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The Role Play - A Short Story

Discussion in 'Varalotti Rengasamy's Short & Serial Stories' started by varalotti, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The Role-play

    A Short Story By Varalotti Rengasamy

    “Dad, are you ready for our game? I am going to act as your mom for a while. OK?”

    Shiva just smiled. As a child Priya used to imitate her grandmother’s voice and order Shiva around. Now years after her grandmother’s death they used to have this role-play quite often especially when she wanted to communicate something important.

    Priya had lost her mother when she was barely seven. Shiva was devastated by his wife’s untimely death while delivering a stillborn child. Theirs was a fairy-tale marriage with no room for conflicts, not even arguments. This only served to multiply the pain caused by his wife’s death.

    Priya became his world after that. Shiva who used to work for twelve hours a day in his own business leased it out and spent almost all the time with his daughter.

    Priya took her father’s love for granted till she started college. Then her aunt, Shiva’s sister, told her about her father’s sacrifice of not marrying a second time for Priya’s sake. Her father was hardly forty and looked great at that age. Priya wanted to do something about that and that prompted her to initiate the role-play now.

    Priya’s voice changed to the baritone, authoritative voice of Shiva’s mother.

    “Shiva, you are only forty and still look very young. Why don’t you marry again and bring home a mother for Priya?”

    Shiva also played along.

    “But, Ma, you know the last thing I want in this world is step-motherly treatment for my darling Priya.”

    “All step-mothers do not act in a step-motherly way. Don’t be carried away by the stereotypes you might have seen in the old movies and novels. You choose a girl; let Priya talk to her and approve your selection. OK?”

    “But Ma, why don’t you leave me alone and let me have my way?”

    “No Shiva. I won’t. I am using my authority as your mother and order you to marry. If you still refuse, then Priya will leave you and stay in her college hostel. She will not even come home during the weekends. Do you want that to happen, Shiva?”

    It was only then that Shiva understood the significance of the role-play. He ended the game abruptly and started shouting at his daughter.

    “Priya, enough is enough. I know you are acting on somebody’s instructions. Why don’t you behave like a teen-aged girl and keep to your ways?”

    “Shiva, the game is not over. And I meant every word of what I said.”

    Then Priya shifted to her usual soft voice, which was now choked.

    “Yes, Dad, I do mean it and I do want a mother. Won’t you do that for me?”

    All of Shiva’s pleadings and arguments went into Priya’s deaf ears. Within six months Shiva married Rekha, a thirty five year old college professor in a simple ceremony.

    Priya who had been deprived of her mother’s love for years did not leave Rekha’s side even for a second.

    She called her Ma and would lie in Rekha’s lap most of the time while she was home. Whenever she wanted to shop for anything she would insist that Rekha should come along with her and approve her selection. When Rekha’s birthday came she conspired with her father to get an exquisite diamond necklace for her stepmother.

    And she would not go to sleep unless Rekha read some story to her.

    For a while Rekha was also overwhelmed with Priya’s love and responded to it with equal fervour. Shiva was on Cloud Nine because he had found almost a perfect substitute for Priya’s deceased mother.

    But slowly Rekha started avoiding Priya’s company. She would come a little late every evening and carefully avoided spending time with Priya. When Priya called her out for shopping she would feign some headache and refuse to go. Rekha was not harsh or cruel to Priya but the fact that she no longer reciprocated Priya’s love was very clear.

    Then the situation deteriorated even further. One evening Priya had returned late from a shopping trip to which Rekha had flatly refused to go. Shiva was in the study.

    “Hai Mom, see, what I have brought for you?”

    Priya was dangling a gift parcel in her hands affectionately, looking at her stepmother.

    “Priya, it’s almost ten. You are a grown up girl and should have the sense to return home before dark. And never go alone for a shopping trip late in the evening. Okay?”

    “But Ma, I did call you and you said that you are busy otherwise and so I was forced to go alone. I wanted to buy a good nightdress for you as I heard you telling Papa that you wanted to have one. I had to go to the other end of the town to get good ones. Anyhow I am sorry and I promise I will never be late again.”

    “And Priya, stop this habit of talking back to your parents. It doesn’t look nice.”

    Priya was baffled.

    She saw Rekha sitting on the sofa. Priya’s love towards Rekha was so great that she was not annoyed even by the latter's blatant rebuff. She was only surprised.

    She ran into Rekha’s lap.

    “Why Ma, any problem in your college? Looks like somebody has spoilt your moods.”

    “WILL YOU PLEASE GET UP, PRIYA? You are not a baby to lie in my lap. You are a teenaged girl and try to behave like one. I DON’T WANT YOU TO LIE IN MY LAP OR FOR THAT MATTER EVEN TOUCH ME. IS THAT CLEAR?”

    Priya was shocked into tears, which she could not control. She ran to her room without a word.
     
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The Role Play

    The Role Play II

    Rekha avoided a confrontation with Shiva on this issue at the dining table. She complained of some ailment and refused to have dinner.

    When Shiva called Priya for dinner she came and ate without a word. Shiva sensed that his daughter was not her usual self. He tried to crack some jokes and lighten her mood. But Priya did not even listen.

    Finally Shiva deployed the usual strategy. While Priya was taking her cup of milk at the drawing room Shiva told her enthusiastically,

    “Priya, the game starts now. You are now my mom. Right? Come on, start questioning me.”

    Priya was still heavy with the harsh words of Rekha. But she did not want to disappoint her father. And this game signified a sacred bond between the father and the daughter. Priya changed to the baritone, authoritative voice.

    “Shiva why do you come late from office every day?”

    “Ma. The pressures at office…”

    “Shiva, I’m your mother. Don’t lie to me. Okay?”

    Rekha came bursting out of the bedroom.

    “Priya, what’s this? You are still playing? Don’t you know that the semester exams are round the corner? If you are playing all day, when will you study? And I hate this practice of calling your father by name. Will you please stop that nonsense?”

    Priya was rendered speechless and ran to her room. She heard her father and her stepmother arguing noisily. She cried herself to sleep.

    The next few days passed off eventless. All the three remained grim and silent and the household was run with the minimum necessary conversation.

    Priya felt wretched. She could never bring herself to understand her stepmother’s funny behaviour. What wrong had she done to merit this rudeness from her?

    During the lunch break at her college she went to the Counsellor. The Counsellor was her psychology teacher who liked Priya very much. When the Counsellor placed her hands on Priya’s shoulder and asked her in a kind voice what bothered her, Priya broke down and told all about her problem starting from her choice of her stepmother down to her latest outburst.

    “Priya, we can’t attempt any solution to this problem unless we dig out the root-cause. Give me time till evening to think about it. Shall we meet in the canteen after your classes are over for the day?”

    Priya called her father in his mobile and told him that she would be coming late in the evening.

    “Priya, I think I have found out the cause of your problem. But I am not sure whether I can discuss that with you. But I can’t discuss that with any one either. As I know you, you are a balanced and matured girl. I am sure you will handle the problem in the right way. Now the reason for your stepmother’s funny behaviour..”

    The Counsellor was talking for a whole hour. Priya was in a daze. She did not even suspect in the least, that this would be the cause of all the trouble. She thanked the Counsellor and left for home. A strategy was forming in her mind.

    “Priya, is your watch not working? See the time. It’s almost eight. And you are walking in like a cat, without having the basic courtesy of informing me that you would be late today.”

    “Sorry, Ma. I forgot. I had special classes.”

    “A mere sorry is not enough. You deserve some punishment. You will not have dinner tonight”

    Priya had had enough.

    “Ma, will you please stop behaving with me like that? I may have to complain to Dad.”

    “You spoiled brat! Are you threatening me? Let’s see what happens when your Dad hears this.”

    Rekha was not sure of that. She instinctively knew that Shiva would only support Priya and not her. If this becomes a big issue, Shiva might even opt for divorcing her. She could not even think of that!
     
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  3. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    The Role Play

    The Role Play III

    Shiva came home around nine. All the three had a very silent dinner. Priya told her father in a grim voice.

    “Dad, I need to talk to you.”

    Shiva glanced at Rekha who also wore a puzzled look.

    ”Go ahead, dear. Tell me.”

    “I want to talk to you alone.”

    She cast a sideward glance at her stepmother.

    “No problem. Shall we do it in your room, Priya, after dinner?”

    Priya just murmured consent.

    Rekha who heard this conversation was clear that Priya was going to complain of her rude behaviour the previous day. There was no way she could prevent that from happening.

    As soon as the father and daughter was closeted in the room Rekha took a convenient position by side of an open window from where she could eavesdrop into their conversation.

    Dad, for one final time shall we play the usual game? I shall act as your Mom.”

    Shiva saw his daughter’s face. There was no trace of happiness there. She used to play the game only when she was in an upbeat mood. Why should she opt to play it now, when she had something very serious to discuss, something so important that she did not even want Rekha to know about it?

    “Just for one final time, Dad. Please. Don’t worry. I wont call you by your name as that offends Ma.”

    Rekha was moved by Priya’s gesture in respecting her sentiments even in her absence. Shiva hugged his daughter tight.

    “You can call me by my name, dear. Why not? Please, you have to call me Shiva, if you want to play the game.”

    “OK Shiva. Now listen. How long have you been married to Rekha?”

    “Six months, Ma. But why this question, Ma? Did Rekha hurt you? Or was she rude to you? Tell me, Ma.”

    Rekha’s heart was thumping. Her life lay in Priya’s answer.

    “Not at all, Shiva. She is a fine bahu for me and a wonderful mother to Priya.”

    “Then…”

    “Well, Sonny, there are some matters which a mother can’t talk to her son. But at times she is forced to do that. Tell me frankly have you ever acted like a husband to her… I mean in all aspects… during these six months?”

    Shiva was shocked.

    “PRIYA WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING?”

    “Cool Shiva. Remember the game is not over. Agreed it is not okay for a mother to talk like that. But it would be far worse for a daughter to do that. So, let’s just stick to the game.”

    “ “

    “You have already been married and have enjoyed married life for ten years. Remember, that for Rekha this is her first marriage. And just tell me what right have you to deprive her of the happiness that the marriage entitles her to?”

    “ “

    “You have a child of your own. Rekha showers her love on your child. But will she not long to have a child of her own? And is it not your duty to grant that wish?”

    “ “

    “Shiva, you are very mean. You think that if Rekha has a child of her own, she might neglect Priya. Or Priya might feel abandoned. Rekha is a great woman and she can never act like a stepmother to Priya. Try to understand her feelings, my son. Okay?”

    “Priya.. Priya…..”

    Rekha burst out into the room and hugged Rekha starting to sob violently. Priya had now stopped acting like her father’s mother. She was now playing the role of her stepmother’s mother.
     
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  4. Sharada

    Sharada Senior IL'ite

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    good story

    The role playing is a very creative and innovative way to get the message across. In her subconscious Rekha was blaming her teenaged stepdaughter for her marital frustration. Going to the college Counsellor opened Priya's eyes and made her understand the situation and rectify matters before it became too late.
    The theme is very contemporary and Varalotti has addressed the issue in a subtle and effective manner which truly appealed.
    Sharada
     
  5. meenaprakash

    meenaprakash Silver IL'ite

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    That was a wonderful play....

    Hello Sridhar,

    Just went thru the short story.

    when I read the title, Role Play - had no clue about what role meant.
    This game of ROLE PLAY is a wonderful imagination and plays a significant role. beautiful use of it in this story.

    after reading the story, I was moved. Beautiful characters, beautiful family...
    Maybe even Shiva's Mom wouldn't have been so understanding like Priya and advise his son to be a good husband to Rekha.

    When the character Shiva seems to be so loving & understanding towards his daughter, how could he miss out on his wife's feelings? when he could go out of way to fulfil his daughter's wishes, how could he not even think of Rekha's feelings as a newly wed dame???????

    there's one thing I just can't understand - why is it that men don't understand women's needs or wants??? why is it that they need to be taught to share ??? why are they so selfish?????????? some need a bang on their head.

    On the whole, a beautiful story, Sridhar.
     
  6. Chilbuli Imli

    Chilbuli Imli Senior IL'ite

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    The Role Paly

    Hello Sridhar,

    Read the story its wonderful. Simple words and a wonderful way of passing the message. As Meena said in her comment that even Shiva's mother would have not done the way Priya handled the situation.
    It has beautiful characters, loving family...


    Nice one Keep Writing..

    Love
     
  7. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks,Sharada, Meena and CBI

    Thanks for the nice words you have expressed about this story. Actually I saw the daughter roleplaying her dad's mother in a TV soap. There it is used for some trivial reasons. I thought that role play can be used for really powerful purposes and this story was born. Sharada, you have hit the nail on its head when you said that the story uses the role-play technique creatively. My daughter who reads almost all my stories and doesn't like almost all my stories made exceptions to two stories - one was Role Play. In fact when she reads some of my stories, she always says, 'Why don't you write a story like Role Play?'
    Meena, your observation is very sharp. Even if Shiva's mother were alive she would not have helphed Rekha this much.
    Now Meena, coming to your question, Why men are selfish and don't care for women's feelings. At least from the point of view of this character, Shiva, I can speak forcefully for men. You see, men who marry for the second time with grown-up children (daughters, especially) from their first marriage always have strong feelings of guilt. They have a deep belief that even their marrying a second time is a kind of neglecting their first wife's children. These guilt feelings weigh them out and make them blind to their newly wed wives.
    Had Shiva's mother been alive, who knows, she might have fanned such guilt feelings and might have ensured that their relationship is not normal. Thankfully in this story we have a girl, who is not only loving but also intelligent enough to understand the nuances of the relationship.
    thanks everyone once again,
    sridhar
     
  8. sudhavnarasimhan

    sudhavnarasimhan Silver IL'ite

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    Sensitive issue well handled!

    Dear Sridhar,

    I guess i am late in appreciating the story....i agree with the others taht it was a great idea to use role play....Priya's character was very well crafted, a very sensible and sensitive , loving daughter indeed. She handled a sensitive issue in a mature way and brought back the LOVE in the family. Kudos to you for creating such beautiful characters and lovely story line.
    regards,
     
  9. vidhukumar

    vidhukumar Senior IL'ite

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    Your story proves that Wisdom and Maturity is not decided by age.....i feel its very rare to find people like your charecter Priya.The highlight was her pure Love(which accepted Rekha from day 1without any inhibhitions))&selflessnes......her emotional maturity was exceptional!!very sensitive story.
     
  10. varalotti

    varalotti Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks, Sudha and Vidhukumar!

    Thanks Sudha and Vidhukumar for your very nice words. Vidhukumar, you are right, in the end (as well as in the beginning) nothing succeeds like selfless love. When there is love things fall in place, the Universe rushes the requisite intelligence to solve the problems faced by genuine love. But when there is no love even if the person is the world's most intelligent person, nothing gets really solved. Problems just get postponed.
    I realised the power of Roleplay as a technique wayback in 1994 when I was a faculty in a Youth Leadership Camp conducted by Rotary (RYLA). When I was asked to handle a stanby session all of a sudden I (with advice from a senior faculty member) suggested that two students play the role of their parents while opposing a love marriage proposed by their sons/daughters, whose role was played by another two students. The insights we got into the working of a student's mind, My God! Then I realised how badly we hurt our children not knowing that they know a lot more than we normally assume. That scene was fresh in my memory and when I saw a role-play in a Tamil serial this story was born. I am glad you liked it.
    sridhar
     

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