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THE GREY MARE

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SANABI
Directed by ARIBAM SYAM SHARMA
Feature film in Manipuri.
35MM, Color, 1996.

Based on a short story by
M. K. BINODINI DEVI

Screenplay
M. K, BINODINI DEVI
ARIBAM SYAM SHARMA


MAIN CHARACTERS

MANGI, a cattle rustler, about 30
SAKHI, a dancer, divorced, 26 or so
BIRACHANDRA, a retired schoolteacher, Sakhi's father
IBEMHAL. Sakhi's mother
BIDHU, a village elder
DILLIP, a dance administrator, about 30
TOMBA, Mangi's nephew, an orphan


PRESENT DAY. A VILLAGE OUTSIDE IMPHAL.

SEQUENCE ONE


START OF CREDIT TITLES

A spacious temple hall. A ras, a classical Manipuri dance-ballet is in progress. It is late at night. The last sequence of the ras is being performed.

SAKHI is one of the gopis in the ras. Her mother, IBEMHAL, is in the audience.

The ras comes to an end. It is dawn. Sakhi and Ibemhal are being dropped off at their village, about 10 km. from Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. They alight from the Jeep in front of their bamboo gate.


END OF CREDIT TITLES


Sakhi and her mother enter the gate. Sakhi's father, BIRACHANDRA, emerges from the stable leading SANABI, the Grey. He ties the pony to a pole outside.

SAKHI

Hello, Sanabi, we're back!

Sanabi looks at Sakhi. She strokes the pony lovingly. Birachandra fetches water for Sanabi to drink. He hangs a sickle and a gunny-sack on his old bicycle and taking Sanabi by the leash, exits.

Close to Birachandra's house is the village market place. There is a popular roadside tea stall here. Not very far from here is a small meadow.

Birachandra ties Sanabi to a tree in the meadow and starts cutting grass with his sickle. He stuffs the fodder into his sack and ties it to the carrier on his bicycle. Putting the bicycle on its stand, he walks to the tea stall.

Some village elders and youths are drinking tea in the stall. Elderly BIDHU is also there drinking tea from a glass and reading a day-old local paper.

BIDHU

Apparently some sahibs are coming to Manipur to play polo. I mustn't miss it.


VILLAGE DOCTOR

It seems Bidhu doesn't have anything to do these days.

BIDHU

They say polo has its origins in Manipur; that is why I do not want to miss this.

VILLAGE DOCTOR

Yes, indeed. Polo was played by our forefathers since the time of Creation.
The pony is a part of Manipuri character and a very sacred animal too.

BIRACHANDRA

But unfortunately, the Meitei thoroughbred is fast disappearing. My Sanabi... I wonder... Would it be possible to leave behind some of her pure-bred progeny....

A three-wheeled auto-rickshaw pulls up near the tea stall. MANGI gets out. He buys cigarettes from the store next door, climbs back in and rides off.

BIDHU

Oh my! Mangi's back. Now we have to keep an eye on our belongings.

VILLAGE DOCTOR

Is it true that he has become a trader at Moreh?

BIRACHANDRA

We haven't seen him for a good while. What a rogue! But, I am told, he spares the property of this village.

BIDHU

Elder Brother, who can be sure about this man? It will be wiser to keep a watchful eye. Why, just now, he glanced at Sanabi! Be careful! (Laughs.)


*

SEQUENCE TWO


The village market place. Afternoon.

Ibemhal, Sakhi's mother, is selling vegetable and dried fish. Sakhi arrives.

SAKHI

Mother, we are rehearsing a new ballet. I may be late.

She leaves. Ibemhal turns to her vendor friends.

IBEMHAL

I went with Sakhi to the ras last night.
I didn't sleep a wink all night. I am feeling a little rundown today.

FIRST VENDOR

Who organized it?

IBEMHAL

I don't know the organizers but the performance was by artists of the Academy. Sakhi was recently appointed as a performing artist of the academy.

SECOND VENDOR

What luck! Jobs don't come easy these days.


*

SEQUENCE THREE


The dance academy. Day.

A puja is being performed on stage before the rehearsal.

CHOREOGRAPHER

The new ballet we will be rehearsing starting today is based on "Kabui Kei-oiba", the popular folk tale. Kabui Kei-oiba, as we all know, is a man by day and a tiger by night. During the day, he is good but at night he becomes a murderous and destructive beast with no human feelings at all. But the killer is transformed into a good being after he abducts the beautiful Thabaton. He comes under her spell and the beautiful maiden uses him.

One day, Thabaton gives him a bamboo container with a hole in the bottom and asks him to fetch her some water. While the beast tries in vain to fill the container, Thabaton escapes with her seven brothers.

The rehearsal begins. Sakhi plays Thabaton,



*


SEQUENCE FOUR


The village road. Night.

It is drizzling. Sakhi is riding on the pillion of DILLIP's scooter. As the road is slippery, they get down and walk.

Mangi comes along. He carries an umbrella. He is drunk.

MANGI

Who is that? You cannot pass.


Sakhi recognises Mangi.

SAKHI

Ta-Mangi, it's me... Sakhi! I am coming back from the dance academy.

MANGI

Oh, it's you, Sakhi. I thought you were some strangers. Come along, I'll walk you home.

Sakhi hesitates. She is confused. Dillip does not know how to react.

MANGI

Come Sakhi, come with me.


SAKHI (to Dillip)

Tamo-Dillip, you can go now. Ta-Mangi will walk me home.

Mangi and Sakhi start walking.

MANGI

So, how is life treating you, Sakhi?

SAKHI

Okay.

It begins to pour.

MANGI

I have an umbrella.

He unfolds the umbrella and comes closer to Sakhi.

SAKHI

I'm alright. It's not raining that heavily. I haven't seen you for as long time. Where have you been all these days?

MANGI

Away. I don't want to be in this village.

SAKHI

Why not?

Mangi thinks for a while.

MANGI

Do you really want to know?

He comes very close to Sakhi.

SAKHI

No, I don't.

Sakhi tries to hurry away from Mangi and almost slips. Mangi reaches out to catch her but Sakhi backs away. Mangi almost falls. a flashlight falls out of his pocket.

MANGI

I have a flashlight with me. Here.

He hands it to her.

SAKHI

It's okay, I can see.

MANGI

What's wrong with holding a flashlight? Are you angry with me? You are very mean, Sakhi. Shall I go away?

Sakhi stops. She is afraid to go alone. Mangi walks up to her and hands her the flashlight. She takes it.

MANGI

Sakhi, you are very stuck-up.

SAKHI

How am I stuck-up?

MANGI

You seemed very happy when you left the night of your wedding. I saw you going away in a car.

SAKHI

Who says I was happy to leave?

MANGI

I know, I know....What a bitch it was carrying all your dowry to your new home.

SAKHI

Please Ta-Mangi....Let's not go into this again.

MANGI (laughs)

So tell me. You went away so happily; why did you come back?

SAKHI

You also tell me then: why did you return to the village?

MANGI

I have my reasons.

SAKHI

I also have my reasons. Ta-Mangi, thank you very much. I see my mother.

Sakhi's mother is waiting for Sakhi with a lantern at their bamboo gate.

IBEMHAL

Sakhi!

SAKHI

Yes, Mother.

Sakhi runs toward her mother with the flashlight in her hand.
She remembers the flashlight, hurries back to Mangi and hands it back to him.

IBEMHAL

Who is your escort?

SAKHI

Ta-Mangi. Let's go in. Quickly!

Mangi is left standing in the rain.


*

SEQUENCE FIVE


A traditional house. The ravages of time and lack of maintenance are evident. TOMBA, one of Mangi's nephews, is cooking for him. A village elder arrives.

ELDER

Mangi! My Son! Are you home?

Mangi comes out of the house.

MANGI

What can I do for you, Uncle?

ELDER

My Son, I have come to ask you a favor. My red bull has been missing for over three months now. Please think of a way to get it back. I will leave some money for your expenses.

MANGI

What makes you think I am a "sanninghanba" ? Tell me, who told you I am involved in such low-down business?

ELDER (frightened)

Eh! Eh!...Nobody... No-one said anything. You have been very kind to us. Our village has no-one else to approach for help but you. Going to the police is too complicated; it only ends up spending a lot of money.... We were eagerly awaiting your return. Please my Son, you must do something. I am paying my obeisances to you.

MANGI (nodding)

Very well, Uncle. I'll get back to you in a few days.

ELDER

Thank you very much my Son. I will take your leave now.

He leaves.


*

SEQUENCE SIX


The Dance Academy. Afternoon.

The ballet rehearsal of Kabui Kei-oiba is in progress. The dancers are resting. Sakhi walks up to Dillip, who is the secretary of the Academy.

SAKHI

Tamo, can we start the rehearsal a little earlier from tomorrow so I can catch the last bus? The road are not very safe these days, you know. I want to go home a little early.

DILLIP

Good idea. I see to it right away.


*

SEQUENCE SEVEN


The village market. Evening.

Ibemhal is selling vegetables. Sakhi arrives.

IBEMHAL

You're back early today.

SAKHI

Mother, I'll go home and make dinner. You can come home a little late if you like

IBEMHAL

Okay. Then I will remain open a little longer today.

Sakhi comes home. She changes her clothes and fetches water in a brass pot for cooking. Her mother comes home in a hurry and comes into the kitchen.

SAKHI

Come to collect something?

IBEMHAL

I sold all my stuff.

SAKHI

But you had so much left! Who bought it all?

IBEMHAL

Mangi came by. His boy was with him, carrying a bag. I thought he was shopping for just a few vegetables. Then he said, " I'll buy all you got, Mother." I asked him if he was throwing a feast. He said no. He paid 300 rupees. I said, "It's too much, Son" and forced him to take back one hundred. Then you know what he said?

Sakhi looks at her mother.

"I hear Sakhi dances really well. I must go watch her perform one day', he said. He also said he will come pay his respects to your father one of these days. Mangi seems very sensible and well-behaved these days. But he is always so unpredictable.

*

SEQUENCE EIGHT

Mangi's house. Afternoon.

The elder who asked Mangi to find his bull is seen entering the gate. Mangi's front porch is curtained off. Many pairs of shoes can be seen on the front steps. There are some bicycles parked there too. The elder stops in the front yard. Tomba comes out.


ELDER

Is Mangi...?

TOMBA

Uncle, I don't think you can see him today.

ELDER

Alright then. Please give this money to him. Tell him it is just a token of my gratitude. (He gives the boy the money.) I got my bull back.

He leaves.

Tomba enters the curtained front porch. Inside, a pigeon fight is in progress. The men present are betting on it. Tomba walks up to Mangi, murmurs something in his ear, and hands over the money. Some local youth arrive at the front yard. Tomba goes and speaks to them. Tomba returns to Mangi. Mangi comes out after a while.

MANGI

My Brothers, what can I do for you?

YOUTH

Brother Mangi, we are organizing a volleyball tournament, so he have come to ask you for a donation.

MANGI (thinking)

Why volleyball? Let's have a polo tournament instead. I'll pay for it. I will come to the playground tomorrow. Be there.

Mangi goes back in. The youths look surprised.


*

SEQUENCE NINE


Sakhi's house. Morning.

Mangi arrives with a group of young men. Sakhi is dressing for work. She meets the party.

SAKHI

Ta-Mangi! What brings you here?

MANGI

I've come to see Teacher. How are you, Sakhi?

SAKHI

Fine, thank you. I'll get Father.

She hurries in. Birachandra comes out.

MANGI

Teacher, our village boys want to make a polo team, so we have come to request you to be our coach.

BIRACHANDRA

Excellent! But hardly anyone keeps ponies these days, so how do we practise?

MANGI

We will arrange that. We already have some ponies and we can start practice immediately. We will try and buy some good ponies too. All we ask of you is to groom a good team.

Mangi looks around for Sakhi but she is nowhere in sight. As the groups leaves, a car drives in. Before long, the car cruises out again, this time with Sakhi.

Mangi looks crestfallen.


*

SEQUENCE TEN


Mangi and his team are practising polo at the playground. Birachandra is coaching the team.

The polo practice goes on daily, and each day a car picks up Sakhi and drops her back from the Dance Academy. Mangi never fails to notice the car each time it arrives or leaves. He is seen staring at it and following its movements.

One day when the car is taking Sakhi to her work, Mangi breaks into a full gallop and chases the car. Inside the car, Sakhi is alarmed but Mangi does nothing except overtake the car and gallop ahead.


*

SEQUENCE ELEVEN


Sakhi's house. Morning.

Mangi arrives, riding a pony. Tomba follows him with a bag on his shoulder. Birachandra is feeding Sanabi. Sakhi, with a scarf tied around her head, is washing clothes.

MANGI

Teacher, we have fixed up a match with Tentha. It will be on Sunday at one.....Tomba!

He signals to Tomba. Tomba takes out a large fish from his bag.

MANGI

I have a little gift for you, Teacher.

BIRACHANDRA

Oh, you shouldn't have taken the trouble. Sakhi, make some tea for your Brother Mangi!

MANGI

It's no trouble, Teacher. I didn't buy it. It is from my own pond.

BIRACHANDRA

Oh, you keep fish in your pond?

MANGI

I introduced some fry in my pond some years back. I thought I would make a gift to the village elders. Where is Mother by the way?

BIRACHANDRA

She has gone to Nambol for her supplies.

Sakhi brings tea and serves it.

MANGI

We have decided to include the Gift Exchange Ceremony. Can Sakhi and Mother arrange for our gifts? Please buy anything necessary. Our club will meet all the expenses.

The polo playground. Afternoon. The day of the match.

A brass band is playing popular tunes in the background. Mangi is in full polo gear. He bows to Birachandra. A procession of ladies, led by Ibemhal, brings out their team's gifts. Sakhi also joins them.

The match begins. Every time a goal is scored, gifts are exchanged. Mangi plays hard. He scores a goal and triumphantly canters up to the ladies exchanging gifts. Sakhi is missing. Mangi looks around and sees Sakhi leaving in a car. Mangi looks disappointed.


*

SEQUENCE TWELVE


The village road. Early might.

Sakhi is being taken home in a car. The Dance Academy President and wife are also in the car. The car screeches to a halt.
It cannot go any further: a ditch has been dug across the road.


DRIVER

That wasn't there earlier today. What do we do now? The car can't drive across that.

SAKHI

My house isn't far from here. I can take a short walk.

PRESIDENT

What are you saying? Come, I'll walk you home.

PRESIDENT'S WIFE

I'll come along too.

SAKHI

Don't bother Sister. I'll make a dash for my house from here.

At this moment, Sakhi's mother arrives at the scene with a lantern.

SAKHI

Oh, good! My mother's here! Alright then Sister, good-bye!

Sakhi and her mother walk together.

IBEMHAL

A boy came and told me your car was stranded here, so I came.

SAKHI

What idiot is responsible for digging a ditch in the middle of the road at this time!

Mangi approaches from behind.

MANGI

Hello Mother! Where are you coming from at this hour?

IBEMHAL

Picking up Sakhi. The car was stranded.

MANGI

It is not good to have cars on our roads too often. It raises a lot of dust and makes the meadows muddy. What do you say, Sakhi?

Sakhi does not answer. She stares ahead angrily. Mangi laughs triumphantly and overtakes them.


*

SEQUENCE THIRTEEN


Sakhi's house. Morning.

Sakhi is combing her hair after her bath. Ibemhal is doing the household chores. Bidhu arrives.

BIDHU

Sister-in-Law, has Brother Birachandra come back?

IBEMHAL

It's time he was back. Perhaps he met up with Mangi and is coaching the polo team.

BIDHU

Haven't you heard about Mangi? Last night Jeep-loads of security men came to the village and surrounded Mangi's house to arrest him. Apparently he managed to slip out and escaped.

IBEMHAL

What was the reason?

BIDHU

Who can say for sure about this man? But they say, Mangi is no longer the small time thief he was. He is no "sanninghanba " any more. He is in the Moreh trade now and keeps company with notorious smugglers. He is rich, I'm told.

Sakhi listens.

*

SEQUENCE FOURTEEN


Dance Academy. Afternoon.

Rehearsal is in progress. Sakhi does not seem to be able to concentrate. Her mind is elsewhere. She leaves before the rehearsal is over. She catches a bus home.

Sakhi gets off the bus. She walks along the village road. Suddenly, Mangi arrives on horseback. He hauls her up on his horse and heads off towards the nearby hilltop. Once on top of the hill, Mangi puts Sakhi down.

Sakhi is furious

SAKHI

What's the meaning of this? Nearly scared me to death!

MANGI

Don't you think the view from here is beautiful? I wanted to show it to you.

SAKHI

I don't want to see anything! What will people think if they saw us?

MANGI

What can they say? Mangi has taken Sakhi away on horseback. That's all. Did you ever think of what people say when you go away in cars and scooters with strangers?

SAKHI

So what's wrong if I ride a car?

MANGI

So what's wrong if you ride on a horse with Mangi?

Sakhi is furious. She walks away.

MANGI

Why are you so angry? Is it because I dug a ditch across the road to stop your car?

SAKHI

Behave yourself Ta-Mangi! I am going now.
It is late.

Sakhi walks on. Mangi follows, pulling the horse along.

MANGI

Sakhi, why didn't you marry again?

Sakhi does not answer but keeps walking.

MANGI

Tell me, why aren't you married?

SAKHI

None of your business. I'll do as I please .

MANGI

So you don't want to tell me?

SAKHI

I don't want to marry at all! I am sick of it!

MANGI

That is not true. You are not being truthful.

SAKHI

Believe me. It's the truth. I am really fed up with it.

MANGI

I don't believe you. There are so many who are crazy about you.

SAKHI

Maybe they are, but I am not crazy about them.

MANGI

Then who is the fellow who comes with you in the car? Tell me.

SAKHI

Don't be ridiculous! That is Sister Ibempishak's husband, the President of our Academy.

MANGI

What about the one on the scooter? (Sarcastically) I presume he is the Secretary?

SAKHI (laughs)

Yes, you silly boy! He is our Secretary.

MANGI

Don't call me a silly boy! I am older than you!

SAKHI

Then don't be too inquisitive and petty like a little boy!

Mangi beckons Sakhi to stop and she stops.

MANGI

Let's sit here for a while. I want to discuss a serious matter with you.

Mangi sits down.

SAKHI

It's late and my folks will be getting worried.

MANGI

I'm here. Your folks won't say anything. You can tell them I am dropped you home.

SAKHI (sarcastically and in a low voice)

Yeah, very likely.

Sakhi makes a move to go away.

MANGI

Sakhi. you're really stuck up. You hang out with important people so we small fry don't mean anything to you. Well! Well!

SAKHI

Don't be sarcastic, Ta-Mangi. Let's talk. Alright now, let's hear what this serious matter you want to discuss with me is about.

Sakhi sits down next to Mangi. She studies him closely. Mangi is awkwardly silent for a while.

MANGI

Sakhi, when we were kids I used to come to your father for private tuition, remember?

SAKHI

So? What about it?

MANGI

Just listen. When your father punished me by pulling my ear for coming without doing my homework, you used to watch and laugh. Remember?

Sakhi bursts into laughter.

SAKHI

Please Ta-Mangi, let's go. It's getting late.

MANGI

Don't laugh, Sakhi, but, to be frank, I dropped out only because you laughed at me. Otherwise, I could have been someone.

SAKHI

Don't blame me! It was your own fault. You were not interested in school so you dropped out. Isn't that right?

MANGI

You must take the responsibility.

He gets up suddenly and mounts his horse.

I have to leave for a far off place for some time. Please keep an eye on my house.

Mangi gallops off. Sakhi stands up and watches him for a while. Then she starts walking slowly.

*

wflmsancouplehorse.jpg
From Aribam Syam Sharma's SANABI

SEQUENCE FIFTEEN


Dance Academy. Stage.

Kabui Kei-oiba is being staged. The episode of the kidnapping of Thabaton by Kabui Kei-oiba is in progress. Kabui Kei-oiba adores Thabaton. Whatever Thabaton demands, he complies. Thabaton asks Kabui Kei-oiba to fetch water in a bamboo pot with a hole in the bottom. A crow is mocking Kabui Kei-oiba's vain attempts to fill the pot:

Ha! Kabui Kei-oiba
Hollow at the top
Hollow at the bottom
Your wife is gone!

After hearing the crow's words, Kabui Kei-oiba returns home to find Thabaton is missing.


*

SEQUENCE SIXTEEN


Title: A FEW YEARS LATER

The Village tea stall. Morning.

Sanabi is tied to the old tree in the meadow. The bicycle with the sack of fodder is also there. Birachandra, Bidhu, the village doctor and others are drinking tea. Some young men are standing outside. In the distance an old car is approaching. It pulls up in front of the tea stall. Mangi gets out. He is well dressed. The young men crowd around Mangi.

FIRST YOUTH

Ta-Mangi! Did you just get back?

Mangi nods.

SECOND YOUTH

Is that your car?

Mangi nods proudly.

FIRST YOUTH

Great! Now we can go on a ride on Holi!

MANGI

Why not? I bought it so that people I like can ride it.

Mangi distributes cigarettes and goodies to the boys and then drives away.

BIDHU

Now that Mangi is back, the police can't be far behind!

BIRACHANDRA

Tell me Bidhu, where does this man disappear for such long stretches at a time?

BIDHU

Who knows? But there are a number of rumors. Some say he goes to Burma frequently and is involved in some underworld business. I heard once he was arrested and put in jail in Rangoon. He has got a car now so he must have made a lot of money.

BIRACHANDRA

It's time this boy came to his senses.
He should be getting married and settling down.

BIDHU

Who'd want to give his daughter to him? That aside, you'd better get ready Brother. I say he suggest you start polo practice again!


*

SEQUENCE SEVENTEEN


Mangi's gate. Morning.

Mangi drives up to his house and stops at his gate. He gives a few honks. No-one comes out so he gets out, opens the gate and drives in. He gets out of the car.

MANGI

Tomba! Tomba!

A distant relative of Mangi, a next door neighbor, hears him call and enters.

MANGI

Aunty, where's Tomba?

AUNT

He eloped with a girl and has gone into hiding the past ten days. They say the police is looking for him.

MANGI

Was the girl a willing partner, or was she forced, Aunty?

AUNT

She was willing all right, but her parents do not approve of him. But then, you can't blame them. After all, Tomba has nobody left in this world.

MANGI

What do you mean? He has me.


*


SEQUENCE EIGHTEEN


Sakhi's house. Morning.

Some young men drive up in Mangi's car. Sakhi is home.

YOUNG MAN

Sister! A wedding invitation from Ta-Mangi's house.

SAKHI

Who's getting married at Ta-Mangi's house?

She reads the card.

YOUNG MAN

Tomba, the boy living at Ta-Mangi's house He's the one getting married. Ta-Mangi said you and your family must come, without fail. He said he will send the car around for you.

SAKHI

No need for that; it is so close by. I have a program that day but if I can make it in time, I will definitely be there.

The car refuses to start. The boys get out and push. It starts and they drive off.


*


SEQUENCE NINETEEN


Mangi's yard. Evening.

Tomba's wedding ceremony is in progress. Mangi in traditional costume is eagerly keeping a lookout for Sakhi. She does not show. He becomes impatient. He sends a boy with his car to Sakhi's house.but she is not home. Mangi is disappointed.


*


SEQUENCE TWENTY


Sakhi's House. Day.

Mangi arrives. He stops in the yard. He is well dressed. Nobody seems to be in. Ibemhal enters from the direction of the gate.

IBEMHAL

Mangi, is that you?

Mangi smiles.

Come, come. Sit down.

Mangi approaches respectfully and sits down.

Your Teacher will be coming shortly. He went to fetch Sanabi. People are all praise about how you got Tomba married off yesterday. Now listen, Son, let me give you some motherly advice. Why don't you also get married and settle down?

Mangi blushes slightly.

I spoke to your aunt yesterday. Sit for a while. I'll make you some tea.

Ibemhal goes inside her house. Birachandra arrives with Sanabi. Mangi bows to his teacher.

BIRACHANDRA

Oh, it's you, Mangi! The government wants to buy Sanabi. They have a program to breed the Meitei pony. I refused to sell. Sanabi is so dear to me. I brought her up with so much love. (Turns to Sanabi) Sanabi, do you know they want to take you away from me. Never! Oh! Sanabi, look! Your Elder Sister has returned!

Sakhi enters with Dillip on a scooter. She stops short.

SAKHI

Ta-Mangi! I am so sorry. I had a program yesterday. That's why I could not come. I will definitely come and see the bride one of these days.

Sakhi and Dillip go into the house towards her room. Mangi is suddenly angry. He gets up abruptly and walks out. When Ibemhal comes out with his tea, Mangi is already out of sight.

Mangi comes back after a while in his car. He is drunk. He gets out and stares at the scooter and then looks towards Sakhi's room. He remains standing in the yard.

BIRACHANDRA

What's the matter, Mangi?

MANGI

Can I borrow Sanabi? I want to ride it at a polo game.

BIRACHANDRA

I don't think so. Sanabi is not for polo. Moreover, nobody can ride Sanabi but me.

MANGI

Oh yes! I can ride her!

BIRACHANDRA

No, Mangi. That will not be possible. Let's look for some other mount, shall we?

MANGI (raising his voice)

There is no need for another mount! I only want Sanabi!

MANGI

Sorry, my boy. I will not let you ride Sanabi.

MANGI

I said I want to ride Sanabi, do you hear?

BIRACHANDRA (getting angry)

Forget it Mangi! Sanabi is not for hire!

MANGI

You don't seem to remember you are talking to Mangi! Angom Mangi! Alright! Just you wait and see!

Mangi starts his car and knocks over the scooter parked in the yard and drives away. Sakhi comes running out and watches him go.


*

SEQUENCE TWENTYONE

The village road. Sakhi's house. Morning.

Bidhu is seen hurrying down the road. He enters Sakhi's the gate and finds Birachandra in a pensive mood. Ibemhal, Sakhi, the village doctor and some other village folk are also present.

SAKHI (angrily)

What audacity! If only I were a man, I would have shown him!

BIDHU

Easy, Sakhi. Let us keep a cool head. Now, Brother, tell me what happened exactly. I rushed here as soon as I heard.

BIRACHANDRA

I've lost face, Bidhu, I've lost face today! God, I have never been so depressed as I am today. I would not let him ride my Sanabi, so he stole it. What kind of law of the jungle is this? Bidhu, you know very well my friend Chaoba had sold his plot of land to me at a very low price so I could settle in this village and tutor his son. And groom him to become a respectable man. I took this opportunity thinking it would be easier to raise my pony here. But that rogue! Instead of keeping his mind on his studies he has chosen to be a gangster and...

IBEMHAL

Perhaps you should agreed when he wanted to borrow the pony.

BIRACHANDRA

You mean allow him to borrow Sanabi? Don't be ridiculous! That drunkard will kill her, that's for sure. That savage beast is capable of anything!

VILLAGE DOCTOR

Just a minute, Brother. Are you certain he stole the pony?

BIRACHANDRA

Who else? Just because I wouldn't let him have Sanabi, he threatened me. "I am Mangi! Angom Mangi! Just wait and see!" That is how he shouted at me.... After he left, I had a feeling he might try to steal Sanabi. So I moved her from the stable to my house and locked up carefully at night. But he managed to get inside my house. No ordinary thief could do that. He's the only one capable of it.

VILLAGE DOCTOR

I don't know. No-one steals cattle aand horses nowadays. Moreover, he never used to steal from our village.

BIRACHANDRA

Well, he does now. My Sanabi is not only a rare breed but also my dearest possession. She lost her mother when she was only a foal. I reared her all alone through all kinds of difficulties. Every daybreak when I returned to the stable with an pail of water, she used to follow me with those large eyes of hers.... All is lost now! Sanabi, all is lost! Oh, Sanabi....

SAKHI

Come now, Father. Don't be such a baby. Uncles, you all please contact him and ask him how much money he wants. We will pay him.
If we inform the police, I don't think we'll ever see Sanabi again.

BIRACHANDRA

I feel terrible! Oh, yes, I feel terrible!
I came to this village only because of him and this is what he....

SAKHI

Please stop it, Father! We have the whole village behind us. Uncles, we are very hurt this time. After all, we are originally not from this village. If we do not have the support of the village, we will be left with no option but to move. Please think it over.


*

SEQUENCE TWENTYTWO


Mangi's house.

Mangi is inside, drinking. He looks very pleased with himself. Tomba enters.

TOMBA

That old man is here again.

Mangi peeps out through a hole in the window.

MANGI

Tell him I haven't come home yet.

TOMBA

I already told him you're home. It's not very nice; he has been coming here repeatedly asking for you.

Mangi puts on a lungi and comes out.

MANGI

Oh, it's you, Uncle! What can I do for you?

BIDHU

I am so glad you are home. There is a little problem. Brother Birachandra pony has been missing for the past three days. I wanted to request you to please try and find it.

MANGI (pretends to think)

Are there any suspects?

BIDHU

No, not really. We only wanted to ask to please help us in locating the pony. We will pay all the expenses.

MANGI

Uncle, I am not a "sanninghanba." I admit, I was involved in the business before. But I have left that barbaric and uncivilised trade a long time ago. Why don't you inform the police?

BIDHU

To be frank with you, our Brother Birachandra is in a bad state. His love for Sanabi is as strong as his love for his own daughter Sakhi. He will not eat or drink, so we are afraid he will become seriously ill. Please think of a way.

MANGI

Uncle, allow me to make a suggestion. Sakhi's family have connections with many influential people in Imphal. Finding a pony should be a simple job for them. So why don't you tell them to contact those people?


*


SEQUENCE TWENTYTHREE


Sakhi's house. Day.

Birachandra is lying on a bed on his front porch. The village doctor is sitting by his side massaging his abdomen. Sakhi and Bidhu are also present. Bidhu is giving them the news he has brought.

BIDHU

I just can't understand the man. One moment he is saying something and the next moment he is saying just the opposite. He is beyond my comprehension. He said he has stopped "sanninghanba " and suggested we take the matter to the police. You cannot talk straight with this man.

SAKHI

So he will not hand over Sanabi, is that it?

BIRACHANDRA
(weeping)

Sanabi! Oh, Sanabi! I hope you are not starving. You were so fussy about your food. Even the fresh cut green grass and cooked cereal that I used to so laboriously prepare for you were not always good enough for you! Sanabi!... Sanabi!... No, I will not eat either.....

BIDHU

What are you saying. Brother? We are trying our best. We will surely find it. You must eat or else you will get weak. What are we here for? The whole village is behind you. We will not allow him to get away with this.

Sakhi is deep in thought.



*


SEQUENCE TWENTYFOUR


Mangi's house. At the gate. Afternoon.

Sakhi enters Mangi's gate. She meets Tomba.

SAKHI

Is Ta-Mangi home?

TOMBA

Yes, he's in.

He leaves.

Sakhi walks in and stops in the front yard. Mangi's old car is parked in one corner. From the backyard, a hammering sound is heard. Sakhi looks and finds Mangi making something.
SAKHI

Ta-Mangi!

Mangi does not answer. He does not even turn his head. Sakhi walks up to him and calls out again.

Ta-Mangi!

Mangi still does not respond. Sakhi shouts:

TA-MANGI!!

Mangi coolly turns around and looks at Sakhi.

MANGI

Oh! It's you, Sakhi! Where have you come from?

SAKHI

I've come to see you.

MANGI

To see me! Here, sit for a bit. I haven't seen you for a long time.

Mangi pushes the stool he was sitting on towards Sakhi.

SAKHI (angrily)

I didn't come here to sit with you.

MANGI

Then why have you come here?

SAKHI

I came here in connection with our missing Sanabi.

MANGI

Who told you I stole your Sanabi?

SAKHI

Nobody said you stole Sanabi! I came to request you to find her.

MANGI

Oh! You want me to find Sanabi. (Laughs)

SAKHI

Don't laugh! I don't like it.

MANGI

I know, Sakhi. I know very well you don't like me. So why have you come here? Why don't you go and ask those you like to find Sanabi for you.

SAKHI

But people say you can find her.

MANGI

Wait a minute. Do you mean to say you believe everything people tell you? Well, okay. If people were to say that Mangi loves Sakhi, that Mangi wants Sakhi, would you believe them? (Laughs)

SAKHI

I never knew you were so horrid!

MANGI

Shall I tell you why you lost Sanabi? Because you people are so high and mighty, and you especially, are not truthful.

SAKHI (angrily)

So you were waiting for me to be truthful, were you? I came to you because my father has taken it very badly. If you don't want to help, just say so. Why the hell are you torturing people like this?

She starts to go away.


MANGI (stopping her)

Wait, Sakhi! Wait! I did not say I was not going to help. Don't be angry. I swear I will look for Sanabi, but first, take a look at my home.

Sakhi looks at him suspiciously.

I just wanted to show you what a beautiful plot of land I have, although I have not been able to maintain it the way I want. I had a plan to dig a big pond on hat side to keep fish and to make a huge pen on the other side to raise chickens. I also bought a car with a mind to settle down, but...

SAKHI

You may carry out your plans. It is not too late.

MANGI

I wonder.... I don't know....

There is a haystack at the other end of the backyard. Mangi goes to it and pulls down a few bundles of straw.

MANGI

Shall I perform a magic trick for you, Sakhi?

SAKHI

What magic trick? You mean pulling down straw?

MANGI

No, no. Come closer and you'll see.

Sakhi goes closer, suspiciously. When Sakhi reaches the haystack, Mangi suddenly pulls her. Sakhi falls into the haystack. Terrified, she closes her eyes.

MANGI

Open your eyes Magic! Magic!

When Sakhi opens her eyes, Sanabi is looking at her. Sakhi is bewildered. Inside the haystack is a neatly built bamboo roomSanabi is comfortably housed there.

SAKHI

Sanabi! And you were having a good time here all this while! You don't even remember us?

She hugs Sanabi.

MANGI

Sakhi, now you have found your Sanabi.
Go, take it home..... What about the reward for finding your horse?

Sakhi, very happily, takes out five hundred rupees and gives it to Mangi. Mangi gets angry.

MANGI

You think I am after your money? Rich guys, huh?

There is a silence. Sakhi does not know what to do. Tears well in her eyes.

MANGI

If I really wanted to steal, I can even steal you! But... I would never stoop so low.

Suddenly Sakhi gets furious.

SAKHI

Forget it! You keep the pony! Why do you humiliate people like this?

Sakhi moves away quickly. Mangi tries to stop her.

SAKHI

Don't stop me Ta-Mangi! We are outsiders here. We won't stay a minute longer in this village! You are all very horrible!

MANGI

I'm very sorry. I didn't mean it that way. Please forgive me.

Sakhi hesitates.

Mangi runs, brings Sanabi and puts the reins in Sakhi's hand. Sakhi holds the reins and walks slowly towards the gate. Mangi stands still and watches her go. When Sanabi is some distance away, Mangi calls out loudly.

MANGI

Sakhi!

Sakhi stops.

Sakhi! Keep a close watch over Sanabi!
I have a feeling you are going to lose her often! (Laughs)

Sakhi smiles.


END



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