Untouchable in Pune: Mixed media by SAVI SAVARKAR
Untouchable in Pune: Mixed media by SAVI SAVARKAR
  Play: Scarecrow Theyyam - 2

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  Omprakash Valmiki
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It is said that Jayantan and his grandfather used to shout, “Go, go,” as they walked the streets, to chase away the lower caste people from their path, to avoid caste pollution. This is what this generation suffers as punishment and atonement for those deeds. This will have no end.

(Rolls up the title deeds together and tucks them under his arm. Checks the records in the bag.)

Don’t you want to know what these are? These are university degrees. Bhavatraatan Namboodiri­ pad, B.Sc. First Class, M.Sc. (Physics) First Class. Like the title deeds, these too are all invalid. No value. Not even the value of the paper they’re printed on. But how can I throw them away? Haven’t I earned them with much hard work? Let them be in the bag.

(Pauses, thinking)

‘Reserved’. All are ‘reserved.’

With the roll tucked in his armpit and the bag slung over the shoulder, he takes two steps forward, intent on proceeding further, when he sees something in the distance. Stands aghast, staring.

Where have I come? Isn’t this the Illam where I was born? Born and grew up, spent my childhood here. Poonthottathu Mana. That’s where I have returned to, after wandering all over.

‘I have returned to the soil of my birth, carrying the heavy baggage of weighty thoughts.’

Who wrote about me thus? Edassery, Kunjiraman Nair or Ayyappa Panikkar?9

‘Like a blind boy, gone to see the great festival

Without the permission of his mother,

Groping about in pitch darkness, losing his way,

Returns to the house from where he set out,

I have returned to the soil of my birth

Carrying the heavy baggage of weighty thoughts.’

(Laughing) In pitch darkness, all alone, goes he to see the festivities. Who? A blind boy. Patent, isn’t it? What happened, then? Losing his way, wandering around, he returned to the same house he had set out from. Where did Bhavatraatan who doesn’t have vision, but who has not lost hope, return, hugging the baggage of hardships? The soil of my birth. At the Poonthottathu Mana. We had packed up and left that eight-winged mansion, the ettukettu, when I was six. By the sheer luck of that ettukettu, the new landlord — the old tenant on our family land — who bought the building in an auction, renovated it. Changed its name. Poonthottathu Mana became Riverview Gardens. Now, a lot of films are shot there. Maybe ghost stories.

Now, how I got here today — (pointing to his own legs) that was a trick played by these blokes. These legs! With their recollection of childhood, they walk me towards the old house! It’s no use blaming them. They haven’t yet forgotten the swasthi mantra they learned in childhood.

Swasthi pandhamanusarema


Walk along the right path. Do not stray from the true path. How many generations have walked, chanting Suryachandramasaamiva, along paths right and not so right! Father must have chanted Swasthi pandha even when he walked out of the illam — with Mother, me and my two younger sisters — when it was auctioned off. For the family of the destitute temple priest, refuge came in the form of the lean-to of the gatehouse of the Vadakke Varyam family… (To his legs) Didn’t you carry me to that place for twenty-two years? From school, from college? Didn’t you carry me for twenty miles every day? Then why did you bring me here? Ah! For some time now, you’ve been behaving like this. When my mind is preoccupied, the tricks these mischievous ones get up to! They take me wherever they like. They put me in some amazing situations. (To his legs) I said I was tired of this life when I was through with the interview. You overheard that, didn’t you? Today’s crucifixion was in a private college. For a lecturer’s post. The chairman called me over after the interview.

“Mr Namboodiripad, you don’t have any experience, but we have selected you because of your academic brilliance,” he said in English. “The donation for a lecturer’s post is six lakh rupees. Pay up the money and join work tomorrow.”

I roared with laughter.

“Why did you laugh?” again in English.

“I am sorry, sir,” I said in English. “I was laughing because of grief.”

“Laughing because of grief? Are you mad?”

“Sorry, sir. Whenever I go in search of a job, I am shown the door either in the name of caste, or because of my inability to give a ‘donation’. When I heard a ‘donation’ mentioned here too, I couldn’t help bursting out into the laughter of grief. Five rupees is all the money I have. Can I, then, produce six lakhs for a job?”

p. 1 p. 2 p. 3 p. 4


Omcherry or N.N. Pillai is a celebrated Malayalam playwright, winner of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award
and principal of a management school in Delhi. Several of his plays have been translated and staged
in Delhi and other cities over the last four decades.