Nepali Kalasahitya Dot Com Pratishthan


Keshab Sigdel

The Mind inside the Mask

(Everything seems to be a drama. Most of the people in the habitation wear masks. Probably there is a festival in the village and people have queued themselves in the local mart to buy masks for themselves. There are both local masks and imported masks available and they are rated different in price. The price of the mask depends upon the intensity of fear and terror that they arouse in the hearts of the buyers. But nobody knows what is in the mind of the sellers who themselves wear masks and sell the masks.)

Masked Person 1: (in a way to attract the attention of people around) I represent the continuous history of the mask. I had my own history but it no more exists. I am so possessed by the mask that now I only live the history of the mask.

(At a distance, there are people who have not worn masks. The majority of the people with masks are vigilantly watching those unmasked people with awe and wonder. It seems that people are a bit confused about how those people are going to perform without any mask. But everything here is the externalities of the mask. Nobody in the habitation knows what is inside the mind of the mask. Unmasked persons by now have arrived nearer).

Unmasked Person 1: (somewhat worried or desperate) History of a mask? Being a mask is not an assertion of life. The mask outside, in reality, does not resemble the mind inside. Mask as such does not have any history of its own. Mask is just a metaphor of our own process in the being. The masks retain their meaning until they can produce fear and terror in the spectators. Once the spectators adapt themselves with the masks, and the masks begin losing their effect, the very masks are non-existent. And where remains the history of the mask then?

(Murmurs and whispers fill the environment)

Unmasked Person 2: My dear friend, do not try to shatter the world of the people who live with masks. I can bet that even you are in the search of the mask. But it happened that old masks lost their essence. And the local masks were not as attractive and awesome as the imported ones. And you did not have the capacity to buy the imported masks that were expensive. This is why you are wandering in the habitation without any mask. Do you know my friend that people wearing masks these days are afraid with people who do not wear mask? You are also a mask-man without a mask. What does it mean even if you try to prove the world that you are without a mask when you are essentially manufacturing masks inside you?

Unmasked Person 1: (seems raged but replies aptly with soberness) It is no good that an unmasked person denounces another unmasked person, and it disrupts the unity of the unmasked people. It is time to show that our fight is against those who wear masks. You should understand that anything you say out of emotions is not going to help you. Neither will they stop the course of history. But our unified fight against the people wearing mask can at least provide us with new masks that we were searching since a long time. I think we should declare that though we do have grudges against the mask wearers but our respect for the masks have never deteriorated. I say so because no drama has been possible without masks nor will it be possible in future. The cast of a drama have no choice other than to accept them with full reverence.

Masked Person 1: History is like a stallion that winners ride with all liberty. And keep in notice that here every time masks have been the winners. You can put on the mask of nationalism, you can choose the mask of democracy, or you can even wear the mask of republicanism, and queue yourself for the victory. History is ever ready to be ridden by you. But what make a difference is you choice. Your chance to win depends on how attractive and terrifying mask you are able to choose for yourself. You know, I am trying to read the strength of the mask from inside the mask.

Masked Person 2: (speaks as if there is a thunder in the sky in a mood of strong opposition) Dear gentleman! The hypothesized simplicity you are presenting will only confuse the people. Have you ever thought on how power is circulated in the mask? I have never experienced the authority of wearing the mask though I have been wearing it the whole life. The history shows that the powerful people ruled over the weaker lots in the past and will continue to rule in present and future. Only different are the settings and the cast. Essence is the same. I don’t understand why masks have become the symbols of terror. We have never heard a mask terrorizing the other mask. Only frightened are the hearts inside the masks. So the source of terror is not the mask but the mind inside it. Are you weary of the masks?

Masked Person 1: This is not a question at all. Living with the masks whole the life, I am myself transformed into the mask. I am the mask, and the mask is me. I cannot even think to remain without a mask because my identity, or say, my whole existence depends on this mask I wear. (in a mood as if he remembers something) But you should not be confused. Masks have never fought against masks. I agree that each time masks have accepted the leadership of all wars in the history. But those masks have never staged revenge against other masks. They have only tried to terrorize the hearts inside the mask. The masks want to absolutely rule over the minds and hearts inside them. Therefore, the purpose of all masks, whatever size or colour they may be in is to terrify the sober hearts inside them.

Unmasked Person 1: (doubtful and diffident) In transition, history is degenerated into layers of interest. History is no more than an illusion created by the masks. The mask-men are themselves not satisfied with the role of the masks. This means people put on masks not because they want it but because they have no other choice. They continue to threaten people as if they are a scare-crow.

Unmasked Person 2: Dear unmasked gentleman, mind your talk! How soon did you start pitying the mask wearing people? The act of wearing mask is a drama in itself. And it is both the duty and success of the cast to take you into confidence and attract you towards them. I suspect that you are becoming the abetter of the masks without wearing the mask.

(The environment seems stressed and intense with the slogans in the backdrop.
Shy on you mask- shy on you!
Shy on you the abetter of mask- shy on you!
Slow and gradual, there appears a crowd. There are people with mask and people without mask. Unmasked people are still carried by doubt and indecision, but are slowly chanting the slogan against the masked people. In a new development, the people with mask have hidden their masks with clean white cloth and have joined the crowd chanting slogans against mask wearing people themselves.
Shy on you mask- shy on you!
Shy on you the abetter of mask- shy on you!
The crowd moves ahead and there enters a narrator)

Narrator: Dear audience, I am the narrator. We are in the final rehearsal of our drama The Mind inside the Mask. But we apologize that we could not complete the rehearsal because it no more remained a drama. People are complaining that it completely resembles the real life. And it has put us in trouble. The masks used in the drama are also used in the real life situations and it has created confusions among director and casts. There is a problem distinguishing life and drama. But, we are trying our best to perform it. We thank you all for you patience and cooperation.

Audience 1: Mister narrator, your words are not acceptable to us. How can you, all of sudden, minimize our role as audience? We can never accept ourselves as the mere spectators. The audience seen in the silver screen are the artists themselves and how can we be not since we are ourselves in the live performance? Do you mean that our “audience-mask” has no meaning at all? What about our role as clappers and applauders? Where is the response for our attempt to belittle the old cheap masks? What price are you paying for the tears that we had shed to sympathize the actor and actress of the drama? Where is your gratitude towards us for assimilating ourselves to your dreams?

(The narrator is not seen at the stage. Everybody at the audience row are taken aback and are trying to understand the sensitivity of the situation. Now everybody in the stage and the audience row has taken their masks in their hands.)

Masked Person 1: Wait friends! First, please allow me to speak without taking out my mask because speaking without a mask has no meaning at all. It is the regime of the masks and you will feel privileged to speak wearing the mask. The narrator himself is a person in the mask. Out in the stage, he tries to find a sequence of different masks, but inside he is himself a sequel of the mask-chain. Your act of putting off the mask is ok until it is used as a means to show your protest. But if you lose your masks, you will be a mere victim of the history. You will not be able to face the suffering of the people who have lived without any sort of mask. The response you are receiving from them is because you still have a mask.

Audiences: (jointly)
If such is the case, we will neither wear the mask nor lose it. We have a twin role to demonstrate our power by exhibiting the masks and also protest by taking them in our hands.

Masked Person 2: (approaching near the masked person 1) I think I should speak on this issue. You should not blame me that all the people with masks share the same group interest. We are the characters who have suffered from the mask but are unable to live without the masks. So it is a historical blunder to think that whatever I speak only represents the people with masks. What I have understood is that time does not have its own intentions. In the circularity of time, even good characters have suffered and bad characters have many times won the bet. But stories are twisted when elephants choose their own Nawaraj for garlanding. Elephants have their intentions. They create their own Nawaraj when they need them and thrash them when they are unwanted.

Audience 2: Who gave elephants to the role to select the Nawaraj?

Masked Person 2: These are the stories we have been reading since time immemorial. We have believed on it because we had acquired it with our faith. But we still do not know where the elephants come from. In the age of Swasthani, elephants had the divine consciousness. Nietzsche said that God is dead. And with the death of the God, elephants were conducted by the human mahouts. Now it is the age of robots. The micro chips installed in the robots do not have their intentions. Somebody in the mask plays the keys. The elephant these days have become even more mysterious.

Audience 1: Then what is the relation of time and elephant with the masks?

Masked Person 2: (feels satisfied that his words have produced impact) I was trying to tell the same thing. Time does not have its own intentions. But there is a regular cycle in which characters - good or bad- are punished and awarded. Even the masks do not have their own intentions. The earth is being ruled by the people who have become the terror of the time by wearing masks. But we are destined to suffer even after wearing the masks for the entire life. You know, the mind inside the mask is not unintentional. Those minds do have their vested interest as did the elephants. And for that matter, they try to make the masks more terrifying.

Audience 2: Then . . .?

Masked Person 2: The mask does not have its own intention and still it symbolizes power. When something is not in use it loses its power. So it is not wise to keep the masks non-functional. Now you should choose either to wear the mask at your convenience or abandon it and prepare yourself for the destiny of living without masks.

(Nobody has dared to abandon the mask till now. People look at each other in a state of bewilderment not being able to decide whether to put on the mask or abandon it.)

Unmasked Person 2: The game of the mask is not only a rehearsal of the drama. This is in itself a grand finale. But it is our tragedy that all the actors have appeared in the mask-game without contesting the primary. It has become even more difficult to speculate when and who will enter into the game without a faintest indication. Nobody therefore can decide which of the show will be the decisive one. I know many mask-men are experiencing the penalty for their fouls in the game. It looks something like a football game where goalkeeper is not allowed to defend the post and the referee himself has rushed toward the penalty area to kick the ball. The scorers have quietly accepted the foul play and the losers have tried to resist it. There is a possibility that the play will either be cancelled or will end in draw. If the show was all about entertainment, then the extension of the play would have added the thrill. But . . ..

Unmasked Person 1: It is a different game that is played by wearing masks. The game you are talking of is something that people with jersey play. Those people with jersey have naked faces. Wearing jersey is not same as wearing masks. The single game of the jersey wearers can be the final one and can decide on the medals. But games of the mask wearers are different. Each game is final but nobody wins it. It is up to the players if they can convince others that they have won the game.

(At the meantime a stranger tries to pose a question to the unmasked person. Actually two strangers were overhearing the dialogues between the unmasked persons.)

Stranger 1: Is the face of the man not the mask in itself? Have we ever been able to read the mind of the people in their faces? Should we speak anything about the conspiracy they have hatched against their fellow beings even when they stage themselves as epitome of charity? I think we have threats more form the people without mask than those with masks.

Unmasked Person 2: Who are you? And why are you lobbying for the masks?

Stranger 2: We do not have any identity. We are unidentified people and this is our very identity. You people are waging a futile war. Essentially there is no difference between mask and no mask. For them, whom the mask has become the identity, the mask is no more a mask but a face. And the people on whose faces you cannot read their mind, those faces are no more faces. They are masks. Then where are the masks? Where are the faces?

Stranger 1: We do not have any masks neither can you read our mind on our faces. It is possible that we have lost our identity because we do not have masks, or we are deprived of our identity because our faces have become the masks of ourselves. We are therefore looking for some masks that can give us our identity. Or we are searching our own faces that can reflect and retain our mind so that our face can become our identity. How long can we live without identity? We want an escape from this crisis.

(There enters the Masked Person 1)

Masked Person 1: I was just telling that masks do not have their own and specific history as such. Their history is built based on who uses them and why they are used. And in the longer cycle those temporary histories are dismantled. There is a history of the history itself. But I think masks are more futuristic. I suspect that somebody is playing behind the curtain that has caused the tussle between the people with and without masks. These strangers are behaving like no-human.

Masked Person 2: No-human . . .?

Masked Person 1: Yes, no-human. Humans do not speak so clear and straight. There is no match between what have been said outside the mask and what is inside the mind. There is hate inside and outside they smile. Inside they amuse and outside they pretend to wail. They stage a drama for the onlookers, the spectators. Such are the humans. The villages are full of humans. The cities are full of humans. And how did these no-humans enter into the human territory?

(There is terror, there are worries. But people continue to speak)

Stranger 1: We have no more enthusiasm to remain no-human. We want to wear mask. We do have our own history. We have the untold stories of struggles. But we have a humble request. Please do not stop us from becoming human. Do not stop us from wearing masks. We are even ready to put our history in the mortgage.

Stranger 2: (with a humble request) At least recognize us to wear the masks as the agent of peace. We can help your rhetoric of change if we are allowed to wear the masks.

Unmasked Person 1: For peace we can time again organize prayer assemblies. We can manufacture new masks for peace. We can wage a new war for peace. We can do anything we want. But why are you posing these demands to us?

(Unexpectedly, there enters the narrator and begins to speak as if he is giving the final verdict in the court)

Narrator: Stop your dialogues please! I am tired of it. These strangers are nobody. They are hungry and want to eat something. They are naked and want rags to cover their secret parts. They are sleepless and want to rest. Prayer assemblies for peace are the dialogues of the drama. But these strangers are not the cast. And what they have said cannot become the valid dialogues of the drama. The peace they are looking for can be found in a piece of bread. It can be found in a length of rag or even in a few minutes nap. Yes, we can organize prayer assemblies. We can buy armaments for the war scene in the drama. But, we are sorry that we cannot buy breads for these people. Theatre has its own discipline. And our mandate does not allow us to do so. Now we are not in a position to stage the drama. The life has mixed into the drama and the drama has become the life. The difference between life and drama is blurred. We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the decision to cancel our show The Mind inside the Mask.

(Curtain falls). 

(first published in Of Nepalese Clay, Issue 10)

Publisher :
Nepali KalaSahitya Dot Com Pratisthan

Distinct Advisor :
SP Koirala

Advisors :
Umesh Shrestha
Mohan Bdr. Kayastha
Radheshyam Lekali
Yograj Gautam
Dr. Hari Prasad (Manasagni)
Dr. Badri Pokhrel
Yogendra Kumar Karki
Rajendra Shalabh
Kapil Dev Thapa
Samir Jung Shah
Advisor Editor :
Rajeshwor Karki

Chief Editor :
Momila Joshi

Transcreator :
Mahesh Paudyal 'Prarambha'
Kumar Nagarkoti
Suresh Hachekali
Keshab Sigdel

Website Developer:
Shailendra Adhikari
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