This work is a two-act play for children.
The object of the play is to jolt them into awakening their environmental consciousness. It is set in two locations. The first act has one scene and the second act has two scenes.
Chetana means consciousness. The protagonist of the play is a young boy called Chetan. He belongs to an Indian immigrant family settled in the US. The first act is set in their New York flat. Through the relationship of mother and son the indifference of the youth towards environmental concerns is brought out. Chetan is typical youth who is apathetic towards the environment. His mother's attitudes seem like shackles to him. He nurtures a secret dream that he would go to the moon some day.
In the second act of the play, by some turn of events he is shown to be on the Moon. In the first scene of the second act, he is dismayed and disappointed by the barren, insipid and deserted Moon. He encounters the Moon Boy. His interaction with the Moon Boy reveals that life on the Moon is unatural and undemocratic. Environmentally speaking the Moon , his dream world is a catastrophe. He is perplexed by what he learns about the society on the Moon.
The climax of the play is unfolded in the court of the Moon King. Chetan is made to understand the ugly nexus between environmental degradation , the dwindling of society and dictatorship. His moon experience awakens his consciousness. He comes back transformed to his home.
Chetan now has a vital message for mankind.
(An immigrant Indian family stays in New York. The father is out on tour.)
Mother: My husband doesnít even find time to change this old wallpaper. (Looks at the wall-clock and shouts towards the bedroom). Chetan. Why donít you get up? Everyday it is the same scene. You get up late and rush to school on your bike. You never have a proper breakfast and usually land up getting a ticket for over-speeding, or not having a helmet or because of this pollution business. Let your father get back from tour. I will tell him everything. Now will you please get up and brush your teeth and come for breakfast.
Chetan: (Coming on to the stage, wiping his face with a towel.) Cool it Mom! I `ve brushed my teeth and as for breakfast a bar of chocolate will do. And what`s all this fuss about pollution checks? Aren`t the cops on the streets enough? Do I have to face this Big Cop at home too? How does a little bit of smoke matter anyway? There are so many restrictions on us. Why do you folks have to add to them?
Mother: Canít you see why I check you? I am sure you have left the tap running. When will you realize the value of water? Water is so important and it is so wonderful. Do you know that the earth is the onlyÖ.(the mother continues to talk in mime, at length about water while Chetan ignores her and is buried in the newspaper). I am sure you have not heard a word of what I said but at least tell me if I should give you a glass of hot milk and some fruits for breakfast.
Chetan: Milk? Ugh! Mamma, you know I hate milk. It has been years since we have come away from India to the US but your habit of boiling milk has not changed. Why do you bother? (Mother stares at him out of exasperation.) OK, if you insist I`ll carry a carton of cold milk. But I refuse to have those boring fruits. I`d rather have a hotdog at school.
Mother: When will you learn? Burgers and hot-dogs can never take the place of fresh vegetables and fruits. Do you know that a time may come whenÖ..(the mother continues about fruits, etc. and Chetan is busy cutting something from the newspaper. His mother notices what he is doing.) And, by the way, why did you throw away the old newspapers? They could have been recycled. It creates employmentÖ.(once more the monologue continues with Chetan engrossed in his own work.) Why are you making shreds of that newspaper? Chetan! I am talking to you. Why arenít you listening?
Chetan: I am listening, Mom. I am not making shreds, I am cutting out important news items for my school wall mag. Don't worry. All that you need from the newspaper is the column on Indian programs - and thatís there (pointing to the newspaper).
Mother: Well, what was I talking about? Yes, it was about vegetarianism. Listen, I was telling you that all the strong and huge animals, like the elephant, are vegetarians. You should learn something from them and eat green leafy vegetables and fruits.
Chetan: No thanks. I donít want to be an elephant.
Mother: You are not like an elephant, but you are certainly looking like a grizzly bear. Look at that shock of hair! It sure is shocking. Come let me put some coconut oil on your head.
Chetan: I am not a kid and that oil stinks.
Mother: I use coconut oil everyday. Am I a kid? Now, donít be so adamant. Coconut is a wonderful thing. In our native Kerala it grows in abundance and every part of the coconut tree has many uses. (The mother continues to air her thoughts, in mime).
Chetan: (towards the audience) There goes the Doordarshan propaganda again. We have come to the US to get rid of DD and here we have this 24-hour non-stop overseas Doordarshan broadcast, right at home.
Mother: All this while that I have been talking you have hardly been bothered. Your father has named you Chetan. Do you know it means consciousness? Tell me when your consciousness will awaken?
Chetan: Mom, I am the most conscious student in my class. I know all about scientific developments, space and nuclear research and what have you. I always collect news items of importance. I was just cutting a news item about Indiaís nuclear tests.
Mother: Good lord! Why does India also have to commit this blunder? A nuclear bomb causes such immense damage to nature. Do you know that during World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki wereÖ..(and, the story goes on, in mime).
Chetan: Donít be such a spoilt sport. I thought you would be thrilled about this great achievement, and here you are, off on another trip of yours. Now listen, Mom, it is my turn to go on a trip. And oh boy, what a trip itís going to be. Mamma you wonít believe this! I am going on a trip to the MOON!
Mother: Chetan have you gone mad? How can you go to the moon?
Chetan: Yes, I can. Look at this ad. Moon Travels is making bookings for a Moon Voyage. Any ordinary American citizen can go.
Mother: It must be a joke. Anyway, I am not going to finance any such hare-brained schemes. Just imagine the risk.
Chetan: It is perfectly safe and I have saved enough to pay for the trip. Mamma, they are giving 50% off to students. I am going.
Mother: You better get to school first. You are already late.
Chetan: Yes, I must rush. But I will go via the travel agents.
Mother: Chetan, take the milk carton and also carry this boiled water. You have just recovered from fever. Remember to have your milk.
Chetan: I sure will. (Puts both things into his bag along with a painting).
Mother: Why are you carrying that painting of yours?
Chetan: It is for the wall magazine. Now I must rush. I have to go to the MOON, Mom!
Mother: Stop this nonsense about the Moon and promise me you`ll come straight home. Chetan: I promise, I will surely,Önot come home. I am going to the MOON! (Chetan goes off-stage).
Mother: Come back. Take your helmet, Chetan. (Mother runs after him, off-stage, carrying the helmet.)
(Chetan is on the moon. He has run away from the tour party that has left for the Earth.)
Chetan (to himself): Good. At last I have got rid of them. By now they would be on their way back to the Earth. And I am here for good. I donít have to go back to the Earth. Good bye to all those restrictions and admonitions. Now, I can have a `giant leapí for `mankindí. I can be as free as a bird flying in the sky (tries to leap up). Oh! No! Whatís wrong? I get it. My shoe soles are made of lead (looks around). There is nothing but dust here. Everything is gray. No plants, no colors. It is bone dry. What a barren place! It is not at all like what I used to dream Ė white, serene and beautiful. (Chetan stands - dejected, lonely and sad).
(Someone calls out from behind).
Moon Boy: Who`s there? Why donít you speak up?
Chetan: (Absolutely flabbergasted to see a strange looking human being). I am Chetan. Who are you? I did not see you on the spaceship? How did you come here?
Moon Boy: What do you mean `come hereí? I live here. It is quite apparent that you donít belong to the moon. You are the one who has `come hereí.
Chetan: Cut it out. How can anyone belong to the Moon? Who are you?
Moon Boy: I am Zee28 and I belong to the Moon. Now really tell me who you are?
Chetan: Really, I am Chetan and I have come from the Earth.
Moon Boy: Earth? What Earth?
Chetan: Canít you see that planet there? (Chetan points out towards the sky). That`s my Earth.
Moon Boy: Oh! No! You come from the Black Planet? You`ll kill me. (Starts running).
Chetan: Wait. Donít run away. I am stuck here. Please donít go away. Help me.
(Moon Boy is spellbound).
Chetan: I won`t hurt you. I donít have any weapons. See.
Moon Boy: What is there in that bag?
Chetan: Only a painting and some odd things. (Chetan shows the paintings).
(Moon Boy is stunned).
Moon Boy: What are these?
Chetan: These are colors - blue, green and red. Donít you have colors (looking around)?
Moon Boy: Yes, three Ė black, white and gray. What are these (pointing to something in the painting)?
Chetan: Trees, plants and animals. I see none of them here.
Moon Boy: Have I heard these words somewhere? What is this (in the painting)?
Chetan: This is a river. It has endless water.
Moon Boy: What is water?
Chetan: Hmm. Something liquid. You know - something that flows from top to bottom.
Moon Boy: Well, even stones roll down slopes.
Chetan: Wait. I`ll give you a sip and you`ll understand. But you must promise to show me around your planet. (Chetan gives him a sip from his water bottle).
Moon Boy: (Moon Boy is ecstatic). I `ve never had anything like that. Come, I`ll take you around. But first you must camouflage yourself a bit. Only your name is odd.
Chetan: I think your name is odd. Couldnít your parents think of anything else?
Moon Boy: Parents? Who?
Chetan: The elders!
Moon Boy: Here, our King Tanashah is our elder. He gives us our names.
Chetan: He does it for all children? Many children would be born, every year?
Moon Boy: Yes, this year lots of children were made, three male and two female.
Chetan: What do you mean `madeí? I was born to my mother and father? But maybe you are too young to know such things.
Moon Boy: Mother? Father? Here the King alone makes children.
Chetan: (Chetan is perplexed). You donít have parents? And you call the king Tanashah? It means dictator, you know! (Realizing the enormity of the situation on the moon.) So you have no freedom on the Moon!
Moon Boy: (Reflecting). Plants, animals, freedom - these are things that we should not be talking about. Only the King can talk about such things. We are not supposed to even mention them.
Chetan: (Chetan is confounded). My mother always talks of these things and you canít even mention them here?
Moon Boy: Oh! I just remembered. Its time to go to the Hall of Commons. The news will be read out there as usual. We should`nt be late.
Chetan: The news will be read out? I donít understand.
Moon Boy: There is no time, hurry. I must prepare you too. Come. (They go off stage).
(The Hall of Commons has the royal throne, a few more chairs for the courtiers and a herald.)
Herald: (Addressing the audience. Makes a loud announcement.) Attention, all present. Pay your respects to the great lord of Moon. Tanashah Chandravanshi is making his appearance.
(The king appears and takes his seat on the throne).
Herald: Your Highness, please allow me to present the news. (King nods and approves). (The Herald starts.) Listen carefully. I present the news.
The perils of meteorites continue.
Threats from the Black Planet.
Three more die out of the population of 112. A meteorite crushed two women and a child last evening. Scientists are unable to solve this problem.
We have received new threats from the Black planet. There may be an attack from there in the near future.
The population of our planet has grown by one. The total population is now 110. More news to follow.
(Suddenly, the Minister comes along with Chetan and Moon Boy. The herald bows to the minister.)
Minister: I beg your pardon my lord. I got late because of these children.
King: Minister! Who are these boys?
Minister: This is Zee28. And this boy says that his name is Chetan.
King: What have they done?
Minister: I feel that Chetan does not belong to the moon. He has a painting that is not in black and white. In fact, I cannot recognize a single thing in his painting.
King: Is it true? Donít you belong to the moon?
Moon Boy: Do`nt tell them, donít. They`ll kill you.
Chetan: (Perceives the situation.) I will tell everything if your Highness grants amnesty.
King: You have my word for it. But you will speak the truth and only the truth.
Chetan: I come from the Earth. It is what you people call the Black Planet.
(There is a commotion. Everyone chants (in chorus)ÖKill him, kill him.)
Chetan: Why do you want to kill me?
King: The Earthlings are our enemies. Many centuries ago, they destroyed our planet with atom bombs. That is why we call them Black People and their planet the Black Planet.
Chetan: My esteemed King, there never was a threat to your Moon from the Earth, nor does it exist today. We have just started making atomic bombs that can go upto a few thousand kilometers. How could we have bombed the Moon? It is over three lakh kilometers away from the Earth. There is no way we could have done it so many centuriesí back. Just look at yesterdayís newspaper. (Everyone reads the news cutting).
Chetan: If you kill me, may be it would really lead to a nuclear war. If I die, you would never know anything about the Earth. Donít you want to know about it?
King: We wonít kill you. Tell us all.
Chetan: My Earth is not a Black Planet. It is the most beautiful place in the whole Universe. It has water, air, colors, animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains, clouds, seas, fruits and vegetables. Look at the beautiful things that we have. (The paintings are passed around and everyone appreciates). (Recollecting all that his mother had told him). We have water (passing around the water bottle). Earth is the only planet that has water. When water collects on leaves it is called dew. When it drops from the sky it is called rain. When it mixes in the air, it is mist. We have a wonderful thing called milk. (He passes on the milk and everyone appreciates it, after having a sip each). Cows give us milk. Cows are such useful creatures; each part of it can be used. Even the cow dung is used as manure and as fuel for making a fire.
Moon Boy: What is a fire?
Chetan: When you feel cold, it gives you warmth. You cannot have a fire here because there isnít much of oxygen.
Herald: What is cold and what is warmth?
Chetan: On my Earth we have four different seasons. During spring, flowers bloom, in summer, fruits grow and ripen. Many varieties of wholesome vegetables grow on the earth. They give us minerals and vitamins. There are many beautiful trees of different shapes and sizes. We have the coconut tree. Each part of this tree is so useful. Alas, a day may come when all this would vanish.
Minister: What is he talking about? Can any place be so beautiful? And how can it vanish? Your Highness, I think he is a liar. We should kill him. (Others join the chorus).
King: Quiet everyone! I have something to say. I cannot carry the burden on my conscience any longer.
Minister: (Utterly shocked) What is it, your Majesty?
King: No, not again. I donít want to kill him and start another nuclear war. I will tell you the truth. The Earthlings never attacked us. We too had a beautiful planet. Our Moon also had everything that Chetan has been talking of. There was another race on the Moon called the Black people. They went on spoiling the planet. They started the rat race. They created pollution, they used up resources and they made atomic bombs. And when they were not left with any resource they tried to take over our soil. We fought with each other and destroyed each other. They were entirely destroyed. Some of us managed to escape and settled here. But by that time it was too late. See, on this barren planet, we donít have trees, so we donít have paper, and that is why we have to read out the news. Now we have such a shortage of resources that we have to think a hundred times before we bring another child into this world. Today there is no such thing as a family. This planet is destroyed for good.
Minister: (Absolutely stunned.) What are you saying, my lord? I canít believe all this.
King: There are many more things that I want to confess to you people. But, first, I would like to give this young boy a warning. I will let you go alive because I have a selfish motive. I do not want another planet to be destroyed. I want you to carry my message to the Earth. Tell them that the enemy lies within. It is our greed that is our enemy. It is our selfishness that will destroy our planet. Our aggressiveness can have dangerous implications for the world we live in. You young boys might think that these things are related only to nations, their practices and policies. Certainly not. Each individual must think and practice. More so, before it is too late. Remember, Chetan it is our indifference and carelessness that is the biggest enemy of our environment. Save your planet Chetan, go save your planet.
(The king slumps back into his throne and takes off his crown). (The whole gathering is spellbound).
Minister: Do not let Chetan go. Please let him stay. Chetan, please tell us more.
All the courtiers: Donít go Chetan (repeatedly).
Chetan: I must go. I must go back to Earth. Let me go (repeatedly). (Covers his face with his hands and struggles as if awakening from a bad dream).
All: Then at least take your helmet (repeatedly). (Everyone except Chetan backs out off-stage and his motherís voice emerges in the background). (The backdrop changes to the New York flat.)
Mother (slowly running on stage with the helmet): Take your helmet (repeatedly).
Chetan: Mamma, where`s my milk? (Mother is stunned).
Mother: You are asking for milk! But you just had it!
Chetan: But they had all the milk. I did not drink even a drop. (He inverts the carton to check. It is empty).
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