Scene: A joint Bengali household veranda and a lot of chatter.
Coming from a family bearing a theatrical background, Malini was fond of plays and dramas. Reading and re-reading them, but not quite comprehending everything, she often ran to her mother; specially if they were written in the older Shadhu-bhasha— Bengali of the sages, her family called it.
“What a shame Malini! You can never enrich your knowledge of English literature unless you are well versed with your own roots first”— she was struggling with another sentence, and her mother was at it again. Either it was her pronunciation or the flow of the sentence, the pauses..were just not correct.
“They don't teach these in school, Maa. We are doing Shakespeare now and Tagore is so difficult. Don’t blame me”, Malini retorted.
"There is a world of literature, a genre so diverse in our land, sweet child. A world aloof from Shakespeare, Shaw, or Eliot…you need to understand that”, her grandfather jumped in, desperately trying to make her see.
A typical beginning, to a typical day. She decided to leave for school.
Time: A few hours later.
Scene: At school, before the class.
Malini: Phew! I tell you my mother forcefully made me read Tagore's Chitrāngadā this morning. I was so furious, I had planned to finish the part where Harry discovers who this half-blood-prince actually is!
Richa: And you left that? How? You have no idea…
Malini: Yes, okay. I know! Missed the whole suspense…you know it just went away like whoosh!
Simran: Was that for your family's annual gathering? Like you all do each year?
Malini: Yes! They are once again staging Tagore. And I need to sing! I mean why? Why him of all, again? Why not 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' or 'Julius Caesar'?
Simran: Remember the fun we had in school, last year? Malini, you were Brutus and you completely forgot the lines!
Richa: You were so stoned man! A total space-cadet!
(The group giggled)
Malini: See, that was so much fun! How do I make my family understand that there is a world beyond Tagore?
Richa: One more year to go Malini, before school gets over and we leave for college. Just two more Tagore’s, Kabuliwala and the other one…
Malini: How desperately I want this to end, to begin a journey in the world of the middle english romances. King Arthur. Hamlet. Brecht. Bond.
Time: 18 months later
Scene: Malini’s study room. She had returned home from her college in Delhi, for a short vacation.
“Bookshelves stacked up with what? This Potter on his broomstick”, her mother was cleaning her shelf.
“Maa, don't always point him out! You have no idea about the amount of research being carried out on him. They are drawing a parallel with Dickens’ heroes, Oliver, David Copperfield, Pip ,and Harry”
“But these stories make no sense.”
"How would you know? My family remains within a boundary that begins and ends with only one name!”, Malini had to get it out.
“Yes, well your college has begun. You are an adult now. I am happy that you have got the chance to study your favourite subject.”, her mother held her hands and continued to speak softly, “You are about to begin the journey where you can discover the realm you had always wanted to. Do not loose yourself in this journey. You are because of your origin. Perhaps it sounds lame to you now, but life will bring you back where you began, and then you will realise.”
Time: Another year later
Scene: Second year in college.
Malini falls for a guy. Life seemed like her favourite picture. But soon life betrayed her. "Perhaps the time is not right", she thinks.
She remains awake alone, holding Blake, his To Tirzah, all through the night.
She tries to read between the lines, but it fails to strike the chord. It fails to intoxicate her, she fails to feel the pain.
In one of her classes her teacher decides to hold a discussion on Tagore and his opus. Malini participates. Answers a few.
Guesses all. Knows none. She did not know whether she should feel sorry or ashamed of herself.
Her world comprised of Brecht, Shaw, Ezra Pounds, Marquez, Greene, yet she could feel a void.
"Take this. I narrated the story to you several times when you were a kid..you saw it being staged, read this yourself”, her mother had made her to leave with Tagore’s The Homecoming.
She pulls it off her suitcase, dusts it and places it on her lap.
"I know this story. I have heard it a couple of times." she tells herself..
A page turned. A scene commenced. A faith broke. A faith was born.
A page turned. Her heart skipped. She could relate to her own life.
A page turned. The inscriptions were in her mother tongue.
A page turned. Her eyes watery.
Phatik, very slowly turned his head and without seeing anybody and said, “Mother, the holidays have come.”
A page turned. She entered a new world. A world of Experience.
A page turned. Characters introduced. They seem so familiar, just like the man she saw the other day.
A page turned.
Raghupati: The worship offered by the most ragged of all beggars is not less precious than yours, Queen. But the misfortune is that Mother has been deprived.
A few pages turned.
Jaisingh: I have kingly blood in my veins. Take it and quench thy thirst forever.
(Stabs himself and falls)
She moves to what seems like her own world. That betrayal. That distrust. So well summed up.
"As if in a dream
Yet it is not a dream
It is my truth of truths
It is deathless
It is my love.
Changeless and eternal
I leave it as my offering to you
In the ever changing flow of time
Let me drift. My friend. Farewell!
Whatever I gave you
It was but your gift
You made me so much indebted
As much as you took
My friend. Farewell!"
The book closed. Malini saw the dawn breaking through the cloudy sky. She could feel, she could love, she was born anew.
(End of scene)
Photography By: Mansi Kankan