Summary: Meena lives in a poor family, who fall into the clutches of a moneylender. How can they escape, and save Meena from having to stop going to school?
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 10min
Actors: 13C, OR 1N, 3M, 1F, 2C, + various
Parrot, also Pig, Rani the baby,
Cow, Calf, Bicycle
Narrator: We present a play by Grade 7, “Must Meena Leave School?” You will meet Meena [wave, smile], Raju [wave, smile], Ma [tired], Baba [cough], Parrot [Whyma wawwo], Pig [chomp, gulp], Rani the baby, [Waah. Waah], Cow [moo], Calf [maa], Dokander the storekeeper, [evil chuckle] and the teacher [ Hello, good students].
Scene 1. The Family At Home.
Baba: My family, we are poor. I cannot work hard. I breathed rock dust when I was young. Now this sickness makes me cough.
Ma: And you smoked cigarettes, my husband.
Baba: No more smoking for me. My family, we are so poor that I must borrow money from Dokander.
Rani: Waah. Waah.
Ma: Hush, baby Rani.
Meena: Give Baby Rani to me. [sings] Hush-a-bye baby, on the tree top. You sing too, Parrot.
Parrot: Wuk wa wye way we, won wah wee wop.
Raju: Can’t we grow rice to eat, as before?
Ma: We need to buy seeds, so we can plant rice.
Raju: So, Dokander lets us have seeds on credit and Baba sells some rice and pays later. Simple.
Ma: Every week we need money. And that means that I must work.
Baba: To get money, Ma must work in the town.
Parrot: Wur wi wuh wow! Aaak. Aaak.
Meena: Who will look after baby Rani?
Raju: I can take time off school.
Meena: You can’t look after a baby! You would drop her.
Raju: All right, you do it.
Meena: But then I would have to leave Grade 7. Never be Grade 8. Oh, no!
Baba: It’s sad, but we must get the seeds.
Narrator: Scene 2. Baba, Meena, and Raju go shopping. Parrot says “Be careful!” Can they trust Dokander?
Dokander: Take these fine seeds, sir, the very best quality. Take pretty new clothes for your handsome children. Take a big TV. Easy to pay later.
Meena: No, Baba. Just the seeds.
Raju: No, Baba. Not “easy to pay later.”
Dokander: Always at your service, sir. Leave the children outside next time. I have written our agreement in English. The best for business, you agree, I am sure, as a business person yourself? Four thousand for four months. Just put ink on your thumb, so.
Parrot: Ware wool! We ware wool. Aaak. Aaak.
Raju: The paper is all in English. So the figures must be English too.
Meena: Did you say FOUR thousand for four months, Baba?
Baba: Yes. I see the numbers on the paper, although I cannot read English. I will put my thumbprint at the bottom now.
Raju: Please do not sign just at the moment, Baba. Honourable Dokander, is it not true that the Bangla figure four looks something like your spectacles, that is, two circles touching, one below and one above?
Dokander: Of course. Every child knows that.
Meena: Respected merchant, is it not also true that the English four looks like a heap of sticks blown sideways in a typhoon?
Dokander: What of it, child? You talk too much.
Raju: Enlightened one, what does the English “eight” look like?
Dokander: Does your education teach you to ask foolish questions?
Meena: No question is foolish.
Baba: Silence, children. I cannot read either Bangla or English, for things were different in the old days. But I am not silly. Dokander, on this paper I see English letters and the number written like two circles.
Parrot: Ware wool! Aaak.
Baba: I see it here, and here. Does it mean four, as in Bangla, or does it mean something else?
Raju: Like eight?
Dokander: I cannot say. [snatches paper] The chatter of the children disturbed me. There may be some trifling error. Oh, I have accidentally dropped the paper into the pig food.
Pig: [Chomp gulp]
Dokander: What a pity. Baba, let us shake hands without any writing, as business people do who trust each other. Come now. Four thousand in four months.
Baba: What can I do? [Shakes hands]
Dokander: A sweetie [Dokander smiles] for your clever children. [They go. Dokander makes an ugly face.]
Narrator: Scene 3. Meena went to school very sad because school must stop. Now Teacher has come to visit Ma and Baba.
Teacher: The bank will lend money for women to start a small business. Perhaps, if you were able to stay home, Ma, then both children could finish school.
Meena: Oh yes yes yes. Please, Lord!
Ma: Huh. I cannot run a business. Don’t these women have husbands?
Teacher: The bank relies on women to run their business like they run their family. No nonsense, no waste.
Baba: I see why the bank says women are best. My wife is very good and careful. [cough] I am so lucky.
Teacher: If a man did a good job looking after a baby and a family, the bank would listen to that man.
Meena: What sort of work can Ma do in our house?
Raju: House Work, ha ha. Housework. Sweep the floor.
Meena: Shut up, stupid boy.
Baba: Think before you speak, foolish child. And then remain silent.
Raju: Sorry, Baba. Sorry, Ma.
Teacher: You tell me what kind of work people do to earn money at home.
Raju: [puts hand up]
Raju: Mrs Sikh cooks gingerbread and sends it to the city on the bus.
Meena: Tailor Tailor sews clothes at home while the cousin minds the shop.
Teacher: Good observation.
Ma: I don’t sew or cook, but if we owned . . .
Baba: Go on.
Ma: . . . if we had a cow . . .
All: A cow!
Ma: Wait. I’m thinking. A cow and a bicycle. Because the people who need fresh milk live in the town, far away.
Baba: I cannot walk and carry the milk, but I can take it on a bike! Teacher, do you think the bank will lend Ma some money?
Teacher: We shall have to wait and see. They will let us know quickly.
Narrator: And so it happened. The bank said “Yes.” Ma and Baba together got a loan. The cost was far less than Dokander’s cost, and they had a long time to repay. The happy family returned home with a cow.
Narrator: and her calf
Narrator: and a bicycle.
Narrator Scene 4. The months passed. Meena [wave, smile] and Raju [wave, smile] helped Ma look after the cow.
Narrator: The cow gave milk. Baba took the milk every day to town, and slowly began to get better from his illness. There was no more talk of the children stopping school.
Ma: [counts on mobile] One, two, three, nearly four.
Meena: What are you counting, Ma?
Rahu: Ma uses the banking app. Are we rich, Ma?
Baba: We have enough. So we are rich.
Ma: We have enough to pay Dokander 4000 tomorrow, the first day of the new moon. We have 3900 in the bank and 100 taka coming from the hotel.
Meena: Total 4000.
Rahu. I remember. We said “4000 for four months.”
Baba: I couldn’t get the money from the hotel today. I had to stop and rest. [cough] I’ll get it tomorrow.
Parrot: Woo wo woe woo wait! Woo wait!
Dokander: [evil chuckle] Good afternoon, noble family. Good afternoon, clever clever children. I heard you talking. Tomorrow is too late.
Family: What do you mean?
Dokander: Tomorrow is the beginning of the fifth month. You must pay by sunset at the end of the fourth month. Sunset today.
Ma: We have 3900 taka to give you.
Dokander: If you do not have the money, I will take something else.
Meena: Take my shoes for 100.
Raju: No, take my backpack for 100.
Dokander: I will take the cow.
Family: Oh! No! You can’t!
Dokander: [evil chuckle] Oh, yes. I can. At sunset. Unless you pay.
Narrator: Scene 5. Things look bad. What can the family do? Does Dokander leave? No, not even for a moment.
Dokander: I’ll wait, just to make sure the cow doesn’t run away by accident. Let me show you this new rope, Cow.
Dokander: You’ll have to come too, little calf. Delicious.
Baba: [aside] The sun is still high, well, fairly high.
Ma: Go like the wind!. [opens mobile and talks]
Baba: Raju and Meena, take the bicycle. Take turns to pedal and to be carried.
Ma: The hotel has the money ready for you.
Meena, Raju: We go like the wind!
Narrator: Scene 6. Meena and Raju got to the hotel and got the money. Ma and Baba will be able to pay the whole debt, if Meena and Raju can get home before sunset. They are more than half-way home.
Meena: [sings] You look sweet –
Meena: [sings] – upon the seat –
Meena: – of a bicycle built for two. Quick. Jump off. My turn to pedal.
Raju: I’ll run beside you for a bit. Off you go. [sings] Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do. I’m half crazy, all for the love of you.
Bicycle: [BANG Kadonk kadonk]
Meena: A puncture! Of all the rotten luck.
Raju: Oh dear.
Meena: Quick! Quick! Get the repair kit!
Narrator: Scene 7. Meanwhile, what’s happening at home? The parrot could end up on top of a pile of rice.
Parrot: [flapping around Dokander] We wo why we win! [Plop]
Dokander: [wipes head] Wait till I get my hands on you. You’ll go like the wind, indeed. My dinner will be, let me see now, Parrot Curry, with the bones chopped small for flavour.
Parrot: Aaak! [flies away]
Dokander: That got rid of the pest. I’ll keep my chopper ready in case it comes back.
Narrator: Scene 8. Back on the track, the shadows are growing longer as the sun falls below the treetops. How long have they got?
Meena: [dusts hands] There, the puncture’s fixed, but look at the sun. It’s nearly gone. I’m so worried.
Raju: [turns bike right-way-up] Get on. We’ll do what we can.
Meena: I don’t believe Dokander can take what he likes. It’s not fair.
Raju: Don’t talk. Just pedal.
Raju: Here’s the parrot. I wish I could fly.
Parrot: Whop. Whop. Wiwi wi wuwy.
Meena: Hello, parrot. – [gasp] – Get out of the way.
Parrot: Whop. Whop. Wiwi wi wuwy.
Raju: Meena! Stop! Give Parrot the money.
Parrot. Wa wight. Wiwi wi wuwy.
Meena: I will tie it to your foot. You can take it to Baba and Ma.
Raju: Oh, good clever Parrot. Go like the wind.
Parrot: Wo why we win! Aak.
Narrator: Ma and Baba wonder what to do.
Ma: I don’t believe Dokander can take what he likes. It’s not fair. I will break this broom handle across his back.
Baba: I feel the same way, but fighting causes more fighting. We will let him take, then we will make a list and ask for help.
Ma: Help from whom?
Baba: God holds us all in his hands. [stands up] The sunlight will last only a few minutes more. I cannot see any sign of our children. Prepare for the worst, my dear wife.
Dokander: Well, that’s it. You can’t pay. I haven’t received a single taka from you. Come along, cow.
Ma: [holds mobile] Hey, Mister Greedy. You never told me your bank number. You made it impossible to pay. Not me.
Dokander: [holds their own mobile] [Tikka tik tok tik-tak-tok Beep] There. Now you have got the number. But have you got the money?
Ma: [Tikka tik tok tik-tak-tok] Three Nine Zero Zero [Beep] There, yourself. It’s paid, mostly.
Dokander: [looks at screen] Not enough. Come along, cow.
Dokander: That messy parrot came back. I’ll eat it for supper.
Parrot: [Swoosh] Wunwid wawa. Wunwid wawa.
Ma: It’s got something round its leg. A paper? A message?
Baba: A hundred-taka note.
Parrot: Wunwid wawa.
Baba: Dokander, I give you . . .
Dokander: Too late. The sun has gone.
Baba: Not too late. I can see the sun in your spectacles. Dokander, I give you this final payment to settle our whole debt.
Meena, Raju: Hooray. [gasp]
Meena: We thought we’d never get back in time.
Raju: We didn’t, actually, but Parrot did.
Family: Well done, Parrot.
Ma: Goodbye, Dokander.
Dokander: My rope.
Baba: We’ll bring it back tomorrow. You had better go, I think. My wife has a thick broom handle she wants to use on you.
Narrator: So the family lived carefully, and needed no more expensive credit from the store. They paid the bank, and Meena stayed at school, and Ma saved a little bit of money in a secret account for emergencies. And – oh, here comes Teacher.
Teacher: Hello, family.
Narrator: You’re too late. I’m finished. And they all lived hap...
Teacher: [interrupts] Surely – sorry to interrupt – surely not too late for supper? I brought chappati, dahl, shimosa, mishti, and jalopi, also watermelon and mangoes.
Family: Hooray! Come inside, Teacher, and hear our adventures.
Narrator: And they all lived happily ever after. The End.
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LAMB Hospital School
People’s Republic of Bangladesh