Sunday, January 03, 2010

From Scribbles: The Mango Tree (Adapted from Hindi)

Scene 1:

Morning. The Secretariat. A solitary sweeper, raking up the leaves and slush from last nights storm. Muttering under his breath all the while.

Sweeper: .... [grumbling] Bah! Storms in June! Next we'll be having snowflakes. What's the weather coming to these days? All the more trouble for me. Bloody babus. All they can do is order us little folks around. If I was the secretary.....I'd ban storms in June. That’s what I'd do!

Enter Peon from left. Very breathless.

Peon: Big problem! Very big problem! Stop sweeping and come with me! We have a crisis at hand. The mango tree! The mango tree has fallen over!

Sweeper: The mango tree? You don't mean the one in the middle of the compound, do you? Good God! I have to see for myself!

The both exit right.


Peon and Sweeper run in from left. The tree is center stage. There is a man under it.

Peon [sorrowfully]: Just look at it. Such a beautiful mango tree. Remember Sweeper? What fantastically juicy mangoes it always had in summer. My kids used to be crazy about them. Oh my poor kids! All seven of them shall mourn the passing of the mango tree. I better break it to them gently.

Sweeper: Forget your kids. What am I going to tell my wife? She's called her mother over next month just for the damn mangoes off this tree. And now this accursed wind......If I was the secretary, I'd put a board outside the compound stating n big bold letters, “Wind Prohibited!” Why does my mother in law have to be a mango addict? My life is ruined!

Man Under The Tree: Help! Somebody! Please! I'm stuck under here!

Peon: Huh? Who are you? And what are you doing under the tree?

Sweeper: Why did you have to go crawling under a fallen tree? That's not very respectful of you! This is a much loved tree!

Man Under The Tree: You abysmal fools! Go get help! I'm stuck! The tree fell on me!

Sweeper: Now that’s a likely story! You expect us to believe that the tree was just standing there waiting for you to pass by and just when you were under it, it decided to topple over? Hah! What kind of idiots do you take us for?

Man Under the Tree: Listen! I cannot take this too much longer! Can't you see? This stupid tree crashed on top of me! I think some of my ribs are broken! Please! Get a doctor! Get a crane! Get this off me!

Peon: Wait a minute. What are you trying to imply here? That our tree is some characterless roadside tree, who has nothing better to do than crash on people?

Sweeper: I think I know what's happened here. This guy must have done something to make the tree fall. Otherwise how could this tree just fall over like that?

Peon: How could you do something like that? Have you no concern for trees?

Man Under The Tree: Look! I am trying to tell you something. I need help! Please....just get some people and take this tree off me. It's too heavy to bear!

Peon: Hmmm. We must get to the bottom of this. But first we need to do something about this guy. I'll go get the Junior Assistant to the Undersecretary! He'll know what to do! Sweeper! You stay here. Make sure this guy doesn't go anywhere! I'll be right back!

Peon runs out left.

Sweeper: Now you're in trouble. The Junior Assistant to the Undersecretary is coming. He'll take you properly to task. That'll teach you to go messing around mango trees.

Man Under The Tree: uhhhh!

Peon returns with the Junior Assistant to the Undersecretary.

JAU: What's all this? Where's this fallen tree? Oh! Not this tree! My god! Where are the mangoes going to come from this year? Oh...hello. Myself Junior Assistant to the Undersecretary. Soon to be promoted to Senior Assistant.

The present Senior Assistant is soon to retire, you see. I should get his job considering I am next in line.....

Pleased to meet you... [extends hand then realizes that the man under the tree can't shake it.] Oh sorry! I didn’t realize. Peon! Why didn’t you tell me? This man needs help!

Man Under the Tree: Yes! Yes please! Get me out!

JAU: Peon! Sweeper! Come on! Help me pull him out from under there. I am sorry sir! These uneducated bastards! Good for nothing! Just a moment we will pull you out from there. Oh come on you lazy idiots!

All three of them try to pull the man out. It doesn't work.

Man Under the Tree: I think....uh....You will need to....ugh......Cut....cut some of the tree off that it becomes easier to move.

JAU: Hmmm. Well! That seems like a good enough idea. But I'll need to consult with the Senior Assistant on whether that can be done or not? You see I'm next in line for a promotion...and I'd like to stick to the rules as far as possible.

Just a moment. I shall be right back!

JAU leaves from left.

Peon: Humph! Stupid fool! Just who does he think he is? Ears only three hundred more than either of us and thinks he can call us names.

Sweeper: Just wait till the Secretary gets in! I'm really close to him you know. He'll listen to me. I'll see how this one gets his bloody promotion.

Stick by the rules indeed.

Man Under the Tree: Please......hurry!

Sweeper: Wait! You are in a government office. Things must be done by the rules here. How do you expect us to risk our jobs moving this tree without permission from a senior official? Are you out of your tree? Oops! Pardon the language! [Sniggers]

JAU returns with a bothered man in tow.

SAU: Three months from retirement and a crisis has to pop up! Oh no! This tree? There goes my retirement gift. They usually gift the outgoing employees a jar of pickle made from the mangoes of this tree. We finished off the last years stock when the Senior Clerk retired last month. I was counting on this year’s crop for mine.....

Oh, good morning! How are you feeling? Can I offer you a cup of tea?

Man Under the Tree: [sarcastically] Yes please! Two spoons of sugar and very little milk! No! I don't want tea. Just get this tree off my chest! I’m dying! Can you not see? Are you blind?

SAU: Well there’s no need to be impolite about it! Be nice to some people and they just assume they can sit on your head! What's the world coming to?

Anyway! I can't authorize the removal of the tree! This particular tree was planted by the wife of the Chairman of the Forest Department. Technically the tree belongs to them. They have the right to the wood. They'll have to come and collect it. I'll go place a call. They won't be open yet though.

Man Under the Tree: Can't you do anything at all? Please help me! This tree is killing me!

Sweeper: There he goes accusing the tree again! What's the tree doing to you? All it's doing is lying there. How could it be killing you?

JAU: Oh be quiet! Can't you see the man's in pain. [to the SAU] Sir....since the Tree is in the Secretariat compound, I think it comes under the property of the Secretariat. That means we can move it. I think the Forest Service people sent over a circular to that effect. Gifting the tree to us or some such....

SAU: Hmm..... now that you mention it..... the file is with the Undersecretary. I'll go ask her if the circular says anything about the tree belonging to us.

He leaves from left.

Man Under the Tree: Uuhhhhh! This tree is getting heavier by the second. Please help me! I'll pay you once you get it off. Just get it off.

JAU: Are you trying to bribe me? Of course not! I am a man of principle! I do NOT take bribes! And do you know you could go to jail for saying that kind of thing to me? You're lucky I'm not reporting you! Humph!

Man Under the Tree: God! Help! Someone help!

SAU returns with the Under Secretary

US: My favorite tree! Oh NO!

Man Under the tree: Madam! Please! You can bemoan your tree later…..

US: Just a minute…….I think my cell just went off…… [hunts in an oversize handbag] aaah yes!.....hello……oh hi!!! No I couldn’t go……really? Wow! Get two for me as well……I can’t believe this…..cushion covers at half price? This seriously has to be the deal of the century! Yes! Yes please! Thanks sweetie! Okay I have to go… some trouble with a tree…bye then!

Man Under the tree: if you’ve finished madam….

US: Oh yes….the tree…hmmmm….I think I have the file. Just a moment.[Runs out]

JAU[to SAU]: Madam is soooo brilliant no? see how she handles her social and professional life with such ease. And beautiful too…..

SAU: Be quiet! Work with her for two years you’ll start hating her as much as I do. Always making her assistants do all her dirty work. [mimicks the US] Oh please! Would you do that? Oh how sweet! [bats his eyelids for effect].

JAU: Oh come now! She couldn’t be all that bad.

SAU: Oh worse! Always flirting with the secretary too. I wouldn’t be surprised if….[makes a knowing sly sort of face]

JAU: You don’t say!!

US comes back with a thick file

US: Lets see now. Circular regarding change of tap in fifth bathroom of third floor. Circular regarding presentation of bouquet to neice of the secretary on the occaision of her eleventh marriage. Ah yes! Here we are. Circular regarding donation of mangoes from leased tree to secretariat from the forest department. Mangoes? Lease? Oh my god! Do you realize what this means? The tree wasn’t ours! Only the mangoes. The tree was on a lease! Let me see….lease of tree…..period of 8 years…..SAU! when was the tree planted?

SAU: Yes ma’am? When? Well it would be just after my second son’s third marriage anniversary and his oldest kid is five so two and three makes five yes ma’am three years ago!

US: Oh no! then the lease still has five years to go! The forest department isn’t going to like this!

Man Under the tree: To hell with your forest department and its leases! Im dying under here! Help me please!

US: Oh shut up! Can’t you see the gravity of the situation? We are in the midst of an interdepartmental crisis here and all you can think of is yourself. I must call the Secretary.

[runs out]

SAU: see! All she needs is an excuse to meet him. [Makes a disgusted face.]

JAU: I see what you mean. I would never have thought that madam….

US returns with Sec:

Secretary: This is indeed a very grave situation. The forest department has always been on very good terms with us. We cannot afford to lose their respect. How could this happen? And now? In June?

US: Sir! Perhaps we could call it an accident….

Sec: Well we could I suppose. But then….who will explain it? And this man? Hello! Who are you exactly?[doesn’t wait for a reply] No! No! No! It will never stand up to scrutiny at the enquiry that’s sure to follow. We must think of a way to subvert this crisis. I must think……

SAU: Sir, perhaps clause 18 of the subsection A of the fallen tree removal act….

JAU: No! that’s not going to work, you need to prove the tree fell of its own accord, and we don’t have a witness…. I suggest article 19b of the anomalous fruit tree afflictions act.

US: I still say we call it an accident!

Sec:[suddenly brightens up!] I have an idea! Hey you! Do you want to get out of under there?

Man Under the tree: More than anything else sir! Can you please ask them to cut the tree up?

Sec: Relax friend! I am here now! [turns to the US and whispers something in her ear]

US lights up, calls all the other aside ad a low conv ensues





Peon:….explains everything….

They all disperse and return a moment later each with one article in his/her hand: pen paper, stamp, pad, envelope.

They converge in one corner and write something on the paper.

The US takes the paper and hands it to the Sec.

The Sec takes the paper to the Man under the tree.

Sec: All you nee to do is sign this and you will be out in a jiffy!

Man Under the tree: Give it here! I’ll sign anything. Anything at all! Just get me out of here![signs]

Sec: Perfect! Peon! Sweeper! Get axes! Cut this tree down! We have a life to save.

Sweeper and peon Walk out leisurely.

Sec: SAU! JAU! Go inform the police! They must come immediately!

JAU and SAU leave.

Sec: Come my dear! A cup of tea is what’s needed after a day like this.

Man Under the Tree: What about me! Wait! Wait! Help!!


Sweeper: I need a lunch break first! I cant do heavy work right now. Labor rights entitle me to lunch!

Peon: But what about the man under the tree?

Sweeper: Well if he can live for so long another hour isn’t going to kill him! This is a government office after all.

Peon: I think you are right. Lunch must be had.

JAU: That police inspector was just too much! I’ll come in the evening indeed. Whats the law coming to….

SAU: Oh let it pass! Our job is done. Come its time for lunch!

JAU: Now that you mention it…..

Sec: More sugar my dear?

US:No! You’re so sweet! If I take more sugar I might get diabetes…[giggles]


Man Under the tree: Somebody….please….help……[dies]

Narrator: Good Evening! The News. In a dastardly terrorist strike on the secretariat this morning, a miscreant brutally murdered a blameless mango tree. However, Justice was served, as the terrorist himself was crushed under the fallen tree.

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