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MY SON, MY PRECIOUS

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IMAGI NINGTHEM

My Son, My Precious
1981, 16mm, B&W

Manipuri Feature Film

Directed by ARIBAM SYAM SHARMA

Screenplay based on her radio play by
M.K. BINODINI

Festivals: Festival des Trois Continents (Grand Prix), Locarno, London, New Directors/New Films (MoMA/Lincoln Center)

ONE

Imphal. Early morning. Exterior.

Dhani emerges from a narrow lane in a rickshaw. She has with her a suitcase, a plastic bucket, lantern, etc.

DHANI'S VOICE: Yes, I am going out to work. In a village far away, a teacher in a small school. Me, I need to work; I need a job. This isn't really the first time - I've worked on and off for three or four months at a time - but never a permanent job. This one I got with great difficulty. It's all right - I can't afford to be choosy.

Titles appear, superimposed. The rickshaw arrives at the bus stand. It is crowded, noisy. DHANI gets off.

DHANI: How much?

RICKSHAW DRIVER: Three rupees.

Dhani pays him off. She is helped on to a bus. The bus starts.


DHANI'S VOICE: Dear Shini! How angry she'll be when she learns l am gone.... She'd even offered to sell her jewelry to get me a job in Imphal. I didn't tell her I was going.... Buy a job? No, I won't do that.

The bus continues to wind its way.

DHANI'S Voice: Who knows, it may be pleasant enough. After all, a job's a job. The bus comes to a stop. GANDHAR is waiting under a tree by the roadside. He has a bicycle with him.

GANDHAR: Namaste Teacher! Namaste!

***

TWO

Dhani and Gandhar walk together. Gandhar manages to carry Dhani's entire luggage on his bicycle. They approach a neat thatched house of wattle and daub. On its far side, at right angles is a little outhouse. There is a spacious yard in front with a tulsi plant in the middle. PISHAK is grooming TOMBI's hair on the verandah. Tombi has a child in her lap.

Titles end.

GANDHAR: Teacher, this is our house. Hai Pishak! Teacher is here. Here, take these things. Pishak runs up and helps with the luggage. Teacher, this is my little sister. And that one is, er, her sister-in-law.

They cross the yard and stop in front of the gatehouse. Gandhar turns to Tombi.

GANDHAR: Hai hai! Look here! Get Teacher a cup of tea, will you? It's not very comfortable, I'm afraid.

The luggage is carried into the gatehouse.

This is Dhani's new home.

***

THREE

The village school. It is a long low thatched house with a tiny verandah. Children are playing in the small playground. Dhani and Gandhar approach the school. It is very noisy.

GANDHAR: This is our school, Teacher. How we worked to set it up! Fortunately it's been converted into a Government school now - and, of course, they've sent you.

Gandhar strikes the gong hanging in the verandah. He calls the children and assembles them. There seems to be little attention paid to uniforms.

GANDHAR: Children, this is your new Headmistress. Say 'Namaste'.

CHILDREN: Namaste

DHANI: Namaste

GANDHAR: And now children, let us sing our song. Ready ... one, two, three!

Silence. The children lower their heads.

GANDHAR: They, er, usually sing, very well. But I think they are a little shy...Now shall we all sing this time. Don't feel shy, his is your new Headmistress, One ... two ... three!

GANDHAR AND CHILDREN (Together): "Mummy and Daddy Are gods that we can see...."

***

FOUR

The approach to Gandhar's house. PUPU and THOITHOI enter. Children are playing nearby. Gandhar is watering the yard.

GANDHAR: Uncle, what brings you here?

PUPU: Could I please meet the Lady Teacher?

GANDHAR: Certainly. Please come this way.

Dhani is sitting by her house.

PUPU: Madam.

DHANI: Yes, Uncle?

PUPU: I brought you some fruit from the garden ... for you...

DHANI: Oh you shouldn't have, Uncle!

PUPU: Madam, I came to talk to you about a small matter. Madam, my grandson here is rather delicate. Being- a sickly child he hasn't attended school very regularly. He has lagged behind his friends. I don't know whether I should say this or not, but would it be too much to ask you to please teach my grandson a little in your spare time?

DHANI: Of course. Do send him to me.

Dhani gives a fruit to Thoithoi.

DHANI: Here...

PUPU: Then I shall be on my way.

Dhani watches them leave.

***

FIVE

Dhani's room. There is a bed with a mosquito net. Beside it is a small table with books, lantern and so on. Dhani and Thoithoi are sitting on a mat in front of the bed. Thoithoi writes his A-B-C with painstaking care. Dhani watches him.

DHANI: Here, let's do your lesson now.

Dhani reads slowly from the textbook. Thoithoi repeats after her:
"The autumn moonlight
So soft, so mellow.
How I look and look and look."

Pupu comes in.

PUPU: Madam.

DHANI: Uncle! (To Thoithoi) Here, write this way.... That's right.

PUPU: Has he really finished for today?

DHANI: Oh yes. PUPU: Then we'll be on my way. (To Thoithoi) Come along.

Dhani watches them leave.

***

SIX

Pupu's house. The house is similar to Gandhar's, with a little front yard, where there is the inevitable tulsi plant. Thoithoi is defecating near the house. Pupu is milking a cow in the yard. Thoithoi comes to him.

THOITHOI: Pupu, I'm done.

PUPU: Come along then.

Pupu cleans him off. Thoithoi runs off to play with the calf. He tries to make it drink some water. Pupu goes into the house and reappears with the boy's clothes.

PUPU: Come, get into your clothes, you'll be late for school. Come along. Pupu dresses Thoithoi. He carries Thoithoi or his back to school.

***

SEVEN

The School. A classroom. Rows upon rows of children sit on the benches. Dhani is taking a class. Thoithoi stands on the bench calling out the numbers. The others repeat after him.

'One ... two ... three ... four...'

A little boy in the backbench is nodding off to steep.

‘One and one, eleven ... one and two, twelve...’

Dhani looks out of the window. She sees Pupu waiting for school to give over. He has come to pick up his grandson.

***

EIGHT A.

Gandhar's house. Exterior. Day. Thoithoi, his school books in hand, watches Pishak and her friends playing with their dolls on the verandah. The little girls talk animatedly as they play:

"Hello my dear! I just dropped in to see you?
"Please come in. Oh how beautiful you clothes are! Is it what they call pure silk?"
" Oh it's just some old thing I picked up!"
"Is your baby a boy or a girl?
"Oh, it's only a girl."
"Yes of course, I clean forget! I came for the sosti puja?. Shall I make you a nice cup of tea?"
"Yes, please."
"Here you are, my dear."
"Shall we go to the cinema today?"
"Which one? But do you think we'll get the tickets?"
"Then I'll just get lunch ready and do the washing up..."
"But how do we get there?"
"Shall we go by car?"
"But car-rides make me sick so. Shall we go by bus instead?"

Thoithoi reaches for a doll. Pishak snatches, it from him.

PISHAK: Don't touch!

Dhani comes home. Thoithoi runs to her. He follows her to her room.

***

EIGHT B.

Dhani's room. Interior. Dhani lays the mat by' the bed. She makes Thoithoi sit on it. She takes a sweet from her bag and gives it to Thoithoi.

DHANI: Here, write your lesson.

Thoithoi writes laboriously on his slate. Tombi enters. She has a hair extension in her hand.

TOMBI: Teacher, can you do my hair for me, please? I have to, go to wedding.

DHANI (To Thoithoi): Write nicely now.

Dhani and Tombi go out. Thoithoi continues to write.

*** NINE A.

The verandah. Exterior. Day. Tombi looks into the mirror and puts her make-up on. Dhani kneels behind her. She combs Tombi's hair and dresses it.

DHANI: See if this high enough.

TOMBI: Uh-huh.

DHANI: I'm not really very good at this sort of thing... Hand me a hairpin.

Dhani finishes dressing Tombi's hair. She leaves. Tombi looks at herself in the mirror.

*** NINE B.

Dhani's Room. Interior. Dhani enters her room. She finds Thoithoi sprawled over his slate, fast asleep. She lifts him on the bed. She takes up a book and waits for Pupu to come. Pupu arrives in a hurry.

PUPU: Madam, I'm sorry I got a little late.... Oh! How peacefully he is sleeping! And on Madam's bed too! My child, wake up! Come to Pupu now?

DHANI: Thoithoi!

Pupu carries the sleeping Thoithoi away.

***

TEN

The school playground. Exterior. Day. Gandhar conducts a drill with the children! The drill is over. Gandhar sounds the gong.

GANDHAR: School's out!

The children scramble in to collect their things.

***

ELEVEN

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu is whittling strips of bamboo in his yard. Dhani brings Thoithoi home. Thoithoi runs up to Pupu.

THOITHOI: Pupu! Teacher's come!

PUPU: Madam, please come in.

Pupu brings a rattan stool. He places it on the verandah.

PUPU: This way, please...

DHANI: Thank you Uncle, - School was out a little earlier today so I brought Thoithoi myself.

PUPU: Thank You Madam. My child, go and have your lunch.

Thoithoi goes inside the house.

PUPU: Sometimes I… (He checks himself.) What can I offer you, Madam?

DHANI: It's all right. Please don't trouble yourself.

Thoithoi comes out carrying' his lunch. He brings the plate in sits down on the floor places front of him.

THOITHOI: Pupu! Fish!

PUPU: Oh my! I clean forgot the fish! Madam, If I may just...

DHANI: I think I should be going back. I'll come again. Bye, Thoithoi!

Dhani leaves. Thoithoi starts eating his lunch.

***

TWELVE

Gandhar's house. The verandah. Exterior. Day. Tombi is grinding grain. Dhani enters. She sits down by her.

DHANI: Tombi?

TOMBI: Yes, Teacher?

DHANI: I don't seem to see anyone besides Pupu and Thoithoi in their house. Is Thoithoi his daughter's or his son's child?

TOMBI: They say his daughter's child, Teacher.

DHANI: And what about his father and mother? TOMBI: Some say he has, others say he hasn't any. I am not sure Teacher, but I think there is something behind it all. My husband would know.

***

THIRTEEN

The school classroom. Interior. Day. Dhani comes in. The children rise in their seats.

DHANI: Sit down, sit down. I'll call attendance. Roll number one?

CHILD: Yes, Teacher.

DHANI: Two ...

CHILD: Yes, Teacher.

DHANI: Three...

CHILD: Yes, Teacher.

DHANI: Four... four...? Is Thoithoi here?

CHILD: No, Teacher.

DHANI: Five?

CHILD: Yes, Teacher.

DHANI: Six?

Dhani continues calling out the roll numbers.

***

FOURTEEN

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu paces the yard with Thoithoi his back. Thoithoi is sick.

THOITHOI: Pupu, when is Mother coming?

PUPU: She is coming, she is coming? My grandson's Mother will come soon...

THOITHOI: But she never does! Pupu makes Thoithoi lie down on a mat on the verandah. Dhani approaches the house. She pauses.

THOITHOI: Pupu, where has Mother gone?

PUPU: Far away ...

DHANI: Thoithoi, what's the matter Are you ill?

PUPU: He's not feeling very well.

Thoithoi gets up and puts his arms around Dhani.

THOITHOI: Teacher... Teacher…

***

FIFTEEN

Dhani's room. Interior. Evening. Dhani lights a lantern. She lowers the wick. Gandhar enters.

GANDHAR: Teacher the Deputy Inspector's coming the day after tomorrow. I received a message - it's always at such short notice. Well, I have nothing to worry about - after all, I have you...

DHANI: Teacher, something is troubling me…

GANDHAR: Are you finding living here with us very uncomfortable?

DHANI: No, no, it's not that. You know, I can't bear to see Thoithoi and his grandfather? What's happened to the child's parents? Is his mother dead or…?

GANDHAR: I don't know quite how to put it, Teacher, I don't know how to tell their story ... Uncle used to be the caretaker of an Inspection Bungalow. He had a daughter called Memtombi ...

*** SIXTEEN

Flashback. A wooded spur. Exterior. Day. Gandhar, much younger and still a teenager, stands among the pine trees. He cups his hands and calls down to the ravine below.

GANDHAR: Memtombi! Memtombi!

A small figure comes running up the hill. It is MEMTOMBI. A series of sequences follow as Gandhar continues his story.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: Memtombi and I were friends. Often I would buy her brooches, little things like that. She was Memtombi, a wild child.

The Inspection Bungalow. The caretaker stands on the steps. He looks around for Memtombi. She is seen playing by herself among the pines on the hillside.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: Uncle was a widower. His daughter was by his side all the time. Memtombi was used to playing all by herself in the huge grounds of the Inspection Bungalow.

Memtombi is seen playing jacks with some pebbles outside the Inspection Bungalow. A car horn is heard. She looks up in annoyance. An officer arrives in a jeep. The driver goes and fetches Memtombi. The officer tells her to open the door. Memtombi assumes authority and questions him rudely. Her grandfather, the caretaker, runs up in a fluster. She throws the keys at him. He lets the officer in.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: Uncle used to give the keys to Memtombi whenever he went out. She took on the duties of the caretaker. She never thought much of the visiting officers. She even fancied herself as the caretaker. Everyone was fond of her wild ways. And as for Uncle, he was always worried what she might go and say next.

***

SEVENTEEN

The Inspection Bungalow. Exterior. Day. Memtombi, all dressed up, sits on the steps of the Bungalow. She is making a posy. Gandhar comes and sits down beside her. Presently, he leaves in a huff.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: One day I had come to visit with her. Memtombi had changed. I was amused, thinking, Our Memtombi 's a big girl now. I asked her to come out with me. But she gave herself such airs. I remember being angry - you understand, I was but a boy then. I came away angry.

Gandhar comes to the Bungalow, pushing his bike. He looks, around for Memtombi. He spies her sitting at the foot of a tree.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: I didn't go there for quite some time. One day I did. She had sent for me. I looked all over the place for her. I found her sitting under a pine tree.

Gandhar steals up on Memtombi and drops a piece of bark on her. Memtombi does not respond. She is crying. Gandhar looks concerned.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: I teased her but she didn't laugh. Memtombi was crying. I asked her what the matter was. What is the matter? But she just wept and wept. And then she told me…

***

EIGHTEEN

A room in the Bungalow. Interior. Day. It is early afternoon. DINACHANDRA, an officer, is sleeping. Memtombi comes in with a cup of tea. She has a catapult tucked in her hair.

MEMTOMBI: Sahib! Sahib! Your tea.

DINACHANDRA: Why so early? I've just finished lunch.

MEMTOMBI: No, drink it up. I've got work to do.

DINACHANDRA: What work? Where?

MEMTOMBI: Over there, at the foot of the hill. I am going to go catch some crabs.

DINACHANDRA: Why don't you take me along?

MEMTOMBI: All right. But bring your gun along?

Dinachandra gets up.

***

NINETEEN

A hillside. Exterior. Day. Dinachandra and Memtombi; she runs up the hill.

DINACHANDRA: Why do you keep running? I am getting tired trying to keep up.

MEMTOMBI: I'm going to go shoot some bad birds over there.

DINACHANDRA: Are there bad birds?

MEMTOMBI: Sure there are! Plenty. Missed. Give me your gun.

DINACHANDRA: You wouldn't know how to use it.

MEMTOMBI: Then teach me.

DINACHANDRA: Some other time.

Memtombi runs up another hill.

MEMTOMBI: Come on! Come on up!

Dinachandra tries and stumbles. Memtombi pulls him up. He climbs up beside her.

MEMTOMBI: Call yourself a man? Here, give me your gun - They go off together. Among the pine trees. They embrace.

***

TWENTY

Dinachandra's office in Imphal. Interior. Day. Pupu enters. Dinachandra is working on some files. A clerk stands by. The clerk leaves. Dinachandra listens to Pupu.

GANDHAR'S VOICE:

Uncle met the Sahib at his office, He requested him not to desert the mother and child. He said the Sahib assure him he would see to everything. But the Sahib never came.

***

TWENTY-ONE

The Bungalow. Exterior. Day. Memtombi sits near the Bungalow. A man approaches. He talks to her father. Memtombi moves closer. We recognize the man as the clerk in Dinachandra's office. Memtombi listens to him.

GANDHAR'S VOICE: Some time later a man came from the Sahib, I think be worked at the office. He said he owed everything to the Sahib. He offered to marry Memtombi and claim the child. This, of course, is not uncommon. Uncle sat confused but –

MEMTOMBI: No! No!

***

TWENTY-TWO

Dhani's room. Interior. Dhani and Gandhar sit silently.

GANDHAR: Teacher, Memtombi died at childbirth. The child was Thoithoi.

DHANI: And the father never came back?

GANDHAR: No.

DHANI: There are so many people like him. For them their only concern is to save their own skins. Teacher, l can't stand these things. I protest.

GANDHAR: But what can one do, Teacher?

DHANI: True, what can I do? So what if a small-time teacher like me protests? Still, I'd like to know his name.

GANDHAR: Dinachandra.

DHANI: Dinachandra?. Where does he live?

GANDHAR: Elang Leikai.

DHANI: And his family name?

GANDHAR: Sinam.

***

TWENTY-THREE

Elang Leikai, Imphal. Exterior. Day. Dhani arrives at EKASHINI's house. It is a modern, middle-class, single-storied house with a long verandah. Dhani leaves her shoes on the steps and enters the house.

DHANI: Chaoba ! Chaoba, where's Shini? A houseboy comes up to Dhani, folding clothes as he does.

CHAOBA: She went to the Palace. For Jalakeli.

Dhani sits down on the bed. The bed is laid against the wall facing the door. To the left is another bed. To the right, next to the first bed is a low cabinet through the panes of which can be seen pile of clothes. On the cabinet are a framed photograph, a lamp, and a voluptuous figurine carrying an improbable bunch of plastic flowers. An armoire and a dressing table grace the other two walls, the armoire adjacent to the door. Dhani waits. She looks at her watch.

The sound of a car is heard. EKASHINI has come back from the Jalakeli, the Water Festival at the Palace. Outside, Ekashini steps out of a car. She carries a pair of brass cymbals. She turns the other occupants of the car.

EKASHINI: Won't you come in for a while, Respected Aunt? You too, Respected Sister!

The three women come in together. All three are attired in muslin stoles and embroidered sarongs. They are laden with jewelry. They come up on the verandah.

EKASHINI: Chaoba! Bring seats for the Respected Ladies!

Chaoba brings out two rattan stools.

EKASHINI: Respected Aunt, please be seated. Sister, you too. I'll just go make some tea.

ELDERLY LADY: I don't drink tea, my dear.

EKASHINI: Then, how about some tobacco?

ELDERLY LADY: Thank you.

Ekashini goes inside. She finds Dhani.

EKASHINI: Dhani! You here! Do get some tea and a smoke for the Respected Aunt. Chaoba won't be able to manage it.

Ekashini leaves her cymbals on her bed. She takes a rattan stool for herself.

EKASHINI: Respected Aunt, this time I said to myself, While my husband is away I am going to go right ahead and take part in the Jalakeli Festival.

ELDERLY LADY: And where has your husband gone, my dear?

EKASHINI: He's away on training, Respected Aunt. He doesn't approve of these things very much, but I was just dying to take part, so I went right ahead.

ELDERLY LADY: That's the way, my dear. You must enjoy yourself while you are young. What a dear your Respected Mother-in-Law was! How she loved to dance and sing! My dear, you must worship Lord Govindaji with all your might.

Dhani brings in a smoking pipe and tea. Ekashini offers the pipe to the Elderly Lady.

EKASHINI: Your pipe, Respected Aunt?

ELDERLY LADY: And who is this?

EKASHINI: She's my cousin, Respected Aunt.

ELDERLY LADY: Isn't she married yet?

EKASHINI: No, she's a workingwoman.

ELDERLY LADY: Marry her off! Marry her off! Keeping large, old maidens is bound to create problems.

Dhani serves the tea and exits. Ekashini turns to the younger lady,

EKASHINI: Oh but what am I to do, I made a mistake that time! And so did Jandho, that horror. She sat right next to me and it so looked like I did it!

YOUNGER LADY: Of course I never make such mistakes.

EKASHINI: But how do you do that?

YOUNGER LADY: Like this, see?

She holds up her cymbals and only pretends to keep time.

ELDERLY LADY: My dears, you young people nowadays don't bother to come to rehearsals. But come the Festival day, you show up all loaded to with jewelry. I'm surprised you managed to keep up at all.

Younger Lady, properly chided, turns to Ekashini.

YOUNGER LADY: Tell me Respected Sister, where's your son?

EKASHINI: He is away at school. In Delhi.

ELDERLY LADY: My dear, it is time we left.

EKASHINI: Yes, Respected Aunt.

YOUNGER LADY: Then I too shall take leave, Respected Sister.

EKASHINI: Very well, Respected Sister.

The ladies drive off.

***

TWENTY-FOUR

Ekashini's room. Interior. Ekashini takes off her muslin stole.

EKASHINI: Dhani, give me a hand, will you?

Together they fold the muslin.

EKASHINI: You know, I just don't like the idea of your teaching so far away. This time when my husband comes home I'm asking him to arrange a marriage for you.

DHANI: Will you stop talking your nonsense?

EKASHINI: Is this nonsense? Don't be difficult now.

Ekashini sits down at her dressing table. She starts to take off her jewelry.

EKASHINI: Dhani, can you get this for me?

Dhani moves up behind Ekashini and tries the clasp of her necklace.

DHANI: Shini, I don't know how to say this?

EKASHINI: What is it?

DHANI: There is a little boy in the village where I teach. They say he's your husband's child.

EKASHINI: What did you say?

DHANI: They say your husband is the boy's father.

EKASHINI: What rubbish! When could he have gone and fathered a child?

DHANI: I don't know. When be was at posted there, they say.

EKASHINI: It's a lie! It couldn't have been him.

She goes to the armoire. She slams the lid to her jewelry box angrily.

DHANI: It doesn't sound like a lie to me. Come see for yourself.

EKASHINI: I don't want to see anything! Why should I?

She puts her jewelry box away. She bangs shut the armoire and turns the key.

EKASHINI: And the mother?

DHANI: They say she died giving birth to the child. Your husband's really quite a...

EKASHINI: It couldn't have been his fault. She must have seduced him.

DHANI: Oh stop defending him! After he ruined the poor little girl!

Ekashini looks thoughtful.

***

TWENTY-FIVE

Gandhar's house. Exterior. Day. Dhani, Tombi and Pishak are doing the laundry in the yard. Gandhar paces around with his, child in his arms. Ekashini comes in from the gate.

DHANI: Shini! Where on earth have you come from?

EKASHINI: One of my husband's friends was coming this way. And I was dying to come here, so I took a ride with them.

Tombi and Pishak stop and stare at Ekashini.

EKASHINI: And is this Teacher Gandhar's wife? What a pretty girl!

Gandhar joins them. He gives the child to Pishak.

GANDHAR: Hai hai! Take this child, will you?

DHANI: Shini, this is Teacher Gandhar. Teacher Gandhar, this is my sister.

GANDHAR: Namaste, please come in.

They move across the yard towards the house.

EKASHINI: How pleasant it is here! No wonder you never want to come home. But wait - will you get someone to call the child you told me about the other day? I want to see him.

Pishak gives the child to Dhani and runs off.

GANDHAR: Please be seated.

Gandhar seats them on the verandah.

***

TWENTY-SIX A.

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pishak comes to Pupu's house.

PISHAK: Thoithoi! Thoithoi! Pupu! Pupu!

Nobody is home. Pishak goes back.

***

TWENTY-SIX B.

Gandhar's house. Exterior. Day.

GANDHAR: What can I serve you? Tombi, go and get some tea and snacks from the shop

EKASHINI: Please don't take the trouble. I would have brought something, for the children had I known. Is this your first child?

GANDHAR: Er, Yes.

EKASHINI: You must come visit with your family. We could at least have a meal together some day.

GANDHAR: Er, certainly ... some day . .

Pishak comes back.

PISHAK: Teacher, Thoithoi's not there. He's gone somewhere with Pupu.

A car is heard.

EKASHINI: My ride's here. Dhani, I've got to go. (To Gandhar) I'll take my leave now.

GANDHAR: Uh-huh.

EKASHINI: Now that we know each other I hope to visit more often.

GANDHAR: Please do.

EKASHINI: Then I shall be on my way.

Ekashini leaves in the car. Dhani and Gandhar watch her go. They wall slowly back. Pishak tags along.

GANDHAR: Your sister looks very young.

DHANI: Oh I don't think I explained to you. Shini is my cousin, my uncle's daughter. We are the same age. That's why we call each other by our first names.

GANDHAR: Why did she want to meet Thoithoi?

DHANI: Dinachandra, the officer you told me about the other day, is her husband. I told her the boy so she just wanted to meet him.

GANDHAR: Then I suppose that makes her Thoithoi's mother!

Pishak is thrilled to hear this.

***

wflminmotherson.jpg
Thoithoi (Lekhendro) and Ekashini (Rashi) in IMAGI NINGTHEM

wfilminrasijamini.jpg
Ekashini (Rashi) and Dhani (Jamini) in IMAGI NINGTHEM

TWENTY-SEVEN

A Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu is working in his yard. Gandhar enters.

GANDHAR: Uncle, Dinachandra Sahib is none other than our Teacher Dhani's brother-in-Law.

Pupu digests this bit of news.

***

TWENTY-EIGHT

Pupu' s house. Exterior. Day. Thoithoi is flying a kite in the yard. Pupu is up on the roof mending the thatch. Pishak comes running.

PISHAK: Thoithoi! Thoithoi! I came for you yesterday but you weren't here.

THOITHOI: Why ?

PISHAK: Your mother! She came to our house!

THOITHOI: Truth?

PISHAK: Truth. She is very beautiful and she wore lots of gold. And she came in a car. She looked and looked for you. She said she'll come again. Bye!

Pishak leaves. Thoithoi thinks. He calls to Pupu up on the roof.

THOITHOI: Pupu, Sister Pishak says Mother came to their house. Let's go and ask.

PUPU: She's kidding you. .

THOITHOI: Then let's go and ask Teacher!

PUPU: We'll go tomorrow. Pupu's busy.

THOITHOI: No, let's go now!

PUPU: We'll go tomorrow. Now, there's a good boy.

Thoithoi's reaction.

***

TWENTY-NINE

Gandhar's house. Exterior. Day. Tombi is plastering the earth around the tulsi-plant in the yard. Thoithoi comes running. He runs across the yard and stands in Dhani's doorway. Dhani is combing her hair.

THOITHOI: Teacher, did Mother come?

DHANI: Thoithoi ! Did you say Mother?

Thoithoi nods. Pupu comes running.

PUPU: So there you are! And there I was looking all over the place for you!

DHANI: Uncle, who told him my sister was here? He came asking for his mother!

Pupu gropes for a seat.

PUPU: I don't know what to do, my daughter. My grandson keeps asking for his mother. When is your sister coming again? If only the mother and child could meet?

DHANI: Of course Uncle, I will send her a message.

They turn to the little boy.

PUPU: Then come along now with Pupu.

DHANI: Run along. I'll call your "Mother".

PUPU: Come along. Now, there's a good boy.

Pupu carries Thoithoi away in his arms. Dhani watches them go.

***

THIRTY

Gandhar's house. Exterior. Day. Pishak sits, perched in -a tree. She is eating a cucumber. A car is heard. Pishak leaps off the tree and rushes up to the car. Ekashini steps out of the car. Pishak looks at her and dashes off. Dhani approaches the car.

DHANI: Shini!

EKASHINI: Hello ! Did you get my message?

DHANI: No, I didn't.

EKASHINI: I wanted to come visit so badly, so I came. Listen, can you get the child? I've brought some clothes for him.

DHANI: All right, I'll send for him.

They walk towards Dhani's house.

***

THIRTY-ONE

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu is playing with Thoithoi on the verandah. A noisy group of children carrying a monkey come and stand at the gate. Thoithoi runs off to join them. Pishak comes running.

PISHAK: Pupu! Where's Thoithoi?

PUPU: He's gone to look at the monkey over there. Why?

PISHAK: His mother! She's come!

She runs off. Pupu looks after her.

***

THIRTY-TWO

A bamboo grove. Exterior. Day. The children are watching a monkey. Thoithoi has climbed up, for a better look. Pishak come looking for him.

PISHAK: Come on! Your mother's come!

She takes Thoithoi by the hand. They run off. They run across the yard towards Dhani's house and stand at the doorway.

***

THIRTY-THREE

Dhani's room. Interior. Dhani and Ekashini are sitting on the bed.

DHANI: Thoithoi!

Thoithoi looks at Ekashini. Pishak stands behind him.

EKASHINI: Come here ... come here.

PISHAK: Go in! Go!

DHANI: Come! This is your mother.

Pishak pushes Thoithoi inside the room. He is very shy. Ekashini draws him to her.

EKASHINI: Hand me the biscuits...

Dhani hands her the biscuits. Ekashini gives one to Thoithoi. Ekashini takes a T-shirt and puts it oil Thoithoi.

EKASHINI: Dhani, see if it fits him.

DHANI: Yes of course.

EKASHINI: Come here. Ekashini takes Thoithoi in her lap.

EKASHINI: Now, what did you say your name was?

THOITHOI: Thoithoi.

EKASHINI: And what class are you in?

THOITHOI: Class One.

Pupu enters. He laughs happily at the scene before him.

PUPU: My, how pretty you look, new shirt and all!

DHANI: Please come in Uncle. This is my cousin? Thoithoi's grandfather.

EKASHINI: Uncle you must come and visit me. Bring Thoithoi too. (She turns to Pishak.) You must come too. (and then to Dhani) My husband's training is almost over, he says he'll be coming home very soon. And on the way back he'll drop in on our son . . . Oh, there's nobody at home. I must be getting back. Thoithoi, my son? Mother's going now. I'll come again. And when I come I'll bring you lots of things to eat, okay ?

Ekashini lifts Thoithoi off her lap. She gets up and smoothens out her dress. Thoithoi grabs and holds her around her waist.

EKASHINI: Dhani, the child?!

PUPU wipes his eyes.

DHANI: Uncle, please? The child? My cousin will be late.

PUPU: My child, come to Pupu.

THOITHOI: No!

EKASHINI: My son, Mother will come back. Now come to me?

THOITHOI: No!

EKASHINI: Uncle, please? Allow me? I'll carry him as far as the car.

Ekashini carries Thoithoi out of the house. Pupu and Dhani follow. They cross the front yard to the car.

EKASHINI: Now my son, Mother will come again. And when I come I'll bring you lots of things to eat.

DHANI: Thoithoi, come to Teacher. Thoithoi refuses to let go of Ekashini.

EKASHINI: And what did you say you want m to bring- for you next time?

PUPU: Come my child, let's go watch the fishing with Pupu. He takes Thoithoi by force. Thoithoi screams and struggles in Pupu's arms. He hits Pupu.

THOITHOI: Mother ! Mother ! Mother!

Pupu takes away the struggling child.

DHANI: Shini, hurry up and leave!

She helps Ekashini into the car. Ekashini looks back as the car pulls out.

***

THIRTY-FOUR

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. The children come with the monkey. Thoithoi is sitting on the verandah.

CHILDREN: Thoithoi! Come on!

Thoithoi does not answer. The children go away.

***

THIRTY-FIVE

Pupu's House. Interior. Night. It is dark inside. The only light comes from a wax taper. Pupu sits in front of bed with Thoithoi in his lap. Thoithoi is ill. A witch doctor chants in front of the boy. He strikes Thoithoi with a sprig of herbs. He takes out a knife and draws three lines in the earthen floor in front of the ailing child.

***

THIRTY-SIX A.

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Early next morning. Pupu emerges from his house. He prays to the sun then goes behind the house. Thoithoi walks out of the house. Pupu returns and finds Thoithoi missing.

PUPU: Thoithoi! Thoithoi!

He looks all over the place and hurries off. Thoithoi walks across a field. He sits down by the road under a big peepul tree. Pupu comes running to Gandhar's house. He is worried. Tombi out from behind the house.

PUPU: Tombi, my daughter!

TOMBI: What is it Uncle?

PUPU: Is my grandson with you?

TOMBI: No, Uncle.

Pupu runs off.

***

THIRTY-SIX B

By the roadside. Exterior. Day. Thoithoi looks into the distance. Dust sweeps across in the distance. A car is coming. Thoithoi runs up to the edge of the road. The car drives past trailing, a cloud of dust.

***

THIRTY-SIX C.

The school. Exterior. Day. Pupu comes running, He goes up to Dhani and Gandhar.

PUPU: My daughter, is my grandson here?

***

THIRTY-SIX D.

The roadside. Exterior. Day. Thoithoi has resumed his vigil under the tree. Some children walk by.

CHILD: Thoithoi! What are you doing?

THOITHOI: Waiting for Mother.

The children walk on. The sun gets hotter. It is dazzling. Thoithoi lies down.

***

THIRTY-SIX E.

Pupu, Dhani and Gandhar come search for Thoithoi. They meet the children on the way.

PUPU: Children! Have you seen my grandson?

CHILD: He's over there, waiting for his mother. Under the big tree.

The three start running.

***

THIRTY-SIX F.

By the roadside. Exterior. Day. Thoithoi is lying under the tree. Pupu, Dhani and Gandhar come running. Pupu gathers Thoithoi up in his arms.

PUPU: My child, what have we done? My child?

Pupu breaks down.

DHANI: Uncle let's get him home.

*** THIRTY-SIX G.

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu brings Thoithoi home. Dhani and Gandhar accompany him. Pupu lays him on the bed.

DHANI: Uncle, some water please.

Pupu brings some water in a brass tumbler. Dhani soaks a handkerchief and places it on Thoithoi's forehead. Pupu climbs up beside Thoithoi. He chants a mantra over the unconscious boy.

DHANI: Teacher, can't we get a doctor?

GANDHAR: Yes Teacher.

Gandhar exits.

***

THIRTY-SEVEN

Gandhar's house. Exterior. Day. Ekashini comes in from the gate. She meets Pishak who is carrying- a pail of water.

EKASHINI: Pishak, is your Teacher Dhani home?

Pishak looks away.

PISHAK: No, Thoithoi's sick. She's with him.

EKASHINI: Thoithoi sick? How serious is it?

PISHAK: I don't know. They say he's very sick. Isn't it because you would 't take him with you?

She walks off, leaving Ekashini.

***

THIRTY-EIGHT

Pupu's house. Interior. There is an air of crisis in the room, Thoithoi is on the bed. Pupu and Dhani are nursing him.

DHANI: Thoithoi, Thoithoi...

Ekashini comes in with Tombi. She climbs up on the bed.

EKASHINI: My son, Mother's here. Open your eyes, Mother's come,

THOITHOI: Mother... I can't see you...

EKASHINI: Mother is here, Mother's here, Open your eyes,

THOITHOI: Mother, don't leave me...

Thoithoi puts his arms around Ekashini.

EKASHINI: My son, my precious! Mother won't leave, Mother won't leave you!

She breaks down.

EKASHINI: Dhani, I can't do it! I can't leave the child!

***

THIRTY-NINE

Ekashini's house. Interior. lmphaI. Thoithoi lies on the bed. Ekashini, Pupu and Dhani sit around him. A doctor is examining the boy.

DOCTOR: How old is the child ?

PUPU: Six.

DOCTOR: Nothing very serious. He's just a little weak. Please give him these medicines.

DHANI: And the diet?

DOCTOR: Mostly fluids. Then I'll be on my way.

Pupu sees the doctor off.

***

FORTY

Ekashini's house. Interior. Ekashini has Thoithoi in her lap, Dhani comes in with a glass of milk. She gives it to Ekashini, Ekashini gives Thoithoi his milk. Pupu looks happily on.

DHANI: Uncle, now that Thoithoi is much better I'll be getting back, But I hope you'll stay on a couple of days. I'll ask Teacher Gandhar to keep an eye on your house.

EKASHINI: Dhani, can you pick up some clothes for the child before you go?

Dhani leaves.

***

FORTY-ONE

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. It is raining. Ekashini is feeding Thoithoi on the verandah. Frogs come leaping out into the yard. Thoithoi runs off after them. He catches one.

EKASHINI: Come back, finish your food ... No, don't! Let go of the poor thing!

Thoithoi lets the frogs go. It leaps away to join its friends. Thoithoi comes back to finish his meal. Pupu comes out of the house, putting on his shirt.

PUPU: Eat it up, eat it up, that's it. You are fighting fit now. My daughter, I don't know how I can ever repay you. You have given my grandson a new life. My daughter, while it's an auspicious day, perhaps I can take my grandson home...

Ekashini does not answer.

PUPU: My child, shall we go home with Pupu now?

THOITHOI: No, don't go.

PUPU: But Pupu must go back. Who will look after your calf?

THOITHOI: Then let's take Mother with us too.

EKASHINI: We'll let Pupu go now, shall we? Here, eat it up. there's a good boy.

Pupu is nonplussed.

***

FORTY-TWO

Pupu's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu is sitting on the verandah. A tattered kite hangs on a tree nearby, Dhani enters.

DHANI: Uncle, where's Thoithoi?

PUPU: Sit down my daughter.

DHANI: But where is he?

PUPU: Your sister made him stay back. And since he wanted to stay too, I just couldn't insist on bringing him away.

DHANI: What are you saying?

PUPU: I can't bear it any more my daughter. I really appreciate your sister's love for him. But perhaps later it create trouble I'm afraid I may lose face...

DHANI: Please don't worry Uncle. Our Shini is really very simple at heart. I'll. go, I'll get Thoithoi.

***

FORTY-THREE

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. Ekashini is sitting on the steps.

DHANI: Shini, what are you up to?

EKASHINI: What?

DHANI: If the child is well, why didn't you let the old man take his grandson away?

Ekashini gets to her feet. She glares at Dhani.

EKASHINI: All right, take him! Why don't all of you take him and kill him!

DHANI: Don't you shout at me! Forget the old man. What will your husband say when he returns?

EKASHINI: What? What's he going to say?

DHANI: Oh this woman just drives me up the wall! Is this something you can do without consulting your husband? I will have nothing more to do with your affairs!

Dhani gets up and walks away in a huff. Ekashini calls after her.

EKASHINI: Wait ! Wait a minute! Get the boy admitted into the school at the corner, will you?

Dhani suppresses a smile. She walks on.

*** FORTY-FOUR

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. Ekashini is giving Thoithoi a bath in the front yard. She dresses him up for school. On the cabinet is a photograph of her son dressed as Krishna.

THOITHOI: Who's that?

EKASHINI: That's your older brother. That's him playing Krishna. I'll let you play Krishna too. Now, come on, off to school.

*** FORTY-FIVE

Scenes at the zoo. Ekashini and Thoithoi. Exterior. Day.

*** FORTY-SIX

Ekashini's house. DINACHANDRA arrives in the middle of the night.

DINACHANDRA: How about a cup of tea and then I'll take a bath.

EKASHINI: Wouldn't a hot meal be better ?

DINACHANDRA: No, I had a very late lunch.

Dinachandra lights a cigarette. Ekashini goes off to make the tea. The room. Thoithoi is sleeping. He wakes up and sees a bizarre shape on the wall.

THOITHOI:: Mother!

The shadow starts. It is Dinachandra smoking, He squints towards the bed where the sound came from.

The kitchen. Ekashini has finished making tea, She hears Thoithoi calling her. She takes the tea, She gives Dinachandra his tea.

DINACHANDRA: Whose child is that?

EKASHINI: Mine.

She goes to Thoithoi, puts him to bed. She lies down beside him. Dinachandra's looks puzzled.

Ekashini and Thoithoi are sleeping. There is a loud snoring sound.

THOITHOI: Mother, I'm scared. That growling noise.

Ekashini turns towards the other bed. She looks at Dinachandra snoring.

EKASHINI: It's nothing. It’s just your father. Now go to sleep, THOITHOI: No, he's not!

*** FORTY-SEVEN

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. Next morning. Thoithoi is doing his school homework on the verandah. Dinachandra comes out from the house, towel in hand. He has just had his bath. He sees Thoithoi. He sits down in a chair near the door. He looks at the- boy. Thoithoi looks up, He gathers up his books and runs past Dinachandra into the house. Once inside he stops and looks back. Thoithoi runs into the kitchen where Ekashini is making tea. He stands behind her.

THOITHOI: Mother!

EKASHINI: What is it?

THOITHOI: That man is scary.

Amused, Ekashini pours a cup of tea. Thoithoi follows her out of the kitchen, holding on to her skirts. Ekashini goes out to give Dinachandra his tea. Thoithoi stays back. He places his books on the dressing table. Ekashini comes back.

EKASHINI: Chaoba, bring the child's uniform. He'll be late for school,

THOITHOI: Mother, I won't go to school today.

EKASHINI: And why not ?

She takes his school clothes from Chaoba. Thoithoi points to Dinachandra.

THOITHOI: Chase that man away. I don't like him.

EKASHINI: That man? Of course I'll chase him away. Now off to school.

They come out on the verandah.

EKASHINI: Now go with Brother Chaoba today..

She watches them leave.

DINACHANDRA: Where's the kid from?

EKASHINI: From the village where Dhani teaches.

DINACHANDRA: What's he doing here?

EKASHINI: I brought him here.

DINACHANDRA: Whatever for ?

EKASHINI: Just like that. To keep him.

DINACHANDRA: Did Dhani ask you to?

EKASHINI: No.

She goes inside.

DINACHANDRA: Send him back. It'll be awkward if he gets sick, He's too small.

***

FORTY-EIGHT

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. She comes out of the house with the washing. Thoithoi follows her. She goes to the pond and fetches some water. Thoithoi sings as She gets to work.

"Wake up, wake up.
The sun is high --"'

*** FORTY-NINE

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. Afternoon. Dinachandra come home from work. He parks his scooter and goes in.

DINACHANDRA: Chaoba !, Chaoba! He walks into the next room. Chaoba comes up to him.

DINACHANDRA: Why can't you answer? Where's your Aunt?

CHAOBA: She's at the Temple.

Annoyed, Dinachandra walks back into the front room. He lights a cigarette. Chaoba comes up to him.

CHAOBA: Shall I call her?

DINACHANDRA: No.

He takes his jacket out of the closet and puts it on. He combs his hair in front of the mirror. Ekashini comes in with Thoithoi. Dinachandra glances at the child and resumes knotting his tie. Thoithoi glares at him.

EKASHINI: They've begun rehearsing a Ras at the Temple from today. It's to be played for five days. 1'm getting Thoithoi to play Krishna on the final day... - I'll make some tea.

DINACHANDRA: Don't

EKASHINI. Where are you going ?

DINACHANDRA: To Gyaneshwar's. For the 'Sosti' puja.

EKASHINI: Oh dear I Of course ... I'm also invited. But I won't be able to go. I guess it's all right since you are going.

Dinachandra walks off.

*** FIFTY.

Ekashini's house. Interior. That night. Ekashini is waiting for Dinachandra. She is listening to the radio.

DINACHANDRA: Are you there?

Ekashini opens the door. Dinachandra enters. He changes his clothes.

EKASHINI: The hot water's in the kitchen. She goes out.

*** FIFTY-ONE.

Ekashini's house. Interior. Night. The kitchen. Dinachandra comes in and sits down on a rattan stool near the door. Ekashini brings in the washbasin, She pours out some hot water. She washes Dinachandra's feet.

DINACHANDRA: This child you've brought, how did you bring him?

EKASHINI: I simply brought him over.

DINACHANDRA: Whose child is he, does he have parents

EKASHINI: They say his mother's dead.

DINACHANDRA: And his father?

EKASHINI: He is alive. l know him.

DINACHANDRA: Who is he?

EKASHINI: I am not telling.

DINACHANDRA: Now just a minute! Listen to me. Adopting a child is a serious matter. I can't do it simply because you want to. There'll be problems later on.

EKASHINI: Not for this one, there won't. This one's been thrown away. I wanted him. So I picked him up.

DINACHANDRA: What do you know about such things? There's also our son to think of; it could get tricky later on. I've seen so many cases like this. You'll only find yourself in the wrong. And not only that, you'll drag us all in. Call Dhani, I'll talk to her.

EKASHINI: I won't.

DINACHANDRA: Now, now, now... that won't do. Send him back nicely.

EKASHINI: I won't, I tell you! I won't!

DINACHANDRA: What do you mean, you won't?

EKASHINI: I'll manage. It's my headache? don't you bother yourself!

DINACHANDRA: It's not a question of my bothering! What kind of a woman is this,? One can't ever talk to her, for heaven's sake ! She's got to be crazy !

EKASHINI: Crazy! yes I'm crazy!

DINACHANDRA: What's the child to you and why are you so enthusiastic?

EKASHINI: He's nothing to me. When the child clings to me and calls me Mother what do you want me to do? Throw him away? You can do it - you are important people - I can't!
DINACHANDRA: What's this you've come up with now? what kind of logic is this?

EKASHINI: What's the child done to you? What harm's he doing living here? I'm going! if we can't stay, all right, we'll both leave!

DINACHANDRA: Who's asking you to leave? God, what a woman!

Ekashini storms out in tears.

***

FIFTY-ONE A.

Ekashini's house. Interior. Night. Ekashini goes to her bed. She is weeping. Thoithoi is asleep, Ekashini looks at the child.

*** FIFTY-TWO

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. Next morning. Ekashini is dressing Thoithoi on the veranda for the Ras rehearsal, Dinachandra comes out.

DINACHANDRA: I'm calling Dhani.

Ekashini walks off with Thoithoi without answering.

The temple hall. The dance guru is teaching Thoithoi. Other people sit around and watch. Ekashini laughs happily as she watches Thoithoi at his lesson.

***

FIFTY-THREE

Ekashini's house. Interior. Day. Dinachandra is dressing to go out. A voice calls.

PUPU: My daughter ! My daughter! Thoithoi !

Dinachandra comes out. Dinachandra and Pupu stare at each other.

DINACHANDRA: Ekashini and the boy are at the temple. I'll just get them...

PUPU: Just a minute please. I have something to say first.

DINACHANDRA: But...

PUPU: it can wait. Sir, my grandson is a very unlucky child. As it happened he met your wife and he believes she is his mother. And it is indeed our good fortune to be so loved. in these circumstances I couldn't bring myself to take the child back. But it is not as if I forced my grandson in here in your absence. I am a very humble person. But I am not one to whine and plead for the acceptance of a child discarded by his father. It is my grandson's fate to have no parents. But on the other hand, my grandson lacks nothing,-he has me. It's good to have met you. I am taking my grandson home with me today. Please convince your wife.

DINACHANDRA: I'll just go and call them.

He leaves. Pupu sits down on the steps.

*** FIFTY-FOUR A

The temple hall. Exterior. Day. The guru is taking Thoithoi through the dance steps, Ekashini sits with the others. She watches Thoithoi. Dinachandra comes in. He calls Ekashini aside. They leave. Thoithoi follows.

*** FIFTY-FOUR B.

Ekashini's house. Exterior. Day. Pupu is sitting on the steps. The three arrive.

EKASHINI: Uncle!

THOITHOI: Pupu!

Thoithoi runs up to Pupu and snuggles into his lap; Pupu gives him a candy to eat, Dinachandra walks into the house. Ekashini comes up.

EKASHINI: Uncle ! Without a seat even ! Oh I'm so glad you've come. I was going to send a message. Thoithoi is playing Krishna. It's to be presented two nights after Full Moon. You must all come that day Uncle.

PUPU: My daughter, I have something to say to you. You may or may not know, but my daughter wronged you. But you have accepted my grandson. Nothing pleases me more than this. But in these circumstances I feel it is not proper to keep my grandson here any longer. Do not get me wrong my daughter but I wish to take your son with me today. - I have talked to the Sahib as well.

Ekashini keeps standing for a moment. She goes inside. Dinachandra is in the room smoking, a cigarette by the door. Ekashini rages in.

EKASHINI: How? How? Without asking me? How can just the two of you decide? I tell you, No! Never!

She goes out fuming.

EKASHINI: Come along my son!

She takes Thoithoi from Pupu's lap. They walk away. Dinachandra and PUPU are left looking at her. Slowly Pupu gets up and walks back. On the way he pauses at the Temple.

The sound of drums. The dance lesson has resumed. Pupu looks for a long time at Thoithoi following the guru. He wipes his eyes. He leaves. Thoithoi holds a flute in his hand and dances the 'Bhangi'. Ekashini goes to him.

EKASHINI: No, not like that! Like this!

She corrects the little boy.

END