Aath baj gaye!
(It’s Eight O’ Clock!)
A one-act play by DR
RUBY A woman (23) who works in a call center in Gurgaon
Mr. DICK-SHIT Ruby’s father, employee at the State Bank of India, die-hard follower and worshiper of The Hindu
Mrs. DICK-SHIT Ruby’s mother, a housewife by choice and not fate (she insists)
ACT I Scene 1
[The living room of a typical middle-class household in Gurgaon. Posters of Shah Rukh Khan can be seen on walls that are crying to be re-painted. Mr. DICK-SHIT is reading The Times of India with a morose expression on his face. Clearly, the absence of The Hindu has spoiled his mood. Mrs. DICK-SHIT is making RUBY’S tie with a frown on her face. RUBY is dressed in an official attire–full-sleeved white shirt and a knee-length black skirt]
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: Why can’t you do this on your own? You’re 23 and still haven’t learned how to wear a tie. It’s shameful! Will you come to me again when you have to help your husband with his tie, too?
[RUBY ignores the questions and admires her newly painted nails]
Mrs. DICK-SHIT [to Mr. DICK-SHIT]: Look at this woman! She doesn’t even bother to answer my question now. And you just keep reading your stupid newspaper. Do you even realize that we have a full-grown woman in the household now?
Mr. DICK-SHIT [peeping from the newspaper]: Which woman are you referring to, exactly?
[RUBY giggles, while still admiring her nails]
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: You find this funny? Have you noticed the length of her clothing these days? They’re just getting shorter and shorter. Whatever happened to our culture? These new generation kids, I tell you! Are you even listening to me?
Mr. DICK-Shit [now irritated]: What do you want me to do? Buy her a burqa? I’m already pissed because that damn Ramu delivered the TOI again. This paper has news only about rapes and murder on the front page . It’s an everyday phenomenon. Why would I care about it? I was hoping to read about the Lankan war crimes in The Hindu.
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: Oh c’mon! Don’t you sneak out in the evening, when I’m doing my puja, to get a copy of the Delhi Times so you can scan all the women attending the Page 3 parties? And what are you complaining about? Rapes and murder are a reality. Especially in Delhi—our very own rape capital.
Mr. DICK-SHIT: “But, we live in Gurgaon. And technically speaking, that comes under Harayana. We don’t have anything to do with the rape capital of India. We have our own cases of gang-rapes, chain snatching, sexual harassment, molestation but just a rape…tauba! tauba!
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: Hmmm… You’re right ji. Perhaps, men here are too weak to rape women singularly. That’s why there are more gang-rape cases.
Mr. DICK-SHIT: Oh, don’t question the strength of the men, dear. As long as women wear clothing like our Ruby does, it would simply be unfair to expect their testosterone to remain calm inside their bodies.
RUBY: Excuse me! Do my hormones dance around when I see guys in shorts? Why can’t they have some self-control?
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: Self-control? You talk of self-control? If you had any, you wouldn’t have exposed your legs by wearing this skirt to the office. Kids these days just look for an excuse to show off their skin just to irritate their poor parents. I read about this in last month’s Woman’s Era.
RUBY [calmly]: I’m not a kid.
Mr. DICK-SHIT: Of course, you’re not. And that’s why your mom is worried that some day, a man will defile you. But don’t worry, we’re in Gurgaon. You’re more likely to be gang-raped. Unity is strength.
Ruby: Whatever! I’m getting late for work. I’d better leave.
Mr. DICK-SHIT: Work? What work? No more work for you. Don’t you follow the news? [looks at TOI and sighs heavily] In order to avoid being raped, you are ordered not to venture out in the dark, like some firefly, after 8 pm. No, I’m not saying this. The Gurgaon administration has instructed so.
[RUBY is shocked.]
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: Very good ji. Now I won’t have to worry at all. These gang-rapists, let them rot in hell defiling daughters of respectful families. They lurk in the dark only. Like owls. And our Ruby is anyway provoking them with these tight skirts and waxed legs. Now that she’ll be back home by 8 pm, we can rest in peace.
RUBY: Are you telling me that it’s guaranteed that men will not rape me any time before 8 pm?
Mr. DICK-SHIT: Exactly. You can enjoy and roam around as much as you want, my dear. But just keep in mind that eight o’ clock is home time. It’s a scientifically proven fact that male hormones go crazy after 8 pm, once the sun sets. Why else do you think are Draculas active in the night?
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: You are such a learned man!
Mr. DICK-SHIT [blushing]: Oh stop! It’s general knowledge. And anyway, Ruby. Why this sulky face? It’s for your own good. Imagine if you’re
raped gang-raped (God forbid), then what will happen to us? All our hard-earned respect in this society will go away. You’ll be targeted and victimized by the media, especially this nonsense TOI. The Hindu, of course, will carry a detailed report about how despite sustained campaigns and legal changes, convictions in rape cases have declined steadily. Isn’t it better if all this is avoided?
RUBY: And I’m supposed to ‘avoid’ rape by not going out of the house after 8 pm and not wearing skirts? Does that mean that if I wear a traditional sari, I won’t be raped? Is that the solution being offered? Have you ever asked the men to change their mindset? Have you ever asked them to be home by 8 pm so they can avoid being raped and molested by lurking women in the dark? What about men who expose their hairy legs by wearing shorts? Is that justified? Just because I’m showing my legs doesn’t mean I’ll spread them!
[She gasps for breath in the middle of her outburst]
Mr. DICK-SHIT [after a long pause]: We’re not buying The Times of India from now on.
Mrs. DICK-SHIT: Shall we switch to Hindustan Times?
[SRK’s poster falls off the wall and reveals a giant hole behind it. The audience wonders if it represents a whole in the mindset of society, in general.]
Disclaimer: All characters and names are fictitious. Names of newspapers used are entirely random, in keeping with the tradition of posts in this blog. FYI, the author works with the editorial desk of a newspaper, too (the name of which has been carefully avoided) and is often at the peak of her work at 8 pm.