No, This is not how prospective brides dress up; now hurry up change into the formals.
(Nandita relaxes herself on the couch and picks up a magazine to read)
Nandita: Where is Joy?
Mrs. Ray: Your baba took him out.
Nandita: When will they return?
Mrs. Ray: Not before Mrs. Mukherjee and Rudra, leave the premises of our house.
(Mrs. Ray starts arranging the bunch of roses in a vase)
Nandita: (with a light wave of anger in her voice) He took him out without the grant of my consent! He is my son and I have all the right to decide what is good for him and what is not.
Mrs. Ray: Do not call him ' your son' in front of Rudra. He may take you for a spinster mother, and now that you are my child, I too have the right to decide what is good for you, No more arguments on this.
Nandita: (Ironically) your daughter expects me to lock up Joy, she expects me to put my son behind the doors all the time.
Mrs. Ray: Nothing wrong with it, and for heaven’s sake do not smoke tonight, she will stay back after her in-laws leave now. I will take good care of her now that she is expecting again...
Nandita: (cuts in) again? You mean for the third time.
Mrs. Ray: (lets out a shrill cry of pain as a thorn pricks her nimble finger) Aaahhh! (Takes a heavy breath) Do not open that filthy mouth of yours to pollute her mind and add to her troubles.
Nandita: (points her index finger towards herself with an air of sarcasm) I add to her troubles.
Mrs. Ray: She is married; now do not inculcate her mind with rebellious musings.
Nandita: (claps her hands in a rage of anger) Yes, she is married. A mother of two; and still expecting, why? Because she has to have, a son or else they will not grant acceptance and shower her with curse.
Mrs. Ray: Life did not prepare its platter according to her will and you blame us, I blame her fate.
Nandita: now blame it on her astrometry.
Mrs. Ray: DESTINY & DESTINATION are way different, my dear. You have all the right to choose your destination but destiny has an upper hand to it, to declare the final say.
Nandita: (Breathing heavily out of anger) you forced her into marriage, because she wanted to pursue her dreams.
Mrs. Ray: What did you just say? Dreams? Women must dream of nothing except for the well-being of her family.
Nandita: Why did u spend so much on our education when you knew what destiny has in store for us?
Mrs. Ray: A well-educated woman can raise her kids well.
Nandita: Rajeev tricked her to tie the knot; he faked his promise that he would let her chase her dreams.
Mrs. Ray: (sarcastically) He lived up to her expectations; didn’t he?
Nandita: (angrily) do not pretend!
Mrs. Ray: (lowers her tone) I do not pretend, lie or approve of flattery.
Nandita: (raising her voice) She wanted to marry the man she loved but you married her off to a heartless brute to cast off the burden in fear of the SOCIETY.
Mrs. Ray: We did not forbid her from her happiness: it was just not destined to be.
Nandita: (sarcastically) for you that was enough to marry her off to the most eligible bachelor in town, wasn’t it?
Mrs. Ray: (sobs) your words don’t let me breathe and her silence rips me apart.
Nandita: You mistook Brutality for Responsibility.
Mrs. Ray: You were just a decade and four not mature enough to percept or accept the fact.
Nandita: Had she known how to speak up for herself, you wouldn’t have been able to spill doom on her.
Mrs. Ray: (voice fades) you do not know what is it like to be a mother and the bride of a royal household. My intentions, likes or dislikes do not count when it comes to my responsibilities, to which I have to adhere at any cost.
(The doorbell rings, Nandita exits to her bedroom.)
Act II : AMITY
(Mrs. Ray wipes her face in a hurry and folds her palms in the formal Indian gesture of Namaskara to greet everyone. Kamala, a trusted servant, opens the door to Mrs. Minakshi Mukherjee, a sophisticated NRI in her late fifties, her son Rudra; Nandita’s prospective husband, in his early thirties, dressed in formal attire and Nandini who is a few years elder to Nandita. Kamala opens the door and exits to the kitchen)
Mrs. Ray: (smiles) Namaskara
Mrs. Mukherjee: Namaskara, Reena
Rudra: (formally to Mrs. Ray) Namaskara.
Mrs. Ray: (with an air of formality) Please feel at home, Nandita will be here in a while.
Mrs. Mukherjee: (to Mrs. Ray) Reena, I must say, what a splendid decor! Who plays the Piano?
Nandini: I play the Piano when I am here.
Mrs. Ray: Moreover, my celebrated husband used to play the piano way back when we were just married.
Rudra: Who plays the Violin?
Mrs. Ray: Nandita, in her early teenage.
(Kamala enters from the kitchen with a plate full of drinks, snacks and serves)
Mrs. Ray: Please have some.
Mrs. Mukherjee: (catches a short glimpse to her watch and then looks at Mrs. Ray) Reena, as you know we are here for a short while so if you could just...
Mrs. Ray: Yes, why not?
(Mrs. Ray calls out for Nandita; Nandita enters through the staircase, sits on the couch beside Nandini, and greets Mrs. Mukherjee and Rudra with a formal Namaskara)
Mrs. Mukherjee: Nandita, it’s a pleasure meeting you.
Rudra: (whispers to Mrs. Mukherjee) Ma, can we have some privacy?
Mrs. Mukherjee: (whispers back to Rudra) make sure she falls for you. (To Mrs. Ray) Reena, can we have a short tour to your lovely garden; I wish I could raise such beautiful flowerbeds but my schedule seldom permits leisure.
Mrs. Ray: Yes, why not? Nandini will you join us.
Nandini: (to Rudra and Nandita) Excuse us please.
(Nandini shakes her head indicating a nod of approval, Mrs. Mukherjee, Mrs. Ray and Nandini exit to the garden.
Rudra: (putting on a French accent) Bonjour Madame.
Nandita: (bats an eyelid and smiles) French! Impressive.
Rudra: (kneels down in front of Nandita and offers her a red rose) Belles rose’s roughes pour la belle dame.
Nandita: (fakes a smile and accepts the rose) Don’t tell me you just fashioned it out of thin air.
Rudra: (frowns) Life is a bed of rose. Isn’t it?
Nandita: Depends; more of thorns or more of beauty?
Rudra: I embraced both in equal measure.
Nandita: Please elaborate.
Rudra: You sound more like a teacher.
Nandita: (winks at him) I’m an accountant.
Rudra: (speaks with the aplomb of a professional) I’m a chef.
Nandita: A chef? Therefore, you cook for people.
Rudra: I turned my hobby into my profession.
Nandita: (face palm) never thought of it that way.
Rudra: It is a fat paid profession in Florida.
Nandita: (frowns) does my family know?
Rudra: Know what?
Nandita: In our society, your profession will make you less of a man.
Rudra: (sighs) before you decipher a long lecture on society, let me remind you I’m here to meet you, marry you and not the society.
Nandita: (smiles sarcastically) your designation itself reflects who will take charge of the apron and who will take care of the regalia in near future.
Rudra: Are you speaking to your heart’s content? Why don’t you voice your opinion on this?
Nandita: (voice shakes) my opinions? Does it count?
Rudra: Of course it does.
Nandita: Until now, I never voiced my opinion, because my father has all the right over me.
Rudra: You must not let anyone mark the stamp of his masculinity on you.
Nandita: I have to, until we share the same roof.
Rudra: (awestruck) Brain drain is trending in India, now I know the answer to the basis of inducement.
Nandita: I am a rebel because I do not sugarcoat bitter pills, I speak my mind, unlike others and hence I do not want to get married.
Rudra: (calm and composed) you are naive, innocent; you are blessed with a heart of pure gold. People seldom gather the courage to speak their mind.
Nandita: (teary eyed) people seldom accept the fact, and I think I am not ready to tie the knot.
Rudra: No harm in that.
Nandita: (perplexed) so what are you here for; to have a talk with me?
Rudra: (relaxed) I am here to give a wide berth to squabble.
Rudra: My mother thinks I should settle down now, and she thinks you can provide solace to my soul.
Nandita: So would you accept a stranger for a better half?
Rudra: Well said, from our very childhood, we were taught to keep away from strangers and all of a sudden, we are expected to share the bed now.
Nandita: So do you think it has justified amalgamating?
Rudra: No. I also bear an ingrained aversion to the sight of Big Fat Indian Weddings. It is nothing but just a ceremony that coins social sanction to a personal relationship.
Nandita: It lapses my heart into a pit of gloom to see how people sever after faking years of commitment; some stick together in fear of being ridiculed by the society; and some for the sake of the kids.
Rudra: (surprised) your views align with mine.
Nandita: People play with lives in the name of culture. My parents bowed before their originators in the name of culture and blindly accepted the miseries.
Rudra: All through their lives, they feared the society, they were born and raised in such a milieu that prohibited them from speaking to their heart’s content, and hence they were compelled to wear mask and indulge themselves in veil playing.
Nandita: You know I find it strange when people sell out their son in the name of Dowry, society accepts the sold out son, but when a woman is provoked to sell out her body, and society refuses to accept her in the name of Prostitution.
Rudra: (with an air of arrogance) Sheer Hypocrisy.
Nandita: You sound more like a play critic.
Rudra: (speaks informally) where’s your celebrated son Joy?
Nandita: (her lips curl up in a smile) Do you want to bump into Joy?
Rudra: you served a noble purpose by adopting him in a tender age.
Nandita: what purpose?
Rudra: Well, biology is the least of what makes a woman a mother.
Nandita: (frowns) A spinster mother as my family mocks.
Rudra: (pretends as if lost in deep thoughts) If we tie the knot, we shall apply for a Visa for him too.
(A wave of laughter follows)
Nandita: (looking straight into Rudra’s eyes) you are one of a kind.
Rudra: Mention not.
Nandita: (informally) somebody is basking in charm of my appreciation.
Rudra: (carelessly) somebody is blowing out of proportion.
Nandita: (nervously) keeping everything at bay, I want you to know something.
Rudra: (frowns and lets loose his hands in a an informal gesture) Go ahead, I’m listening.
Nandita: (sharply) I will live with my maiden surname; I will not change it to yours.
Rudra: (philosophically) shall I accept yours then?
Nandita: (ironically) you must be kidding me.
Nandita: (smiles sarcastically) you just opened the floodgates to the influx of liberty.
Rudra: My pleasure Madam.
(Nandini enters from the garden and interrupts)
Nandini: (cuts in) Rudra Kakima is waiting in the garden for your say, it is almost eight now and she thinks it is time to leave. Rudra and Nandita rise from the couch and shake hands.)
Nandita: It was nice meeting you Rudra.
Rudra: (to Nandita) Goodnight Nandita, (to Nandini) goodnight Boudi.
The Play continues here.....