Looking for me
Woman (crossly): Hey!
Woman: Look here.
Man: I am.
Woman: No, not there. Look here — look into my eyes.
Man (calmly): Yes, I’m looking.
Woman: Do you remember?
Man (shaking his head): No.
Woman: Then it’s impossible for you to regain your memory.
Man (a little annoyed): How come?
Woman: You fool. You don’t even remember what happened a month ago.
He stares at her
Try to remember something — white, clinical — Hmm? Do you remember?
He doesn’t say anything. His expression is blank
Woman: A woman! A woman who used to visit you in the hospital. Keeping mum, following the advice of the doctors. Why? So that the stone in front of me wouldn’t suffer a sudden mental shock.
Man (to himself): Woman! Who used to visit me in my room! … Who brought the flowers of ratrani to my room every day…
Woman: Do you remember?
Man: Hmm? No… I… I don’t remember anything. I don’t want to say anything… but… you were that woman. So, why didn’t we talk about this then?
Woman: I repeat: On the doctor’s advice.
Man (suddenly): I remember everything about the hospital. I don’t want to be reminded again.
Woman (enraged): What do you think — you can forget everything? We can’t ever forget the past. Everyone’s past is fixed, like a ghost riding on your back… like an early morning dream… In my dreams, I used to see sparrows’ nests… I dreamt of mansions… I dreamt of wings, and only in my dreams did I see aeroplanes. But in the morning, sunshine — dazzling, bright rays — fell on my nest, and my house of wax melted away — in a vapour… like early morning dew, and what was left in my hands was merely the morning of memories.
Man: Emotions don’t affect me. I’ve lost my past. I don’t see any dreams at all — and never any early morning dreams. I’ve forgotten everything — my home, my people, my garden, my cards… I don’t remember a single thing. I only remember the inevitable night after the morning.
Woman (last attempt): I feel like hugging you. A close embrace. A smothering embrace.
Man (calmly): I think we should wait till it’s proved that I’m him.
Woman: And what if it turns out that you’re him?
Man (suddenly): I won’t hug you even then. I don’t want to make love to the wife of my brother… that is to say, in case it’s decided that I’m him.
Woman: Fool! You’re a complete fool! Let me say this again: trust me. No one can forget their past… You were my…
Man (calmly): My memory is gone; I don’t remember a thing.
Darkness. For a while, the stage is dark and the last sentence keeps echoing. The lights come up. They are sitting in the chairs, like in the beginning. Later, the light on the chairs dims a little. Soon, two spotlights light up the area in front of the chairs and the area at the opposite wing. The Woman stands under the light near the chairs and the Man under the other. Till they are still, the sentence, "My memory is gone, I don’t remember a thing" reverberates.
Man: That’s right! It’s my memory that’s disappeared. I forgot my youth years ago. I’m almost in my forties now; let me walk on by myself. I don’t know how long my journey will be. Let me tramp through the deserts alone. I don’t wish for an oasis; its waters would dry up. It’d turn into a mirage, and I… I’d die of thirst. I have to go on alone, by myself.
Fortunately, I’ve had a chance to forget my past. Very, very rarely does one come upon such an opportunity. When my memory was intact, I saw… things I shouldn’t have. I saw the hypocrisy of this… this royal family. I saw the witches of this noble family, and I noticed the leeches glued to the walls of this mansion. I tried to pull out the leeches but it was my blood that was sucked out. Till the leeches fell off and my memory was gone. This honour thing disgusted me. The wilderness invaded the palace grounds. The stacked cards came tumbling down… Beggars… beggars of the nobility. Let me relish my vanished remembrances. Don’t stand in my way now.
I haven’t forgotten everything yet. There are a lot of things that need to be forgotten. I was your…
She looks intently at him
No… no… I don’t remember anything from the past. An amnesiac lover… my remembrances have disappeared.
The spotlight on the Man goes out suddenly. Man exits. Only the Woman is left on stage. She wants to weep a lot, but not even a sob breaks out.
Woman: My game’s begun. Not of Prince-and-Pauper… of Patience… Only I shall build the palaces. Only I shall pull down the palaces. Only I shall shuffle my own cards…
The sobs break out, one by one. The spotlight goes out. The Woman crosses the stage and exits. Only the chairs remain. Behind the scenes, music starts playing. From one wing enters an aged servant of the royal family. He covers the chairs with a large, dust-coloured bedcover. He exits. The light on the chairs starts brightening, slowly…
from the Marathi play ‘Memory’
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)
1. Gulmohar: A flower that blossoms in clusters and is known for its beauty
2. Ratrani: Literally, the queen of the night. A flower that blooms at night
3. Chapha: White, fragrant flowers that have been immortalised in Marathi literature
4. Terda: A flowering plant. According to a well-known Marathi saying, the colour of the terda flower lasts only for three days. The implication is that what is being talked about will pass
5. Vrindavan: An earthen structure in front of or in the gardens of rural or semi-urban Maharashtrian households, where a tulsi or Indian basil plant is grown and worshipped by the women of the household
6. Tulsi: Indian basil, known for its medicinal properties and religious significance
7. Godrej/ Khira: Well-known Indian brands of cupboards and safes
8. Mangalsutra: Literally, the blessed thread. A sacred necklace or thread worn around the neck by married women
9. Trishanku: A mythic figure suspended between heaven and earth for eternity