I just came here to Smile

As I walked along a covered pathway towards COP 21’s “Les Spaces Générations Climat” (the visitor’s section for 2015 Paris climate negotiations), I stumbled upon a thin, middle-aged French man. He is about 1.75m tall, light brown hair and with a young gentle face. He greeted me with a gentle smile and said “Hello.” “Hello,” I replied. I extended him my hand, introduced myself and added a “nice to meet you.” “François,” he told me his name. “Where are you from?,” he asked. “Lisbon, you?”“I’m from Auvergne, central France. Why are you here at COP21?,” he kindly inquired. “I’m a writer and photographer and decided to come check out COP21. How about you?”

“I just came here to Smile.”

Stupefied, I paused for a few seconds.

My recently self-constructed ego as a writer and photographer was pierced and shattered into little, little pieces. Before I set out for Paris, I had convinced myself that I was going to become a writer and photographer. Yes this was my new identity – covered with layers and layers of illusions and delusions.

I was cleansed by this humble man.

I was humbled by this humble man.

My heart was pierced by this humble man.

As I tried gathering myself together, I replied, “That’s beautiful.”

As we continued walking the long pathway, he voiced out “Mother Earth is very happy that people are all gathering here looking for solutions.” My mind was still trying to resist, who is this guy? Is he crazy?

We entered the main gate and walked towards the security check area. I looked at him and noticed that he had come to this event barefoot. Past memories of India flashed in my mind, images of barefoot pilgrims heading to places of worship.

After seeing me noticing him being barefoot, he said “We humans have created such a hard environment for ourselves. Look at this floor, it’s so hard and uncomfortable. We can feel it when we are barefoot. When we walk the Earth’s soil, it’s so soft and welcoming.”

I nodded my head in agreement and smiled.

He walked in front of me towards the security checkpoint. I humbly followed behind him. As he passed through the security, I noticed him slowly strolling away. We didn’t even say bye to each other, I thought to myself. I notice the message at the back of his sweat-shirt. It says, “Je suis chez moi. Je suis arrivé.” Through my limited skills in French, I translated to myself, “I am at home. I have arrived.”

I finally Smile. Yes I hope that one day I will join you my friend…

 

 

Blossoming

‘Even if the cherry flowers bloom,

Ours is a world of suffering.’ — Issa, Japanese poet (1763-1827)

 

I dedicate this poem to the cuckoo that sings with a sweet voice:

 

Lonely tree

Blossoming flowers

Kissing bees

Butterflies flirting

In Circles

Cleansing rains

Clearing clouds

Shy Sun shyly shines

 

So many flowers blossoming into the world

Spreading Love

Beauty of Creation

Selflessly serving

For the Divine One

 

A voice echoes with the wind

Dear closed flower buds

Blossom, blossom and blossom

Blossom into the world

It is more painful to stay caged in

Than reaching for true Freedom

Let go of your burdens

Pain, abuse and suffering

Let go of your ‘self’

Desires, dreams and attachments

Allow your fragile petals

To open up one by one

Until all is surrendered…

 

It’s not an easy task

Not at all

Of letting go

So take your time

One day you’ll shine

Just remember

You are not alone

There are so many flowers in the tree

There are so many trees in the forest

And so many forests on Earth

It might be that all are slowly

Disappearing…

So much suffering in this process of change

Hence listen, listen to the cuckoo’s calling

Purify your inner world

And blossom into the outer one

The whole universe shall rejoice

From rivers, mountains and forests

To birds, bees, butterflies

All sentient and non-sentient beings

Remember you are not alone

Listen to the sweet cuckoo’s calling

Blossom, blossom and blossom!

 

 

Let It Burn

Let it burnOur Lady of Rosary

In the fire of Heart

Let it burn

To Heavenly ash

Throw in whatever is dear

All your worries, attachments and fears

Hurl in your innermost cravings

All your wishes, desires and yearnings

Let it burn

Let it burn

Let it burn

Until Nothing is left unburned in your Soul

 

You will see

That everything catches fire

And burns to ashes

From food, friends and family

To the innermost pleasures and desires

From all egotistical notions and concepts

Of purity and defilement

Of holiness and sin

Of deficiency and perfection

You throw in anything that rises in the Mind

And it catches fire like dried Autumn grass

Let it burn

 

Let the Wind blow

Let it spread this fire of Heart

Towards the ten directions

Let it kindle lost hearts that stopped burning long time ago

Let it burn

Song for the Boring Scholar

Oh boring scholar

You’ve come so far

What are you searching

Far away from home

 

Is it fame

To build your name

In the boring circle

Of elite intellectuals

 

Is it power

To make others lower

Their heads and hands

Under your speeches

 

Is it wealth

To fill your shelf

With trophies and books

And golden ornaments

 

Is it knowledge

To become a sage

And be the one

Who claims understanding

 

Oh boring scholar

You’ve come so far

What are you searching

Far away from home

 

Oh boring scholar

Where is your heart

Does it still beat

Crushed flat by your books

 

Oh boring scholar

Where is your mind

Is it blind

To its inner workings

 

Oh boring scholar

Where is your soul

Does it still ascend

To transcend the world

 

Oh boring scholar

Will you ever attain liberation

Freedom from craving

That realization of Nothingness

 

My dear scholar

To climb the mountain of Truth

You have to drop your books

Lighten your soul

Follow your heart

And release your mind

There will a point in time

When you have to take the Great Leap

 

Maybe then you’ll reach the summit

Or maybe you’ll die trying

The path to Truth is indeed hard

Choose wisely my dear scholar

Quando cantas, pequeno pássaro? (When will you sing, little bird?)

Em Março toda a acção se junta

Na Primavera o tempo pergunta

Quando cantas, pequeno pássaro Buddha?

 

O Inverno tem sido muito frio

A tua voz o mundo necessita

Agora só se escuta

O rugido do vento da Morte

Que ceifa vidas

Dos fracos e dos fortes

Pessoas que ainda não ouviram a tua doce voz do Dharma.

 

Ouve-se o assobio das bombas que caem

Os gritos da Terra violada

O disparo dos tiros que cortam o choro das crianças inocentes

Rasgando os coracões dos seus parentes

Como se vive sem coração?

 

Quão grande será o sofrimento destes pais culpados?

Que vivem mais tempo que os seus pequenos

Como se libertarão das cicatrizes de uma esterilização forçada?

Como se liberatarão da raiva?

Da vontade de retribuição

De mais e mais sofrimento no ciclo da existência

Como se libertarão?

 

Só a tua doce voz do Dharma…

Só a tua doce voz do Dharma…

 

Em Março toda a acção se junta

Na Primavera o tempo pergunta

Quando cantas, pequeno pássaro Buddha?

 

Dharma como fruta se madura

Para chegar a Primavera

Três estações se espera

Para o brilho da Lua Cheia

Três fases se transforma

Para o caminho a Deus começar

Sete pecados mortais se expia

Para o Buddha em si acordar

As quatro Nobres Verdades se internaliza

Para a Lótus de Oito Pétalas se abrir

O Caminho Óctuplo se pratica

 

Lá dentro

O pequeno pássaro Buddha espera…

 

Em Março toda a acção se junta

Na Primavera o tempo pergunta

Quando cantas, pequeno pássaro Buddha?

 

Em Março

Primavera chega

Dharma madura

Lua Cheia brilha

O caminho a Deus começa

Buddha acorda

A Lótus de Oito Pétalas abre

E o pequeno pássaro Buddha canta!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dancing Boy – A Script for a Children’s Dance-Drama Part II Scenes IV, V, VI

Scene IV – The City On the Other Margin

(Urban scene. Music starts and Hero does a dance to this beat made of sounds from the city on the other side of the river.)

Song 2: Street Beats in Kolkata by Beatshop (Beatmaker and DJ Ko Wong-Horiuchi)

Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q2vG8QiIis

(Hero does a dance expressing his sensory overload in the city. Music stops. Hero bumps into a man in suit.)

(Meeting With the Man in Suit)

(Man in suit) – Watch your step boy!

(Hero) – I’m sorry.

(Man in suit) – Why do you look so lost? You are not from here aren’t you?

(Hero) – No I’m from the other side of the river.

(Man in suit) – I thought so. Instead of roaming around, you should get a job like everyone else.

(Hero) – I do have a job sir.

(Man in suit) – I know what kind of jobs you boys from the other side of the river do here. Roaming around and trying to get some easy money: scamming tourists, lying, stealing.

(Hero) – No sir I do none of that. I work in a jute mill on the other side of the river. I came to this side to find a group of breakdancers. Have you seen a breakdance group around here by any chance?

(Man in suit) – Breakdance? What a waste of time, breakdancing… You should go look for a well paying job on this side of the river and make some money. (He checks his expensive watch.) Then you will be able to buy a nice watch like this one. (He shows his watch to Hero.) Chii, I’m so late for my business meeting. Sometimes I talk too much… Remember boy time is money, never waste it. Now get out of my way.

(The man in suit walks away in a fast pace.)

(Meeting With the Wealthy Lady with Her Son)

(A rich, upper class lady walks into the stage holding her son’s hand. Her son carries a small backpack and is eating a big piece of chocolate. )

(Hero) – Hello didi. Have you seen a group of breakdancers around here?

(The lady ignores him.)

(Hero) – Hello, have you seen a group of breakdancers around here?

(Lady’s son) – Wow, breakdancers!

(Lady) – Come here dear, don’t talk to him.

(Hero) – Excuse me, please don’t pretend I don’t exist. I am just asking whether you have seen any group of breakdancers around here.

(Lady) – Break, what?

(Hero) – Breakdancers. I’m looking for a group of young people dancing on the street.

(Lady) – Dancing on the street… Are they beggars?

(Hero) – No, no.

(The lady’s son starts breakdancing.)

(Lady) (The lady slaps her son’s back to stop dancing.) What are you doing? You need to have manners when in public. Don’t dance in the street like a monkey. Let’s go home.

(The lady and her son walk away.)

(Meeting With the Shopkeeper)

(Hero walks towards a betel shop by the river ghat with a big, attractive name sign – “Common Betel Shop”. At the time, there are no customers at the betel shop.)

(Hero) – Hello sir. Do you know about a group of kids dancing around here?

(Shopkeeper) – Dancing? Not really. Do they earn money?

(Hero) – I don’t think so.

(Shopkeeper) – Why would they dance if they can’t earn money from it? Young people nowadays, you don’t know how hard it is to make a living.

(Hero) – Sir, how hard it is to make a living around here?

(Shopkeeper) – You have no idea, do you? You have to work from morning to evening but money is never enough.

(Hero) – I also work from morning to evening but my family tries to be grateful with the little money we have.

(Shopkeeper) – That’s just sweet talk. Nobody is happy being poor. My wife and children are always complaining about money and money and how they don’t have enough of it. So here I am earning money for them. Anyways why am I telling this to you…

(Hero) – Sir, did your wife and children ever come visit your store?

(Shopkeeper) – No they have no interest in it.

(Hero) – Why don’t you invite them and ask them to come visit you? I am sure they will see how hard you work everyday and start appreciating your sacrifice for them.

(Shopkeeper) – You are much wiser than you look young man. I will think about it.

(Hero) – People say don’t judge a book by its cover…

(Shopkeeper) – You are too smart for my liking. Are you going to buy anything?

(Hero) – No sir.

(Shopkeeper) – Then why don’t you move to this side so customers can see and walk into the shop.

(Hero) Ok. (Hero moves to the side.) Actually I will go and take some rest under that Banyan tree. This way I won’t disturb your business. Sir, I hope everything works out for your shop and your family.

(Shopkeeper) – I hope so too, thank you. You have a kind heart young man. What is your name?

(Hero) People call me Hero.

(Shopkeeper) You know Hero, that is a very old Banyan tree. When I was your age, I used to sit there and contemplate life but now I sit in the shop and worry about money. You enjoy your years of youth because there is no joy in old age.

(Hero) – Sir why don’t you come sit with me under the shade of that Banyan tree?

(Shopkeeper) – Thank you for your offer but I have to look after this shop. After all, my family and this shop are the only two valuable things that I have in my life. I would have a nice time relaxing under that Banyan tree but I can’t leave my shop…

(Hero) Why? Can’t you close your shop for a little break?

(Shopkeeper) Why would I? If I sit here in my shop, I get paid for doing so. However if I sit under that Banyan tree, I lose money. Then I start chatting, meeting new people, paying others tea and snacks, and eventually my pocket will go empty.

(Hero) Sir wouldn’t you do the same sitting at sitting in your betel shop? Meeting people, tea, snacks…

(Shopkeeper) No. My conduct is very strict and professional when I am in the shop. Only work, no fun or relaxation.

(Hero) Sir sometimes people need to relax and spend time with family and friends.

(Shopkeeper) Why relax if you can make money? Do you see those two customers that are walking here? They are ready to purchase some chewing tobacco and betel leaves. If I wasn’t sitting here in the shop, this money would go to another seller.

(Hero) Sir I still don’t understand your thinking but I respect it. Will you ever reach a time in which you tell yourself “I have earned enough money?”. Once you do, we can go together and relax under that Banyan tree. For now I will go by myself and take some rest. Good bye sir.

(Shopkeeper) When you get older, get married and start a family, you will understand my thinking. As I said enjoy your years of youth. Best of luck for you and I hope you find the breakdance group you were looking for. Goodbye.

(Hero goes and sits down under the Banyan tree. End of Scene IV.)

Scene IV Glossary:

Sensory – adjective, of related to the senses like taste, touch, smell, seeing and hearing

Roaming – verb, moving around without aim or purpose

Scamming – verb, to cheat other people usually for money

Pretend – verb, to act like something is true but it is not, to give a false appearance

Nowadays – adverb, in the present or current time

Grateful – adjective, feeling or showing thanks for something or someone 

Scene V – Encounter With the Dance Crew

(While Hero sits under the Banyan tree, the dance crew he was looking for walk into the stage with a boombox and acting very cool. The boy watches curiously.)

(Bill) – Dude have you seen the new music video on MTV?

(Xerox) – Yea, it’s so amazing.

(Bill) – Let’s add some of their moves into our routines.

(Xerox) – Yea, good idea man.

(Sweetz) – It’s nice to get inspired from others ideas but we shouldn’t copy them. By the way, how did your exam go Bill?

(Bill) – You’re right no ‘biting’ (*a term used for copying other dancers’ moves in bboy/bgirl culture). My exam went well. If I get a good score on this, I can go study in a top university in the US or UK.

(Xerox) – Oh man, when you go abroad, you’ll meet so many famous bboys and bgirls.

(Bill)– Yea, maybe I can practice more and learn more things there. My parents aren’t too happy with me practicing street dance. They want me to focus on my studies so I can have a stable job in the future.

(Sweetz) – Remember you can’t always aim for stability. Just like dance, you have to aim for creativity and originality.

(Bill) – You and your talk about originality. I think winning battles is more important. You can be the most original bboy or bgirl in the world but if you can’t win any competitions, you are nothing. I really want to win the upcoming dance competition so I can show my parents how I can become a successful professional dancer.

(Xerox) – Respect man. Our crew is here to help you out in bringing that trophy back home to show your parents.

(Sweetz) – We are here to support you Bill.

(Other crew members) – Yes. (All the crew members nod and show signs of support and agreement.)

(Bill) – Thank you guys, now let’s practice. We have a jam to win!

(The dance crew start their dance practice. Hero approaches them.)

(Hero) – Hello. My name is Hero. Could you teach me some moves please?

(The crew look at him from top to bottom. The crew leader decides to ask Hero.)

(Bill) – Where are you from?

(Hero) – I am from the other side of the river.

(The group of young kids look at each other and judge him.)

(Bill) – Why don’t you find a crew on your side of the river?

(Hero) – I haven’t seen any bboy crews over there.

(Bill) – Then you should start your own crew. (Turns around to his crew members.) Chal, let’s continue practicing. We have an international jam coming up in a few months.

(Sweetz) – Come on, let him practice some moves with us.

(Bill) – Do you want to move to the other side of the river and create a crew with him then?

(Sweetz) – No, I just want to teach him some moves.

(Bill) – We have an international dance battle coming up soon. We need to practice hard if we want to win this.

(Other crew members) – Come on Sweetz, let’s continue our practice for the jam.

(Sweetz) – Sorry, I have to go practice with them. What’s your name again?

(Hero) – My name is Hero. Thanks, anyway. Go ahead.

(Sweetz) – I’m known as bgirl Sweetz. I apologize for my crewmate’s attitude, he’s under lots of pressure. Maybe when the dance competition is over you can come and practice with us.

(Hero) – Maybe. Bye.

(The boy walks away from the dance practice really disappointed. End of scene V.)

Scene V Glossary:

Creativity – noun, the ability to make new things or think of new ideas

Originality – noun, being different and new in a good way

Attitude – noun, a way of thinking and behaving that is unfriendly

Start of Scene VI – The Ferry Back Home

(Ferryman) – Hello my friend.

(Hero) – Hello. (Replies the boy, very sad, looking down and avoiding eye contact.)

(Ferryman) – What happened?

(Hero) – They didn’t let me practice with them. One kid was nice but others didn’t want me to join them. They were saying how they had to practice in order to win this dance battle coming up.

(Ferryman) – I see. These kids want to win the competition, and succeed in life just like everyone else on this side of the river. Don’t let this city bring you down my young friend. This is like a city of crows, people who live here fight each other for the leftovers. Let’s return home to the other shore. The river is our friend and it will guide us home.

(Hero) – Yes, I want to return to my side of the river, where I belong.

(Ferryman) – Remember your true home is on the other shore.

(The ferryman sings another song about the river. This is a folk song composed by Bhupen Hazarika.)

Song 3: “O Ganga Behti Ho Kyun” (O Ganga why do you keep flowing?) by Bhupen Hazarika

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3Vk-xfVQg8

Lyrics and English Translation (edited from different available versions)

(Assamese )

Bisterno varorey, / (On your wide banks)

Afankhya janore, / (That are home to countless people)

Hahakar sunio (In spite of hearing their anguished cries)

Nnirovey, / (So silently and unmindfully)

Bhural hui tumhi, / (Oh you old river?)

Bhural hui bura ki aur. / (Why do you keep flowing?)

(Hindi)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Naitikta,  nasht  hui, manavta bhrasht  hui,
(Morality is destroyed, humanity has been corrupted)
Nirlajj bhav se behti ho kyun?..
(Why do you keep flowing shamelessly?)
Itihas ki pukar, kare hunkar,
(The call of history is roaring)
Oh ganga ki dhar, nirbal jan ko, sabalsangrami, samagrogrami, banati nahi ho kyun?.
(Oh stream of Ganga, why don’t you turn the weak into powerful warriors marching forward?

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Anparjan, aksharheen, anginjan, khadyoviheen, *neatravhiheen,
(Innumerable people are illiterate, uneducated, without food and blind)
dikshmon ho kyun?.
(Why are you silent seeing this?)
Itihas ki pukar, kare hunkar,

(The call of history is roaring)

O Ganga ki dhar, nirbal jan ko, sabalsangrami, samagrogrami, banati nahim ho kyun?.

(O stream of Ganga, why don’t you turn the weak into powerful warriors marching forward?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Vyakti rahe, vyakti kendrik, sakal samaj, vyaktitya rahit,
(People are self-centered, the entire society is characterless)
Nishpran samaj, ko tor ti chodti na kyun?
(Lifeless society, why are you unaware of this?)
Itihas ki pukar, kare hunkar,

(The call of history is roaring)

O Ganga ki dhar, nirbal jan ko, sabalsangrami, samagrogrami, banati nahi ho kyun?.

(O stream of Ganga, why don’t you turn the weak into powerful warriors marching forward?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Shrutasvini, kyun na rahin,
(Why did you stop being a source of action and energy)
Tum nishchay, chintan nahim,
(You became inanimate)
Prano me prerana deti na kyun?
(Why don’t you give inspiration to life?)
Unmat avani, kurushetra garami, gange janani, navabharat me, bhisma rupi, sut samrajayi, janati nahi ho kyun?
(The exhilarated earth has become Kurushetra (a battleground, where Mahabharata took place), Ganga, o mother, in this modern India why don’t you give birth to a victorious son like Bhishma, the great warrior?

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)
Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, ganga tum, ganga tum, o ganga tum, ganga tum,  ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)
Ganga behti ho kyun? (O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

(The ferryman finishes singing)

(Ferryman) – We have arrived. When you feel sad and lost, just observe and listen to the river my friend. The river is always dancing. The river dances in its own rhythm. The river dances with an infinite joy and everywhere it flows, it is at home. Goodbye my friend. God bless you!

(Hero) Goodbye sir. God bless you too and thank you for ferrying me across the river!

(End of scene VI.)

Scene VI Glossary:

Avoiding – verb, to stay away from something or someone

Leftovers – noun, the remains of something has already been used, eaten or completed

Rhythm – noun, a regular and repeated pattern of sounds and/or movements  

Infinite – adjective, something that has no limit or ending  

List of Context specific words (India):

Betel or pan – leaves of a climbing plant commonly chewed by people in India as a mild stimulant

Bhai – brother

Chal – common expression with a meaning similar to “let’s go”

Dada – older brother in Bengali

Didi – older sister in Bengal

Ghat – series of steps that lead to the river

Majhi – boatman

Khichdi – a popular dish in India made of rice and lentils (dal). It is a flexible dish that can be prepared only with rice and lentils or vegetables and/or meat can be added to it

Tabla – a classical Indian musical instrument which consists of a pair of small hand drums attached together, one being slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch

Toto – A three wheeled electric battery powered vehicle that can be used as an alternative to rickshaws

TO BE CONTINUED… 

The Dancing Boy – A Script for a Children’s Dance-Drama Part I Scenes I, II, III

Dedicatory Note: 

This dance-drama script is dedicated to all children and youth who struggle to find their inner voices and their sense of place in an unjust world that cages them in slums and to lives of poverty and powerlessness.

Notes before reading the script:

This script for a children’s dance-drama was written based on life experiences travelling and working in India. It blossomed from the relationships developed with people who openly shared their lives with all its joys, sorrows and most importantly Love. It was the innate joy of children and youth, the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Hip Hop culture, the River and the places where I lived and worked that inspired me to write this script for a children’s dance-drama. Since this script was written by taking in mind the needs of young English learners, it was decided to include definitions of words that might prove to be difficult for these young learners. Definitions were simplified as much as possible so young English learners can connect to the specific meaning used in the specific context. Also, a list of definitions for context specific words is provided at the beginning or end of the post. The script will be separated into three separate posts due to the size of the script. Ideas for lesson plans, feedback and constructive criticism are welcome. I hope this script will inspire and bring joy to you.

List of context specific words (India) used throughout the script:

Betel or pan – leaves of a climbing plant commonly chewed by people in India as a mild stimulant

Bhai – brother

Chal – common expression with a meaning similar to “let’s go”

Chii – common expression to express annoyance or mental unease towards something

Dada – older brother in Bengali

Didi – older sister in Bengal

Ghat – series of steps that lead to the river

Majhi – boatman

Khichdi – a popular dish in India made of rice and lentils (dal). It is a flexible dish that can be prepared only with rice and lentils or vegetables and/or meat can be added to it

Tabla – a classical Indian musical instrument which consists of a pair of small hand drums attached together, one being slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch

Toto – A three wheeled electric battery powered vehicle that can be used as an alternative to rickshaws

List of Characters:

Hero: He is a fourteen year old teenager who helps his family by working in a jute mill. Naïve and idealistic, he hasn’t yet experienced the corrupting world of modernizing India. Although he works in the mill, Hero is still a student at the local public school but he skips lots of classes due to lack of interest and due to time conflict with the  work in the jute mill. Hero is a very curious boy and loves to ask questions and learn new things. In his free time, Hero goes to his neighborhood’s non-formal educational center where he has learned many new things and developed strong skills in reading, writing and in different subjects. Hero has an innate drive to dance and wants to learn bboying or breakdancing.

Ferryman: A wise old man who appears to be a simple man doing his work joyfully. Little do people know about his mystical and divine inner nature that allows him to simply enjoy the present moment. He loves to sing folk songs while he ferries people across the river.

Muskan (Sister): Muskan is Hero’s older sister. She is eighteen years old and about to take her final class twelve examinations. She is an intelligent, free-spirited and determined young lady who enjoys learning and trying out new things. Her parents want to set up an arranged marriage for her but she wants to continue her education beyond class twelve and graduate from college.

Mother: She is a housewife, very dedicated to her family. She works very hard and runs all household related affairs from managing the money, shopping, cooking, cleaning and raising the children. She is a natural leader and has lots of inner strength therefore she has the final say in any decision related to family issues.

Father: A hardworking, down-to-earth man who has been the family breadwinner since he was very young. He is experienced with life and the everyday struggle for survival faced by the poor working classes. The factory he worked in for most of his life closed down so he lost his job. Depressed, he recently started drinking alcohol as a way to escape from reality.

Anand (Cycle rickshaw puller): Anand is fifteen years old and is one of Hero’s best friends. He is a caring and family oriented young man who works as a cycle rickshaw puller in order to help support his family. Anand used to get top marks in school but he had to give up his studies a few years ago in order to start earning money for the family. He used to have big interest Anand has experienced major physical and psychological hardships working as a cycle rickshaw puller so he became angry and disappointed at life. He is worried about what future might hold for him and his family.

Scene I By the River Ghat

(A boy named Hero sits by the ghat, a worship song is playing in the background, he is reading an old book and sometimes glancing at the river.)

(His friend Anand enters the stage driving a cycle rickshaw. He stops his rickshaw by the ghat and walks to say hi to Hero.)

(Anand) – Hi, Hero!

(Hero) – Hello, Anand.

(Anand) – How was your day?

(Hero) – Tiring. Working in the jute mill takes a lot out of me. Non-stop making jute bags and if I ever get distracted or slow down, my boss beats me up.

(Anand) – Pulling a rickshaw takes a lot out of me too. My father’s rickshaw is falling apart and I have no money to repair it. When I cycle people around, the metal chain keeps popping out so I have to stop the rickshaw and place it back into place. Customers complain a lot but I have no other choice…

(Hero) – And I thought my job was hard. Your job might be a lot harder than mine specially in a hot day like today.

(Anand) – But the worst part is not even the physical labor or the heat, the worst part is how people don’t really treat me like I am worth anything. Some people don’t even look at me like I’m a human being and others throw their payment money at me like I am a dirty beggar.

(Hero) – That’s so disrespectful!

(Anand) – Yes, sometimes I feel like throwing them out of my rickshaw. But then I think about my mother, younger brother and sister and how they need my support. You know my father passed away recently so I have to take care of my family now. I take all these insults for them.

(Hero) – I’m really sorry about your father.  You are doing the right thing by taking care of your family. God bless you.

(Anand) – Thank you. I saw you were reading a book just a few minutes ago. What book is it?

(Hero) – You mean this book? I found this old book on my way here from the jute mill. Somebody left it on the pavement. Nobody was there to claim it so I picked it up and brought it along with me so I can read it.

(Anand) – Even though I can’t read or write well, I would never drop any book on the road. You know, I used to love going to school and learn how to read. I used to be a top student in class but I had to quit school and take up a job. Sometimes I wish I was still in school so I can learn to read properly. Hero could you read a few lines from this book for me?

(Hero) – Sure Anand, let me read my favorite lines from a poem in this book.

“On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.

The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.”

(Anand) What does “boisterous” mean?

(Hero) I don’t know. Whatever words I don’t know, I just skip them.

(Anand) Wait, I see you have a touch screen cellphone. Why don’t you check in the dictionary? I have a very cheap China mobile so no internet, only calling and sms.

(Hero) Ok, let’s check it out…Here it is, boisterous – adjective, a noisy and active way filled with energy.

(Anand) A noisy and active way filled with energy. Hm, like the river right now.

(Hero) Good point, I’ll continue reading.

“On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.”

(Anand) Can you check “trackless” for me?

(Hero) Ah I don’t need to check this one. Trackless means having no path, no track.

(Anand) This is just how I feel right now, boisterous and trackless. Inside, I’m boiling with anger and disappointment at life. I see no path for me, no tracks. There is no future in my life Hero except being stuck in this crap job as a rickshaw puller.

(Hero) I wish I could help you Anand. If you want, I can see if there are any vacant jobs with the jute mill. Maybe you can work with me for the jute mill. I know your family is suffering right now, if there need is any way help just let me know. I will see what I can do.

(Anand) Thank you bhai. (Anand sheds some tears and looks down to his kness and lifts his head up.) Who wrote these lines Hero?

(Hero) These lines are from a poem called “On the Seashore” written by Rabindranath Tagore.

(Anand) – Thank you for reading this poem to me. I don’t really understand the full meaning of it but it sounds beautiful. Look at the sky and see those dark clouds. A storm is coming.  I think it’s time for us to go home.

(Hero) – Yes, it is. I’m also late for dinner.

(Anand) – Get into the rickshaw. I can give you a ride.

(The two friends ride in the rickshaw together back to their houses.)

Scene I Glossary:

Worship: the act of showing respect and love for God or a deity

Glancing: from verb to glance, to look at someone or something very quickly

Takes a lot out of: idiom, to drain a lot of energy out of

Specially: adverb, being different than normal, particularly

Labor: noun, physical or mental work

Worth: adj., having value

Passed away: verb, someone who died

Insults: noun, bad talk that can hurt other people’s feelings  

Properly: adj., in a correct way

Boisterous: adj., a noisy and active way filled with energy 

 

Scene II – In the House

(Hero) – I’m back!

(Mother) – Go wash your hands and come eat. We are waiting for you!

(Father) – Quickly, I’m starving!

(Hero) – Ok, ok. What do we have for dinner?

(Mother) – Khichdi.

(Hero) – Again, mother? We have been having khichdi for three days in a row.

(Mother) – If you gave me some money, I would buy some meat and vegetables and cook more things.

(Hero) – But I just gave money to father a few days ago.

(Father) (Gives an angry stare at the boy. Makes signal for the boy to shut up.)

(Mother) – What did you do with the money?

(Father) – I used it to pay some bills due.

(Mother) – What bills? I just paid rent and the electricity bill last week.

(Father) – Personal bills. None of your business.

(Mother) – Did you go to the alcohol store?

(Father) – I said none of your business! I’m hungry, let’s eat!

(Mother) -Hero, next time you give the money to me, do you understand?

(Hero) – Yes, mother.

(Mother) – Let’s eat. (The mother starts serving the food.) We have some good news. Tomorrow your father and I are going to meet a potential husband for your sister.

(Hero) – Who is this?

(Father) – It’s one of my old friends’ brother’s son. He is a hardworking boy from a good family.

(Muskan) – Can we just eat instead of talking about my marriage?

(Mother) – You are a grown up lady now. Times are dangerous for unmarried young ladies living in our neighborhood. It is best for you to get married and start a family.

(Muskan) – What about my studies?

(Father) – You are almost finishing class twelve. It’s a big achievement. Not many girls in our neighborhood are able to accomplish this.

(Muskan) – What if I want to go to college?

(Father) – Do you want to continue studying?

(Muskan) – Yes.

(Father) – Then we will wait and see how you do in your final examinations. If your results are good, you may continue your studies. If they are not, it will be time for you to get married.

(Muskan) – Trust me. I will work very hard and I will be a class topper.

(Father) – We believe you. If you work hard, you can achieve whatever you set yourself to.

(Hero) – Wow look at the TV. That’s so cool. What kind of dance is this?

(Muskan) – It’s called breakdance or bboying or bgirling depending if it’s a boy or girl dancing. I saw some kids doing it on the other side of the river. I practice…(she stops what she was going to say.)

(Hero) – Wow! I can do this too! (The boy tries to imitate what he sees.)

(Mother) – Finish your food!

(Hero) – I want to go to the other side and practice with those breakdancer kids!

(Mother) – Are you mad? You are not a child anymore. You have to help support the family. Your father just lost his job recently! His factory just closed down.

(Hero) – Don’t worry mother! I can do both. Tomorrow I have no work so I will travel to the other side of the river and go practice with them! Where is that group’s practice spot, sister?

(Muskan) – They practice near the ghat on the other side of the river.

(Hero) – Awesome! I will go there tomorrow. I need to practice some of my moves first.

(Muskan) – I also know of an all girls crew on the other side of the river if you want to practice with them instead.

(Hero) – A girl’s crew? No, it’s ok. I’ll go find this group first.

(Muskan) – As you wish.

(Lights slowly fade with the boy trying to do some breakdance.)

Scene II Glossary:

Achievement: noun, a successful result usually due to effort and hard-work

Accomplish: verb, to succeed or to complete something

Fade: verb, to slowly disappear

Scene III – The Ferryman By the Ghat

(Ferryman) – All aboard. Let’s travel to the other shore.

(Hero) – Is this ferry going to the other side of the river?

(Ferryman) – Yes, it is. Why do you want to cross the river my friend?

(Hero) – I’m going to learn breakdance sir.

(Ferryman) – Breakdance? Is it popular again now? I first heard of this dance forty years ago. It is also called bboying or bgirling right?

(Hero) – Yes. Do you know how to breakdance sir?

(Ferryman) – Haha, no. I have seen people doing this but I haven’t tried it myself. You seem like a simple and friendly young man. Let me tell you something about the other side of the river. You know, the other side is not a welcoming place for kids like yourself.

(Hero) – What do you mean sir?

(Ferryman) – It is a city for the so called ‘modern people’. Life is fast and monotonous. People walk around in fancy shirts with no smiles in their faces and bump into each other. People cheat, people argue and people walk around like they are better than everyone else. Do you still want to go to the other side of the river?

(Hero) – I had no idea about this. Thank you for your advice. What you are saying might be true but I still want to figure it out by myself. Yesterday, I learned from my sister that there is a group of breakdancers on the other side of the river. My goal is to travel to the other side, find these dancers and practice with them. No matter what happens, I will cross this river and see the city with my own eyes!

(Ferryman) – I see you are determined to go! Wonderful it is when people set out for quests! I wish you the best of luck my friend. Go on and chase your dream! Let me teach you a song that us ferrymen always sing to enjoy ourselves.

Song 1: “Mere Sajan He Uspar” by S. D. Burman from movie Bandini (1963)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPM5owwfPQo

Lyrics by Shailendra and English Translation by Dr. V. S. Gopalakrishnan (Edited Version)

O re majhi, o re majhi, o mere majhi / (O boatman, o boatman, o my boatman)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side of the river)
Main man maar /(I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar o mere maajhi / (On this side, o my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar /(Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar (My lover is on the other side of the river)
Main man maar /(I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar o mere maajhi /(On this side, o my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side of the river)

Oh man ki kitaab se tum / (Strike out my name from your mind)
Mera naam hi mita dena / (Erase my name)
Gun to na tha koi bhi / (I had no good qualities)
Avgun mere bhula dena (Forget my bad qualities)

Man ki kitaab se tum / (Strike out my name from your mind)
Mera naam hi mita dena / (Erase my name)
Gun to na tha koi bhi / (I had no good qualities)
Avgun mere bhula dena / (Forget my bad qualities)

Mujhe aaj ki vidhata / (I am the Creator of today)
Mujhe aaj ki vidhata / (I am the Creator of today)
Mar ke bhi rehta intazaar / (If I die I will also wait for you)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side)
Main man maar / (I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar / (On this side)

O mere maajhi / (O my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar (My lover is on the other side)

Mat khel jal jaayegi / (Don’t play you will get burned)
Kehti hai aag mere man ki / (Says the fire of my mind)
Mat khel mat khel / (Do not play, do not play)
Mat khel jal jaayegi / (Don’t play you will get burned)
Kehti hai aag mere man ki /(Says the fire of my heart)

Main bandini piya ki / (I am a prisoner of love)
Main sangini hoon saajan ki / (I am the partner of my lover)
Mera kheenchti hai aanchal / (Someone pulls my dupata (Indian scarf))
Mera kheenchti hai aanchal / (Someone pulls my dupata (Indian scarf))
Man meet teri har pukaar / (My heart is calling for you)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side)

Main man maar /(I am unwillingly)
Hoon is paar o mere maajhi /(On this side, o my boatman)
Ab ki baar / (This time)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Le chal paar / (Take me to the other side)
Mere saajan hain us paar / (My lover is on the other side of the river)
O re maajhi, o re maajhi, o mere maajhi / (O boatman, o boatman, o my boatman)

(The ferryman finishes singing.)

(Ferryman) – We have arrived. Go on my friend. Go find the group of dancers. Once you complete your journey, I will be here to ferry you back home. I can ferry you to the other shore.

(Hero) – What a beautiful song! Thank you sir. See you soon.  (End of scene III)

Scene III Glossary:

Aboard – preposition, get onto a vehicle like a boat or ship

Popular –adjective, liked or followed by many people

Modern – adjective, related to present or recent time

Monotonous – adjective, boring or as having no variety

 To Be Continued…