William Saroyana’s touching one act play ‘Hello Out There’ was being taught by Niveditha Madam. It’s a play which begins with a prisoner screaming in the prison “hello out there” and when the cook of the prison hears him she answers to him saying “hello” and she is asked if she is Keaty by the prisoner and she says she isn’t Keaty. And when she asks the prisoner who is Keaty he says he doesn’t know anyone by that name. After explaining till the part of the cook replying Niveditha Madam stopped and said “It’s like you are sitting in a bus which goes to Mangalore and you ask the person sitting next to you if he is going to Mangalore, just to initiate a conversation”
Those days I was travelling everyday from Manipal to Mangalore. It used to take one hour fifteen minutes for me to reach Mangalore from Manipal and most of the times I used to read some book but at times I would want to talk to someone and I would be thinking as to how to initiate conversations. So I could very well relate to what Niveditha Madam was saying.
At a higher level it’s not only about wanting to strike a conversation in an unknown place it’s also about craving for a company in an unknown place and thus being connected to the human community and thus saving oneself from the feeling of alienation. Isn’t that exactly why we learn the language of the local community when we move into a new place?
Off late after the mobile revolution and the coming of hi-tech mobiles having radio and also music players in it, I have noticed that people while travelling in the bus and train prefer to listen to music and thus alienate themselves from the rest of the world. May be today Niveditha Madam has to find a new example to explain William Saroyana’s play.
It’s not only in buses or trains because of hi-tech mobiles but also in various other realms of life that we see the same trend happening.
Earlier people went to theatre to watch plays and movies and these theatres created a public space. Then television arrived which in its earlier days did create a public space but with increased popularity it created private spaces for families. Then started the trend of families having more than one television one in each bedroom, creating private spaces for individuals. Even movies are watched on ‘personal’ computers and laptops.
In public libraries earlier newspapers were displayed on the notice-boards which enabled reading of it by many at the same time in the same space and also initiated discussion among the readers then and there. This era came to an end but the newspapers available in the library were being circulated from hand to hand and we saw human being connected in this way. But today we have e-newspaper and people read newspaper on their ‘personal’ computers. May be the only public space left now is public toilets, which no one wants to use for the condition of it.
Gibran’s poem “Life is an island in the ocean of solitude and seclusion” has gained new meanings today.
08 September 2008