Sunday, 15 June 2014

Boiled Beans on Toast, A Play - Girish Karnad

The name of the play suggests that Girish Karnad loves making or eating boiled beans on toast but it is not so. Obviously. No character in the narrative eats boiled beans on toast either. 

Boiled Beans on Toast is a story based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. On one hand it shows citizens being fed up of the construction and traffic of the city and on the other hand, inquisitive migrants who enjoy observing these things.  This story is also about how people go to metropolitan cities to live their dreams but sometimes their dreams shatter and the reflection cannot be seen, even in a million broken fragments. The play doesn't seek to impart any morals to the readers but is a view of the city without sunglasses.

It portrays the different economic segments of the society and their lives.The upper caste of the society doesn't believe in the caste system. The middle class believes in it. Nowadays, belief in the caste system is looked down upon. The lower caste is the least bothered about all this. But it is clear from the narrative that it is still present in Bengaluru.

The characters in this book are very entertaining.

Starting from the topmost leaf of the family tree, the Grandmother- Anusuya has only one past time. Betting in Horse Races. She studies the pedigree of each horse before placing a bet and gradually ends up pawning her jewellery to get 2.5 lakhs for betting. Anusuya isn't the regular religious Grandma but indeed a very interesting character.

Mr. Padabidri is a business tycoon.

His wife Anjana Padabidri is the rich, idle housewife. To spend her free time, she visits a Karunashraya which means an 'abode of compassion' and is for the care of advanced stage cancer patients. She is very hospitable to guests and loves treating them to a hot cup of chai (tea). In earlier days, Anjana was a veena player and sang  the compositions of a famous saint. She used to spend time with her Bengali neighbour and learnt Rabindra Sangeet from him in her previous home since her husband didn't have much time for her. Anjana tried to kill herself and her son by eating sleeping pills after the neighbour left. Clearly, she was in love with him. Miraculusly, she didn't die.She stopped singing after that and later on, only sang in the Karunashraya.

Kunaal Padabidri, the son of Anjana and Mr. Padabidri is a veena player but plays the guitar as a rebel. He has a girlfriend Nandita and he spends some nights at her house against his parents' wishes. He supports the Grandmother when she pawns her jewellery. He wants to make a career in music.

Dolly, Anjana's friend and Vimala, Anjana's maidservant are the villains in the story.

Dolly spends most of her free time in Anjana's house. Dolly sends Prabhakar, a man who comes to join Mr. Padabidri's office to Singapore by telling him that he would get a job in Wipro. Prabhakar isn't scheduled for a proper interview and even after negotiating, he isn't able to get a job, all because of Dolly. He even lost the job he was doing before going to Singapore. Dolly makes people dream that they are very close to achieving their goals and fulfilling their hopes and aspirations but eventually, shatters them. She also tries to send a dance teacher in a school to the Trinity Laban Dance School in London, but we all know the consequences of this. Dolly messes with other people's lives because her own life is in a mess. Dolly is also beaten up by her husband regularly.

Vimala, a maidservant is accused of stealing jewellery from another house in which she works. She owns a scooter, can con the cops because she is adept at lying and it is very difficult to find out where she lives. The anonymity that the city offers, provides a convenient cover to her. At one point of time in the play, Kunaal considers to have Vimala as his girlfriend. She accuses Muttu who is the second maidservant at the Padabidri household of stealing her job when the Padabidris suspect her behaviour. Vimala blackmails Muttu by telling her that her brother, Shankara is lying wounded in the hospital but doesn't reveal the name of the hospital.

Muttu's family is very tight on money and she and her husband are barely able to call 30 people for their daughter's wedding. The food goes uneaten on the wedding because a family feud breaks out but let's not go into that right now.

To know the characters better and uncover the rest of the things not mentioned, do read the play. The ending of the narrative is very vague though. There are many stories going on in the play simultaneously, but they don't seem to connect in the end. Kunaal's new composition is titled 'Big  Bang Bangalore is a Big Black Hole' after he realizes that all of them are insignificant in a huge city like Bengaluru and the fact that the world would have gone on even if some person say 'xyz' didn't exist in the world.

This play has been enacted as a Marathi adaptation -'Uney Purey Shahar Ek' for a theatre company - 'Aasakta'.

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