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Drama || A Moon of Jupiter (Pothik Bagchi)

Painting: Ava Bird

SCENE ONE

Two men post an informal dinner. The setting is a drawing room. The background has the impression of a starry night – a blank canvas dotted with bluish-white, red and green dots, twinkling as if stars. There are two couches on the stage. A man in his early 40s in a tinted suit sit on stage left and an older gentleman over 60 sits on stage right. The elder gentleman is wearing a peculiarly designed, off-white dressing gown. He is drinking some sort of liquor. A low, ornate table rests between the two couches. There are unconventional-looking bottles of liquor on the table, a transparent ice-container, and a bright table lamp with enough light to fairly illuminate the two gentlemen. At the beginning of the play, the ‘stars’ and this lamp is the only source of light. With the play’s progress, a generic spotlight will slowly fill the frontal area of the stage with the two couches.  

Kallol (the younger man): You must understand, Professor, like everyone else I can easily imagine the distant past – the uncivil, wretched society, claiming they were civilized while living as mere probabilities in a random game of dice. Humans had all but given up hope and simply worked, used their brains to tuck themselves inside as safe a shell as they could. Even scientifically, their minds were quick to imagine the grandest of possibilities – but seldom did they try and believe in one so completely as to transform it into reality. It had learned how to multiply, and it was yet to learn how to multiply. They failed to design, control and direct their own thoughts. Yes, there were the masters of the Art of living, defining their success through achievements that might deserve a sincere bow, but you must agree with me when I say this, Professor, they were primitive beings – they didn’t particularly deserve the eventual gift that they received.

Professor: Yes, that is a theory. I don’t mean your final sentence of course. But the point you made has been reflected in some recent research. The point is to implicate that our great evolution was a gift. As you know, the scientific community largely believes in the theory propagated by ancient thinker Charles Darwin. Natural Selection is a truth that I, personally, do not believe that even our ‘great evolution’ can disprove.

Kallol: On the contrary, Professor, Natural Selection by definition is as random as nature itself. Yes, we have the ability of precognition to identify the vilely termed calamities of nature through our senses, but it has been historically documented that those humans, our revered ancestors, had no such sense of impending, potentially catastrophic events whatsoever. They feared the random because they had such little control over their surroundings. How could they realise the beauty of it when they suffer by the very hands of the same? Saying calamities to define a  fact of nature may practically be an offence now but can we really not see their point?

Professor: Firstly, my dear Kallol, you have completely misinterpreted Natural Selection. It is not randomness that is at the core of the idea, it is the theory of Survival of the fittest! So, yes, evolution does imply that they… we… did deserve the leap we achieved! In any case, I was not expecting you to defend them on any count. I am pleasantly surprised, Kallol. And yes, I do see your point. They were a brilliant lot, not as intelligent perhaps, but possessing immense potential all the same! They were primitive in the sense that they repeatedly went in circles as far as their mistakes were concerned, yes. They could appreciate everything that was good in the world, but had little patience or potency to sustain that goodness as a race. Any perceived obstacle was met with anxiety, disappointment or rage. They may have known the value of forgiveness, unto others and oneself, but we have the means to reap its worth! It happens to be one of the best ways to get to the truth, as I remember mentioning in class, not that you’d pay any attention!

Kallol: Yes, I must admit I found them to be quite a bore. It wasn’t your content, or opinions that would take me adrift, it was your sheer ability to take all the worth out of the lessons that you would inevitably try and quantify.

Professor (laughs): I am a dedicated man of science, Kallol! You do realise most of us do not subscribe to the allure of the ‘performing arts’ as you have chosen to display, dropping out of Structural Philosophy to pursue Drama… but the true artist that you claim to be, surely you realise the absolute poetic harmony of basic mathematics, even?

Kallol: Forgive me for failing to realise you were creating poetry in class, Sir, but you must admit it is rather strange that there is no recorded history of this evolution at all! Where is the study? Where are the proofs? And since it is not here, why is it not here? That race has painstakingly documented every moment of their individual lives. They would take countless images of themselves, make motion pictures, script volumes of autobiographies that other people would read, wasting hours of the precious little time they had… And yet, there is no clear documentation of the evolution that changed their very being. The documentation stops like a thousand year war which did not have any logic to cease…

Professor: On the contrary, Kallol, the logic is right in front of you. We, as the human race, have evolved from the pathological need to preserve. We have learnt to look to the future only because of the truths that we gained as the collective human race, because of the way we tapped into the potential of our mind, our memory… You must remember the constraints of our ancestors. They would fantasize about travelling to planets, colonizing them, they would wonder about teleportation, telekinesis. And here we are…

The professor empties his glass and puts it down on the table. Then he takes a little breather and points his finger towards the bottle, which naturally begins to hover in the air, pouring liquor into the glass and after it is done, the bottle reverts back to its original place, on the professor’s cue of hand.

Professor: Would you like another? (Kallol nods in the negative, takes out a cigarette box from his coat and lights one) Now, if I did that in the 21st, 22nd century, they would call it magic! A mere performing art. Being an artist, don’t you ever wonder why you are no longer as relevant as you obviously were back then? It is simple, really. Because art isn’t relevant anymore. Art is not a necessity in an evolved, perfect society, Kallol. You are intelligent, you are a human… you do realise that, I suppose!

Kallol: You are against preservation, yet you happen to be a trustee of the Human Historical Preservation society.

Professor: Being a trustee of the HHP is an important social identity for me. It gives me certain leverage with the people who matter, I’m sure you understand that, Kallol. I don’t, like most members of our community, believe in revisiting the past. But that does not mean that we do not respect it, and respect our ancient’s juvenile desire to be preserved.

Kallol offers the Professor a cigarette as he finishes the drink. The professor takes it. Kallol points to the bottle, which jerks alive again, more dramatically this time, and fills the Professor’s glass to the brim. It seemed like the glass would spill over, but Kallol retracts the trajectory of the glass at the last moment and signals it back to its original place. The Professor notices this.

Professor: Speaking of revisits, you have been quite a loyal patron of the HHP, I hear.

Kallol: Yes, I’ve been visiting the centre for a while. In fact, the reason I came to visit you this evening is so you can accompany me to Io.

Professor: The HHP? At this hour? What for?

Kallol:I have a theory. I am not a man of numbers, and there is the necessity of one who can be as, calculating, as you can be. Besides, this is not my field. If you do like the theory, you have my complete assent to claim it to the world as your own.

Professor (twirling the glass slowly): And what is the theory, my dear?

Kallol: I’m afraid I can only tell you that once we are in Io.

Professor: Very well (dumps the rest of the liquor, burps). I’m not sure I’m appropriately dressed for it… but it’s unmanned anyway, so who cares? Shall we leave, then?

Kallol: I’ll be in the photographic archives.

With the sound of a bang, darkness hogs the stage all of a sudden, before light returns to signal that the two men are gone. The couches are empty.

 

SCENE TWO

A fast slideshow cover a large area of the background canvas, featuring images from known human history, from the Jurassic to the modern era. An animated projection shows the huge facade of the planet Jupiter on the darkened roof of the auditorium. There are two straight backed chairs instead of the couches, again with a table (a futuristic , metallic one) between them.

 The two men converge near the slideshow from their respective sides. Kallol from stage left and the Professor from stage right. The professor finishes the cigarette, puts it out under his foot.

Kallol motions towards the slideshow and it stops at an image of Gautam Buddha. The changes in the slideshow will be preceded by motions of Kallol’s hand.

Kallol: Would you happen to know this man, Sir?

Professor: He’s familiar, yes, but I don’t think I recall him exactly.

Kallol: How about him? (Krishna), Or him? (Jesus), Or… (Chaitanya)

Professor: I believe they were all entities associated with the religious beliefs of our ancestors. Our evolution has enabled us to forgo that particular weakness…  Please do not tell me you are about to defend religion, Kallol! There are rehabilitation centres for people who think like that! I believe in a divine creator as much as the next person, but surely you do not imply that there were incarnations, messengers or children of God who came to save humanity from time to time! Segregated beliefs had been the biggest divisive force for our ancestors, Kallol!

Kallol: That I don’t deny. But there is something about these people that make them more similar to us than they were to the ancients!

Professor (guffaws): I’ve heard this argument before, I have! You are implying that they had shown traits of the evolution before it actually occurred. They were charlatans, Kallol! At best, performing artists hypnotising a gullible mob who had no means of knowing any better! Unlike us, they would drink to their misery, Kallol! They were thirsty for the hope that these people… these leaders… were peddling for profit!

Kallol: What really happened on February 22nd, 2222, Professor?

Professor (taken aback): What does that have to do with -?

Kallol: We never learned to stop thinking about profit, did we? Even as we stand here, you in your nightdress, there was something that motivated you enough to come here, is it not?

Professor: Now, Kallol, it is my mere curiosity that brings me here and nothing else. Even if your theory is worth the entire wealth of collective human knowledge, I would never claim it –

Kallol: I’m sorry I had to lie to you, Professor, but I do not have a theory… (flicks fingers, the slideshow vanishes. Kallol sits on the chair to stage right)

Professor, irate, charges and Kallol. He comes forward to grasp the back of the chair on stage left.

Professor: Do you mean to say you have lied to me to bring me all the way to this freaking corner of the solar system? I am leaving right now, I must insist that you stop visiting me from here on.

Kallol: What happened on the 22nd of February, Professor?

Professor (bursts): Everyone knows what happened! Humanity stopped the mind-numbing, wasteful task of writing its own history! They were under the impression that they were doing it for posterity and whatnot, but they eventually realized that they were doing it solely to fill their inflated egos. They evolved, damn it! They finally evolved!

Kallol: You’re lying, professor! Evolution hasn’t taken away our urge to document history. There is none who peddles largely inconsequential information anymore, people may not write autobiographies too often but your office itself has walls of portraits displaying the previous Deans of your institution. Do you seriously ask me to believe you do not feel a strange satisfaction, in spite of your evolved mind, when you think that even after death, you will be remembered in your chamber of authority?

Professor (calms down, sits on the chair): Documentation without purpose is a fruitless rationale, Kallol! Good work needs to be remembered as surely as the opposite is to be forgotten.

Kallol: Yes, our evolved memory does permit that. Ah, the forgetful humans… But we do have a choice, professor. We have the capability of turning the dark into something that is as glorious as the human mind itself. Our ancestors realised that.

Professor: Poff! You’re about to bring up Art again, aren’t you? It doesn’t turn something bad into something that is good, my dear fellow – it’s like a radiation spill. What you celebrate as Art, my friend, is a result of your mind failing to function as the perfect piece of technology that it is so it can be used to achieve what is beyond our realm of understanding! It is not a gadget for recycling, Kallol, which it becomes then! We have the responsibility of using it well and we are finally able to do so! Do you never wonder why the art of our age is aeons behind even the weakest of the work that is safely stored in this moon? (gestures to indicate the entire preservation centre) Our minds are our original and greatest gifts, unlike evolution, which is a natural process! Evolution showed us how to use them well!

Kallol: But that does not explain why it is unclear whether the ancients woke up one day and found they had our extraordinary powers… or worked assiduously in order to achieve them. Did you really never know, Professor, that some of these men (points at the empty projection canvas which begins to display silhouettes of men such as Krishna, Buddha and more while a high pitched, low tune begins) have reportedly been evolved enough to function almost the way that we do. They had mastery over their minds… had abilities that received a linguistic definition not because of the fertile imagination that they possessed, but because the other humans caught them at it! Can you really deny, professor, that February 22, 2222 –

Professor: You are not supposed to know what you are talking about… and for your concern, I insist that you stop your interrogation right NOW!

After a pause, Kallol speaks

Kallol: It was a Friday. The date was hard to miss, being a palindrome of seven repeating digits. I merely ask why the ancients chose to cease obsessively recording events of humankind on that particular day…  Why is there no record of anything that happened during the intervening 1500 years? Where did all those countries go? If they realized the fruitlessness of borders, why isn’t that glorious enlightenment a part of these records? Where are the missing records, Professor? I merely ask because I know for a fact that you know!

Professor stands up. He is visibly livid.

Professor: Your theory stops here, Kallol! If there is a conspiracy to hide, you should understand that there is a reason why it is hidden! You don’t know anything about that Infernal Friday – nothing at all!

Kallol: I do know some things, professor. And that is what baffles me. I know of the hundred year war, the fall of empires, the rise of humans and the subsequent desire to go extinct, before it stood up again, refusing to die. What I do not know is at what point during these events the evolution started? Of course, I have a theory. Would you like to hear it?

Professor sits down, gives an exasperated sigh. Slowly extends his hand to the pack and cigarettes and lighter on Kallol’s end of the table and lights one.

Kallol: It was, as I said, a gift! We can never know from whom, but it was a gift nevertheless. A gift that humanity received as suddenly as a cold in winter. They reckoned it was a disease, of course, barely understanding what the gift meant. The reactions were far from uniform. While some began seeing themselves as demigods, others could identify the truth among the variables. The war was inevitable, it is a consort of truth, or outgoing lies if you prefer… the rest of what happened was, as you claim, evolution!

Professor (the music will start to fall): Since there is no documentation of a hundred year war (voice rises from here), rise of empires, fall of humans and a desire to destroy, your theory is nothing more than a story, you stupid boy! (Tries to calm himself) Why, tell me why is it so hard to accept that February 22, 2222 was simply the day of realization… one small step… a realization that it is futile to record and record and waste the present on the past and to take for granted the most wondrous thing ever conceived in nature… why is it hard to accept that we made a breakthrough on understanding life itself on that particular day… why?

 A lengthy silence. Kallol stands up and begins to speak as the concluding musical score begins, which is a sombre tune that has a coy start but a steep ascent.

Kallol: Because you are denying our minds to expand the way it naturally should. You are praising evolution but consciously attempting, at every juncture, to control the process. Have we not realised yet that the best way our minds have functioned is not by directing it, but losing oneself in the process? And yet you have chosen to replace the chaos with a system that has as chaotic an inception as the one it replaced… one so contrary to the values we convince our evolved minds to be the truth that they begged to be hidden away, farther even than the moon of Jupiter… farther than the Solar System itself, perhaps?

Professor: I don’t know what you are talking about…

Kallol (meaningfully, giving a sideways glance to the professor): I know…

The characters appear to freeze. Jupiter starts spinning in the ‘sky’. As the music rises, the light twinkles like lightning strikes all over the stage. At one point, the two characters are no longer seen on the stage.

Curtain


First Published: CultureCult Magazine, Issue Two: November 2015

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