by Latha Ramakrishnan
Venue _ a dim-lit Theatre with rows of seats. Soft Music floats.
Characters : Manimekalai, Anaamikaa and a bunch of viewers.
(The end portion of the Play Manimekalai is being enacted on the Stage. The chief protagonist Manimekalalai, a young and beautiful woman,the daughter of Madhavi, the dancer for whom the hero of the great Tamil Epic Silapadhikaram fell for, is seen in the garment of a saint of sort holding the small container called ‘Atchaya Pathiram’ which Goddess Manimekala had just then given her with the instruction that she should not let her heart pine for carnal desires and material gratifications but focus her mind on serving Mankind to the best of her ability, with the help of that ‘divine container’. After offering food to a few persons on stage Manimekalai alights from the stage and moves on in the midst of the audience, offering food to some here and some there of whom Anaamikaa is also one. Thus, reaching the entrance, Manimekalai goes out and disappears. Voices are heard from among the audience expressing agiation and surprise.)
Voices: Oh, where is she? Where is she?
A Male voice: Is the taste of the food any different from the usual one..?
A Female Voice: Has she vanished into thin air?
A child : Oh, how I wish that she had given me the divine vessel.. I will play with it throughout the day!
Anaamikaa, a middle-age woman sitting in the midst of the audience looks into her palms, dumbstruck with wonder and awe.
Another voice: Hey see, there is nothing in her hands..!
Anaamikaa: But, there is everything in my hands, your hands, their hands… it is indeed sad that we are not able to see ….for, if only we can see we can use it for our own good and for the good of others…
(She murmurs to herself and slowly moves towards the exit)
(Scene 1 comes to a close)
Venue : Anaamikaa’s residence with a cot , book shelf, a chair and a table. A pot is placed in one corner. Raga of Early Morn, sounds of screeching birds, etc. ,being thinly heard form the background Music.
Characters : Manimekalai, Anaamikaa
(Early Morning. Anaamikaa, deep in sleep gets up, hearing a knock at the door. She gets up, goes to the door and calls out in a small voice, growing apprehensive)
Anaamikaa: - Who is that?
The voice from outside responds in a whisper : It is me. Manimekalai. Please open the door..
Anaamikaa: What? Manimekalai! Oh god-
(She swiftly opens the door and Manimekalai comes running inside)
Anaamikaa: (Looking at Manimekalai in sheer amazement) Oh, Thanks for coming! Thanks indeed Manimekalai…but, where did you go yesterday?
Manimekalai: I went to the seashore to pray. By the time I finished my prayer It had grown dark and there were quite a number of men standing by my side, eyeing me lusciously and viciously. Somehow I managed to get away from them and left the place…
Anaamikaa : (Looking bewildered) – But, how come you are here..!
Manimekalai : (Smiling softly) –Why, don’t you want me here..? I thought you would..
Anaamikaa : (Hurriedly) –Of course, you are welcome..! it is just that I am at a loss to know what made you come here…seeking me..
Manimekalai : The seeking in your eyes, may be.. Yesterday when I offered you food from this divine container (pointing at Atchaya Paathram) there was an overwhelming hunger in your eyes which couldn’t be for one single person… how you longed to grab the divine container from my hands….! (smiles again affectionately) So, I thought that if I take you along with me I would be able to serve the right persons… will you accompany me Anaamikaa..?
Anaamikaa : Oh, I will definitely come, my friend… but, how come you know my name!
Manimekalai : I called you Anaamikaa, the Nameless..! After all, what is there in a name…
Anaamikaa : (Shaking her head) – We can also say that everything is there in a name…! Anyway, can you be in more than one place at the same time..?
Manimekalai : Oh,no – that is not possible. Why ?
Anaamikaa : (as if speaking to her own self) – Because, there are too many have-nots all over the world… If you take our country we spend crores on cricket, missiles and rockets. But, there is no decent shelter for the poor… no clean public- toilet…the gap between the rich and the poor keeps on widening… (as if remembering suddenly) and, one more thing… your divine container can give food alone or other things also…? ( sad tune heard from afar)
Manimekalai : Food only. Why do you ask..?
Anaamikaa : Because, there are several other basic needs to be realized.. Like true love, for instance…by the way, it is good that the prince Udhayakumaran and yourself parted ways… at the budding stage of love itself…
Manimekalai : Oh, no, the pain is killing at times, you know…(looks anguished)
Anaamikaa : Exactly.. and it is because you couldn’t come together… so, each one’s expectations of the other remain intact… like the tightly closed palm which keeps the expectations and speculations of what would be inside, alive… so, there is no room for disillusionment… also, you are still young and beautiful and also rich, in possession of that divine container of yours… you have saved yourself from the pain of being cast away once your body is sucked to the core, once its secret spots have all been thoroughly scaled and you become old and bankrupt…(the lights turn grey and the Music turns into a mourn)
Manimekalai : Are you crying Anaamikaa..?
Anaamikaa : Don’t we all, at times…? not just for one particular person but for the whole lot of time lost in such a hide and seek game called Love… oh, come on, I will get you something to eat..Wonder whether you had anything all these hours…oh, hoiw stupid of me- you have your divine container and..
Manimekalai : No, I can’t get food from it.. it is to feed others…
Anaamikaa : Is it so! How nice it would be if such mechanisms are available to act as a check on our selfish and greedy rulers..!
(Both of them have a hearty laugh and disappear into the kitchen)
(The scene comes to a close)
Venue : Roadside
Characters : People, media-men, foreign tourists,Manimekalai, Anaamikaa, a child, poor woman, old man, others.
(Manimekalai and Anaamikaa are standing at a roadside, surrounded by all sorts of people. Poor people, politicians, children, foreign-tourists …Media persons vie with each other to get a word from Manimekalai… questions come from all sides.. (The tunes of various advertisements that we come across in T.V.Channels and Radio shoud form the background music)
Media Person 1 _Manimekalai Madam… what for you have come here..?
Media person 2 _ Where do you go from here…?
Reporter of a Newspaper _ What are you future plans?
(Reporters’ queries should be in the tone and manner of the T.V. News Readers)
A child _ Will you give me that beautiful toy in your hand..?
A poor woman _ ( In a pleading voice) Do you have another one of that sort…? if only I can have a bellyful everyday I need not go to that rotten work, facing all sorts of abuses, sexual and otherwise..(Manimekalai wipes away the tears that roll down the hapless woman’s cheeks)
An old man with a walking stick _ You get cooked food only in that, no? For, at this age my sons are not willing to keep me with them… and, If only I have such a container as this, half of my problem will be solved…(speaks in a trembling voice. Manimekalai takes hold of his hand compassionately).
Manimekalai is seen crushed in the midst of the suffocating crowd. Anaamikaa drags her out of it all and makes her sit in an auto. The vehicle goes off at great speed with the ocean of humanity in hot pursuit.
(Scene 3 comes to a close)
SCENE 4 -
Venue : Three spot-light spots on the stage
Characters : Two or three thugs, two or three greedy political big-wigs,
a few good samaritans.
On stage three different locations are shown with the help of flash-lights in three different colours. In each spot there are two to three persons deep in discussion.
I Spot : First Person :_ So, it is decided. We are kidnapping Manimekalai.
Second Person _ And, we are to kidnap her along with the divine container. If we fail to do so, then we are demanding the vessel as ransom. Got it?
First Person : - Perfect!
(Both of them leave the spot and the spot turns dark slowly, leavingits side of the stage vacant)
II Spot : First Person _ Don’t say “I will try my best’ and that usual stuff. You are bringing Manimekalai into our fold. If we can make her our Public Relations Officer our Party would fare extremely well in the coming Elections..
Second Person _ (Irritated) You fool, I am thinking on the line of forming a new Party having her at the helm of affairs… and the symbol is that divine container.! How is that!
Third Person _(vigorously clapping) A real sixer! I will go and bring her by hook or crook , Master… and, what to do with the other lady…?
Second Person _ That good for nothing woman.. if needed we have to take her also into our fold… or, better still, intimidate her so that she would stay away from Manimekalai…
(The men leave and the place grew dark with the flash-light switched off)
III Spot :- A group of men and women are seen to be debating something all too intently.
A Woman : We should somehow save Manimekalai and that woman… After all this is what we have been fighting for, no… that one and all should get access to their basic needs…
A Man : And, this lady has come all the way, crossing centuries and the great abyss of time to feed our people ..isn’t it our duty to protect her…? We should waste no more time.. let’s go in search of her…come what may… we should support those two…
(The people leave and the spot grew dark with the flash-light switched off)
(Scene 4 comes to a close)
Venue : A hide-out kind of place.
Characters : Manimekalai, Anaamikaa, prince Udhayakumaran, News-Reader,
some people on the seashore.
The T.V is on. News Time
News Reader : It is unanimously decided that Manimekalai should not be allowed to go on her own and feed the people. As it is bound to create a Law and Order problem, the Government has decided to take up the matter. Political parties vie with one another to get Manimekalai into their fold. As she looks beautiful and as she is a very good dancer the movie-makers are marching towards her place to book her. Historians and Archeologists also are hurrying to meet her to collect information pertaining to the period in which she lived.
Manimekalai : (Looking up sadly) Now, what are we going to do Anamikaa..? I don’t want to give you any trouble.. Let me go…it is just that I don’t want to waste this divine container… I want to put it to good use here…but, it seems that I will not be allowed to do so…(looks above, thoughtfully)
Anaamikaa : Don’t lose heart Manimekalai… let’s find out some way…But, we have many free meals scheme today… true, that despite all those there are still a sizeable number of people who die without food.. also, for the sake of getting at least one square meal a day there are a lot who have to toil hard all the thirty days of a month… to relieve them of their burden and to give them a chance to enjoy life, your divine container is very much needed here… but…(looks at Manimekalai with real concern)
Manimekalai : I know I cannot remain here for long… They wont allow me to get along with my work.. and they won’t spare you too…Further, the traffic and pollution here prove too much for me… in my place, during the period in which I lived, it was not this bad… let me pray to Goddess Manimekala .. she will show me some way… ( closes her eyes and sits erect )
After a few moments Manimekalai opens her eyes and smiles at Anaamikaa. The latter looks at her questioningly.
Manimekalai : She is such a good soul Anaamikaa, who is always there when I am in need of help…you know what! she has asked me to leave the divine container here itself and leave the earth at once.. if someone comes to you , just give this letter of mine where I have made it clear that it should be in your custody.
Anaamikaa : (Looking apprehensive) But.. if someone takes it away by force.. if someone smashes it…?
Manimekalai : you need not worry on that score. No one can break this divine container. And, thousands of hands can feel it or hold it, but only those hands that are genuinely concerned about the hunger of others can get food out of it. Whoever wants to feel it, let them do so. If they come with some hidden motives, the container would remain empty. And, if someone takes it away by force, or, if the State orders you to surrender it to the Government Exchequer, it will come back to you, wherever you are..One more thing, I have also appealed to Goddess Manimekala to modify it suitably so that you can relieve people of their hunger and also fulfil their numerous other unsatiated but fair needs. You are the deciding authority in this… Happy..?
Anaamikaa - (with tears welling up in her eyes, going towards Manimekalai and holding her hands) My dear girl..
Manimekalai : (giving her an affectionate hug) – Do you want to test it for your self..? Try it. For, I have to leave in a short while..
Anaamikaa : What !
Manimekalai : Yes, Please try for yourself whether it works..
Anaamikaa : Please, you must also close your eyes!
(Manimekalai obeys. Then Anamikaa closes her eyes and prays. After a moment she raises her head towards the sky and does a gesture with her hands, as if calling somebody to get down)
The stage turns completely dark for a moment and the next instant amidst the flash of bright colours prince Udhayakumaran stands in front of Manimekalai!
Manimekalai : ( Looking shocked but at the same time extremely happy, she exclaims) –Udhay!
(Then, she turns towards Anaamikaa. Anaamikaa nods her head with a smile full of affection and empathy)
Anaamikaa : (Walking here and there slowly, utters these words softly) True, Love has its dark side, but, it is not all dark Manimekalai. And, don’t you know those golden words.. IT IS BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN TO HAVE NEVER LOVED AT ALL.. Go on, Love him, give him your all and have him lock, stock and barrel..! This is the only befitting way of conveying my thanks to you for your immense trust in me.. Such an affectionate person you are, and why should you remain hungry, depriving yourself of the love that you long for..? I will help as many as possible, in all possible ways, I promise. My best-wishes to both of you,my friend..!
Like a child so full of joy Manimekalai hugs and kisses Anaamikaa on the cheeks .
Then , the lovers whirl and swirl in an ecstatic dance , accompanied by romantic tunes, on the vast stretch of the sand-bed of the beach before getting into the Sea and as they wave happily to the people on the shore, there Anaamikaa is seen standing amidst them, allowing the children to touch the divine container in her hand and slowly taking out all kinds of toys and distributing them to the kids, all the while casting a sad, affectionate look on the sea and its ceaseless waves.
(The Play comes to an end)