Description

Published date: 1 November 2017

In a trench in Marseille the loyalty of three Indian soldiers is tested when the legendary Madame Cama asks them to surrender for the good of the motherland. Will carrying on the fight really prove their loyalty to the crown? Or is the battle for Indian independence the real fight that should be had?

This podcast is one of five short plays produced in response to documents held at The National Archives relating to the experiences of people from South Asia at the time of the First World War. The series was created by five playwrights from the Tamasha Developing Artists (TDA) programme and funded by the Friends of The National Archives.

Written by: Sharmila Chauhan

Directed by: Anthony Simpson-Pike

Performed by: Peter Singh, Naveed Khan, Sid Sagar, Balvinder Sopal and Jim Conway

Recorded, edited and sound designed by: Robbie MacInnes

Photo credits: Bettina Adela

With thanks to Iqbal Husain and Sara Griffiths at The National Archives; and Fin Kennedy and Mina Maisuria at Tamasha Theatre.

Transcription

This is a transcript for the audio recording of ‘Cama’, a play by Sharmila Chauhan
Stage directions for this play are marked with square brackets.
TARIK
I see something! What is that? A figure hidden in the darkness, walking towards us. Is it Death himself? Come to take me before the wretched dawn comes? Gently approaching, soft as a baby’s breath… Argh! What am I doing? Must be going crazy! Eh, Rajesh come, come sit down…
Fine be stubborn. But when your haunches are sore you will fall into the dirt with those rats…
And all the shit down there. Nothing. Nothing there at all. What am I doing? Must be going crazy!
[RAJESH moans]Eh, Tajpal brother – wake up… Is that how you prepare? With your eyes closed, dreaming the time away. [TAJPAL doesn’t stir] Wake up brother – see the light is leaking through the sky…

[Sound of pee]

TARIK (cont’d)
You will freeze – your piss will free like icicles in this wretched cold… They will fall off your backside as you walk. Eh, praaa – please. Look at the Boy – he’s pissed himself.

TAJPAL
Bloody hell.

TARIK
This is what happens if you sleep on the job…

TAJPAL
Did he eat anything yet? Please Rajesh, let me help you?

[RAJESH stands slowly, lifting his haunches, TAJPAL assists him. His clothes are blood splattered and now his trousers are wet.]

TAJPAL (cont’d)
Come… And you’re polishing your gun?

TARIK
Preparing. Not polishing. There is a difference.

TAJPAL
It all means the same in the end.

TARIK
To the naive eye – yes.

TAJPAL
Polish all you like – but we need to decide what to do about Rajesh…

TARIK
What can be done?

TAJPAL
He can’t defend himself. In the battle.

TARIK
Wrap him up in this…

TARIK (cont’d)
I have some cotton for his ears.

TAJPAL
And if the Germans capture us?

TARIK
That’s why I’m preparing.

TAJPAL
Your Qu’ran in exchange for our lives?

TARIK
Germans are bloody bastards. We’ll finish the job ourselves. We have surprise on our side. Allah will see to it…

TAJPAL
Will there be no end to the White hunger?

TARIK
It’s not a hunger it’s a war praa.

TAJPAL
No it’s a hunger – a dark hunger for life.

TARIK
Eventually gluttony leads to indigestion and a belly ache.

RAJESH
Mother, mother…

TARIK
You were smiling, in your sleep… Tell me what did you see? At the nape of her neck, her hair is soft and fine.

TARIK (cont’d)
Like silk
TAJPAL
Soft as silk, like a baby’s.
TARIK
Like silk.

TAJPAL
The plait is thick and fat, pulled around the side, flowing over her breast…

TARIK
Over the breast

TAJPAL
Over the breast, towards her navel. It moves as she walks… gently swaying…

TARIK
Who goes there?

TARIK (cont’d)
Carry on praa. Rajesh is enjoying….

TAJPAL
Don’t rush me! We must undress bit by bit.

RAJESH
Mother, mother… help me… Mother, is it time for sleep?

TAJPAL
Yes, yes – time for sleep. Don’t you hear the birds? Singing their last songs… Now you must sleep.
Forget…
TAJPAL (cont’d)
Just rest now…

[RAJESH begins to nod off. Figure dressed in as a soldier hurriedly enters the trench. TARIK cocks his gun, TAJPAL hides… It is Madame Cama in disguise. She brandishes a leaflet with BANDE MATRAM on it. TARIK lowers his gun slightly, takes the leaflet – reads it carefully.]

MADAME CAMA
Bande Matram!

TARIK
Bande Matram! Hail Mother!

TARIK (cont’d)
One god, one country, one language; one race, one being, one hope.

TAJPAL
A woman?

TARIK
Madam Cama… See praa, the paper… It is Madam’s – what I’ve been telling you about. I told you I saw her once.

TAJPAL
We are about to go to battle sister. Why are you here?

MADAME CAMA
Loyalty to Great Britain is treachery to India…

TARIK
She has come to save us!

MADAM CAMA
Sons of India – you must join this fight!

MADAME CAMA
Behold, it is born!…I call upon you, gentle men, to rise.. .I appeal to lovers of freedom all over the
world to cooperate with this flag. Hail Bande Mataram! Hail Bande Mataram!!

MADAME CAMA (cont’d)
Touch it. Your flag. The flag of Hindustan!

TAJPAL
Saffron –

TARIK
The lotus – the sun…

TAJPAL
The bright sun. The gentle breeze: Home.

MADAM CAMA
We raised this flag in Stuttgart – in front of hundreds of people – they recognised India as a free country!
TAJPAL
You have done all this?

MADAME CAMA
There are many of us. All fighting the same battle against the British: Paris, America, even in London!

UNSEEN SOLDIER
On guard – there are insurgents on the loose.

TARIK AND TAJPAL IN UNISON:
Sir!

TAJPAL
You’ll get us all shot…

MADAME CAMA
One life is of no importance when – the lives of our brothers – are at stake!

TAJPAL
You’re not afraid?
MADAME CAMA
If I die – the movement will continue.

TARIK
Madam, with respect – you can not save us. Not like this.

MADAME CAMA
You prefer to carry on blindly? Fight the battle of the White pepper?

MADAME CAMA (cont’d)
He needs to eat. Be wrapped warm.

TAJPAL
We have given him all we have…

MADAME CAMA
The cold is already in his bones…What’s his name?
TAJPAL
Rajesh…

MADAME CAMA
He’s just a child…

RAJESH
You came. You came.

MADAME CAMA
The black pepper is sprinkled across the battlefields – they marinate victory with our kin. We can not keep feeding the hunger of the white man…

TAJPAL
Without sacrifice there is no victory…

MADAM CAMA
Is it not your victory brother…

TARIK
He likes to ‘eat the salt of the sirkar’

TAJPAL
I make a living. Give my family a chance.

TARIK
So you give up everything for that? Your freedom, your Mother?

TAJPAL
I have my duty. My honor. I will face my destiny with courage and conviction.

MADAM CAMA
Your courage is wasted here.

MADAME CAMA
Your death will mean nothing to them.

TAJPAL
If death is certain then we must greet it with honour!

TARIK
Does your own life mean nothing to you? Your life means nothing if you give it away!

TAJPAL
Mutiny is certain death!

TARIK
I’m no coward!

MADAME CAMA
Think of her. Your Mother – the one who raised, fed and loved you. India has been agreeable, pliable, forgiving even – yet even though she has done all she can – they still ask Her to give her sons away? For their battle?

TAJPAL
But we have no choice.

TARIK
So we must fight for her!

MADAME CAMA
You talk of honour – resistance to tyranny is obedience to God himself?! Loyalty to oneself, your people and your land is the only way to God.

TARIK
Yes! We must revolt!! Fight the White Pepper!

TAJPAL
And where will you go?

TARIK
We will find a way to escape
TAJPAL
Back to India…?

MADAME CAMA
This is a war.

TAJPAL
If you have no plan – it is because you believe we will die here!

MADAME CAMA
There is a plan.

TARIK
Then tell us

MADAM CAMA
We do not ask you to revolt.

TARIK
No?

MADAME CAMA
There is something more powerful we ask of you. All of you.

TAJPAL
What more can you want of us?

MADAME CAMA
Surrender.

TARIK
Surrender?

MADAME CAMA
Better to abstain than to assist.

TARIK
And what will they do to us?!
MADAME CAMA
You are better to surrender than to fight this war.

TARIK
So you ask us to find death with our enemy?!! Have you heard the stories of what they do to prisoners!?

MADAME CAMA
Lies. To make you stay and fight!

TAJPAL
Brother, we can not die with the enemy !

MADAME CAMA
You are already with the enemy!

MADAME CAMA (cont’d)
Look…

RAJESH
Mother…

MADAME CAMA
Go on. Free yourselves my sons!

MADAM CAMA
’March Forward! We are for India. India is for Indians! Hail and sing Bande Mataram!

MADAM CAMA (cont’d)
’March Forward! We are for India. India is for Indians! Hail and sing Bande Mataram!

THE END.

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