Photograph by Susanta Banerjee
Photograph by Susanta Banerjee
Photograph by Susanta Banerjee

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  Vol IV : issue 5 & 6

  Cover page
  Ashis Nandy
  Kunwar Narain
  S. Diwakar
  Tadeus Pfeifer
  Satish Alekar
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Satish Alekar

Illustrations by VISHWAJYOTI GHOSH

Darkness on stage. Slowly, objects become visible. On one side of the stage are two ‘regal chairs’, with high backs. In the two chairs are seated a Woman and a Man. The woman is thirty-five and the man forty.

The opposite side of the stage is lit by a spotlight. The Woman gets up, crosses over and stands under the light. The Man sits very still, like a statue. The intensity of the light on the chairs remains unchanged.

The Woman starts speaking, addressing both the Man and the audience.

Woman: There on the couch — not a regular, but a high-backed couch — sits a stone. No… he hasn’t entirely turned to stone yet. (Changing the subject) I’m from a former princely state… no… no… I’m a noblewoman of a royal family and a lover of the man sitting over there…? ‘Royal family’ sounds so dignified, no? But actually, I’m from a poor family and… forget it. I won’t bore you with the details. (Suddenly) This palace of ours, isn’t it huge? As big as the sky! Just the four or five of us live like ghosts in this mansion. Over there is our royal garden… but the gulmohar[1] has never really blossomed there. (Turns serious) The ratrani[2] has no fragrance, the chapha[3] has no fragrance. The scent of the chapha is just too strong; it stings the nostrils. Sometimes… it can knock you out. Only the terda[4] flowers here. But its colour lasts for how many — five… four… no, three. Only three days, and looks at me bitterly, as though it’s my rival in love. Hmm! The pining chapha! (Laughs loudly) Did I just say ‘rival in love’? No, this is getting just too serious… There stands our temple. Yes, our own private temple. Because our family’s the royal family. And the usual vrindavan[5] in the front. Of tulsi[6]! This is my mansion — isn’t it gorgeous! The illustrious stones in these walls have started betraying their layers of cement. (Suddenly, innocently, like a little child) You know, I water only that chapha right there, every day, with a little brass kettle — exactly like the one we use to sprinkle water on the gods. (Again, in her usual voice) … You know how many days the colour of the terda lasts? Three… No, not three… Perhaps only two days. The colour of my life… forget it… My life is bleached. It has no colour whatsoever and I’ve turned into a blanched gecko. (Addressing the Man) The man over there — he’s come today after many days. Hey, you, did you hear what I said just now? I wasn’t reciting a monologue.

The Man doesn’t react. He sits there like a statue.

But who’s he to me? And I to him… his brother was my… no… nothing. If I say a word more to you, I would burst out crying… loudly. Break into — what do you call it? — a wail or something. And I…

Suddenly, the light changes to the usual. The Woman goes back to her chair and sits beside the Man. Silence for approximately three seconds. Then, the floodlight falls on the spot where the Woman had stood. This time, the Man goes and stands under it. The Woman sits still as a statue.

Man: I’ve loved her, that’s what she says. You know, it’s like this — I don’t remember anything from the past. And she doesn’t understand that I don’t remember anything… This is her wretched mansion. I feel suffocated here. In the night, the foxes screech. This heath is arid, almost a desert. Nothing grows here. When it rains at night, the foxes are in full-throated cry. Only grass grows in this barren wasteland. A while back, it felt very sultry… Now, it seems as though it’s going to turn chilly. (Shivers, suddenly cold) I think I’m going to break into a fever. Then I’ll just sleep and keep cold cloths on my hot head, all by myself. (To the Woman) Madam, are you listening to me? I wasn’t reciting a monologue. (Addressing the audience) Seen this… this woman? Her eye is razor-sharp. I fear the bird of prey. There’s a bird of prey in her eyes. The little child’s frightened of the bogeyman, and I — of her. Because… because (laughs) I don’t remember anything from the past. My memories have vanished.

The light again changes to the way it was earlier. The Man sits down in his chair. Silence. Darkness.

Gradually, lights come up. Empty stage. Light like usual. From a distance, the sound of the Woman’s laughter, growing louder. She enters from the wings. Walks casually around the stage. The Man enters after she starts speaking. His movements are unnatural.

Woman: This palace of ours, it’s very nice — I mean, it’s much better than not having anything at all. This is your room — I mean your royal residence. Since you left, nobody’s touched a thing here. When I heard you were coming…

Man: I was brought here.


Woman: Hey!

Man: Hmm!

Woman: Hey, say something!

Man: The attempts are on.

Woman (Laughing): Great! One whole sentence.

Man (Just to say something): So, is this your mansion? Nice, very nice! (Suddenly) No… I don’t want to say anything.

Woman: What did you say just now?

Man: Nothing. I don’t want to talk about anything.


Woman: Hey, say something, anything. I’m getting bored.

Silence. He doesn’t say anything

Hey, Could I show you a fun thing? May I? The safe… do you want to see the safe? Wide, rectangular, blackish-white! Godrej or Khira[7]! It has two locks. You turn it clockwise once, and then anti-clockwise. Then the big door opens — the wide, rectangular, blackish-white door. But, whichever safe was brought, the trapdoor of my secret locker was never opened. Whenever I thought of opening it, I realised — just too late — that the key to the hidden door was lost. And if there’s no secret compartment, what’s the difference between a safe and a regular cupboard — they’re all the same.


Do you want to see the safe? If you don’t want to see it, say ‘no’ clearly.

He doesn’t say anything

Love! (Laughs) Have you ever loved anyone?

He shakes his head, no

I know it’s not going to rain today.

Say ‘no’ clearly.

p. 1 p. 2 p. 3

An eminent Marathi playwright, Satish Alekar has been active on the theatre scene since the early seventies. A founder member of the Theatre Academy of Pune, his best-known works are ‘Mahanirvan’ (1974) and ‘Begum Barve’ (1979)