TASHER DESH script

TASHER DESH
(LAND OF CARDS)

© DR ANANDA GUPTA (FIPA), MARCH 2007

Prologue

1) Khoro bayu boye bege:

A furious wind blows,
And clouds engulf the day,
Row the boat – O boatman.

You hold the stern,
And I’ll raise the sail —
Let’s row my friend,
Let’s row, row, heave-ho.

The rattling of shackles now and again,
Is not the boat’s fearful lament.
The burden of fetters,
Is why she teeters.
Let’s row my friend,
Let’s row, row, heave-ho.

Don’t count the days,
And query not this voyage
O impatient mind.
You will cross a sea of fears,
Don’t look yonder in anxiety.

CURTAINS OPEN…

If the Great Oracle
Unleashes havoc –
A storm rages and waves swell –
Don’t be afraid.
Match its rhythm,
Sing its paean.
Let’s row my friend,
Let’s row, row, heave-ho.

Scene 1 – The Palace

Prince:

No! I can’t wait any longer!

Merchant:

Why? What is making you so impatient?

Prince:

How do I explain? Why do you think the birds are so impatient? The ones who cannot wait to fly to the Himalayas every spring?

Merchant:

But… that’s because it’s their home!

Prince:

Then why leave home every year only to return? No! It’s just the pure joy of flight… and freedom.

Merchant:

You want to fly too?

Prince:

Of course!

Merchant:

I don’t understand you at all. I say… it’s better to be caged for a reason rather than be free for no reason at all.

Prince:

No reason is reason enough to be caged.

Merchant:

Why not? The comfort of this golden cage equals no other.

Prince:

You won’t understand… can’t understand…

Merchant:

Well… I admit that I have my share of faults. I cannot understand what cannot be understood. Look… why don’t you try to be a little more articulate and tell me what’s on your mind?

Prince:

This irksome monotony inside the palace.

Merchant:

Monotony? Aren’t these luxuries enough to satisfy you?

Prince:

No! I feel like a stone idol inside a golden temple. The endless drone of conch shells and the clash of cymbals are deafening me. I have no appetite for the elaborate offerings. It’s such a pain to follow this routine day after day.

Merchant:

As a matter of fact, for people like me it’s quiet reassuring to know that this routine exists, because if it ceases to exist… that’ll be the end of me. I am quiet satisfied with what I have, thank you… and unlike you, I don’t have the heart to go in search of an illusion.

Prince:

And what about the minstrels, who recite the same hymns everyday? The same rhythm rings in my ear tirelessly…

Merchant:

But hymns are meant to be heard more than once… it never fails to satisfy me.

Prince:

Every morning the litany of prayers and blessings from the priest… the guard at my door stands like a statue… one foot out of line and a retinue of royal guards appear out of thin air. Everbody wants to drug my soul.

Merchant:

Well… you must consider here, the hunting expeditions! Except the wild beasts, you are completely on your own then, aren’t you?

Prince:

Wild? You consider them wild? I am quite sure that the tigers are drugged by the royal attendants, just to please his Excellency. Do you think the beasts have enrolled for a peace campaign? I haven’t seen one decent attack in days.

Merchant:

Isn’t it much better that way? The feel of the hunt is preserved minus the danger.

Prince:

The other day I hit a bear with an arrow from a distance. The applause was embarrassing. Later I came to know that it was a stuffed bear that was planted out there just to flatter my archery. This was too much of an insult for me, so I put the concerned person behind bars.

Merchant:

You have done him a favour my friend. He is having a good time in prison, situated as it is inside the royal mother’s palace. They are feeding him good mutton and butter from the royal kitchen.

Prince:

What is the meaning of all this?

Merchant:

The stuffed bear was commissioned by the royal mother herself.

Prince:

O lord! This kingdom is built on great lies. We’ve been caged in safety for so long that we’ve forgotten to take risks. It’s just a charade where I play the part of a prince. I want to break free from this opulence. When I watch the farmers at work on the open fields… I envy them. They must be happy to be farmers…

Merchant:

Maybe the farmers feel the same way about you. But I think you are making a big fuss about nothing. You are not giving me the entire picture.

Enter Patrolekha
Merchant:

O Patralekha… maybe you’ll be able to fathom the depths of his heart. Why don’t you give it a try?

2) SONG – Gopono kothati:

“The secret will not remain hidden much longer…”

Patrolekha:

The secret will not remain hidden anymore
It reveals itself in silent eyes —

Prince:

No, no, no
the secret will not remain hidden anymore.

Patrolekha:

It’s revealed in one’s smile
In the notes of the flute,
In whispering lips, in lonely dreams —

Prince:

No, no, no
the secret will not remain hidden anymore.

Patrolekha:

The honeybee hums.
The bud reveals its sweet pain –
Thirsting for light.
The heart is in turmoil
In the light of dawn,
In the warmth of sadness.

Prince:

No, no, no
the secret will not remain hidden anymore.

Prince:

Yes! I do have secrets buried deep within my heart and some are kept far away in the distant sky. When I sit by myself on the beach, stare at the vast ocean… the horizon beckons me. I believe that my fate will take me towards truth. I want to embark upon a journey… in search of it.

3) SONG – Jaboi ami jaboi:

“I will go… I will go… I will leave my wealth behind… only to gain much more…”

I will go, yes I will-
On a journey to trade –
Everything in exchange
Of nothingness.

The ship is set to sail
With a thousand oarsmen,
Which kingdom will I reach?
Which ocean will I cross?
Which star should I follow?
Which way should I go?
Which route should I take?
In this vast dark sea?
I will never again dwell on false dreams
On a golden beach.

It’s a green island amid the blue,
Surrounded with coral reefs.
Nesting on the cliffs,
Are the birds of the sea.
The wild wind sweeps
Through the fronds of palm trees.
Where the rivers flow
Amid the dense wilderness-
I’ll find the treasure of seven Kings on those shores
On those shores.

Merchant:

A journey? You are now speaking like a merchant. Only difference is you don’t know the way. A merchant is always sure of where he is going. Are you?

Prince:

An idea came to me in my dreams. I have strong feelings about it.

Merchant:

Your song suggests that this treasure that you are in search of is not something that a merchant looks for. What is it? Can you name it?

Prince:

Something new! Something fresh!

Merchant:

New and fresh! Hmm… somewhat clear now…

Prince:

Will be clearer with time.

4) SONG – He nobina:

“I smell something new in the spring breeze…”

O Newness! O Unique.
You cannot be seen in the dust by the wayside.
I can hear your voice in the spring breeze,
I awake and see you in the golden clouds.

Come to me in my dreams
Full of frolic.
A heavenly flower
Entwined in your hair,
An unknown melody
Wafting from your harp.

Merchant:

It is going to be hard to find the treasure of your dreams.

Prince:

Come in my dreams, full of surprises. Come to me as a flower bedecked braid. I hear an unknown melody from afar.

Enter royal mother
Merchant:

O royal mother, your son wants to trap a mirage in a fishnet; he wants to search for his fairytale land.

Royal mother:

O! How flippant! Do you want to become a child again?

Prince:

Yes mother. I am so tired of being a grown up.

Royal mother:

I believe, your problem is that you don’t have any. You have developed a distaste towards what you already have and you never had the chance to want for more.

5) SONG – Amar mon bole chai chai:

“My heart wants more of what I never possessed…”

My heart wants more
Of what I cannot have.
Amidst all that I have
My heart throbs —
“Empty, empty, empty.”

I must loose myself
In order to find,
I must depart with the evening star
To reappear at dawn,
Saying, “Let me go, let me go.”

Royal mother:

Son! I will lose you if I try to stop you. You will not be able to carry the burden of luxury; the bondage of emotions is not for you. I will not try to hold you back despite your disinterest. I will personally dress you in a white turban and flowers, smear your forehead with sandalwood paste and prepare you for the journey. I will pray for you and bring kohl from the holy flame to put in your eyes so that you see clearly on your way.

Exit royal mother

6) SONG – Hero shagor uthhe torongia:

“The sea gushes and the wind rushes… I am sailing away…”

Look, the sea swells,
The wind blows at great speed.
Where the sun sets
Dazzling the clouds.

I go south, I go north,
Its froth and foam, nothing else.
If I don’t find the shore
I’ll find the bottom for sure.
And yet, never will I stay home
Nursing disappointment.

A lone sailor
In a solitary boat.
I have set sail
Towards the unknown.

With the help of new winds
I’ll visit new lands,
I’ll load my boat
With unknown riches —
When the thirsty mind returns home,
It’ll return like a King.

Scene 2 – The Land of Cards

Prince:

We set sail from home… only to get shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean… now we have drifted a long way … to the shores of an unknown land. After a very long time, I feel like something exciting is happening in my life.

Merchant:

You are always so keen about the unknown my friend… but I am scared of it. Whatever you say… old is gold.

Prince:

Don’t be a fool, old is also very stale. Our fate has given us the chance to explore new possibilities. We are saved.

Merchant:

Who’s being the fool here? You were born with all that one could ask for and now you’ve thrown it all away… for what?

Prince:

I could not choose my circumstances when I was born but now I can choose the way I want to live. When we were struggling to keep afloat after the ship sank, the great ocean wiped off my past and commanded me to go and conquer new lands as a new person, not as a prince.

7) SONG – Elem notun deshe:

“We have come to new pastures… my joy knows no bound… we’ve reached new shores”

Here I am in a new land
My boat wrecked, and I washed ashore.

The mind will speak the unknown,
Hope will weave in colorful threads-
A tapestry of emotions,
My heart will dance to new rhythms,
Singing of new joys and sorrows.

The unknown lover
With a garland of unknown flowers
Will gift me her heart.

In the prime of youth-
In spring,
Ankle bells will tinkle,
Southern winds will blow,
Through creepers in bloom
Like a damsel with wild tresses.

Merchant:

All that is very well my friend, but what is it about this foreign land that is so enchanting? We’ve already seen quite a lot of this strange land and it seems to me that everything works like clockwork here. The people are so stiff that they walk around like robots. Their ankle bells are square too. I’m sorry but I don’t see anything normal in this god forsaken country.

Prince:

That is precisely the reason why I feel it’s not real. They are guided by a system and not by their hearts. There surely is some scope here. We are going to help them to get rid of their masks.

Merchant:

I am only a merchant… I see things as they are, while you trust the unseen. Look, let’s see if we can ignite ashes. It’s going to take a lot of work. Here they come… honestly, they look like a procession of zombies.

Prince:

Let’s give way and watch.

Enter pack of playing card people

8) SONG – Tolon namon:

“Up- down- front –back- left- right… we need none of it”

Up, down, to and fro.
Left right, none of this, none of that.
Sit-stand, inflate-deflate.
Topsy-turvy, round and round —
Enough! Enough! Enough!

Merchant:

Good heavens, this is unbelievable. Look at this unreasonable behavior. They sit, stand, sleep, and walk: absolutely without any reason at all… ha ha ha.

Mr. 6:

Why are you laughing? Is anything the matter?

Mr. 5:

You shameless man, laughing…?

Mr. 6:

Don’t you follow any rules at all?

Prince:

There is reason enough to laugh but what you were doing just now is absolutely weird.

Mr. 6:

Reason? What do you need reasons for? We need rules and only rules. Don’t you understand? Bunch of lunatics…

Prince:

It’s not easy to identify pure lunatics… how did you do it?

Mr. 5:

By your dispositions of course.

Prince:

And what did you see in my disposition that makes you think I’m a lunatic?

Mr. 6:

The fact that you have no manners at all.

Merchant:

And you have all the manners in the world and nothing else.

Mr. 5:

You idiot, don’t you know, manners are all that matters, the rest is unnecessary.

Mr. 6:

You haven’t had the opportunity to learn under the great Guru. He would have taught you that asking questions always lands you in trouble. The less you ask the better for you.

Prince:

Hmm… seems like the great Guru is the great master of this land. Would we have the good fortune to meet him?

Mr. 6:

And who are you?

Prince:

We are foreigners.

Mr. 5:

That explains it. Which means you don’t belong to any caste, creed, nationality, class. Neither do you belong anywhere or to anyone. You have neither beginning nor an end. No identity whatsoever.

Prince:

Yes… quite right. We don’t have any of that. What we are is what you see in front of your eyes. Now, may I ask who you are?

Mr. 6:

We are a world famous and very distinguished dynasty of playing cards and I am the honourable Mr. 6.

Prince:

And what about the rest?

Mr. 6:

They have their distinctive names too, like Mr. 7, 8, 9…

Merchant:

Where does your dynasty come from?

Mr. 6:

When the great creator got tired of creating, he yawned and from that holy yawn was born the great card dynasty.

Mr. 5:

In some local dialects we are also known as the dynasty of the great yawn.

Merchant:

Fascinating!

Mr. 6:

The great creator yawned four big yawns with his four great mouths at the prophetic hour and we were born.

Merchant:

And this is the result…

Mr. 6:

Diamonds, Spades, Hearts and Clubs came tumbling down from the great yawn.

Merchant:

And all of you belong to a very high caste?

Mr. 6:

All of us, we were born right from his mouths…

Mr. 5:

A very important poet of our people, had dreamt about a particular rhythm, which have been dissected into 37 1/2 metres and our actions are based on those…

Prince:

Let us see at least one of them…

Mr. 5:

All right, turn around…

Prince:

But why?

Mr. 5:

That’s the rule. Card no.6 will recite the concerned hymn and blow in your ear.

Prince:

Why?

Mr. 5:

That’s the rule.

9) SONG – Haaaayyyiiiii:

“Yawn… days without work”

Yaawwwn.
Nothing to do.
The day passes by.
Come, come, come.
Nothing to do.

Prince:

This is unbearable… we’ll have to turn around.

Mr. 5:

Oh no… you spoilt the hymn, disgraced it.

Prince:

Disgraced it?

Mr. 5:

What else? You spoke in the middle… you foreigner!

Prince:

Well… what now?

Mr. 6:

You will have to make kohl from a bat eaten fruit and wear it in your eyes for three days. Then only will the heavens rest.

Prince:

I am sorry; I’ll have to be more careful in this country.

Mr. 6:

Its better you don’t be here at all… you’ll be clean.

Prince:

What will happen if I’m clean?

Mr. 5:

You’ll be clean if you’re clean… you idiot.

Prince:

We don’t understand you people at all. But I’m tempted to ask what you were doing in a group out there just now?

Mr. 6:

Fighting.

Prince:

You call that fighting?

Mr. 5:

Off course… according to strict rules and regulations of the playing cards dynasty.

10) SONG – Amra chitro oti bichitro:

“We fight by our own rules… no reason nor rhyme”
We are pictures, strange pictures,
Absolutely pure and holy too.

When we fight no one is angry.
Here comes the Jack-the-mild.

Totally unarmed
in khaki and red
No greed or regret.
Won’t skip, won’t hop.

We play by the rules.
Who is your foe, who is your friend?
Who’s the “Joker”, who the “Ace”.

Merchant:

Whatever… a fight is never as exciting without a little anger.

Mr. 6:

Our anger is in our colours.

Merchant:

But where are your weapons?

Mr. 5:

We have none of those in our wars.

Prince:

Fine, but there has to be an issue. What will two sides fight for?

Mr. 5:

According to the holy texts even your people were born from something…

Merchant:

Of course… just like you… we were born from the great sneeze of the creator.

Mr. 6:

Now I understand why you are so flippant.

Prince:

We cannot keep still in one place.

Mr. 5:

That is not good.

Merchant:

Who said it’s good? The result of the great sneeze still haunts me.

Mr. 6:

One good thing is… I can see you won’t be able to stay here long enough either. Soon you’ll be out of here.

Merchant:

Yes… that is difficult.

Mr. 5:

What is your war like?

Merchant:

Our war is equivalent to four pairs of great sneezes.

Mr. 6:

What? Then it must be very chaotic?

Merchant:

Very…

Mr. 6:

Do you follow a rhythm too?

Merchant:

Of course.

11) SONG – Hanchho! Bhoye ki dekhachho:

“Atichoo-atichoo! I might catch you, I might punch you… don’t try to scare me”

Attishoo! Attishoo!
Dare you scare me?
I’ll catch you by your crook,
And punch you with a hook —
Will you like that? Look!

Mr. 6:

You are definitely not our class. What caste do you belong to?

Merchant:

We are the caste of the nose since we were born from there.

Mr. 5:

We have never heard of any such castes ever.

Merchant:

That is because you were thrown upwards by the great yawn and we were sneezed down to earth.

Mr. 6:

You are strange because you were born from the uncontrollable sneeze.

Prince:

At last you have spoken the truth… we truly are strange.

12) SONG – Amra notun jouboneri doot:

“We are strange, we are restless… we are the messengers of youth”

We are the messengers of youth,
We are carefree, we are strange.

We defy borders,
Get high on the colour
Of the wild woods,
Like lightning we streak
Over dark skies.

We make mistakes.
We dive into deep waters
And fathoming it, swim ashore.
Wherever need be
In life and death —
We are ready.

Mr. 5 and 6:

This behavior will not do here!

Prince:

But that is precisely why we are here. To do what cannot be done.

Mr. 6:

But rules?

Prince:

If you don’t break rules you’ll never be free!

Mr. 5:

I cannot believe my ears. They want to be free!

Prince:

Why live if not for freedom?

Mr. 6:

Freedom? How dare you want to be free? Rules will rule the day!

13) SONG – Cholo niyom mote:

“Follow rules… don’t look to your left or to your right”

Pack of Cards:

Let’s go by the rules.
Don’t look too far,
Don’t tilt your head!
Let’s follow the straight road.

Prince:

“Behold the forest, where there are no rules —
The water cascades from the southern mountains.”

Pack of Cards:

Don’t look that way,
Don’t look, don’t look,
Don’t go, don’t go.
Follow the straight road.

Mr. 5:

We’ve had quite enough! Here comes the king and the queen. They will hold court here today. Here… take your twigs everybody…

Prince:

Twigs? Ha ha ha… why?

Mr. 5:

Stop laughing… that’s the rule. Now sit with your face towards the north east and don’t ever look back.

Prince:

Why?

Mr. 6:

Rules.

Enter King and Queen accompanied by Jack, Ace and others
Prince:

Come let us sing praises for the king… it might please him. Would you sway the twig for me?

14) SONG – Joy joy tashobongsho:

“Hail the great playing card people dynasty”

Hail the great Dynasty of Playing Cards,
Dwellers of this sleepy shore,
The rest is history.

Group of Cards:

Oh no! You have just ruined the meeting… barbarians!

King:

Silence! Who are they?

Mr. 6:

Foreigners.

King:

Foreigners! Then the usual rules cannot be applied. Change places everyone… then only can we save the day. We will begin with our national anthem.

15) SONG – Chiretan, hartan, ishkabon:

“Let’s move like clockwork… Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, Spades”

Clubs, Hearts, Spades, Diamonds,
Dances to an ancient rhythm.
Clubs, Hearts, Spades, Diamonds.

Some just rise, some just fall,
Some stand still, some stand tall,
Some lie flat on the ground
Clapping hands in union.

Neither do they speak,
Nor do they smile —
Plays follow the leader
All the while.

Their ways are strict,
Methods sterile,
Never unhinging,
Never changing.

King:

O foreigner…

Prince:

Yes your majesty…

King:

Who are you?

Prince:

I am a messenger from the other side of the ocean.

Jack:

Have you brought gifts?

Prince:

Certainly. We have something that is not available in your land.

Jack:

And what is that?

Prince:

Chaos.

Mr. 6:

Did you hear that, your majesty? He wants to be free; you won’t believe he actually laughs. He will corrupt us all.

Jack:

No other land is as planned and disciplined as us. Even the lightning cannot move us.

Everybody:

Nobody else can either!

Jack:

But suppose he does corrupt us… what then?

King:

That is quite frightening.

Everybody:

That is quite frightening.

Jack:

A sudden gust of wind brings change and change will affect everyone. What if the high priest starts saying he wants to be free too?

Mr. 5:

God forbid… maybe we’ll all start laughing!

King:

Hey you! Jack of spades!

Jack:

Yes your majesty.

King:

Aren’t you the keeper?

Jack:

Indeed your highness, I am the keeper of the great playing card dynasty’s heritage.

King:

Heritage? What’s that? I hope it’s nothing sweet.

Jack:

No your highness. It’s neither sweet nor sour. It’s the most important element of our civilization. And that is at stake here m’lord.

Everyone:

Heritage! Heritage! Save our heritage!

King:

I hope there are proper rules in this heritage of yours?

Jack:

Yes.

King:

Then we’ll have to abide by those rules strictly. This corruption cannot be allowed.

Jack:

We need compulsory rules.

King:

What are compulsory rules?

Jack:

Rules that we “must follow”.

King:

That can be taken care of later. Do the foreigners have anything to say?

Prince:

Yes I do but not to you.

King:

Then to whom?

Prince:

To all the princesses here.

King:

Then what is it?

16) SONG – Ogo shanto pashanmuroti shundori:

“Let your hearts melt… let your souls free… O beautiful ladies”

O! Calm, stone cold Beauty,
Make liveliness your own.
Come to the woods alone,
Let tears stream your face,
Paint your heart a deep red-
The sweet pain of melancholy

Queen:

There is a limit to indiscipline.

Mr. 5:

You must send them away your highness.

King:

Send them away? What does the queen have to say? C’mon say something.

Queen:

I don’t agree with you.

Ms. Ace:

We don’t agree either.

King:

You don’t sound like yourself my queen.

Queen:

I don’t feel like myself either.

Jack:

O great Queen and Ms. Ace… remember we have a heritage of rules to follow.

Everyone:

Heritage! Save our heritage!

Jack:

Let us put the compulsory rules in effect!

King:

Which is…?

Jack:

“Must follow” rules.

King:

What do you say my queen? Should I put the compulsory rules into effect?

Queen:

We also have our share of compulsory rules… we’ll see who sends whom away.

Ms. Ace:

We will not follow any more rules!

Jack:

What? Oh no! There goes our heritage.

King:

The court is adjourned for the day. Let’s leave this place at once… it’s not safe anymore.

Exit pack of playing card people
Merchant:

This is becoming unbearable. It’s God’s big joke. They will start having a bad influence on us.

Prince:

Didn’t you notice the changes? Sparks of life are already visible amongst them. I want to see the end of it.

Merchant:

But they are just impossible. They are bound by rules from head to toe.

Prince:

Look! That way… can’t you see?

Merchant:

What? Winds of change? The Nine of Spades is sitting under the tree and staring at the sky…? What’s happening to the rules?

Prince:

He is probably thinking of Ms. Clubs. I think he should be left alone. Let’s move away.

Exit

Scene 3 – Inner Chambers of the Card Princesses

Ms. Spade is dressing herself. Enter Ms. Ace

17) SONG – Bolo shokhi bolo:

“Tell me my friend… who is your beloved? Whisper his name…”

Tell me my friend, tell me,
Whisper his name in my ear
The name that wafts in
With the tunes of your lute.

In the spring breeze,
Through the woods
His name will be heard
In the song of the birds,
In the fragrance of flowers.
You will hear his name –
Uttered in jest by your friends.

When alone on a full moon night,
When your heart feels lonely
We will sing his name to you

Ms. Spade:

I cannot imagine what went wrong in the land of the playing cards. Those foreigners brought with them a strange gust of wind. I cannot concentrate.

Ms. Ace:

Yes, you’re right. Who would have thought that we would start behaving like humans? Shame!

Ms. Spade:

Behaving like humans is a crime! Ms. Heart started it. Haven’t you noticed her dispositions of late? As if she is human! She goes wrong with the rules all the time. People are talking. She will be responsible for our downfall.

Enter Ms. Club
Ms. Club:

Ms. Ace! I have heard that you are spreading rumors about us… that we have forgotten all the rules?

Ms. Ace:

You’ve heard it right. I am only speaking the truth. I have noticed that you are always blushing… what about? And what about that arch in your eyebrows? I have never seen such a thing in this land. Do you think you’ll go unnoticed?

Ms. Club:

As if I haven’t noticed that you are constantly gossiping with your friend under the tree. That is not by the rules either! And Jack has lost his heart to you as well.

Ms. Spade:

Don’t preach! You too have started tying coloured ribbons in your hair; the rules in this land will have to hang themselves with it. Shameless creature.

Ms. Club:

I am not scared of anyone… unlike you I don’t do it on the sly. Being a playing card for the rest of my life is like being dead. I would be saved if I can become human.

Ms. Spade:

Don’t speak too soon. I have heard that they are planning to disown you.

Ms. Club:

I have disowned my people myself… now nobody can do me any harm.

Ms. Spade:

O my god! I have never seen such pride. You are out to blow your own trumpet. Let’s go Ms. Ace, I don’t want to be caught talking to her.

Exit

Scene 4 – The Garden

Enter Ms. Heart with the Prince

18) SONG – Ami phool tulite elem bone:

“Why do I pluck flowers so unmindfully?”

I came to pluck flowers in the woods,
I know not what I was thinking.
This is not about plucking flowers,
I don’t understand it myself,
My eyes suddenly fill with tears

Enter Mr. Diamond
Mr. Diamond:

There you are… I’ve been looking for you all over.

Ms. Heart:

Why were you looking for me?

Mr. Diamond:

The jury has summoned you to the palace.

Ms. Heart:

Tell them you didn’t find me.

Mr. Diamond:

What?

Ms. Heart:

Yes I have lost myself too. You’ll never find me again.

Mr. Diamond:

What is wrong with you? You’ve come here all by yourself? Don’t you know the rules?

Ms. Heart:

No, as a matter of fact I don’t. But I can see rain clouds on this land… can you tell me why? I woke up in the morning to find clouds in the sky. Till today the peacocks used to dance by the book too. But why is it that today it just went wild when it saw the rain clouds coming?

Mr. Diamond:

But as far as I know you… you always abide by strict rules. How could you do something like this?

Ms. Heart:

I suddenly felt like I used to pluck flowers in my previous life. I could smell the flowers in the air. The bumble bee beckoned to me here.

19) SONG – Ghorete bhromor elo:

“Here comes the messenger of love… O bumble bee”

The bumblebee buzzes into my home.
Who is it that he is trying to tell me about?

Flowers bloom in the woods to the light of day,
Is he trying to give me the news of this awakening?
It describes that story all day long.

How can I stay at home? My heart aches,
How do I pass the day counting time?

What is this magic that ensnares me?
Making me forgetful.
My day passes weaving tunes.

Mr. Diamond:

I am actually looking for all the princesses. All of them have been summoned by the jury for their reckless behavior.

Ms. Heart:

You’ll find all of them right here… along the banks of the river, under the trees.

Mr. Diamond:

What are they up to?

Ms. Heart:

They are all busy with their makeovers, just like me. How do I look? Do you like it?

Mr. Diamond:

You look like a new person… as if the veil has been banished… as if the cloud has lifted.

Ms. Heart:

Mr. 5 and Mr. 6 had come to warn us. Go and see what has become of them.

Mr. Diamond:

Why? What has become of them?

Ms. Heart:

They are behaving like lunatics… if I’m not wrong… I also heard them humming a tune.

Mr. Diamond:

Humming a tune? Mr. 5 and Mr. 6?

Ms. Heart:

Yes! But out of tune. I was styling my hair but I couldn’t stay very long…

Mr. Diamond:

What? Styling your hair? Who taught you to do that?

Ms. Heart:

Nobody. When the rain fills up the dry waterfall, who teaches it to braid its streams into each other? Come with me… I’ll take you to Mr. 5 and Mr. 6… you can hear them sing.

Exit
Enter princesses

20) SONG – Ojana shur ke diye jay kane kane:

“An unknown melody reaches my heart… my worries are washed away with the song…”

Someone whispers an unknown tune to me,
My worries wash away with that song.
In the shadows of a forgotten past,
In the lamentations of a lost harp,
That lost tune sheds tears.
On a spring night of yearning
My worries wash away with that song

Enter Ms. Heart and Mr. Diamond
Mr. Diamond:

I have nobody to blame, I feel like singing myself!

Ms. Heart:

Don’t let the keeper catch you or else you’ll be punished. I’ve seen him around.

Mr. Diamond:

I have lost all my fears, I don’t know why. Ask me to do something outrageous, for you… I am game.

Ms. Heart:

Whatever you do, don’t sing. Get me some hibiscus flowers from the woods… let’s colour our feet with its extract.

Mr. Diamond:

Today when I woke up, I understood that this life has been such a waste. Another life is waiting for us. It’s everywhere. I can hear its music; I am speaking its words. Listen… can you hear that song?

21) SONG – Tomar payer tolaye:

“The flowers of my passion are here for you to tread”

May your feet be painted in vermilion-
By the flowers of my passion.
With the tune of my song
I bedeck you in ornaments,
I string a garland of my love for you

Ms. Heart:

You composed this song for me? how?

Mr. Diamond:

The same way you learned to braid your hair.

Ms. Heart:

Can you remember, I had once danced to this song… in another life?

Mr. Diamond:

Yes… now I can remember. I don’t know how I had forgotten it all this while.

22) SONG – Utol haowa:

“My heart has set sail… I will not be afraid”

The wind hits the sail of my song.
It sways and it sways
To the rhythm of your dance.
If the rope snaps,
If the oar breaks,
If the waves go wild,
If death beckons,
I am not afraid,
I’ll win her over,
O yes I will.

Mr. Diamond:

I feel like challenging death today. I can clearly visualize… you are smearing my forehead with sandalwood paste; I am going to rescue a prisoner from the great castle. I can hear your song, the one you sang for me when I left.

23) SONG – Bijoye mala eno amar lagi:

“I want to be a martyr to love… I want to share your downfall…”

Bring me your garland of victory,
I’ll stay awake all night.
If you tread the path of death,
My heart will fear for you,
If I must loose all,
I’ll share your fate.

Ms. Heart:

Come; let us leave once and for all. There are many obstacles on our way but we’ll have to cross them. We will have to make our way through the mountains. Why the hell are we here? Meaningless days and lifeless nights. It’s hopelessness that is surrounding us all the time.

Mr. Diamond:

Do you dare to go?

Ms. Heart:

Yes.

Mr. Diamond:

Won’t you fear the unknown?

Ms. Heart:

No.

Mr. Diamond:

Your feet will bleed, the road is endless.

Ms. Heart:

We had once crossed the wilderness together. At night I would light the way with a flaming torch, in the day I would carry your victory flag on my shoulders. The time has come again to break free from this bondage of meaninglessness.

Mr. Diamond:

Get rid of your veil, rip it apart. Be free, be pure, be full.

Exit

Scene 5 – By the River Bank

Enter Mr. 5 and 6
Mr. 6:

Can you tell me what went wrong?

Mr. 5:

I feel ashamed of myself. What have I done all these years?

Mr. 6:

After all these years, I feel like asking so many questions. Why is this happening?

Mr. 5:

Here comes 10 the teacher, let’s ask him.

Enter 10 the teacher
Mr. 6:

What is the meaning of these banal rules that we have been following all these years?

10 the teacher:

Shut up!

Mr. 5 and 6:

We won’t shut up!

10 the teacher:

What is the matter with you?

Mr. 5 and 6:

Nothing is the matter with us. You’ll have to answer us.

10 the teacher:

There are no reasons… only rules.

Mr. 6:

What if we don’t follow them?

10 the teacher:

You’ll go to the dogs!

Mr. 6:

Then let us go to the dogs!

10 the teacher:

But why?

Mr. 5:

We will face the consequences.

10 the teacher:

What do I hear? We are a peace loving country.

Mr. 5:

We have pledged to destroy this peace.

Enter Ms. Heart
10 the teacher:

O Ms. Heart… do you hear? They are out to destroy our peace.

Ms. Heart:

Our peace is like an ancient tree, its bark is moth eaten. It’s better to chop it down.

10 the teacher:

Shame on you, how could you speak like that? A woman should always protect peace and a man should protect heritage.

Ms. Heart:

You have drugged us with your peace long enough. But not anymore. Our blood had been frozen.

10 the teacher:

O lord! Who has taught you to speak like that?

Ms. Heart:

He who has pervaded all of me and he whose songs are pervading the skies.

10 the teacher:

What? Songs in the sky? That is the end of the land of playing cards. It’s time to flee.

Exit Mr. 10
Mr. 6:

O beautiful lady… lead us.

Mr. 5:

You have found the key freedom … enlighten us.

Ms. Heart:

We are living an insult, God’s big joke. Let’s leave once and for all.

Mr. 6:

One foot out of line and they find faults. They say we have disgraced them.

Ms. Heart:

Faults are not so bad but there is nothing more disgraceful than being dead.

Exit

Scene 6 – Inner Chambers of the Card Princesses

Ms. Spade and Ms. Ace are strolling
Ms. Ace:

Here comes Ms. 10, we are done for.

Enter Ms. 10
Ms. 10:

Why are you hiding? You are unrecognizable… Ms. Ace and Ms. Spade! What have you done to yourselves? Behaving as humans? Do you have no shame?

Ms. Ace:

This is not make believe… the past was a charade.

Ms. 10:

The rules of our land have been strengthened for thousands of years. How did this happen?

Ms. Spade:

It was just a gust of wind.

Ms. 10:

What are you saying? A gust of wind has never been able to loosen our principles before. That’s an insult to the God of Wind. What kind of disgraced land is this where dry leaves blow in the wind?

Ms. Spade:

You can see with your own eyes what the God of Wind has done.

Ms. 10:

It’s not right to be so lighthearted about the gods. They say in the holy texts that the God of Wind has a son who leaps around everywhere. He could be playing pranks.

Ms. Ace:

It’s not just us. Haven’t you noticed? He is playing pranks on the whole of this country, igniting passions in the heart of all women.

Ms. Spade:

The foreigners say that he is their forefather.

Ms. 10:

It’s possible that they are the descendants of the dynasty of Great Leap.

Ms. Ace:

Tell us the truth… haven’t you been feeling jittery too of late? You have to answer.

Ms. 10:

You won’t tell anyone, would you?

Ms. Ace:

I promise.

Ms. 10:

I dreamt last night that I have become human… I felt ashamed of myself when I woke up. But…

Ms. Ace:

But what?

Ms. 10:

Let it be…

Ms. Spade:

I understand… the caged bird was set free in her dreams.

Ms. 10:

Shut up… if Nine, the teacher hears this he’ll punish me. It’s sin! But the dream was so pleasant.

Ms. Ace:

Whatever you say, the wind has really blown strong… changed everything in its path.

Ms. 10:

Yes but there is still a lot left to change. The veil has been blown away but the twisted anklet is still not straight.

Ms. Spade:

I know… my heart is traveling between two shores of the sea. Can’t you see, Ms. Club is wearing a human mask which was made in our workshop. It sure looks strange.

Ms. 10:

Maybe we all look a little strange since we cannot see ourselves. I heard the merchant yesterday. He was saying that we all look like human clones.

Ms. Ace:

Oh what a shame. And what did the prince say?

Ms. 10:

He got mad… he said that this only reveals our true selves. If you want to make fun of anyone go and laugh at those humans who try to be cards.

Ms. Spade:

How can that be possible? Humans aping cards? What do they do?

Ms. 10:

The prince was saying that they smear colour on their lips, paint their eyebrows and also wear leather soles below their feet.

Ms. Ace:

Why?

Ms. 10:

They feel uplifted by not touching the ground. All this is so card like. Painted… false.

Ms. Spade:

The gods are playing the fool… the cards want to be human and the humans want to dress up like cards. I have decided to be initiated as a human from the prince.

Ms. Ace:

Me too.

Ms. 10:

Even I feel like doing the same but I’m scared. I’ve heard that the humans also have a great deal of sorrow whereas the cards don’t have any of that.

Ms. Spade:

Speaking of sorrow… it’s just starting to form a lump in my throat.

Ms. Ace:

But even sorrow is addictive. My tears are not drying and I don’t know why.

24) SONG – Keno noyono aponi bheshe jaye:

“Why do tears come to my eyes?”

Why do tears come to my eyes?
Why do I feel this way?
I remember without remembering,
But memories keep returning.
Like an unkept promise causing pain,
Like leaving feeling neglected —
My heart wrings with resentment.
I remember without remembering,
But memories keep returning.

Ms. Spade:

Let’s leave… here comes the Editor. If exposes us in the newspaper then we’ll be ostracized.

Ms. 10:

All of them are coming. The court will be held under the old Neem tree. Let’s go.

Exit

Scene 7 – The Royal Court

Enter King and his attendants
King:

This place smells strange.

Mr. 5:

It’s the Kadamba flower.

King:

Kadamba? That’s a strange name. Is that a bird I hear?

Mr. 5:

Yes. It’s called a Ghughu.

King:

Ghughu? Let’s give it a more civilized name in our language, call it Binti. It’s impossible to work today… the sky is singing, speaking. I have to try really hard to concentrate. The queen will not stay indoors either… she is behaving like she’s in a trance. My courtiers… even you look different, without any make up, like uncivilized rascals.

Everybody:

That’s not our fault. Our masks came off by themselves; they are strewn all over.

King:

Editor, even you look light hearted today!

Jack:

I have been to the woods from the morning to search for missing persons. When I started to write the editorial it stared flowing with rhythm. Modern doctors call this influenza.

King:

What’s that? Can you show me?

Dance
King:

That’s enough. This song can be put inside the grade four rapid readers. The children can learn this by heart.

Mr. 6:

We are not grade four children. We feel like adults today… we don’t like these old metres anymore.

Mr. 5:

O foreigner, can you give us the rhythms of your land?

Prince:

Yes, I can… listen…

25) SONG – Gragone Gragone Dhaynaki:

“The wide world is beckoning…”

Thunder comes a calling
Across the skies.
The force of its vitality
Marauding through the boughs.
Intoxicated by its unknown rhythm,
Birds take flight.
Its rhythm permeates the soul
Of black against white,
Of much good and many evils,
Of the straight and the crooked.
Rhythm dances on the flames,
It dances on the brow of the warrior,
Dashes alongside destruction.

King:

Did any of you understand anything?

Cards:

Nothing.

King:

Then?

Cards:

We were just enchanted.

King:

That is not good. Listen to one of our traditional rhythms…

Dance
King:

Listen oh foreigner.

Prince:

Yes your majesty.

King:

Why are you swimming in our waters, climbing our mountains and making tracks in our woods?

Prince:

Why are you sitting, standing, rolling over all the time?

King:

That’s our rule.

Prince:

And this is our whim.

King:

Whim? You cannot have whims in our land. What do you say my courtiers?

Mr. 5 and 6:

Even we are ruled by our whims.

King:

What?

26) SONG – Ichhe!:

“… and whim rules the day”

It’s what destroys, it’s what builds,
It’s what gives and takes.
It’s what opens the forbidden lock,
It’s what escapes bondage —
Only to return and be chained.

King:

All of you leave this place at once… get out. Ms. Heart, haven’t you heard what I said? Ms. Club, what behavior is this? Why did everything go wrong?

Ms. Heart:

It just did.

All the Aces:

It just did.

King:

My queen, where are you going?

Queen:

I cannot sit any longer.

King:

I am suspicious that you have gone mad too.

Queen:

No suspicions, I have gone mad.

King:

Do you know that madness is the greatest sin on this land?

Queen:

I know. And I also want it the most.

King:

You call a punishable offence the most wanted? Have you forgotten our language too?

Queen:

Shackles are called jewelry in our language. It’s time we forget it.

Mr. Diamond:

Yes my queen, the prison is called the in-laws’ house here.

King:

Shut up!

Ms. Heart:

They call a riddle, commandments.

King:

Shut up!

Ms. Heart:

The dumb is called the saint.

King:

Shut up!

Ms. Heart:

The dumb is called the master.

King:

Shut up!

Mr. 5:

The dead is called the living.

King:

Shut up!

Queen:

And heaven is called sin. Everybody shout “praise the whim”.

Everybody:

Praise the whim!

King:

Queen, you are exiled!

Queen:

That’ll be nice for a change.

King:

Exile… wait, where are you going?

Queen:

Am I not exiled?

King:

Aren’t you taking me along?

Queen:

Why would I leave you?

King:

Then?

Queen:

I’ll take you with me.

King:

Where?

Queen:

Exile.

King:

And what about my subjects?

Everybody:

We’ll all go into exile!

King:

What do you say 10 the teacher?

10 the teacher:

I guess exile is not a bad idea.

King:

And what about your manuscripts?

10 the teacher:

I’ll throw them in the water.

King:

Compulsory rules?

10 the teacher:

Will not work anymore.

Everybody:

Will not work!

Queen:

Where are those two humans?

Prince:

Here we are.

Queen:

Can we become human?

Prince:

Of course.

King:

Oh foreigner, can I become human too?

Prince:

I doubt it but the Queen can help you. Praise the Queen!

Everybody:

Praise the Queen!!

27) SONG – Bandh bhenge dao:

“Let’s break free… let’s sing of change… let’s move faster”

Banish boundaries, banish bondage,
Break down prisons of the mind.
Let the parched land now get flooded
With the youthful changing of time.

Sing the praise of freedom.
Sing the praise of freedom.

Let the old and the obsolete,
Flush away, flush away.

We have heard the song-
The song of a new dawn.

Unafraid of the unknown,
We await it at the gate
To usher it in.

THE END