Yellow Scooter Man
Lal is writing something. As he finishes, a girl named Neel and a boy named Pitamber come waltzing in, look at each other and stop dancing. The lights black out and when they come on again, Pitamber is sitting in Lal's place, and Lal is dancing with Neel. Another blackout, and when the lights come on, we see that Pitamber has started writing, Neel has left and Lal is dancing by himself. After a while Lal sleeps. Blackout. When the lights come on again, the doorbell rings. Lal's father comes in, keeps his suitcase down and strokes Lal's head. Lal gets up with a start/
Father: I told you I'd be here by 7.30
Lal: (Touches father's feet) I was sleeping
Father: How are you feeling?
Lal: I am fine
Father: Jaundice again?
Lal: Again… meaning I had it as a child. Then I got it now, and it's almost gone.
Father: I told you not to
Lal: I did not sell the scooter, I was just fixing a deal. But no one wants to buy that damn scooter
Father: Why did you even think of selling it?
Lal: Thinking about is causes jaundice?
Father: It can, to you
Lal: I know (Both to audience)
When I was a child, I had jaundice
Lal: Yes, twice. And you had called a witchdoctor
Father: My father wandered about from village to village carrying him
Lal: Not village to village, just two villages..and he didn't wander, he went. Then some baba tied a talisman and said the jaundice would go in 21 days..
Father: .. and than any favourite object of his should be yellow. If it isn't, then paint it yellow. So we stumbled around the house carrying him, and asking what was his favourite thing
Lal: I must have been crazy to point to that scooter
Father: And I had to paint my scooter yellow
Lal: And I am still lugging it around with me for fear of jaundice. I am not afraid of jaundice, it's just his superstition. In every letter he asks, is the scooter alright, have you got it serviced, it's been three months, what colour is your helmet
Father: You got my letter?
Lal: A few days ago
Father: You read it?
Lal: I sent the scooter for servicing.
Father: I didn't write for the scooter servicing, but to inform you that I am coming today to meet you
Lal: I know. You wrote that on the top: arriving at 7.30
Father: Because I know you never open my letters. You need money?
Father: How's work?
Lal: I am not working. Have been on leave for two months
Father: Forget what happened
Lal: I am trying, but these days this splinter hurts a lot
Father: You are you trying to punish? Me or yourself?
Lal: I am writing a story
Father: Why do you want to write a story if you don't even know how it ends?
Lal: I have a lot of questions
Father: What do you want to know?
Lal: Why was the news of Indira Gandhi's death not told to Grandpa?
Father: You already know why
Lal: I know the answer, but I don's know if it is right or wrong.
Father: Why are you after this story? Can't you write about something else?
Lal: I am writing... the story of a vulture... the story of a vulture and an old man. That old man sits all day in the seventh floor balcony of the house across from mine. I am writing his story... but…
Father: But what?
Lal: Why does every character in my story ride a yellow scooter?
Father: Why don't you forget about the yellow scooter?
Lal: I want to throw it out of my life
Father: Don't do that!
Lal: Why? Because you think I'll die of jaundice?
Lal: Nobody dies like that!
Father: You grandfather strictly forbade it
Lal: Fine, so I will keep it with me as long as I live, but the condition is that you have to tell me the end of the story
Father: You are afraid. You don't really want to know the end
Lal: I want to
Father: Look, some things in life are like mathematical equations. If you have to solve them, you have to start with a given. Your problem is that you have to accept the end. Because the end is a given, the story goes this way
Lal: Okay, so at least tell me why you did not tell Grandpa about Indira Gandhi’s death?
Father: That I myself need to... (Starts to leave)
Lal: Where are you going?
Father: Bathroom (Lal sleeps) I have a spade with which I am digging into the hill of a white future, and tossing the soil behind. So behind me a big hill of the past is forming. Despite digging constantly there is still a white hill of the future in front of me, and behind me a load of the past dug up by the spade. Grass is starting to sprout on the hill of the past. All those incidents that seemed bitter while they were being experienced, have turned into a huge, shade-giving tree on the hill of the past. Many stories of the past have no end, the end takes place along with that story. But you are either not present at that precise moment, or you are too young, or you don’t want to know the end for fear of it being very frightening. Such stories turn into huge stones on the hill of the past. Which you then have to lug around your whole life.
(The father leaves, there is a blackout and then lights come on. It is evening. Lal slept all night, all of the next day; he woke up at 7.30 am-- a fact that Pitamber brings up later-- and went right back to sleep. Lal feels strangely uneasy. He picks up his father’s last letter, which hasn’t been opened yet. A lot of other opened letters are strewn all over. Lal goes in to make tea, then goes and stands in the balcony with his cup. Pitamber stops writing)
Pitamber: I woke just before nightfall and realized that I had slept all of the previous night and the whole day. I had woken in between at 7.30 and fallen asleep again. Now my head felt heavy and everything seemed strange. I cursed myself, what was happening to me? As it is I wasn’t doing anything for the past two months. But to spend a whole day and a whole night sleeping, I wondered how much ahead those people must have moved, who were with me will the day before yesterday. I got up, drank some water, didn’t know what else to do, so put the tea kettle on… now how would I spend the whole night? In any case, getting sleep, depends on your relationship with the night... anyway, so I strained the tea and came and stood in the balcony. I can’t see the entire city from my balcony (an old man signals from the balcony and goes away), just the two tall buildings opposite and between them is visible the city’s highway. I had got used to seeing this view of the world from the balcony, so whenever I looked out, I stood for hours. Each time, this small slice of the world bewitched me. Actually, this building, this broad street, the houses opposite were all a part of my home. By calling them the outside, I did try to push them away. I stood there for a long time, I had drunk half the tea, the rest had gotten cold, but I kept sipping it. I had replied to almost all of Father’s letters, except the last one. Just then the door bell rang, I did not turn, it rang again. I laughed, he had returned. It had to be him, my house didn’t even have a doorbell.
(Lal goes towards the door, Pitamber stops him from opening it. He stands in front of him. A voice is heard from outside)
Neel: Open the door
Neel: What happened? Have you made up your mind today? Open up
Lal: Today I was thinking about something and you….
Neel: Don’t think, you have no excuse, now open the door
Lal: Don’t insist (Pitamber moves away from Lal)
Neel: I am not insisting, and I if you delay any more, I will go away and then somebody else will come and you will have to tolerate him. Now tell me, shall I go or shall I rescue you?
Lal: (Opens the door. She comes in. To audience) I don’t know what happened, but I opened the door. It becomes easy to open it, if you know who’s on the other side. So I took the easy way. She has come in
Neel: Shall I take my clothes off?
Neel: I asked because you usually get me to strip
Lal: Not today
Neel: Why not today? Do you abstain on Mondays?
Lal: (To audience) People lie when they say times moves at its own pace. In actual fact, time stops very badly and then rushes very fast. Time has its own empty spheres and within them there is a different time with a different pace.
Neel: Are you angry with your time?
Lal: How long will you stay?
Neel: You tell me
Lal: Hadn’t you decided before you stepped out?
Neel: I did
Neel: It’s up to you
Neel: You know
Lal: Look you scare me
Neel: But I also help you escape
Lal: I don’t want to escape
Neel: That’s what I have been saying all along, don’t escape
Lal: Do you want to go?
Neel: I didn’t even want to come
Lal: Look, today I didn’t call you
Neel: What? Come again
Lal: Would you leave me alone for a while?
Neel: You are already alone
Lal: How much you love saying this
Neel: Ok drop it, answer this, on a river, in a little boat is a buffalo. The boat is about to capsize. Meaning, if you toss even a pebble in the boat, it will sink. Just then the buffalo craps. So tell me will the boat sink or not
Lal: I think the boat…. Will you shut up for a while
Lal: I am caught …. I’ve got to write
Neel: You need somebody?
Lal: Certainly not you, I know that much
Neel: When you need me, don’t call, I will come by myself. So at least you will have the satisfaction of not having summoned me
Lal: (Neel leaves) After sleeping late these questions came up, and I have just one solution to them all. I’ll go back to sleep
Pitamber: You can’t sleep
Pitamber: You’ve got to write your story
Lal: Who are you?
Pitamber: You don’t really want to know what you are asking
Lal: OK... so what do I want to know?
Pitamber: You have a lot of questions
Lal: Yes, I do have a lot of questions. I want to know where you go off to everyday
Pitamber: Why do watch me everyday?
Lal: That’s my tea time, I everyday from the balcony I see you leaving
Pitamber: For many days, I have also been watching you watch me
Lal: Why do you stop at the highway and look at me?
Pitamber: Why do you stand in the balcony and look at me? (Silence) You have a problem with your dad, right?
Pitamber: Because he sleeps with your mother
Lal: (Silence... To audience) Everyone spends the night in their own way. Everyone has his own equation with the dark of the night. If the equation is good, you get to sleep, if it is bad, then all your life’s inner darkness merges with the darkness of the night and snatches away your sleep
Pitamber: Didn’t you want to ask me something?
Lal: I have a whole lot of questions. Why do you ride a yellow scooter?
Pitamber: I am afraid of getting lost in a crowd. I am always afraid of becoming a part of the mob. That’s why I have memorized many jokes. I am constantly cracking jokes in front of people—I wear red, yellow, blue, green shirts, I shave daily, when I get nervous I go to the bathroom. Every day, I leave home after mugging up two different newspapers. I don’t know much, but I can expound at least for an hour on any subject, and yes, I ride a yellow scooter.
Lal: Why did you stop? Go on
Pitamber: Why are you seeking your bliss in someone else’s story?
Lal: I want to hear it
Pitamber: About whom?
Lal: You know
Pitamber: Shall we begin the story?
Lal: Yes (the doorbell rings) Damn! I had to go and pick up Father from the station, I forgot. (Father enters. Both touch his feet)
Father: Be happy if you can
Lal: I was going to come to the station to fetch you.
Father: There’s no need—how do I look?
Father: Why the hangdog expression? (To himself) Too much gas being formed
Lal: Where are you going?
Father: To the bathroom. You have a problem? (From inside) Look at the state of the bathroom (Silence)
Pitamber: You have a problem with your dad, don’t you?
Lal: Shut up
Pitamber: Because he left your mother. Ever after that he kept coming to meet her, why? Maybe to sleep with her—he used to give you money to go buy chocolate. Your mother died for fear of his recurring visits. Why did he insist on meeting you? Why does he want to meet you?
Father: (Enters) Want to eat a chocolate?
Lal: How long will you stay here?
Father: If you say so, I will leave right away
Lal: Will you have some tea?
Father: Why did you stop writing? What are you doing these days?
Father: I heard you took up a job?
Lal: I had. I am on leave for the last two months
Father: Why, are you mourning my death? Why did you stop writing?
Lal: I am trying to write
Father: Whose story are you writing?
Lal: An old man. That old man…. (The doorbell rings, Lal turns to the door)
Father: What happened? Why haven’t you still opened my last letter still? (Old man enters and exits) You don’t wish to speak to me? When you do feel like talking, call me. I will wait
Lal: Come... come on in
Old Man: Did I do something wrong?
Lal: No, nothing
Old Man: Today you didn’t look at me even once
Lal: I was just thinking of you
Old Man: I wanted to talk to you. I was even waving to you from the balcony. I have walked down from the seventh floor, my lift is out of order.
Lal: What is it... tell me
Old Man: I am worried about you. I feel, you also feel what I feel. Do you know what I feel? That tomorrow is consolation for the passing of today. Today has passed, it always does somehow. Then you feel tomorrow is shut in a magic pouch, the pouch will open, the sun will rise and everything will happen the way I have been imagining it, sitting in my balcony for years. You know, these days I see an old vulture, it’s very old. It sits tired on a tree stump and young crows keep pecking at it and fly off. That vulture has a problem or maybe for fear of those young crows, it has stopped flying high in the sky. Its feathers are falling off. These days, I gather up its fallen feathers, every day… I’ll be off now.
But it will fly, no? I wish to see it circling in the sky just once (Old man exits)
Lal: One of these days, he will jump off the seventh floor and kill himself.
Pitamber: You can save him
Lal: No—because the vulture can’t fly that high any more
Pitamber: If you want to save him you can— just change the end of the story. Let it be, you must be tired.
Lal: I am not tired, I want to sleep
Pitamber: No you want to ask me something
Lal: Yes, I have a lot of questions. Why wasn’t Grandpa given the news of Indira Gandhi’s death?
Pitamber: That’s a big question... ask another
Lal: Why did you stop writing?
Pitamber: I can’t write now, because in every character of every story I see my father. Every story of the story of my mother. Every man in every story is terrorizing my mother, and before the end of the story my father laughs and says the same line
Lal: Here, take these ten bucks and go get yourself a chocolate, afterwards we will go for a ride on the scooter…
Pitamber: .. and the story halts right there
Lal: No, but now I have started to see other people. I can write that old man’s story. (Both stand) I have always seen him sunning himself in his balcony
Pitamber: Whether or not it is sunny, he is always sunning himself
Lal: He has done just four solid things in his life
Pitamber: First, he got his daughter married
Lal: Who has left her husband and returned home
Pitamber: He bought a TV and fridge
Lal: Ice doesn’t form in the fridge these days. The TV is very old, so it just has eight channels.
Pitamber: Third he…
Lal: He…. My head is heavy (The doorbell rings)
Pitamber: What it the third and fourth solid things?
Lal: I know but...
Pitamber: You are on the right track about the old man... think
Lal: I want to escape
Neel: You don’t really want to escape... shall I rescue you?
Lal: The old man has a yellow scooter, that is the third solid thing I have
Pitamber: You have dragged your father in again
Neel: Shall I save you?
Pitamber: You have to write the story. Leave her be, think of the old man
Neel: Look at me, shall I take my clothes off?
Pitamber: What is the fourth solid thing?
Neel: Do you need me, or shall I go
Lal: (Holding her hand) Wait… this is wrong... till I write my own story, I cannot write somebody else’s... I have to write my own story
Neel: So what will become of the old man... what will become of me…? I am leaving
Lal: Listen... talk to me
Neel: I can’t talk... you don’t need me
Lal: I do need you... talk to me... I
Neel: Okay... On day a price rode in on a white charger...gallop, gallop, gallop. I fell in love with him… gallop, gallop, gallop... then we got married gallop, gallop, gallop, then we had lots of children gallop, gallop, gallop
Pitamber: And then he left you gallop, gallop, gallop. We don’t want to hear your story
Neel: Okay, so I will talk only about what you want to hear…
Pitamber: All my life, I have chased faces
Neel: All my life, I have chased faces
Pitamber: Actually, I have started taking square breaths
Neel: In these square breaths, there are dark corners... and in these are hidden a lot of faces… It’s like a square well, if I shout into it, I don’t hear the echo of some other voice, not my own... Then I run after that voice, that voice turns into a face and I tell it... shall I take off my clothes?
Pitamber: Again you have started on your own story
Neel: Why, if you see your father in every story, why can’t I add a line of mine into your story?
Pitamber: At least don’t add a cheap line like ‘shall I take my clothes off’
Neel: Why, when you say ‘take your clothes off’ you enjoy yourself. Anyway, answer this-- on a river, in a little boat is a buffalo. The boat is about to capsize. Meaning, if you toss even a pebble in the boat, it will sink. Just then the buffalo craps. So tell me will the boat sink or not
Pitamber: It will sink... the answer is it will sink
Neel: Wrong. The answer is it won’t sink, because the dung was inside the buffalo and now it’s in the boat, so it won’t sink
Pitamber: It will sink… when I was a child, my boat always sank, it still does (Both go out. The Doorbell)
Lal: Long ago, I got a splinter stuck in my finger—it went in very deep—it hurt a lot and was starting to bleed. When I tried to pull it out, it broke, half of it remained inside... I couldn’t bear the pain—I was too scared even to go to the doctor. The pain persisted for about a week then it eased off—now I couldn’t bear the reduction of that pain—It felt strange, I had got used to living with it – after about two weeks the pain almost disappeared, so I pushed the embedded splinter deeper inside—again the bleeding and the pain (he gets up and goes to the old man). Till now the splinter has settled in my finger, you can see it.
Old Man: (The old man comes along with his balcony into Lal’s house, He is seated in the balcony and Lal is standing below it and talking to him. Pitamber is standing in the balcony with the old man) Yes I can see it... it is still with you
Old Man: What do you want?
Lal: I don’t know
Old Man: You do know
Lal: The pain is reducing
Old Man: You need another splinter
Lal: Not yet... (He pushes the splinter in) Ouch (Father enters)
Lal: (Touching his feet) How are you Papa?
Father: How much you have grown
Lal: Papa I want to be like you
Father: Oh son, to be like me, you have to exercise, work out a lot—when I was in the army, I was a boxer—one day in the ring, I bit off my senior’s ear—he went out howling, later he court-martialled me—but I didn’t weep, I smiled even then, your father never wept
Pitamber: You never wept father? (Pitamber is addressing the old man as Papa, and Lal is talking to his father. Right then, the old man also becomes Lal’s father)
Lal: My father never wept—Papa you can beat even Rambo in boxing...
Father: Son, it has nothing to do with the body, you need guts
Pitamber: Papa, you weep—
Father: I haven’t had a boxing bout with you in a long time—come on get up, hit, hit
Pitamber: When you got the news of your younger brother’s death, why did you lock yourself in the bathroom?
Lal: Shut up
Pitamber: What were you doing in the bathroom?
Father: Enough… look after your health a bit, you get tired very fast
Pitamber: I always got tired... I always tired fast
Father: Come on let’s gave hand of cards
Pitamber: I was very small when I had to wear glasses. Papa got my eyes checked five times. He couldn’t believe his son could have weak eyes and need glasses. I got fed-up of having my eyes checked. I was always tired, I got tired very fast
Father: You lost again... now don’t cry... let’s play another hand
Pitamber: Once I had a fight with my friend in school. We didn’t even hit each other, just made dhishoom-dhishoom sounds with our mouths, you know the way kids fight, no blows are actually exchanged, just the clothes get dirty... my trousers tore at the knee. When I got home, Papa saw it. Who beat you he asked. I said I was in fight but we didn’t really hit each other. He thought I was hiding something, he went right then to my friend’s house, stood on the street outside and abused his father. When my friend came out to apologize, Papa slapped him. For days I was teased in school—my friends would say, hey don’t even touch him or his father will land up at your house to retaliate. I got tired of hearing this> I always got tired, I generally tired fast.
Father: You’ve lost again
Lal: I don’t know how to play cards
Lal: Because you never played cards with me
Father: Because you got glasses, that’s why
Lal: Why did you slap my friend? (Father starts to leave) Why was the news of Indira Gandhi's death not told to Grandpa?
Father: It’s your fault
Lal: Where are you going?
Pitamber: I am in the grip of a strange fever these days. This fever doesn’t go up or down, it stays within you
Lal: Sleeping late gave rise to a lot of questions, and I didn’t have any answers to them, because my stories are left mid-way, they never end—my stories—(Just then Lal gets a story idea) My story—my grandfather was dark, my father was fair and I was very fair—start
Pitamber: (Typing) My grandfather was dark, my father was fair and I was very fair
Old Man: My father was very dark—he used to say that he was born at night, that’s why he was dark—he was fully convinced that had he been born in the daytime, he would have been fair—like me—my mother was dark, my father was very dark—and I was fair-- but my father was happy—this line of reasoning appealed to him, that his son was born in the morning, so he was fair, the night could not leave its mark on him—he was saved, his son was saved. He used to always get up late at night and look at me—I looked very beautiful to him at night--- this he used to tell in the morning—that you were looking very beautiful last night.
Lal: I was about to go to the station to fetch you (Both touch his feet)
Old Man: I like the noonday sky—the sky is very serene in the afternoon—in it, like a tiny a spot, a vulture hovers, I never realize when I start looking at the vulture and stop gazing at the sky. Now the vulture does not fly—its feathers keep falling off—it’s odd to see a vulture feathers dropping, isn’t it—like watching the teeth of an aging lion fall out
Lal: Who are you looking for?
Father: Your mother… you haven’t put up your mother’s photo?
Lal: No, I haven’t
Father: Son, I can’t live alone now—I need someone. Why don’t you get married—I’m sorry—why don’t you start a small business. These days STD-PCO booths do very well, if you add a Xerox to it, you mint money—you carry on writing, I will mind the shop
Lal: I have to finish this story
Pitamber: What happened next?
Father: Name the STD-PCO- Xerox booth after your mother—Savitribai STD-PCO & Xerox… nice isn’t it?
Old Man: Then I got marries—the girl’s name was Savitri—my father got me married to her, because she was fair in spite of being born in the night—my father felt she was very lucky, because she was fair, in spite of being born in the night—we had a son, who got jaundice as soon as he was born
Pita: Incidents are spread over years—we remember the years by the incidents—if a year passed without incident was like year not lived through--- and some happenings are so huge that they seem like life itself, and we keep reliving them indifferent ways all our lives
Old Man: This is from the time when we had just bought a new TV—very few people has TVs in those days—at that time, Savitri had forgotten all about me and fallen in love with the TV—by then my father was old, he has been shifted to a separate room. In those days, there was just Doordarshan and Saturday-Sunday movies—
Lal: I had no interest in watching films—but Grandpa was crazy about movies—for him the TV was a miracle—he used to laugh and cry with the films—he didn’t just watch films, he lived them. Grandpa lost his voice--- he spoke barely two-three words a day – water, food and get out of breath with the strain of speaking, so he used to measure out those few words. I never watch the movies, I watched Grandpa watching them
Father: On Saturdays and Sundays there used to be a crowd in our house, Savitri’s friends used to come, especially on Sundays, it was tough for me to enter my own house. Savitri did not like my father’s movie-watching –because his whole body stank of urine. But Savitri—what she did was wrong
Lal: What—what wrong did mother do?
Father: There are so many stories scattered all over the world, you can write anything—why are you tormenting yourself?
Lal: Because I don’t to keep reliving the same torment
Father: When I saw dreams, I was never able to summon the dreams I wanted to see. The dreams just appeared and I saw them. My son never became what I wanted him to in my dreams—he turned out just like my dreams, he appeared in my dreams just as he was
Lal: What wrong did mother do?
Father: Saw… (Father exits)
Lal: What wrong did Savitri do?
Pitamber: You know that---
Lal: This I know--- why you ride a yellow scooter
Pitamber: Maybe I ride I yellow scooter because I could not open the STD-PCO that I wanted to. In any case, in this country, what colour of scooter can a mad ride—as it is the act of riding a scooter brands him middle class—he cannot ride a green scooter, he cannot ride a saffron scooter, cannot ride a red scooter. So how is he to convey that he doesn’t belong to anyone, to any group— that leaved just the yellow scooter for him to ride, that’s why I ride a yellow scooter and I don’t belong to any group
Pitamber: Tell me what wrong did Savitri do?
Lal: Savitri stopped Grandpa from coming into the TV room on Sundays (Music)
Old Man: Father stopped watching films on Sundays—was forced to—because Savitri’s friends used to arrive—I told Savitri, Father loves watching films, he waits all week for these two days, and on Saturday-Sunday he can barely pass the time in the evening, he forgets to eat—but she didn’t agree—she stopped him for coming out of his room on Sundays, but the sound of the TV reached his room
Pitamber: Yes, the sound of the TV reached his room
Lal: Those days, I was not at all fond of watching films, I just liked to watch Grandpa watching them. So on Sundays, I would hover around his room, I did not have the courage to go in, if he asked me to take him to the TV room, what would I do? Mother had strictly forbidden it, but Grandpa could speak barely a few word a day, and I could not bear to see a whole sentence of his go waste
Pitamber: One Sunday, I couldn’t control myself—I thought, if the film is on out there, what must Grandpa be doing inside—so I fetched a stool, climbed on it, moved the curtain on the window and looked it—and what did I see—that Grandpa is lying on his bed, his eyes are rolled up towards his forehead, he is trying to look towards the TV room—and the expressions on his face are changing just as if he were actually watching the film—he was laughing, he was crying, he was silent, now he was listening to the movie-watching
Old Man: I used to fall asleep before sitting up out of exhaustion—now I get tired just sitting and sleep does not come. To get sleep at our age, you have to try all kinds of tricks—it also depends on your relationship with the night. In childhood, my father used to say, go to sleep, but we didn’t sleep—then he would say, close your eyes and see a dream—as soon as the dream ends, tell it to me right away. My quest for a good dream would begin then—as soon as I found one, a voice would be heard—get up son, let’s go for a walk, it’s morning—and it would be morning—every day, while strolling, I would tell my father fragments of my dream. These days, the whole night ends—dreams come like a tired yawn and then end right there—my father also could not sleep—now I wonder what he did all day alone in a room—a room in which you found out if it was day or night from the coming and going of light in the window—there was a weak bulb—if it was lit, it meant night was about to fall, and if was switched off, it meant day was breaking—but he would just smile. The task of switching on the bulb was mine, whenever I went into his room, Father looked at me and smiled
Pitamber: Yes he would smile—the task of switching off the bulb was mine—whenever I went into Grandpa’s room to switch off the bulb-- he always became alert when he saw me—as if there were many more people in that room—to whom he was talking just before I came into the room—I used to glace around the room to see just who were there people Grandpa wanted to hide from me. He used to have an enigmatic smile on his face, as if I caught him red-handed—I used to hurriedly switch off the light and rush out, frightened… hey where are you off to?
Lal: To make tea
Pitamber: What about this
Lal: I don’t know
Pitamber: Won’t you complete the story?
Lal: I will
Lal: Now… just taking a tea break
Lal: Can’t I even have a cup of tea
Pitamber: What will you be thinking of over tea?
Lal: How can I tell you that now?
Pitamber: Better decide now what you will be thinking as you have your tea
Lal: I have decided
Lal: Why should I tell? (He goes inside)
(Over the next three scenes, Lal is inside making tea and thinking—after the third scene outside, Lal comes in with his father)
Old Man: Does jaundice get cured by riding a yellow scooter? You have to believe it. So because of jaundice I hated the colour yellow.
Pitamber: How can anybody ride a yellow scooter? But my father had many reasons for it, and he used write all those childish reasons to me. As a result, later I stopped reading anything he wrote
Old Man: Small questions can have small answers. But some questions are so enormous, that they cannot have answers. They just end up living with you
Pitamber: Whenever I read the reasons written by my father, I used to tell him just one thing, that they seemed dreamlike to me—broken, disjointed, childish
Old Man: In most of my letters to my son, I have mentioned my childish dreams. But I have always ended on the same like.
Pitamber: (Reading the end of the letter) I want me meet you. When shall I come?
Old Man: I never got a response because he never opened my letters to read them. That’s why I wrote on top of one of the letters. “I am arriving at 7.30 am”
Neel: Shall I come in? Or not?
Pitamber: You are already inside
Neel: You are very tired, don’t think too much
Pitamber: How blissful to do this poor guy act in front of you
Neel: Poor me
Pitamber: Won’t you ever forgive me?
Neel: You want me never to forgive you
Pitamber: Yes I do, and I also wish you’d never come here again
Neel: Are you looking at me like a splinter?
Neel: Whenever you make love to me, it feels as if you are taking revenge
Pitamber: For what?
Neel: For all the things you don’t have. Or for the things that only you have
Pitamber: More than the words I am able to say to you, after you leave, are the pieces of the words I could not say, scattered on the floor
Neel: What do you want to say?
Pitamber: I don’t know (Sound of something falling in the kitchen) I have to complete the story
Neel: What is this story of yours? Will it get over today?
Pitamber: I have to finish it today, I have opened and read all of Father’s letters except the last one. If that one gets opened, the story will halt here
(Lal and Father enter the room)
Lal: Come in, father, careful… yes, sit here
Father: How are you son? All well here? I have been getting nightmares for days—I felt you had an accident—or you have fallen ill again—you have got jaundice
Father: I am not well, still I have come—I thought I will get well if I stay with you for a few days—by the way, at the end of all my letters I asked you if I could come to meet you—but you never replied—I won’t stay too long here, I know you don’t like my visits
Pitamber: No, it’s not that—Papa—I, I—say something
Lal: Will you have water?
Father: Ask what you really want to ask—
Lal: You used to go to switch on the bulb—so why didn’t you give the news of Indira Gandhi's death to Grandpa?
Father: It’s not your fault—
Neel: He has told you it’s not your fault, now shut up
Lal: It’s not my fault that I am worried about, but you—
Neel: Look, don’t ask this
Lal: Why did you leave mother and go away—and then why did you keep coming to meet her—?
Neel: He is not well and you==
Father: You know, when my father and I used to go for walk, I used to tell him all about my dream—everyday—at that time, a black vulture, the colour of my father’s skin, used to hover over our heads—father would say—when am I no more, tell your dreams to this vulture and imagine it’s me listening—I agreed, and continue to do that till today, you also have to accept the end.
Neel: Look, you can accept it, just accept the end and finish the story
Father: These days I don’t get dreams—the night just goes all night—carrying on sleeping is a skill that depletes after a certain age—I don’t even go for morning walks – because the vulture has grown old—it doesn’t fly up in the sky—its feathers fall off—it sits on a tree stump in front of my house—every morning I get out of the house and sit under that tree for a while—I don’t have any dreams, yet the vulture listens to dreams—it believes that I am telling it my dreams, and I believe it is listening to my dreams—
Lal: But you haven’t answered my question
Neel: He has replied
Father: It’s not your fault
Pitamber: This is what I have been trying to convince myself of for ages—but what is to be done about that fear—which I am growing like a fever inside me—which doesn’t increase or decrease, just stays put inside you
Lal: This is the fear of words, of unsaid words—which someone was trying to tell you, but you kept ignoring him. Every morning, when I went to Grandpa’s room to switch off the bulb, he used to say some words to me—words that I did understand, but did not want to hear. I used to shout with fear in front of him—what? Do you want water? What? Tea, do you want tea—are you hungry? Ok I’ll come back later, and I would rush out of his room
Pitamber: But those words—those incomplete words would echo in my mind all day—later that fear grew to such an extent that I stopped going to his room—I used to quietly switch off the bulb and run out
Father: Don’t sell the yellow scooter, keep it with you
Lal: Why didn’t you give the news of Indira Gandhi's death to Grandpa?
Father: You tell your dreams—your stories to the scooter—and make-believe that I am listening
Old Man: At a certain age, parents grow smaller under the shadow of their growing children (Nirmal Verma) My father had actually turned into a child. He has crazy about watching movies and would insist like a child. He would stop eating. Somehow I persuaded him see the movies on Sundays, but it felt as if I was asking him for half his life’s breath—It used to cause me great grief—I was so furious with Savitri, I didn’t go home for a week—anyway, in the end she did not budge
Lal: Forgive me Papa
Father: No, it’s not your fault son, I…. inside
Lal: Come let me take you... where you want to go?
(Lal takes Father inside, and blackout. When the lights come on, Pitamber is writing and we see that in one corner Father is dancing and in the other Old Man, like a celebration for the writing of their characters. Lal comes in with a cup of tea and the story proceeds)
Pitamber: Tea break over?
Lal: Yes, tea break over
Pitamber: What happens next?
Lal: Then Indira Gandhi passed away
Pitamber: Then one day the news of Indira Gandhi’s death came in—31st October—Wednesday—the whole country was in mourning. Screening of films on TV was stopped. Father told Ma to give the news of
Lal: Ma passed the chore to me—son go tell your Grandpa that Indira Gandhi is dead, that’s why there are no films on TV
Pitamber: For days I hovered around his room—meanwhile, a Saturday-Sunday passed, but I didn’t have the nerve to go in.
Lal: Then one day, I went in to Grandpa’s room—as soon as I entered, I felt that he was just waiting for me. When I went up to him, he grabbed my hand, tight—I don’t know where is got so much strength from. He pulled me close and said, ‘My ears are ruined, I can’t hear anything.’ Wonder how he uttered that line one breath—he started panting. Perhaps he was afraid I’d run away, so his trip on my arm tightened—he pulled me closer—maybe he wanted to say something more, but his face was getting scary. I was afraid, I wanted to quickly say, Indira Gandhi is dead, that’s why there are no films on TV—but not a word came out of my mouth. I noticed his eyes turning yellow—dark face, yellow eyes—he was starting to look like a vulture—I was frightened, I wrenched my arm free and ran out of the room
Old Man: I still remember, on Sunday—when I went to his room to switch on the bulb, I saw that his eyes had almost reached his forehead, he was trying to look towards the TV room. I felt strange, because for the first time, he didn’t smile when he saw me—when I went closer I saw his whole body was rigid—I wished I could call Savitri and show her this sight-- but I went and sat by him, I apologized, I passed my hand over his eyelids and his eyes closed.
(Old Man gets up to leave)
Lal: Where are you going?
Ola Man: Bathroom
Pitamber: I watched Father’s repeated trips to the bathroom—he was very troubled—I wanted to tell Father that Grandpa died because of me—that I was unable to tell him about Indira Gandhi’s death—but—I couldn’t muster up the courage—I was worried about Father. Grandpa’s death had broken him—I thought I’d tell him when the time was right
Lal: I kept waiting for the right time—on the third day of Grandpa’s death, Father left home and went away—he left everything behind—meaning a bag, a trunk and the yellow scooter—even at such a time, he was concerned about my jaundice
Pitamber: I never opened any of Father’s letters—for the last months, I open, read, answer them, his last letter arrived two months ago—I haven’t opened this one yet—Arriving tomorrow at 7.30 am—is written on top—after this letter, neither he nor his letter arrived—The death of someone does not cause as much grief as the realization that with it those relationships are also cremated that you two were sharing—together—then it starts to feel as if you have been conned—there was a bridge made of your relationship, on which the two of you were walking, suddenly, he cut off his side of it and went away—now you are standing at the edge of an incomplete bridge—from where you can see the shore of your life, but you can never understand the secrets of that shore—and day by day, it will move away from you
Lal: The story has ended on Grandpa’s death—now all these are just scraps of that story—which belong to this story, but the story no longer needs them
Pitamber: 7.30 am, Father is due to arrive
Pitamber: Shall I ask you something?
Lal: Go on
Pitamber: Why do you ride a yellow scooter? Ha ha ha
(He exits, Father enters)
Father: Why do you ride a yellow scooter?
Lal: There isn’t very much to own up —there’s this yellow scooter, to which I read out replies to Father’s letters and imagine that he is listening—that’s why I ride a yellow scooter
Father: Why do you ride a yellow scooter?
Lal: I am taking revenge against myself—this is not a yellow scooter, this is the splinter embedded in my finger- which I carry around with me. That’s why I ride a yellow scooter
Father: It will be difficult to live if you are carrying guilt on your back
Lal: You—when did you arrive?
Father: 7.30 am, I said I would be coming
Lal: Till when are you going to keep coming
Father: Till you don’t read my last letter—
Lal: I have a lot of questions—and only you have the answers. I was afraid of coming to you with these questions—so I was never able to ask—but there is someone who has the answers to these questions—this belief was so reassuring by itself, that I lived comfortably with these questions—But this belief died along with your death—and the thought that I’d had to live my life under the burden of these questions was terrifying by itself. Now there’s no one left who has the answers, but I believe that you have written the answers to all my questions in this last letter of yours. So I will keep it with me all my life and never open it-- I believe
Father: I always said you’d have to accept the end—it’s good that you believe, now I won’t come again. I’ll be off
Lal: Papa, I have just one wish, to put my head in your lap and sleep, just once, may I? And till I fall asleep, you keep speaking—
Father: What shall I say?
Lal: That what I want to hear
Father: Go to sleep—everybody sleeps with the night in his own way, everyone has his own relationship with the dark of the night. If the equation is good, you get to sleep, and if it is bad, then the inner darkness of your life enters the dark of the night and won’t let you sleep, then you….