The Great Indian Proposal
SCENE: A drawing room in RANGACHARY ANAND'S house.
[VENKATAKRISHNAN enters; RANGACHARY ANAND rises to meet him.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. Oh who is here I see! Venkatakrishnan! I amextremely glad! Hello…hello….Now this is a surprise, How are you?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Thank you. And how may you be getting on?
RANGACHARY ANAND. We just get along somehow, to your prayers. Sit down, please do. ... Now, you know, you shouldn't forgetall about your neighbours. But why are you so formal in your get-up? Evening. Are you going somewhere special?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. No, I've come only to see you, honoured Rangachary Anand
RANGACHARY ANAND. Then why are you so grandly dressed? Silk Veshti…Angavasthram…(Indian outfit) As if you're paying a Deepavali visit!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Well, you see, it's like this. [Takes his arm] I've come to you, to trouble you with a request. Not once or twice have I already had the privilege of applying to you for help, and you have always, so to speak ... I must ask your pardon, I am getting excited. I shall drink some water[Drinks.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Aside] He's come to borrow money! Shan't give him any! [Aloud] What is it Venkat?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. You see, R…R…ah yes…Rangachary Anand… I beg pardon, I mean, I'm awfully excited, as you notice. ... In short, you alone can help me, though I don't deserve it, of course ... and haven't any right to count on your assistance. ...
RANGACHARY ANAND. Oh, don't go round and round it! Spit it out!Well?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. One moment ... this very minute. The fact is, I've come to ask the hand of your daughter, SANGAVI, in marriage.
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Joyfully] Good Lord! Venkata! Say it again--I didn't hear it all!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I have the honour to ask ...
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Interrupting] My dear fellow ... I'm so glad, and so on. ... Yes, indeed, and all that sort of thing. [Embraces VENKATAKRISHNAN] I've been hoping for it for a long time. It's been my continual desire. [Sheds a tear] And I've always thought of you as if my own son. May God give you both His help and His love and so on, and I did so much hope ... What am I behaving in this idiotic way for? I'm off my balance with joy, absolutely off my balance! Oh, with all my soul ... I'll go and call Sangavi, and all that.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. [Greatly moved] Honoured Rangachary Anand, do you think I may count on her consent?
RANGACHARY ANAND. Why, of course, my darling, and ... as if she won't consent! She's in love; but oh!!!, she's like a love-sick cat, and so on. ... Shan't be long! [Exit.]
VENKATAKRISHNAN. It's cold ... I'm trembling all over, just as if I'd got an examination before me. The great thing is, I must have my mind made up. If I give myself time to think, to hesitate, to talk a lot, to look for an ideal, or for real love, then I'll never get married. ...Brr! ... It's cold!
SANGAVI is an excellent housekeeper, not bad-looking, well-educated. ... What more do I want? But I'm getting a noise in my ears from excitement. [Drinks] And it's impossible for me not to marry. ... In the first place, I'm already 35--a critical age, so to speak. In the second place, I ought to lead a quiet and regular life. ... I suffer from palpitations, I'm excitable and always getting awfully upset. ... At this very moment my lips are trembling, and there's a twitch in my right eyebrow. ...But the very worst of all is the way I sleep. I no sooner get into bed and begin to go off when suddenly something in my left side--gives a pull, and I can feel it in my shoulder and head. ... I jump up like a lunatic, walk about a bit, and lie down again, but as soon as I begin to get off to sleep there's another pull! And this may happen twenty times. ...
[SANGAVI comes in.]
SANGAVI . Well, there! It's you, and appa said, "Go; there's a merchant come for his goods." How do you do, Mr. Venkatakrishnan
VENKATAKRISHNAN. How do you do, Miss SANGAVI ?
SANGAVI. You must excuse apron and untidiness ... we'reshelling peas for drying. Why haven't you been here for such a long time? Sit down. [They seat themselves] Won't you have some lunch?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. No, thank you, I've had some already.
SANGAVI. Then some murukkus. ... No?. ... The weather is splendid now, but yesterday it was so wet that the workmen didn't do anything all day. How much hay have you stacked? Just think, I felt greedy and had a whole field cut, and now I'm not at all pleased about it because I'm afraid my hay may rot. I ought to have waited a bit. But what's this? Why, you're in evening dress! Well, I never! Are you going to a musical, or what?--though I must say you look better. Tell me, why are you got up like that?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. [Excited] You see, Miss SANGAVI ... the fact is, I've made up my mind to ask you to hear me out. ... Of course you'll be surprised and perhaps even angry, but a ... [Aside] It's awfully cold!
SANGAVI What's the matter? [Pause] Well?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I shall try to be brief. You must know, Miss SANGAVI, that I have long, since my childhood, in fact, had the privilege of knowing your family. My late aunt and her husband, from whom, as you know, I inherited my land, always had the greatest respect for your father and your late mother. The Venkatakrishnans and the Rangachary Anands have always had the most friendly, and I might almost say the most affectionate, regard for each other. And, as you know, my land is a near neighbour of yours. You will remember that my Nelangarai Fields touch your paddy fields….
SANGAVI . Excuse my interrupting you. You say, "my Nelangarai Fields. ..." But are they yours?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Yes, mine.
SANGAVI. What are you talking about? Nelangarai fields are ours, not yours!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. No, mine, Miss SANGAVI.
SANGAVI. Well, I never knew that before. How do you make that out?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. How? I'm speaking of those Nelangarai fields which are wedged in between your paddy.
SANGAVI Yes, yes. ... They're ours.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. No, you're mistaken, Miss SANGAVI , they're mine.
SANGAVI. Just think, Mr. Venkat! How long have they been yours?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. How long? As long as I can remember.
SANGAVI. Really, you won't get me to believe that!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. But you can see from the documents, Miss SANGAVI. Nelangarai fields, it's true, were once the subject of dispute, but now everybody knows that they are mine. There's nothing to argue about. You see, my aunt's grandmother gave the free use of these fields in perpetuity to the peasants of your father's grandfather, in return for which they were to make bricks for her. The peasants belonging to your father's grandfather had the free use of the fields for forty years, and had got into the habit of regarding them as their own, when it happened that ...
SANGAVI . No, it isn't at all like that! Both my grandfather and great-grandfather reckoned that their land extended --which means that Nelangarai fields were ours. I don't see what there is to argue about. It's simply silly!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I'll show you the documents, Miss SANGAVI !
SANGAVI. No, you're simply joking, or making fun of me. ...What a surprise! We've had the land for nearly three hundred years,and then we're suddenly told that it isn't ours! Mr. Venkat,I can hardly believe my own ears. ... These fields aren't worth much to me. They are worth perhaps 15 thousand rupees, but I can't stand unfairness. Say what you will, but I can't stand unfairness.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Hear me out, I implore you! The peasants of your father's grandfather, as I have already had the honour of explaining to you, used to bake bricks for my aunt's grandmother. Now my aunt's grandmother, wishing to make them a pleasant ...
SANGAVI I can't make head or tail of all this about aunts and grandfathers and grandmothers! The fields are ours, and that's all.
SANGAVI. Ours! You can go on proving it for two days on end, but I tell you they're ours, ours, ours! I don't want anything of yours and I don't want to give up anything of mine. So there!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. SANGAVI, I don't want the fields, but I am acting on principle. If you like, I'll make you a present of them.
SANGAVI. I can make you a present of them myself, because they're mine! Your behaviour, Mr. Venkat, is strange, to say the least! Up to this we have always thought of you as a good neighbour, a friend: last year we lent you our threshing-machine, although on that account we had to put off our own threshing till November, but you behave to us as if we were gipsies. Giving me my own land, indeed! No, really, that's not at all neighbourly! In my opinion, it's even impudent, if you want to know. ...
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Then you make out that I'm a land-grabber? Madam, never in my life have I grabbed anybody else's land, and I shan't allow anybody to accuse me of having done so. ... [Quickly steps to the carafe and drinks more water] Nelangarai fields are mine!
SANGAVI It's not true, they're ours!
SANGAVI. It's not true! I'll prove it! I'll send my mowers out to the fields this very day!
SANGAVI. My mowers will be there this very day!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I'll give it to them in the neck!
SANGAVI. You dare!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. [Clutches at his heart] Nelangarai fields are mine! You understand? Mine!
SANGAVI. Please don't shout! You can shout yourself hoarse in your own house, but here I must ask you to restrain yourself!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. If it wasn't, madam, for this awful, excruciating palpitation, if my whole inside wasn't upset, I'd talk to you in a different way! [Yells] Nelangarai fields are mine!
[Enter RANGACHARY ANAND.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. What's the matter? What are you shouting at?
SANGAVI. Appa, please tell to this gentleman who owns Nelangarai fields, we or he?
RANGACHARY ANAND. [To VENKATAKRISHNAN] Darling, the fields are ours!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. But, please, Rangachary Anand, how can they be yours? Do be a reasonable man! My aunt's grandmother gave the fields for the temporary and free use of your grandfather's peasants. The peasants used the land for forty years and got as accustomed to it as if it was their own, when it happened that ...
RANGACHARY ANAND. Excuse me, my precious. ... You forget just this, that the peasants didn't pay your grandmother and all that, because the fields were in dispute, and so on. And now everybody knows that they're ours. It means that you haven't seen the plan.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I'll prove to you that they're mine!
RANGACHARY ANAND. You won't prove it.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I shall! And you just think I'm a fool and want to have me on! You call my land yours, and then you want me to talk to you calmly and politely! Good neighbours don't behave like that, Mr. Anand! You're not a neighbour, you're a grabber!
RANGACHARY ANAND. What's that? What did you say?
SANGAVI. Appa, send the mowers out to the fields at once!
RANGACHARY ANAND. What did you say, sir?
SANGAVI. Nelangarai fields are ours, and I shan't give them up, shan't give them up, shan't give them up!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. We'll see! I'll have the matter taken to court, and then I'll show you!
RANGACHARY ANAND. To court? You can take it to court, and all that! You can! I know you; you're just on the look-out for a chance to go to court, and all that. ... You pettifogger! All your people were like that! All of them!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Never mind about my people! The Venkatakrishnans have all been honourable people, and not one has ever been tried for embezzlement, like your grandfather!
RANGACHARY ANAND. You Venkatakrishnans have had lunacy in your family, all of you!
SANGAVI All, all, all!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Your grandfather was a drunkard, and your younger aunt, Lalitha Ramakrishnan, ran away with an architect, and so on.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. And your mother was hump-backed. [Clutches at his heart] Something pulling in my side. ... My head. ... Help! Water!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Your father was a guzzling gambler!
SANGAVI. And there haven't been many backbiters to equal your aunt!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. My left foot has gone to sleep. ... You're an intriguer. ... Oh, my heart! ... And it's an open secret that before the last elections you bri ... I can see stars. ...
SANGAVI. It's low! It's dishonest! It's mean!
RANGACHARY ANAND. And you're just a malicious, double-faced intriguer! Yes!
VENKATAKRISHNAN.. ... My heart! ... Which way? Where's the door? Oh! ... I think I'm dying. ... My foot's quite numb. ...[Goes to the door.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Following him] And don't set foot in my house again!
SANGAVI. Take it to court! We'll see!
[VENKATAKRISHNAN staggers out.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. Devil take him! [Walks about in excitement.]
SANGAVI. What a rascal! What trust can one have in one's neighbours after that!
RANGACHARY ANAND. The villain! The scarecrow!
SANGAVI. The monster! First he takes our land and then he has the impudence to abuse us.
RANGACHARY ANAND. And that blind hen, yes, that turnip-ghost has the confounded cheek to make a proposal, and so on! What? A proposal!
SANGAVI. What proposal?
RANGACHARY ANAND. Why, he came here so as to propose to you.
SANGAVI. To propose? To me? Why didn't you tell me so before?
RANGACHARY ANAND. So he dresses up in evening clothes. That preposterous being! The wizen-faced frump!
SANGAVI. To propose to me? Ah! [Falls into an easy-chair and wails] Bring him back! Back! Ah! Bring him here.
RANGACHARY ANAND. Bring whom here?
SANGAVI . Quick, quick! I'm ill! Fetch him! [Hysterics.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. What's that? What's the matter with you? [Clutches at his head] Oh, unhappy man that I am! I'll shoot myself! I'll hang myself! We've done for her!
SANGAVI. I'm dying! Fetch him!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Tfoo! At once. Don't yell!
[Runs out. A pause. SANGAVI ANANDwails.]
SANGAVI. What have they done to me! Fetch him back! Fetch him! [A pause.]
[RANGACHARY ANAND runs in.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. He's coming, and so on, devil take him! Ouf! Talk to him yourself; I don't want to. ...
SANGAVI. [Wails] Fetch him!
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Yells] He's coming, I tell you. Oh, what a burden, Lord, to be the father of a grown-up daughter! I'll cut my throat! I will, indeed! We cursed him, abused him, drove him out, and it's all you ... you!
SANGAVI. No, it was you!
RANGACHARY ANAND. I tell you it's not my fault. [VENKATAKRISHNAN appears at the door] Now you talk to him yourself [Exit.]
[VENKATAKRISHNAN enters, exhausted.]
VENKATAKRISHNAN. My heart's palpitating awfully. ... My foot's gone to sleep. ...There's something keeps pulling in my side.
SANGAVI. Forgive us, Mr. Venkat, we were all a little heated. ... I remember now: Nelangarai fields really are yours.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. My heart's beating awfully. ... My fields. ... My eyebrows are both twitching. ...
SANGAVI. The Meadows are yours, yes, yours. ... Do sit down. ... [They sit] We were wrong. ...
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I did it on principle. ... My land is worth little to me, but the principle ...
SANGAVI. Yes, the principle, just so. ... Now let's talk of something else.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. The more so as I have evidence. My aunt's grandmother gave the land to your father's grandfather's peasants ...
SANGAVI. Yes, yes, let that pass. ... [Aside] I wish I knew how to get him started. ... [Aloud] Are you going to start theatre soon?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I'm thinking of it, Miss SANGAVI , after the harvest. Oh, have you heard? Just think, what a misfortune I've had! My dog Munnuswamy, whom you know, has gone lame.
SANGAVI. What a pity! Why?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I don't know. ... Must have got twisted, or bitten by some other dog. ... [Sighs] My very best dog, to say nothing of the expense. I gave twenty thousand rupees for him.
SANGAVI. It was too much, Mr.Venkat.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I think it was very cheap. He's a first-rate dog.
SANGAVI. Appa gave 15thousand rupees for his Kandaswamy, and he is heaps better than Munnuswamy!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Kandaswamy better than. Munnuswamy? What an idea! [Laughs] Kandaswamy better than Munnuswamy!
SANGAVI. Of course he's better! Of course, Kandaswamy is young, he may develop a bit, but on points and pedigree he's better than anything
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Excuse me, Miss SANGAVI, but you forget that he is overshot, and an overshot always means the dog is a bad hunter!
SANGAVI. Overshot, is he? The first time I hear it!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I assure you that his lower jaw is shorter than the upper.
SANGAVI. Have you measured?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Yes. He's all right at following, of course, but if you want him to get hold of anything ...
SANGAVI. In the first place, our Kandaswamy is a thoroughbred animal, the son of Harness and Chisels, while there's no getting at the pedigree of your dog at all. ... He's old and as ugly as a worn-out cab-horse.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. He is old, but I wouldn't take five Kandaswamys for him. ... Why, how can you? ... Munnuswamy is a dog; as for Kandaswamy, well, it's too funny to argue. ... Anybody you like has a dog as good as Kandaswamy ... you may find them under every bush almost. 50 rupees would be a handsome price to pay for him.
SANGAVI. There's some demon of contradiction in you to-day, Mr. Venkat. First you pretend that Nelangarai fields are yours; now, that Munnuswamy is better than Kandaswamy. I don't like people who don't say what they mean, because you know perfectly well that Kandaswamy is a hundred times better than your silly Munnuswamy. Why do you want to say it isn't?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I see, Miss SANGAVI , that you consider me either blind or a fool. You must realize that Kandaswamy is overshot!
SANGAVI. It's not true.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. He is!
SANGAVI. It's not true!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Why shout, madam?
SANGAVI. Why talk rot? It's awful! It's time your Munnuswamy was shot, and you compare him with Kandaswamy!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Excuse me; I cannot continue this discussion: my heart is palpitating.
SANGAVI. I've noticed that those people argue most who know least.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Madam, please be silent. ... My heart is going to pieces. ... [Shouts] Shut up!
SANGAVI. I shan't shut up until you acknowledge that Kandaswamy is a hundred times better than your Munnuswamy!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. A hundred times worse! Be hanged to your Kandaswamy! His head ... eyes ... shoulder ...
SANGAVI. There's no need to hang your silly Munnuswamy; he's half-dead already!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. [Weeps] Shut up! My heart's bursting!
SANGAVI. I shan't shut up.
[Enter RANGACHARY ANAND.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. What's the matter now?
SANGAVI. Papa, tell us truly, which is the better dog, our Kandaswamy or his Munnuswamy.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Rangachary Anand, I implore you to tell me just one thing: is your Kandaswamy overshot or not? Yes or no?
RANGACHARY ANAND. And suppose he is? What does it matter? He's the best dog in the district for all that, and so on.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. But isn't my Munnuswamy better? Really, now?
RANGACHARY ANAND. Don't excite yourself, my precious one. ... Allow me. ... Your Munnuswamy certainly has his good points. ... He's pure-bred, firm on his feet, has well-sprung ribs, and all that. But, my dear man, if you want to know the truth, that dog has two defects: he's old and he's short in the muzzle.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Excuse me, my heart. ... Let's take the facts. ... You will remember that once my Munnuswamy ran neck-and-neck with the Governer's dog, while your Kandaswamy was left a whole verse behind.
RANGACHARY ANAND. He got left behind because the Governer's whipper-in hit him with his whip.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. And with good reason. The dogs are running after a fox, when Kandaswamy goes and starts worrying a sheep!
RANGACHARY ANAND. It's not true! ... My dear fellow, I'm very liable to lose my temper, and so, just because of that, let's stop arguing. You started because everybody is always jealous of everybody else's dogs. Yes, we're all like that! You too, sir, aren't blameless! You no sooner notice that some dog is better than your Munnuswamy than you begin with this, that ... and the other ... and all that. ... I remember everything!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I remember too!
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Teasing him] I remember, too. ... What do you remember?
VENKATAKRISHNAN. My heart ... my foot's gone to sleep. ... I can't ...
SANGAVI. [Teasing] My heart. ... What sort of a man are you? You ought to go and lie on the kitchen oven and catch blackbeetles! My heart!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Yes really, what sort of a man are you, anyway? You ought to sit at home with your palpitations. Anyways…Let's change the subject in case I lose my temper.
VENKATAKRISHNAN. And are you a man? ... You're an intriguer!
RANGACHARY ANAND. What? I an intriguer? [Shouts] Shut up!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Boy! Pup!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Old rat!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Shut up or I'll shoot you! You fool!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Everybody knows that--oh my heart!--your late wife used to beat you. ... My feet ... temples ... sparks. ... I fall, I fall!
RANGACHARY ANAND. And you're under the slipper of your housekeeper!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. There, there, there ... my heart's burst! My shoulder's come off. ... Where is my shoulder? I die. [Falls into an armchair] A doctor! [Faints.]
RANGACHARY ANAND. Boy! Milksop! Fool! I'm sick! [Drinks water] Sick!
SANGAVI. [To her father] Appa, what's the matter with him? Appa! Look, Appa! [Screams] Mr. Venkat! He's dead!
RANGACHARY ANAND. Who's dead? [Looks at VENKATAKRISHNAN] So he is! My word! Water! A doctor! [Lifts a tumbler to VENKATAKRISHNAN'S mouth] Drink this! ... No, he doesn't drink. ... It means he's dead, and all that. ... I'm the most unhappy of men! Why don't I put a bullet into my brain? Why haven't I cut my throat yet? What am I waiting for? Give me a knife! Give me a pistol! [VENKATAKRISHNAN moves] He seems to be coming round. ... Drink some water! That's right. ...
VENKATAKRISHNAN. I see stars ... mist. ... Where am I?
RANGACHARY ANAND. Hurry up and get married and--well, to the devil with you! She's willing! [He puts VENKATAKRISHNAN'S hand into his daughter's] She's willing and all. I give you my blessing and so on. Only leave me in peace!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. [Getting up] Eh? What? To whom?
RANGACHARY ANAND. She's willing! Well? Get married and be damned you two!
SANGAVI. [Wails] He's alive. . . Yes, yes, I'm willing. ...
RANGACHARY ANAND. Well, touch his feet my dear Sangavi!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. Eh? Who? Oh! Excuse me, what's it all about? Oh, now I understand ... my heart ... stars ... I'm happy. Oh Sangavi, I am most happiest….but my foot's gone to sleep. ...
SANGAVI. I ... I'm happy too. ...
RANGACHARY ANAND. What a weight off my shoulders. ... Ouf!
SANGAVI. But ... still you will admit now that Munnuswamy is worse than Kandaswamy.
RANGACHARY ANAND. Well, that's a way to start your family bliss! Have some sweets!
VENKATAKRISHNAN. He's better!
SANGAVI. Worse! Worse! Worse!
RANGACHARY ANAND. [Trying to shout her down] Can we have some Laddus? Laddus! Laddus!