Pinggu the Monkey is a play I wrote over a year ago for a friend as a project. Since it wasn’t published anywhere else on the internet, I decided to publish this here on the blog – after all, apart from travel, there’s a lot about the writing niche here too.
I hope you enjoy it ;)
PONDICHERRY (18 months before quarantine)
Rajat- an owner of an enormous zoo that has various sorts of animals. Rajat opened up the zoo from scratch with all his own efforts and all out of love. Rajat’s main aim was to provide a home to the poor creatures that were being endangered out there. Thus, the zoo was more of an orphanage for wild animals. By wild animals, there were Elephants, tigers, sorts of reptiles, birds, monkeys, snakes, and so on. Rajat made sure he checked on all of them every day in their cozy spacious spaces.
In fact, he loved them so much that the species that dealt with higher emotions were taken extra care of. Moreover, his house was at the backend of the zoo so he could attend to the animals at any time. Now Rajat has a son named Shyamraj. Shyamraj, unlike his father, had more love for money. Shyamraj turned 22 on this day.
Rajat: Good morning son. And happy birthday. I’ve got you the chocolate cake that you like. Hey Pinggu! Get the cake for Shyamu. Anyway, what else would make this day special for you, son? (Pinggu, a bright young monkey who lived in the house itself, obediently picked up the packed chocolate cake and brought it to Shyamraj)
Shyamraj: Thanks dad (taking the cake from Pinggu), there is nothing I really want. But I want to help with the family business. I have some plans for the zoo dad. Let me help- I have a great idea that could actually buy us a car dad. Our own car! I know you’ve always wanted one.
Rajat: A car?
Shyamraj: Yes! Through the entertainment business dad. And our zoo has the resources for it. (Shyamraj’s father becomes quiet for a moment.)
Rajat: I thought you loved our animals as our own son. We don’t entertain people with our own family as resources. We take care of ourselves. We shall be fine. I don’t need a car son, our family is all I need. Since you want to help me for your birthday (points at a horse outside), let’s help clean Betty up, shall we
Shyamraj: But we can do it, dad. We have resources…
Rajat: They aren’t resources! Alright! This is our family! We don’t lock them up somewhere! (sighs) Why don’t you ever understand?
Then Rajat gets out of the house to clean up Betty, a fine brown well-bred horse. Back in the house, Pinggu slowly takes a bite of Shyamraj’s irresistible chocolate cake. Shyamraj looks at Pinggu for a moment then snatches his birthday cake off Pinggu’s hands and yells at it.
Shyamraj: That’s one thing that I actually like here alright. Now go away!
ACT II – Mumbai
Three months after Shyamraj’s birthday, Rajat- his father- passes away due to a serious illness. Now, the entire zoo is in the hands of Shyamraj. Realizing that he could start a business right away as there wasn’t anyone to stop him, he became excited. So along with his friend Mokesh… and the monkey from his zoo Pinggu itself, he goes to Mumbai to meet a famous Magician- Dravidan.
The three meet in a modest restaurant and Shyamraj has brought Pinggu along with him too.
Dravidan: Ah! So this is the special little monkey that you’ve been talking about! I am glad you’re here my friend. I could use a monkey on my show alright. Do you say he’s trained?
Shyamraj: Oh yes! (Turns to Pinggu sitting on the table). Pinggu, serve water in the glass.
(Pinggu- not knowing what’s going on- eagerly obeys Shyamraj and pours water from the jar into a glass. At the same moment, the owner of the restaurant -Malik- behind his counter observes the Pinggu pouring water and then looks at the magician- Dravidan. He understands what is going on.)
Dravidan: Well, that’s a very clever monkey! Since he is already very witty, I assume it won’t be a problem to train him further. I’ve already made my decision. How much is he?
Shyamraj: 2 and a half lakhs and it shall be yours. If at all, anything happens to Pinggu here, you have to bring it back to Pondicherry at your own expense.
Malik: Sir! Your orders are ready at the counter.
Mokesh gets up to pick up the orders and goes to the counter.
Malik: (whispers) Hey, are you selling that little monkey of yours to Dravidan?
Mokesh: Yes… why? Does that bother you?
Malik: Nothing bothers me. But that monkey shall suffer in Dravidan’s hands, my friend. He may make the monkey a star on stage. But a slave under his roof. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
Mokesh: Well brother, that monkey isn’t mine, it’s my friend’s over there. Moreover, I think there are always sacrifices in businesses, especially here in Mumbai, don’t you think?
Malik becomes silent and watches as Mokesh takes the order back to the table.
Dravidan: Boy, great that I joined you this evening. I shall wire you the money by tomorrow.
Shyamraj: Oh anytime, Pingu’s all yours now.
Pinggu- not knowing the horrors of the real world of humans outside the zoo- gets ready to go with Dravidan. It sees Shyamraj for the last time as Dravidan carries it away to his car. Shyamraj and Mokesh leave the restaurant. Dravidan opens the boot of the car and -to the horror of Pinggu- pushes the monkey
forcefully into the boot and locks it in and drives away.
A year has passed and Shyamraj along with Mokesh has expanded the business to an unbelievable extent. The prices of tickets to his zoo are hiked up. Affiliations with different travel agencies in Mumbai have been made to visit his zoo in Pondicherry. Some rare birds of the zoo are also made available for purchase at very high rates.
Now the two have settled in Mumbai with their private apartment. COVID-19 hits India and the country is on lockdown. The businesses have stopped and everyone has to stay in their own living spaces. Shyamraj and Mokesh sit on the couch in the hall. The maid of the house is an old woman in her sixties who sweeps the floor as they speak.
Shyamraj: This lockdown’s really getting to my head these days. Hell, it is horrible to stay in every day.
Maid: (Starts about her generation as usual) Son, back in my days…
Shyamraj: Were you on quarantine back in your days?
Maid: No, but…
Shyamraj: Then don’t tell me how hard it was back in your days! It’s been over a month I’ve been home and I don’t believe there was anything as bad as this back in your days, so be quiet!
Mokesh: (chuckles) it’s funny how our business itself puts creatures in quarantine for their entire lives and now we’re facing it ourselves.
Shyamraj: What are you talking about?
Mokesh: The zoo, the animals, their cages. Back at the zoo, they were all in great shape when your father was along with them. Now they’re all locked up around just like us- except they remain locked up for life.
Shyamraj: Are you saying that this line of work of ours is filthy? This is business Mokesh. And they aren’t in bad shape now. We still provide enormous amounts of food to all our animals at the zoo. And the owners we sold some creatures to, we made sure they can provide for them enough to eat. So I don’t see any problem.
Mokesh: Of course there isn’t any problem. I’m just saying they’re animals, you know. They need more than just-food. They need space. They need a change for themselves at times. They need love and attention too. But anyway, they’re animals after all. (laughs) I guess that old restaurant owner’s words are getting to my head
Shyamraj: Which restaurant owner?
Mokesh: The one in the restaurant where we met Dravidan- the day we had just come to Mumbai, that day. He told me that the monkey we sold… what’s his name again? Pinggu. He told me Pinggu might suffer under Dravidan’s hands. But then, I don’t know if they have emotions. But if they do, they probably suffer a lot more than us right now, staying behind bars at all times, you know. Anyway, as you said, this is business. Even if the creatures that we do business with deal with emotions, it is just that sacrifices are made in businesses. I mean, when we’re making money out of lives, nothing can ever be perfect, can there be?
Shyamraj becomes silent and thinks a lot about his business. He thinks a lot about his father’s love for the zoo and its animals. Everything floods back to him that night. He doesn’t mention it to Mokesh and goes off to sleep.
Malik’s Restaurant – Three months later of the gruesome lockdown, everything starts up as normal again and businesses open up. Shyamraj decides to have lunch at the same restaurant where he had made his first deal with Pinggu by selling it to Dravidan. Upon reaching the restaurant, he gets surprised to see Pinggu sitting at the restaurant counter. The monkey becomes very happy to see Shyamraj. But Shyamraj sees wounds on Pinggu and feels bad for his actions. Malik, the restaurant owner, comes out.
Shyamraj: Excuse me, did you buy this monkey?
Malik: Why? You’re the man who sold it to Dravidan, aren’t you? Unfortunately, no, it isn’t my monkey. It’s a weekend, so Dravidan lets the monkey here at my restaurant for the day so that he can go back to town for a while. The monkey will be here usually once a week at this time of the day under my care. It’s the only time that it actually feels free. You shouldn’t have sold it to the magician, poor thing, he beats it to train it and keeps it locked up for days and nights during his shows. Here, I just let it be free for the time, it really is a brilliant little boy. Even my customers love to watch it here.
Shyamraj: Oh, I didn’t know what type of man Dravidan was. But if you love the monkey so much now, why don’t you buy it yourself from him? You know, it will help the business, it will be great for the monkey. Heck, even you’ll have company.
Malik: Ahha! If there was even a chance of possibility to buy him, I would. And money really isn’t a problem for me either. However, we’re talking about Dravidan here. And when he sees potential in something he has, he won’t let go. And no doubt, this brilliant little guy here has a lot of it. So it’s going to be a slave under him while it has all its energy. The only time I can buy it is when it’s old and worthless to his show. I don’t think there’s anything we both can do about that.
Shyamraj: But what if…
Shyamraj is interrupted by the sound of the oven. Malik walks to it and takes out a small chocolate cake.
Malik: There really isn’t anything you can do about it now son. Dravidan won’t sell it for any price. Now, it’ll just have to abide by the life it’s given. Anyway, I found out that it really likes chocolate cakes. So whenever it comes here, I make sure I make some for it.
Malik places the chocolate cake now cooled down, into a bowl and gives it to Pinggu. Pinggu looks at the chocolate cake and then looks at Shyamraj’s face. Instead of eating it, Pinggu picks up the bowl and walks over to Shyamraj, and hands him the chocolate cake.
Shyamraj looks into the delighted eyes of Pinggu. He looks at the chocolate cake bowl in his hands and gives it back to Pinggu and runs out of the restaurant.
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