Between the Beetle and the Block
Act I: Recognition
The living room of Mrs. Namrata Ray in the heart of Kolkata, the adornment is opulent. Upstage center is the couch and a table, upstage right is a bookshelf stacked with the literary classics of all times, next to it is a stereo system and a few audio cassettes shrouded in dust. The Chandeliers reflect the bewitching blush of the spitting images of Lord Krishna put up on the wall.
There is a Hindu Alter towards the eastern corner, stacked with the idols of Lord Krishna besides it is a framed photograph of Mr. Arun Ray. A large window overlooks the garden: the staircase leads to the bedroom of Namrata visible through the screen light when it is back-lit & next to it is the room of her children Arnav and Rhea, visible through the screen light when it is back-lit. There is an exit to the main door and an exit to the kitchen next to it.
The wall clock shows half past six in the evening, and a popular hymn “Aarti kunj bihari ki” playing. Namrata is in her late forties wrapped up in a white Kolkata cotton sari. She looks for the matchbox and then lights the dia humming along with the tune. Arnav enters from the staircase. Arnav is in his teens, glued to his cell phone he enters the stage and rests himself on the couch munching on a pack of potato chips.
Namrata: Stop munching and try to shed some pounds in order to restore your health.
Arnav: (irritatingly) there is nothing wrong with the matter; Beauty is more in the eyes of the beholder.
Namrata: Well we hope you find your beauty but mind you, fairy-tales and fables are for kids.
Arnav: They are allegorical, but apparently, it seems to be out of your league.
Namrata: (teasing him) I hope to find you responsible girl who likes you this way: shabby. You know at your age I captivated your father’s attention with my charm.
Arnav: (ironically) yes and then you forged a proxy war for a lifetime against your will.
Namrata: I wanted to live up to His expectations…
Arnav: (interrupting) sadly enough you did not raise your voice at the nick of time and failed to mend your fortune, and I will not follow your footsteps.
Namrata: (unmindful) you should join me instead of sticking to the gizmos.
Arnav: (gives her a blank gaze and moves next to Namrata) ok.
Namrata: (exchanges glances with Arnav and gives him a sarcastic smile with folded hands) Miracles seldom happen, but they do.
Arnav: (to himself) yes only a Miracle can save me now.
Namrata: (casually holding her plate filled with oblations) I know your results are due, not much time left.
Arnav: (with hands folded) I hope your GOD saves me from the impending disaster.
The telephone rings, Arnav crosses the center table, puts off the stereo playing the hymn and receives the call, while Namrata prays mindfully.
Arnav: (casually) yes, may I know who is it?
An occasional puff of air makes its way through the window to flicker the oscillating flame and puts out the dias lit before the frame that captured Mr. Arun Ray’s smile, frozen in time. Namrata drops the plate full of oblations, on the floor and it leaves her appalled.
Namrata: (suspiciously) I hope we are not heading towards a menacing holocaust!
Arnav: (irritatingly) silence please! I am discussing something important over the phone.
Namrata: (screams at the top her voice) Rita, Rita, where are you? Clean up the mess, now, right now I said.
The housekeeper enters from the kitchen with a broom, murmuring something to her and starts cleaning the floor while Namrata exits to her bedroom for a while through the staircase. Arnav keeps talking while the house cleaner eavesdropped.
Arnav: (stealthily, spotlights on Arnav) why did you ring me up at this odd hour? You could have called me up in my personal number, my mother is around, and you did grant your consent for what happened that night so you had better not accuse me for what followed behind closed doors. You can come over to my place and discuss the matter, come over with an alibi that we have a group assignment or something.
Arnav bangs the receiver on the table, and senses the house cleaner looking at him and chuckling.
Arnav: (fuming furiously) do not stare at me like this. We do not pay you to pilfer secrets and spill the beans at the wrong time to the wrong person, last time I spared you. You had every reason to blackmail me and gain…
Namrata enters from the staircase and interrupts.
Namrata: (angrily) what are you screaming at her for? She is elder to you, foster some respect! No, wonder why I spent so much to send you to an English medium school to acquire some etiquette.
Arnav: (looking straight into Namrata’s eyes) Margarette is coming over in a while.
Namrata: (in an inquisitive tone) who is this girl now?
Arnav: Yes, she is coming over.
Namrata: (awestruck) you invited a girl in the house at the evening. Have you any idea people will mock at me, mind you mock at me for this, yours was an all-boy’s, what do you say, yes, Segregated school, so where did you get this female friend from?
Arnav: (irritatingly) you are dragging this.
Namrata: (angrily) how dare you raise your voice against me!
Arnav: (ironically) She is a friend of mine coming over to my place for some work. What is the big deal?
Namrata: A hard nut to crack, is it not? We live in a society and by virtue of this law; we have to abide by some protocols lest you are sneered by everyone.
Arnav: How does it matter to you?
Namrata: last week I met Mr.Sen in the market on letting him know that you plan to pursue Liberal Arts, he mentioned Liberal Arts is for girls, boys should pursue engineering or Medical and now look at his son, he joined an MNC a year ago and he is doing well and you want to pursue Liberal Arts.
Arnav: (gives her a sharp look) all my life I have seen you gasping to breathe in Liberty and blaming your circumstances and as I said, I will not walk into tour shoes.
Namrata: (laughs sarcastically) all throughout your life. Marriage tore my life between two mediating hemispheres; trapped ever since I turned into the bride of a respectable household.
Arnav: (sarcastically) look who is trying to move out of the woods now, the one who tries to confirm to the norms put forth by “society.”
Namrata: My times are over. Think about your future, you want to pursue Liberal Arts! It is a woman’s monopoly.
Arnav exits to his room through the staircase. Lights fade out.