Act – I
The bell is rung. School departs. Telio comes out. Lalita had been waiting for him near the low parapet, musing away in her memories, her fingers tracing the sole central pillar. Telio moves towards her. Stands still.
Lalita: You did not tell me how it comes. Last night, on the idiot box I heard they were going to cut it out from the next budget session.
Telio: Students passing by them. What were you teaching to them?
Lalita: There was this historic segment today. I had to flush my level, even so it became a tyranny at times to tell them that two facts were not two but one. I finished them early today.
Telio: You know, you generalize quickly. Let them decide how many. That is why you heard that news while I was not even aware about it. You are making me uncomfortable now. He keeps rolling his fingers in the pocket, albeit Lalita knows but could not tell him how annoyed she felt seeing this.
Lalita: Strongly taps him on the left arm. Why I think so. Ah! It could have been better if I had made them write both the facts in their native language. Yet, this does not answer my question. You are just giving up your ears with that excuse. And now you are talking as if you are actually giving them speares for their life.
Telio: Arrgh! You have it—to make me a cretin like as if I did not know how hard it becomes when I speak about atoms and particles on the same pitch. They prick my ears now.
Lalita looks dissipated while running her hands behind her back to scratch an itch.
Lalita and Telio depart after their monotonous recitation of each day. They are private-aided teachers to this school, founded on the principles of Gomti Mata who used to live in the nineteenth century and belonged to a clan of Koli. Koli’s thrived in their lives running from one taadi tree to another. In the evening they used to come while collecting half-filled pot of neer. Men and Women drank until they felt satiated. Gomti was a child then and she could drink four tiny cups to her heart’s brim. She went on to become a brave woman. Children and men alike passed their regards to her, either through pure neer or a chanting mind.
Outskirts. On a quiet riverbed near Sarangi, mosquitoes were taking their rounds. It had become a nest of soreness, yet aloof people came to spend their time. Telio and Lalita knew the place but out of sheer tendency to hide under covers after eight, they did not visit. The atmosphere still had a tinge of airiness filled with neer and bidi. Lalita enters a line in her diary and shuts off the day: the base of requiem is truly known by the hysteric.
Act – II
It is spring now. There are no flowers in the school compound. The garden is yet to be cultivated unlike the village running on ample stretch of mogri. Telio and Lalita will be leaving the village soon to go for another one. It was their bond which had grown with a fine tradition of sharing a common goal—true education. Lalita and Telio have arrived early to clear administrative work. They are both elegantly shuffling the files and entering proper accounts of received payments, salaries, committee grants, attendance roll. Only the flapping of files is heard clearly, their voices run parallel to each set.
Lalita: puts down the tea glass. Almost sleeps on the papers. What do you think about the future of this village? Will it remain as ever without changing its core principles of community threshold?
Telio: without eyeing her. He continues his work. I don’t know. It is possible to imagine a peaceful coexistence. It is just a hunch.
Lalita: Why do you intuit always. It seems as if you waste a lot of time on the hightable of science. Never you give me a concrete one.
Telio: Ah! Forget it. You will come to love it I know. See. This reminds me of someone. He holds a page and touches it over and again. Do you remember Kunika—the girl from Hamao?
Lalita: in dreamy eyes. Kunika could be the one who led your heart away.
Telio: Oh! Stop. You see, you never remember our classmates. You remember she was slapped by that magical Fera once.
Lalita: That who was full of marks?
Telio: Yes. You know that at least. The ranker in our times. Such an arrogant child—me, me, me. Even the whole school lapped her up with awards.
Lalita: Why are you becoming like a mad horse? Where are you running to?
Telio: ignores the comment. Leave that talk for another time, even you are becoming like her now as I see. You do not remember that event even though we were having a fine talk on Chikoora’s music beat. We were sitting in the bus, waiting to depart for home.
Lalita: Why do you make something so digressive. Come to the point for you are taking me down to a lane long ignored for fourteen years. Gives into the temptation. See, I know how Chikoora played his flute—I can never forget that melodious soar. It is like a flow and it is becoming still in my heart as days go by.
Telio: Ha ha. Chikoora did have that fluid tune. I remember once we were playing shakti-shaktimaan, and he wore a plastic bag on his face and suddenly started whirling on the low parapet. We were eight then.
Telio: After three-four moves, he fell in the black greasy pond. Even before I could laugh he rose up and ran away in the home to wash his comedy. Everyone in the family enjoyed that show of his.
Lalita: becomes happily-sad. Why oh why. I miss that play now. It was joy then you see, he also used to speak in that funny English accent—a direct import from the tv set. He kept his sisters amused by doing that videsi curved lips.
Telio: confusingly sad. I remember. I hated that really. That is why I had washed it away from my tongue when I learnt through an empirical study on innate quality of inheriting the principles of native language while learning another one.
Lalita: smirks. You always like to show what you found eh. I agree Chikoora was seduced by that language, but why are you forgetting that later he went to Vatika and started a university based on an expressive algorithm. He even removed the barrier of language and like a true artist, he went with his melodious flute to creolize the essence of local community unlike you. She observes a file and waits for a while. Before again opening her ears.
Telio: I know. I wanted that too but I had things to do. I had to jump in science because it gave me the pleasure of teaching modes of physics experiments with an Albertian essence. That old lucky chap was so flushed with dynamics of hair-growing impulse on his tongue. It amazes me how well he laboured for humanity when he said that one-day wars will happen with sticks and stones. I see a positive googly by him. How beautiful, Lalita, it would be if this village remains as pure as it is. Finishes the last file of the heap. Clears clutter on the desk. Fixes his gaze on the daylight pirouetting through the back window curtain.
Lalita feels disinterested. Cheers Telio again.
Lalita: What did you have today?
Telio: Overnight chapatis. Why?
Lalita: I figured, then it is alright. Because you seem to lose your tongue these days.
Telio: What is wrong with my tongue? Have I cut open anyone’s wound or what?
Lalita: Ah! This I like. Retaliation. You are made for that, Teelu. Only your digressive tongue runs a havoc when you start sharing your pseudo-science table.
Telio: I know. I could have taught English better than you. Fate remained and with no Vatika, I was devoured by English academia for their filth. Therefore, the more I detest this language the more easily I can teach them science.
Lalita: Detest as much you like, but leave open the lush morale of humanities.
Telio: I never got that sense like you. I could never. After all the years of corrupting myself with sordid affairs of letters. In basics, I love it. Like a grandma telling stories to little ones.
Lalita: Well in time, you must engage me for one night. I would love to sleep hearing your lori. Hurrying her eyes, putting remarks on the roll.
Telio: Indeed. But before that we might have to leave this place for good. We must not run as shadows in this pure light.
Lalita: It is so. Aha. So, this is where you were taking me—when you asked me about Kunika? Finishes the attendance records and snobs at the pen, murmuring something.
Telio: Ah! Indeed the devil tongue it is, as you say. I forgot. It was during that bus ride, I saw Fera slapping her without any reason. Poor she, accepted it so calmly and shockingly, that I felt for her. She is the one who is going to Nepal this year. She will maintain this small abode after doing her PhD.
Lalita: On whose grace is she doing this?
Telio: Last I heard, a grant was referred to her by me. She might have got the price.
Lalita: How long have you known her?
Telio: A year before we came here.
Lalita: In five years you never told me. I wonder whether I really know you at all. It is jealousy, you understand?
Telio: Come, grow up. You are too much faded by poets and drama. You have not known human touch for long—apart from me. Tell me, why did you leave that man whom you met in Rimka?
Lalita: So it is my ascetic nature that bothers you, Mr Telio? Let it be. Pastness is a flavour that enriches me nonetheless. Rubs her palm over her face like a child.
Telio: A stubborn child. I can tell Kunika will survive in this place.
Lalita: She would with all your love.
Telio leaves for his class. Lalita clears her table. Books and pens are shelved again for the thirtieth time in nine days. In a month, they will be heading towards a new project in Filooda region—a distant countryside in the dense forest of Vanikkar community. Leaving their third child, they aspire to survive at least for other three decades.
Act – III
Rooheena comes forward, leans on the table and sleeps for long hours. Shiva leaves for a long night walk. The tape recorder is burning till its neck. It had been running since last night. The new morning in Kulchha might arrive with hope for them. Their chancing upon similar recorder for the eighth time in different schools made them healthy. She felt Kunika in her blood. Next morning, Shiva paid a visit to Kunika’s grave and remembered his days of adolescence when he wanted to flee away for another country.
Later, in their investigation in Krushipur, Roohina came to know why Kunika did not arrive then. Someone else had arrived and so on it went. Roohena and Shiva are lonesome wolfs of night and day, metamorphosing from one skin to another. As community-oriented teachers, they habitually tackle their only gift—the tape recorder set repeating the same thing—for filing cases next day in the court. Tomorrow they will not only open the closed chapter of Dharti Prakash Vidyalaya but in afternoon will also rush for its third annual day event at three.