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Keki Daruwalla

A Half Act Play

(Village Beerpura in the district of Muzzafarnagar. The setting is a poor household. The wife is fanning the firewood stove on which she is cooking. The husband enters. Bespattered with dust, he takes his shoes off and sprinkles water on his feet. He dries them and squats.)

Husband: Phew! Much noise and much dust — jeep after jeep, big cars with headlights rotating like a chakri in Diwali, leader in dhoti kurta, sarkari afsar in suit pant, photographer in jeans — all here. All asking what happen? Tamasha!

Wife: No daal today, only roti, school closed so no pay for me.

Husband: And they have fridge and we eat roti with pyaz! And all type leader abusing us on loudspeaker!

Wife: What you expect after such incident? Laddu? Shabash?

Husband: Enough woman! But why bloody leader? No one came when sookha fell on land! Not two drops water we had. More water in eyes than in our fields. Where were bloody leaders then I ask?

Wife: First you had lafangas, now you have leaders. Sometime leader follow lafanga, sometime lafanga follow leader. I want to ask question.

Husband: Ask, but don’t forget, wife, you are married to a Brahmin, you of agricultural caste, throwing seed by handful and your father-brother ploughing! Brahmin would never touch plough! Degrading! I upgraded you by marrying! Uplifted you like crane pick up bad stone and bajri.

Wife: Agree, marriage uplifts woman. But don’t forget I am High School pass and you are unpad — in angrezi we say illiterate, unread.

Husband: Wife. Lower voice! If my partywallas hear angrezi in my house, I will have trouble.

Wife: Now we can’t even talk the way we want! Na kabile-bardasht!

Husband: You want me get killed by speaking Urdu, language of Musalmans! Woman, what wrong with you? Speak Hindi, language of Vedas, Sam veda, I don’t remember name of other veda.

Wife: Wah, wah. You can’t remember any except bedroom veda! Shame! But I want to ask a question.

Husband: Ask bloody question, but not in Urdu!

Wife: What made you do it?

Husband: What made me do what?

Wife: Kill Basheer.

Husband: Slowly, softly — you will get me in jail, woman. Phansi ka takhta! (He puts his hands on his throat!) What use passing High school if you don’t know that much! Everyone beat him. I also added my stick. Look bad if you don’t.

Wife: Your stick had an iron knob.

Husband: Speak slowly! I have thrown it in a well four miles away. Won’t tell you where. No trust anybody now.

Wife: You gave last blow on head! Your blow killed him.

Husband: Who told you?

Wife: Your son, Munish. He saw it. And why you hit? We used to come and go in their house. You even ate his saiwain — angrez call it wormiceli.

Husband: But he ate cow.

Wife: How you know?

Husband: Stored it.

Wife : What if it was not cow, but only goat? Your father was a cook.

Husband: Good Brahmin cook.

Wife: But you told once that his sahib came from America and even ate cow meat. And your father cooked beef for him.

Husband: Hush! Quiet or I will beat you as I did last night and night before! Now I feel sorry I threw away stick. Stupid woman, that meat came in tins and it was American cow. Not ours. If you must know I did not join killing because he ate cow or stored cow. I killed because he owned refrigerator!

Curtain falls.