The play ‘The Blue Lake’ by Dr. DharamVir Bharti was published in an anthology of one act plays – ‘The River was Thirsty’(Nadi Pyasi Thi).. ‘The Blue Lake’ is a fantasy. Since Dr Bharti is a writer known for new experiments, in this play, the writer has used symbols and motifs in new ways. The blue lake, mountains, trees, the mist, the music of the flute, the rocks and the workers – all symbolize different social conditions and circumstances. The main protagonist is a Tantric who looks after souls while the workers look after the fields. Revealing the mystery of the lake, the Tantric tells that till the soul of everything that comes on the banks stays in the lake, the lake will shine. The day the soul is lost, its shadow cannot be seen in the lake.
To a large extent, The Blue Lake is a morality play. The characters of the play are symbolic. The general features that they represent have been kept in mind, their individualities do not come into play.
Some words I was not able to translate into English. I have retained them in the translation. For instance, the closest parallel that I could find for Tantric was a wizard. However a Tantric is an essentially Indian concept. A Tantric possesses skills of magic and creating illusions. These skills are not inborn but a product of study.
The Blue Lake
Time of the events : 1950 AD
Tantric of the Blue Lake
First child of the Blue Lake
Second child of the Blue Lake
Soulless child of the Blue Lake
Black, humped mountain-tops with strange, shapeless faces, torn apart by mysterious, snake-like ravines that zig-zag into darkness. From where the rocks end till the lake, there is a crescent of yellow, glinting dry grass. Then there is a serene blue lake in an octagonal shape. Behind the lake is an unknown tree with big leaves of same shape and colour as the lake. The tree has roots spread all over the ground.
There is a soft glimmer on the mountains cast by mist that has spread its wings like a huge eagle. The entire scene seems to be an illusion. The mountains are not real, nor the trees, nor the mist, nor the lake, nor does the music of flute echoing through these magically conjured mysterious mountains belong to this world. As the music of the flute gathers tempo, an old man enters, pushing aside a rock in the corner. The clothes are the colour of the lake, forehead is smeared with red tilak and the hair are white, even the brows. Back is bent double. The neck shivers. After coming onstage, he stops at the corner of the lake. He bends to see his shadow in the lake and then looking at the audience, he says-
Tantric: Blue Lake! I am Old Tantric of the Blue Lake! My old eyes have never seen this lake dry or become dirty. Amid these black, dry, bare and harsh rocks, this lake gives us meaning, gives us life. Our people and I have lived amid these rocks for ages, have lived on the banks of this lake.
(From one side of the stage enters a man with flute, from the other side a man carrying sickle and some a bunch of paddy)
These are the people of our clan who tear the rocks to grow life, who tickle the branches of bamboo to make music.
First Man: These rocks give us strength
Second Man: These trees give us shade.
First Man: This Lake gives us life.
Second Man: On the banks of this lake, among these rocks, we bloom like flowers.
First Man: We suffer harsh sun and heavy rains, sand and storms and then fade away like flowers.
Second Man: Then Mother Earth opens its arms to let us sleep…
First Man: And our bones congeal to become rocks.
(Tantric comes to the front again)
Tantric: I no longer have the strength to fight the rocks. My blind eyes have seen sixty three eclipses of the moon. My fists have reaped one Hundred and twenty five crops. I can not fight these rocks now. Now I am a Tantric, these men look after the fields.
First Man: And the Tantric looks after our souls
Second Man: Like a shepherd who keeps a count of the sheep, the Tantric keeps a count of our soul.
Tantric : When they walk on the side of the lake, their shadow sways in the lake. The day anyone of them loses his soul somewhere, that day the lake gets angry. That day their shadow cannot be seen in the lake. That day I ask them – where is your soul and those who cannot answer have to go to the blind dark valleys alone, to look for their soul, all alone.
First Man : (Nervous and scared). None of them has returned till today.
(As they talk, from the mountains on the left, a man wearing modern dress, with a beautiful bag in hand, enters and stands in the corner of the stage, nervously. Seeing him, the second man gets scared, touches the shoulder of the Tantric and gestures towards the visitor)
Second Man: (restlessly) Who is he?
First Man: (resentfully) From where has he come?
Second Man: (restlessly) Some peril is about to descend on us.
Tantric: (Covers his old eyes with a shivering hand) Who are you?
(The visitor is silent)
Second Man: This is our land. The land of the children of the Blue Lake
First Man: Our ancestors have lived here. Here their bones have become rocks.
(The visitor remains silent but walks ahead)
Tantric : Nobody can come here alive, neither can anybody return from here alive. (Visitor walks silently). Stupid boy, return, apart from the children of the Blue Lake, none can step here.
First Man: Your bones will rebel
Second Man: The Blue Lake will swallow you.
Visitor: I am also the son of the Blue Lake.
Visitor: Yes! Twenty eclipses ago, walking with the winds that blow to the west, I had left this place to go to the place where the lakes have been tied, where light is drawn from the rivers.
Tantric: Yes, I remember! We looked for you. When we could not find you, we prayed to these holy mountains for your welfare.
First Man: We asked the Blue Lake to bless you.
Tantric: And the Blue Lake has called you back. Come here, let me see you. (Tantric touches his arms lovingly, the other two men touch his clothes in surprise. They see his bag)
Visitor: I conquered that country and when there was nothing left to win, I remembered the Blue Lake. I have brought gold to offer to the mountains and the Lake. (He takes out the gold).
First Man: (with surprise) Gold.
Second Man: (with desire) Gold.
Tantric: (scolding) Gold! Keep it away. So you took gold there.
Visitor: In the jungles, I caught dark slaves. Made them dig mines, whipped them and made them dig out gold.
Tantric: And what did you do with that gold?
Visitor: I bought women with that gold. I bought ivory beds and pearl ornaments for those women.
First Man: Necklace! How beautiful are these. (Tantric glares at him and he keeps down the necklace)
Visitor: Bought revealing clothes for them.
Visitor: And when I grew tired of those slaves, those women and their dirty children, I made furnaces of iron and threw them in, like husk.
First Man: Of iron?
Visitor: Yes, furnaces of iron. People call them machines. But those machines ground those slaves and those women and made them clever, and they started fighting for something, something they called (thinking)…rights.
Visitor: Then I also started talking about rights, influenced those slaves. I got the royal spectre.
Visitor: And then it was the rule of the peole! Democracy! I had the power, system was run by the people. Then there were two democracies. Democracy of gold and democracy of people, and I had gold and I had power over the minds of the people and there were two democracies and I was the ruler of first and the ruler of the second, I started fighting with myself.
Tantric: You started fighting with yourself.
Visitor: Yes! No: I only ordered. My people fought on one side and my people fought on the other side, and my people on one side shed their blood and my people on the other side shed their blood. This way the first battle happened, then the second battle, then the third and the people tasted blood and they kept dying and killing…I took their gold, their clothes, their food, their prosperity, their energy, their strength and came to the land of the Blue Lake.
Tantric: So you got your gold from that country safely.
Visitor: I got the their gold from that country safely.
Tantric: You brought your food, strength, prosperity, energy from that country safely.
Visitor: I brought their food, strength, prosperity, energy from that country safely.
Tantric: And your soul?
Tantric: Did you bring your soul from that country safely?
Visitor: Soul, what soul?
Tantric: Have you forgotten so soon? (Laughing) Try to remember, you had also taken a soul from here.
Visitor: I had taken from here?
Tantric: Try to remember. When you played in the laps of these mountains, these rocks gave you a soul, which was as strong and powerful as these rocks. Like them large and eternal. Like them…
Visitor: Soul, like these rocks?
Tantric: Try to remember, when you played your flute on the banks of the lake, a shadow came dancing on the waves and near your feet, it slept, listening to your music. It was clean and deep like the Blue Lake. It bloomed like a dark lotus on the surface of the lake.
Visitor: Like a dark lotus?
Tantric: Try to remember. When you sat under the shade of this tree, a soul covered you like a blessing. Like this tree, it had grown from deep inside the earth. It drew its life from this fragrant soil and breaking away the layers of darkness, it soared day and night, flying towards the sky, towards purity….
Visitor: Towards purity? I don’t remember anything. I did not take any soul from here.
Tantric: You are lying. You killed your soul for the royal spectre, buried it in a tomb of gold. Your rule is besmirched with stains of blood. Your gold is drawing flies.
Visitor: (Shouts). I have not killed anyone. You are lying.
Tantric; (Calmly) I am lying? Come here and stand at the bank of this lake. Bend and look in it. What do you see?
Visitor: I cannot see anything.
Tantric: (to the second man) What does this mean?
Second Man: This shows that this man has lost his soul somewhere.
Tantric: (To the first man) Give your flute to him. (to the visitor) Blow it. ( Flute is silent) What does his mean?
First Man: His soul is dead. There is no life, no breath, no music in him.
Tantric: Right. (Visitor walks ahead) Beware, stand there. This great man is the all-conquering son of the Blue Lake. There is gold on his back and royal spectre in his hand and he is without soul. (To the two men) Stay away, if his shadow falls on you, you will grow claws, dirty worms will slither in your minds…(draws a circle around him) Don’t step out of this, don’t step out. (To the second person) Go and announce in the valley, no child should come to play at the banks of the lake, women should close the doors. The shadow of this man should not touch anyone. Tell them that he is the proud son of the Blue Lake who has returned after twenty eclipses of moon, with gold and power, but he killed his soul somewhere.
Visitor: This is a lie
(The second man goes. While going, he walks around the gold, looking at it greedily)
Tantric: This is a false charge. You don’t believe it. Okay, I will show you. The goddess of purity, our greatest mother, this Blue Lake never lies. (To the first man). Come here and stand near the lake. Think of a freshly blooming lotus that has thousands of petals…(Chants something). I separate your soul from you, I send it to the dark country of the past…I will send your soul to the events of history that are over but were never written. What does your soul see?
First Man: The black mountains of the Blue Lake are shivering and an injured doe is running on them.
Tantric: That is his soul.
First Man: Dark slaves are overturning a rock. They are gathering gold. A small flowering shrub is crushed under the rock.
Tantric: That is his soul.
Visitor: (shouts in fear) This is a lie.
First Man: A girl is sobbing on an ivory table. There are festering wounds on her body.
Tantric: That is his soul.
Visitor: All these are lies.
First Man: The iron furnaces have swallowed a child. People are strangling each other. There are bloodstains in the fields. A woman disentangles herself from his arms and runs towards the mountains. The Blue Lake has turned red like blood. She jumped into it, shouting and the waves swallowed her. She is drowning in blood, she has drowned.
Tantric: That is his soul.
Visitor: (Buries his face in his lap) Its true. (In voice of sorrow). It is absolutely true.
First Man: He has killed. (Lifts his face. His eyes are bloodshot). His soul, he has killed.
(The Second Man returns)
Second Man: (makes a gesture as if strangling). He should be thrown into the Blue Lake. Have you ever strangled anyone?
First Man: No. There must be some joy in strangling others, that is why he…(runs and catches the visitor’s neck).
Tantric: Stay away, his shadow has fallen on you.
Second Man: I will take his gold. (Takes the gold)
First Man: (Leaves the visitor’s neck and immediately catches hold of Second Man’s wrist). I will take the gold, you can take the pearls.
Second Man: I have a right over this.
Tantric; (Stepping forward) Bloodthirsty animals! Step back! Your shadows are moving precariously in the Blue Lake. I ask you to go back. Otherwise, I will order and the branches of these trees will bend you in their snake-like grip.
(He starts walking forward. As if enchanted, both men start stepping back and disappear behind the mountains. The visitor gets up, looks in the lake and then covers his face as if scared. Tantric comes and touches his shoulder.)
Visitor: Don’t touch me! Death has touched me. I have killed. Call them. They should crush me in these rocks.
Tantric: No my son, you will not die.
Visitor: These rocks will have their revenge. The lake will have its revenge. I am without a soul.
Tantric: This Lake will forgive you. I am old. I can not do anything now. I am meaningless. I will suffer for your sins. I will pray for you. (Goes on his knees and prays) Oh boundless loving lake, forgive him. Oh endless mountains, he has killed his soul. What can be a greater punishment for him now than being without a soul. Forgive him. Give him life. Give him a new soul.
Visitor: (With a mix of doubt and faith) New soul?
Tantric: Why not? You will not die. You will live to look for a new soul.
Tantric: Yes, you. Go to look for a new soul in the country where wars are going on, where people are shedding blood, where the iron furnaces are burning. Go and find a meaning in this struggle. Fight the dark, believe in light. You will get a new soul.
Tantric: Go. Step ahead. (Gestures towards the stairs of the stage) Descend, descend into life. (Visitor spreads his arms, with eyes wide open, walks like a blind man) You are in the dark. You are walking towards light. (Reaches the audience) Don’t be scared, don’t worry. Don’t doubt your faith. Look among the people, touch the crowds, descend into life. You will get a new soul. Don’t lose courage. When you return, your shadow will sway in the Lake like the full moon. These rocks will open their arms to welcome you. (Looks towards the audience) He is moving among us. His soulless shadow is touching you, but don’t get scared. He is looking for his soul. Support him. Help him (Slowly the curtain at the back falls. The visitor returns to the stage) I am old. I will not live for long. These mountains will also fall. This lake will dry up. These trees will be uprooted. This was a lie – the Blue Lake, the people of this valley – all this was my imagination, an illusion I created. The only thing real and true is he who is looking for a soul with his arms spread wide. He will come through you and me. The world of the future is going to be his. Then I will not be there, neither my illusions. Nor you and your arts. Only the one who is looking for his soul will survive. He will touch us, descend in our souls. Because in you and in your souls, that soulless person will find a new soul and it will be true. Don’t look at me. This Blue Lake and its Tantric, I am just an illusion. It was a false play which is over now.
(The Tantric steps out of one side and the visitor from the other)
(The curtain falls)