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N.Ramayana- A Street Play

By Satya Sagar

04 September, 2009
Countercurrents.org

Sutradhar: Come one! Come all! Witness the grandest drama ever enacted on the face of this earth! The story of N.Ramayana! Narada's Ramayana! Narada the public relations manager of Maha Vishnu himself! Narada, the muni who propagated Aryan culture south of the Vindhyas! Narada, the intellectual power broker! Narada, who could make good appear evil and make the evil look wise whenever he wanted! Narada who could speak with five tongues at the same time to the same person! Narada, who elevated telling lies to an art form! Narada, who could use the noblest of words with the lowest of intentions! Narada, the editor of an influential newspaper today! Narada- not just another Editor-in-Chief but the ABSOLUTE Editor-in-Chief of The Gundu!

SCENE ONE

The play begins in a newspaper office in Chennai. A group of fishermen have been agitating against fisher folk being shot while fishing in international waters off the coast of Tamil Nadu . A reporter is telling his boss Narada why this story is important.

Fishermen shouting slogans in the background.

Reporter: Sir, twenty fishermen have been shot in the past six months. In the latest incident three of them were killed by the Sri Lankan Navy. At least now we should publish a story about this incident

Narada, the Editor: Mr Reporter, do you know how many fish the fishermen kill every day? Is that not a crime too- taking life in any form?

 

Reporter: (surprised and stammering) But, sir… how can you equate the killing of human beings to the killing of fish just because you are a vegetarian? The fishermen catch fish for their survival and in that process many of them die in the sea anyway? What the Sri Lankan navy is doing is sheer murder of innocent people!

 

Narada: You ask how can I equate the lives of human beings to that of fish?

(walking up to the reporter slowly and catching him by the collar and drawing the frightened reporter's face close to his)

 

First of all let me tell you Mr Reporter, I am not a vegetarian. I eat human beings– flesh, blood and bones- everyday for breakfast! I also swallow the living truth every day. If Lord Shiva swallowed poison and locked it in his throat to save humanity I safely lock up the truth in my throat so that it can never escape anywhere !

 

Next, let me tell you Mr Reporter, I am capable of equating anything with anything if it suits my purpose. Sometimes the lives of fish are more important than human lives, sometimes humans are more precious than elephants. It all depends on the context and there is a mathematics required to understand this. I come from a long lineage of mathematicians, of ‘kanakkupillais'. We have calculated our way through history, equation by equation. Calculation is in my blood Mr Reporter and I always get the results I want- even if one has to bend the rules of mathematics to do it once in a while!

 

Reporter (frightened): Sir, there is something called the truth also. You are running a newspaper that is supposed to reflect honestly what is happening in the world outside. You cannot blackout what is happening in the real world or impose the product of your imagination on your readers all the time!

 

Narada: (shoving the reporter aside with contempt) The problem with you Mr Reporter is that you do not understand your job definition very well. Yes, we pay you a salary to find out the truth - but not to tell the truth to everybody- last of all our newspaper readers. All the truths you and other reporters bring everyday I keep in the safety vault of my throat.

 

(motions to the Reporter) See how smooth and white my throat is – touch it, don't be afraid, feel it! This is all the fruit of the hard work of my employees like you, don't be shy!

 

Reporter touches Narada's throat and is immediately tempted to choke him. He presses hard till Narada turns blue/red in his face and starts shouting for help.

 

Narada: Murder! Murder! Help! Help! Someone come and rescue me from this madman.

 

Guards come running and pull the reporter away. Reporter is taken away screaming “You are an enemy of the people! You are a liar! You are a cheat! You are a thief!

 

SCENE TWO

Reporters voice fades away. Narada adjusts his shirt, strokes his throat and calls out to his secretary: “Next appointment. Let him come in”

 

Secretary accompanied by a peon brings in a tall mirror. Narada's next appointment is with himself- his own mirror image. They place the mirror so that he can see himself fully in it.

 

Narada positions himself before the mirror, stretching himself, making faces at his image, examines his throat once again, pats his hair, sticks out his tongue.

 

Narada: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I am a Tamilian! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”

 

Turning dead serious

 

Narada: “No, I am not a Tamilian. I am a Chameleon ! I can change colours, shape, size, values, principles, facts, data everything- depending on the CONTEXT! “

 

Walks away from the mirror talking to himself loudly

 

Narada: “ Yes when needed I am a Tamilian too. “Dei, ennada! Poda! Vaada!” I can say to my servants when I am annoyed with them. But I am a man of many identities.

 

I am the owner of a newspaper and the newspaper is a business meant to make profits. So I have to ensure the business prospers even if it means sacrificing a few principles, a few people here and there.

 

I am an investigative journalist on my own. I have exposed the secrets of politicians who do not want to do what I want them to do.

 

I am a Marxist intellectual- or at least that is what many people around me believe me to be. As a Marxist I have to support the poor, the working class in Iraq , Palestine , Afghanistan , Somalia , Ethiopia , Cuba , Bolivia (voice dropping a bit low) but not in India , he, he, he.

 

Narada starts gesticulating wildly before the mirror talking to himself but as if he is addressing a large audience.

 

Narada: I am communist to the communist, capitalist to the capitalist, feudal to the feudal! I am Narada the super man! I can say and write what I want ! I can make day into night! I made the solar eclipse possible! I am indispensable! I am so pleased with myself I can shout to the people of Chennai- come Worship me! I am God! I am the Mount Road of Mahavishnu! …Ooops! Sorry…I am the Mahavishnu of Mount Road ! I am the Editor-in-Chief of The Gundu….”

 

Just then his secretary comes running in with a mobile phone in hand:

Secretary: “Sir, there is a phone call for you from Delhi . From the Prime Minister's office”

 

Narada stops his wild actions abruptly and takes the phone his face changing from contorted excitement to a sheepish smile.

 

Narada: “Yes sir, good morning sir, I mean good afternoon sir. What can I do for you sir!” Of course sir! I have read the Ramayana and know every chapter by heart. Yes Sir I have read the official version; that is what I always read.

 

What? You want me to strike a deal with the King of Lanka and put the blame for Sita's kidnapping on Hanuman? I understand your code language sir. No need to explain. In other words, you want me to make what you had called freedom fighters yesterday look like terrorists today? Not a problem sir the current Sri Lankan President, er.. I mean King of Lanka is a personal friend of mine, like the previous one and the one before that also.

 

Twisting facts is the speciality of our newspaper sir. You must have followed our excellent cover up…I mean coverage of Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh. We can make fascists look like democrats and murderers look like holy men. We are here to whitewash all your crimes- as long as the rewards are worthwhile for us. I know you understand what I am speaking about sir! Sure, sir. A Padma Bhushan here and a Sri Lanka Ratna there will be fine for this job sir and of course those expensive advertisements for our newspaper from your ministries.

 

Keeps the phone down and does a little dance singing:

“We are The Gundu

There is nothing we can't do

Even God writes for us

So why all this fuss

When we print a pack of lies

And journalism dies

We stand for everything untrue

After all, we are The Gundu!”

 

SCENE THREE

Newspaper boy selling copies of The Gundu shouting at the top of his voice:

 

“Scoop! Hot News! Hanuman kidnaps Sita! Hanuman kidnaps Sita!”

 

A few people buy the newspaper, read it and are shocked.

 

Reader 1: “The Sri Lankan government has accused Hanuman of kidnapping Sita and holding her hostage along with thousands of innocent civilians. Government troops have now surrounded Hanuman and his fighters and any moment they are likely to rescue Sita”

 

Reader 2: “ Many civilians are likely to die in the rescue operation but the Sri Lankan army says some collateral damage will inevitably happen in such an operation and the price is well worth it.”

 

Reader 3: “Look here! This article says this information is based on an exclusive interview with the King of Lanka conducted by Narada, the Editor of The Gundu! And the editor says he personally saw all the evidence and is convinced that Hanuman is indeed the culprit!”

 

Reader 4: (Calling the newspaper boy): “You rascal, what is this newspaper you are selling to us. Who ever has heard of Hanuman kidnapping Sita? This is just a plain lie. Hanuman is being framed by the Sri Lankan and Indian intelligence agencies.

 

Reader 1: (pointing to the newspaper boy) “Catch this fellow before he can run away!”

The newspaper readers catch hold of the boy and are about to beat him up when he shouts out loud:

 

Newspaper boy: “ If you want to beat up someone, please go and beat up the Editor of The Gundu. He is the one who is responsible for this lie. I am probably the only fellow linked to the newspaper who is doing an honest job”.

 

Readers agree and they let the boy go. They then march to The Gundu's office shouting slogans: “ Down with the lies of The Gundu”; “Bad journalism costs lives!”; “Don't whitewash the sins of the Sri Lankan government!”

 

SCENE FOUR

The newspaper readers march into the office of Narada and continue to shout slogans against him and The Gundu. Narada quietens them down by standing on a chair and addressing them:

Narada: “Ok! Ok! Ok! Now tell me, what exactly is your problem?”

Reader 1: “You and your newspaper are the problem! “We are sick and tired of the lies you are publishing every day!”

Reader 2: “ Your newspaper is supporting genocide of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka ”

Reader 3: “You are an agent of the Indian government in Sri Lanka ”

Narada: “Fine, I have now listened to your complaints. You listen to me now. First of all let me explain that the newspaper industry, not just the Gundu, but all newspapers cannot survive without telling lies. We lie for a living. We have a business to run and profits to make and everyday we cannot get real news to fill up our newspaper. So what is called ‘news' in our publication is very often just plain fiction. If we had some more talent we would have been scriptwriters in Tamil cinema!”

Reader 1: “That is not true. Tamil cinema is closer to the truth most often than your newspaper. Through their fiction and even fantasy they are able to explain reality much better to thousands of people. You are pretending to tell the truth but telling lies instead”

Narada: “ You are a smart fellow. May I offer you a job as an Assistant Editor in our newspaper? Well, I was saying- lies are our staple product. But in the case of our latest article accusing Hanuman of kidnapping Sita I have full proof of his involvement in this crime. I have seen the evidence with my own eyes”

Reader 2: “If you have the evidence why don't you publish that and let the people judge for themselves instead of just making accusations? Can you show us the evidence?”

Narada: “The evidence is with my good friend the King of Lanka. He told me that he saw it with his own eyes”

Reader 3: “Just now you said you saw it with your ‘own eyes'. Now it turns out that the Sri Lankan President saw it with his ‘own eyes'. What is this nonsense?”

Narada: “You don't understand. The eyes of the King of Lanka are like my ‘own eyes'. We are like brothers, two bodies but one soul”

Reader 1: “ That is what we are also saying. There is no difference between you and the murderer who runs Sri Lanka . You are as guilty as the King of Lanka”

Narada: “ You are mistaken. Our common soul does not belong to either of us. It is owned by a third party- which is in fact a large company that is called ‘Greed and Power Pvt. Ltd. So we work on behalf of the investors in that company.

Reader 3: And who are the investors? Does it include the Indian government?

Narada: Yes, of course there are many governments involved in the Sri Lankan conflict- the Indians, the Chinese, Pakistan , Russia , Israel and so on. But all these governments are fronts for larger forces that are interested in converting Sri Lanka into a playground for global business. When they succeed I will become their chief public relations officer and The Gundu will become the top newspaper in the entire region!

Reader 1: So you and your investors are willing to carry out a genocide to achieve this aim?

Narada: What is a little genocide when the stakes are so high? We are talking of taking over an entire country that is rich in natural resources and is strategically located in the Indian Ocean- perfect for both global business and military operations.

Reader 2: Mr Narada. If that is the case and so many global interests are involved in this plot to take over Sri Lanka why are you telling all this to us? Are you not afraid that you will be completely exposed?

Narada: Telling you the truth about my involvement in Sri Lanka does not matter because you are never going to freely walk out of my office. I have made all arrangements.

Claps his hands and several guards appear with guns.

Guard 1: You are all under arrest for attempt to assault the Editor of The Gundu. You will all be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act and put away in jail for life.

Guard 2: You will have a secret trial and after sentencing nobody will be allowed to meet you in jail.

Reader 1: You will never get away with all this!

Reader 2: The people will find out and revolt against you, your newspaper and your political masters!

Narada: You are fools to think that the people will revolt. We have many ways of controlling the people. Give them free television sets and they will sit glued to them like lifeless idiots entertained by half-clad women singing silly songs. If that does not work we always have these fellows (pointing to the guards) to control them.

Reader 3: (lunging forward) I will not let you succeed! Down with Narada! Down with the enemies of the people!

Narada: (stepping back) Arrest them!

Guards hold back the readers and march them out of the office in handcuffs with them continuing to shout slogans against Narada and The Gundu.

SCENE FIVE:

Newspaper boy selling The Gundu on the streets.

‘Hanuman the terrorist killed by Sri Lankan army! Thousands of civilians killed along with him! Sita rescued by the King of Lanka! Narada awarded Sri Lanka Ratna!!”

Narada singing his song:

“We are The Gundu

There is nothing we can't do

Even God writes for us

So why all this fuss

When we print a pack of lies

And journalism dies

We stand for everything untrue

After all, we are The Gundu!”

Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist and video maker based in New Delhi . He can be contacted at sagarnama@gmail.com

 

 


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