Persona non grata
A short play
KRISHNA KUMAR GUPTA MANAGER, FATHER OF ASHWIN, 45 YRS
ASHWIN GUPTA SON, 22 YRS
RITA GUPTA HOUSEWIFE, 42 YRS
SETTING ROOM WITH SOFA, CHAIR, TABLE WITH SOME BOOKS, LIGHTS ON
TIME EVENING, 7:30 PM
[ASHWIN enters FROM STAGE LEFT, BAG IN HAND. keeps IT on one side, sits on the sofa, head lowered, on the right edge. RITA STROLLS IN from right WITH PAPER IN HAND. STAnds near the sofa.]
RITA: (Looking at the paper) She is beautiful. Your mama has sent this. Ashu take a look. (Hands over the paper to Ashwin)
ASHU: (Takes the bio data. Reads aloud slowly) I am a modern girl… with traditional values… (Flips the pages and keeps it aside, then looks ahead.)
RITA: If you know any girl, tell us.
[KK GUPTA ENTERS THE ROOM, DRESSED IN PLAIN SHIRT AND TROUSERS]
ASHU: (In subdued voice) I am leaving. I don’t want to live here.
RITA: (Shocked) Kaisi baat kar raha hai? (Looking at KK) Did you hear?
KK: (Taking off his shoes, breathing heavily) Let him go. He will repent and come back. Thokar lagegi to akl aa jayegi.
[KK MOVES TO THE CENTRE OF THE ROOM. LONG PAUSE]
KK: (Raised voice) What have we not given… good food, clothes, education… every facility. (Moving toward right) Aur karo… laad pyaar.
RITA: (Miffed) Haan! With you, he would have run away in childhood.
[PAUSE] [KK SHAKES HIS HEAD AND LOOKS DOWN. ASHU SITS LOST IN THOUGHTS.]
KK: [SPOTLIGHT ON KK] I never told you what I went through. (Raising his voice) I was jobless. My father said I should not go to the city. I worked in shops. I stood on the streets. (Loudly) I ate once a day. (WITH TEARY EYES) And there was no one…no one… to guide me.
[LONG PAUSE. KK WIPES HIS EYES AND MOVES TO THE CENTRE]
(In low voice) When I fell sick, we had no money. They would keep asking for money, and say, “We can’t do anything more for you.”
[PAUSE] [FULL LIGHTS ON]
(In sober voice) It was my luck. Someone referred me to a company. Her uncle, Kedar.
[KK MOVES TO THE LEFT]
KK: Anyways… I had told you to meet Mr Vasu; did you go there? [LOOKING AT RITA] He is the head of that IT firm. And that interview with Mr Tolani… what kind of answers you gave him! This is the time to jump into the wagon…get hold of someplace. This is the time…later it will be difficult to get a job. We have started receiving proposals for you.
[MOVES TO THE CENTRE]
You may not like what I am saying….but it is for your own good. My only concern was…my children should not face the problems that I went through. And once the time is gone, I won’t say anything. No one will bother. Become somebody in life. I’ve seen people regret.
[LOOKING AT RITA] Those friends of mine… for the last 10 years they are struggling…10 years. I became a manager.
[LOOKING AT ASHU] Understand the world… if a poor man eats moongfali, people say, “moongfali chaap”. When a rich man does that, “look, he is such a simple man!”
[AHSU SIGHS, AND LOOKS THE OTHER WAY]
We gave you money whenever you asked. Kissi cheez ki kami nahin hone di.
RITA: It must be some girl. Koi ladki hai?
[ASHU MOVES HIS HEAD AND LOOKS ANOTHER WAY]
KK: Where do you think you will go? No one will entertain you. People respect parents. Your landlord will make inquiries; neighbours will stay away. Your office …will your colleagues like you? Your friends…they will behave differently. No one will support you. At every step you will be asked your father’s name. Ask them.
[Gestures towards the audience]
Look at that girl…. [POINTS TOWARDS THE BIODATA] She is modern, educated, but hasn’t forgotten her values… I know they write all this stuff just for marriage… but there is some truth there.
[SOBER VOICE] No girl will marry you. They want family and security first. No one will support you. Not even your religion. We…we are like your gods…we are greater than the gods. [RAISING HIS VOICE] Your society, your religion, your government, your friends…everyone will disown you. They will support me. [CALMS DOWN] You have no legal status. You are a persona non grata. [PAUSE] You… you…are… under me [POINTS TOWARDS HIMSELF wITH A FINGER].
[LONG PAUSE. ASHU PICKS UP A BOOK AND FLIPS THE PAGES]
KK: (MovING towardS the table) Who is this…raand? (Picks up a book).
[ASHU CLOSES THE BOOK AND LOOKS THE OTHER WAY]
RITA: Ayn Rand.
KK: (Flipping over) These books can spoil. Capitalism. [SHRUGGING SHOULDERS] That’s what I am saying….invest money… make it grow. Build upon my base; don’t… don’t re-invent the wheel. Did you open that provident fund account? I will give you all the support… money.
[RITA MOVES AND STANDS NEXT TO KK]
RITA: Tumhari shaadi karke ghar basana hamara farz hai.
Warna…It is your choice. We are comfortable here… our own flat, car…
ASHU: [GETs UP with a jerk, INTERRUPTING RITA] The only thing I want today… is my independence.
[ASHU PICKS UP THE BAG, MOVES OUT OF THE ROOM FROM STAGE LEFT. KK AND RITA TURN AND WATCH ASHU EXIT. LIGHTS FADE]