Setting: A modest flat in a Mumbai suburb
Ram Deo
Assorted neighbors of various ages

Ambulance Driver

Scene 1
(Rita is bustling about in the kitchen, warming up dinner items from the fridge. Naresh, her husband, is working on his laptop wearing headphones.  A piercing scream breaks this tranquil domestic scene.)

RITA:  Again! Hear it Naresh! There she goes. That terrible scream.
(No reaction from Naresh)
RITA:  Naresh! Do something. That woman is screaming again. We have to do something. She shakes Naresh by the shoulders.
NARESH:  Oh Rita, I was in the middle of preparing for tomorrow’s presentation. (Takes off headphones) Kindly tell me why do you always disturb me like this?
RITA:  I do not. This is almost dinner time.
NARESH: Yes. So what’s for dinner? Mutton?
RITA: Na! I did not buy mutton. We are having sambar rice today. But did you hear that awful scream? We must do something.  
NARESH: I did not hear anything. Anyway why worry about stuff we cannot control. We don’t know any of our neighbors. I do not care to either. We are busy.
RITA:  So we are. But still.. should we not inform the police?
NARESH: Are you out of your mind? They will question you for hours before they even write any complaints. You have no concrete grounds. Stop watching all those feminist junk. Let’s get on with dinner sweet heart, I have a big day tomorrow.  I may have an edge when the new manager’s vacancy opens up next month.
RITA:  Dinner is almost ready. Go wash up and help me with salad.
NARESH: Sure thing. I will be back in a jiffy.

(Rita absent-mindedly starts garnishing the sambar with cilantro and gets startled when she hears another muffled groan. A male voice, trying to hush someone she thought. Naresh returns and gives her a hug from behind but appears perplexed when Rita crouches near the window to hear more.)

NARESH: Rita! Get away from the window at once. You are being foolish. You need to stop watching reality shows.  Pay some attention to me, your husband. Ha Ha!
RITA: Everything is a joke with you Naresh. I am telling you there is someone in trouble….  Come get your dinner, the sambar is getting cold.
NARESH : Yes, I have had enough of this. Let’s have dinner. My colleague Deshpande might come over for a beer later.  Do we have some in stock or do I have to run down and get some?
RITA:  We are well stocked. God forbid, we run out of beer of all things.

(An hour has passed.The doorbell sounds.  Deshpande walks in, greets Rita and comments on her worried look.)

DESHPANDE: What bhabiji? Looking so glum shum.  My friend here not taking care of you?
(Rita frowns, feels annoyed as she detects Deshpande’s condescending tone but decides against voicing her opinion.)
RITA: No bhai, I am fine. You two work on your presentation, I will go inside watch my show.
NARESH:  Too much TV, too little to do. She has started imagining things.
DESHPANDE: Imagining things? What kind of things?
NARESH: She says someone is being tortured next door. Now even if it is true, we don’t have proof.
DESHPANDE:  Are e yaar!  Naresh you are too soft. Women are foolish , don’t upset yourself. She will come around. Take her out for dinner, catch a movie. Come, let’s brainstorm on ideas for tomorrow’s presentation. Got beer?
NARESH: You are right. Let’s get on with the presentation prep. We don’t have all night. Women invent problems when there are none.

Scene 2

(Next morning. Rita is sitting down with a cup of coffee, glancing at the newspaper headlines.  The maid has arrived some time back. She is now mopping the floor, dipping a cloth in murky water. A dog barks.)

RITA:  Parul, change the water for every room.
PARUL: Yes memsabji.
RITA:  Why are you moving so slow today? Let me see, what is wrong with your eyes.
PARUL: Nothing memsab.
RITA: What rubbish. Let me see. God! Who hit you?
PARUL: The father of my boy, Hari. He was drinking arrack.
RITA:  Let me put some antibiotic cream on you. You must stop or leave him if he hits you again.
PARUL: This is my destiny memsaabji.  At least he is there to protect me.
RITA: Protect you indeed!
(A loud crash stops both women in their track. Followed by low moans. The dog keeps on barking.)

RITA:  I must put a stop to this. Parul come with me. Why does the dog bark so much?
PARUL: Yes memsaab.  Someone needs to take him out to do his business.
(Both women go and ring the doorbell next door. No answer.
They strain to hear, ears near the door.)

PARUL:  I hear something. Someone scratching the door.
RITA: Yes yes. She bangs on the door. Bahenji! Open the door.
PARUL:  Memsabji dorwaja kholiye (Madam! Open the door!)
(This time they both hear a distinct moan.)

PARUL: (Moving with astonishing speed) Rita memsab, I will get the doorman.
RITA: Yes. We have to force open this door.
(Parul runs to the elevator and soon arrives with the doorman.
Doorman looks reluctant to force open the door but Rita insists. She gains confidence as other neighbors gather and urges the doorman. The door opens to a scene of utter chaos. Furniture is turned upside down. The neighbor appears nearly unconscious. She looks bruised from head to toe.  Someone dials for the ambulance.)

Parul:  Saab log bhi eeisa harami hote haai? (Even gentlemen are such bastards?) 

(Rita steps in the ambulance with the battered woman. For once, she blocks out the thought of Naresh and his continuous disapproval. She looked straight ahead, chin up, eyes dry.)



No comments:

Blogger Widgets
Powered by Blogger.