A Play based on Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
Ninaad, Bangla adaptation by Md. Abul Fazal, Imran Kamal and Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman
Narrator : You’ve come to enjoy a play? What play? Whose play? No, it’s no play. Then again, call it so if you like. It’s all the same for everyone – from Behula , Chandravati down to Baanishanta’s crazy poet Rudra and his love interest Taslima’s domestic life! Be that as it may; if not, better still call it a domestic tale – yours and mine. Would you care to hear that tale? Are you ready? Have a heart to undo the wrong? . . . Why are you tight-lipped? Are you afraid of a leak of your family secret? Does it remind you of your mother and sister, or of the maid? What’s up? Have you gotten absorbed in meditation? He he he! Drop it then; you’ve come to see a play – buckle up, have an enjoyable ride. No fear! Huddle together; we won’t leak out your precious secret. And how dare we do that? Here, everything gets jumbled up. But better yet, take a look at this sample. Ibsen gathered up from different households, from all virtues a great sample. Wanna give it a try?
A beautiful dame in her spirit and youthful high.
Just lend me thy ears for her ballad is here and nigh.
A face like moon, merry li’l wench, glowin’ with joy.
Her lips wrapp’d in cinnabar, like red cherries serv’d in a foy.
Her eyes grac’d with the luster of a lotus.
Bumblebees befog their ways in her beauty’s coitus.
Ah, so resplendent are the pair of those brows!
Her slender waist’s in an easy grip as herself she throws.
Those delicate arms are but a sprout of a creeper.
Mellow is the voice of a cuckoo when it’s hidd’n deeper.
When she wears her hair in a bun or a braid,
In playfulness she grows the most infatuating maid.
As the blessed dame wears an agnipaat sari,
The stars shy away, barely do they remain so starry.
. . . Where is my Sonavaan , my vessel of roopshaali  paddy, my necklace of gajamati ? . . . Come to me. . . .
[Noori emerges from the throng.]
Noori : Why buggin’ me? Did the spell break? You snapped outta it? Does my man feel superhorny? Your mouth floodin’ with spurts of hot juice!
Narrator : Betel leaves! Care for one?
Noori : Not bad, if you insist! What are you up to?
Narrator : Nothing serious. A li’l chitchat perhaps, to share a dismaying tale of a girl from the land of midnight-sun with one from the lush green land.
Noori : Leave it, dear songster. That’s bloody twisted. You’ve gotta have a heart more ’an a head. If men hear it, they’ll laugh their hearts out. Ladies will blush in shame. It’ll get the caste and the religion bent outta shape. It’ll kick up hustle and bustle all around. No need of a ruckus. Drop it.
Narrator : If you say so! But it’s not what you’re thinking. Those who are here – the civil society, the elite – are very kind. Besides, it’s not only a tale of a woman’s woe, but of the two. The two makes a family. Your tale’s ours too, ain’t it?
Noori : If so, I’ve got something up my sleeve. But before that, we gotta know what my husband, my kids, my dad, and my brother have to say. They’re also here. Ask them what they want from me.
[Everyone from behind starts speaking by turns.]
Character- : Mom, is the breakfast ready? I’m getting late for college.
Character- : Hey, I can’t find my slippers.
Character- : Mom, I can’t get these folds of the sari right.
Character- : Your mother was as deft as the goddess Durga . You haven’t gotten any of her talents.
Character- : I don’t take sugar in my tea. Just you forgot!
Character- : My glasses . . .
Character- : My coat pin . . .
Character- : My homework book . . .
Character- : No rice for tiffin, only sandwich . . .
Character- : A woman’s true place is in the home.
Character- : Everything is in a complete mess.
Character- : I can’t find anything.
Character- : A handful of chores, and you need a maid. What a waste of money!
Character- : I took great pains to have you learn music. Can’t you find some time to rehearse with the harmonium? . . .
Character- : My little bird, recite me that poem. . . .
Character- : What about finding some time for the artwork? . . .
Character- : Unless you show any skill in household chores . . .
Character- : What about that sari I gifted you?
Character- : As a mother she must have something deep down. . . .
Character- : Is a wife’s responsibility only to . . .
Character- : To serve her parents . . .
Character- : Am I a money-making machine? . . .
Character- : You’re telling lies these days. . . .
Character- : Shimin’s mother gives her . . .
Character- : Just look at the neighboring bhabi . . . .
Character- : Your mother always . . .
In concert : Chastity and purdah
In concert : Betel leaf and jarda 
In concert : Gimme a glass of water.
In concert : Clear out the platter.
In concert : Throw away the garbage.
In concert : Talks like ‘carnage’!
In concert : Why do I see hair in the food, huh? . . .
In concert : So hot, so hot, aah! . . .
In concert : Always having wants of . . .
In concert : You are but a ninny! . . .
Character- : Cool down, my darling, bumblebee. . . .
Character- : Mom, you are a cutie! . . .
Character- : A hiraaman birdie . . .
Character- : You resemble your mommy. . . .
Character- : Just like Madhuri  . . .
In concert : Duh! What are you doing? . . .
In concert : Too indifferent! . . .
In concert : What do you think of yourself? . . .
In concert : A hobgoblin, no elf! . . .
Character- : What will other people say? . . .
Character- : Argh, argh, argh!
Character- : Uff, uff, uff!
In concert : Fie, fie, fie!
Character- : You only ran after bliss. . . .
Character- : Never understood peace . . .
Character- : Argh, argh, argh!
Character- : Uff, uff, uff!
In concert : Fie, fie, fie!
Character- : What shall I do with you? . . .
Character- : A scumbag like you . . .
Character- : I’m tired of you. . . .
Character- : You’ve gone nuts. . . .
Character- : Shh!
Character- : No more words . . .
Character- : Shh! Shh!
In concert : Shh!
Character- : Shh, why? Why do you wanna shush me? Don’t I have anything to say? Why do I have to tell a lie? Tell me why. You say a woman is full of coquetry – she’s like an arcane mystery. To you, a simple-hearted woman is dingy and drab; she lacks charm; if she flirts, you call her a liar; now you name her a darling bird, then a hiraaman or a bulbuli ; you wanna tame her like a pet bird or a child’s play. We not only have to be learned like the goddess Saraswati  but also virtuous like the goddess Lakshmi  and adept like the goddess Durga. Time and again, like Sita , you put us to the chastity tests. And only for you, we, like Behula, have to dance in the court of the gods. You pay lip service by calling us birangana , but we could never find any place in your hearts. Sometimes you venerate us like goddesses, and the next moment, you treat us like dirt and call us slaves! . . . Why?
All the sages have set you free from liabilities; I don’t have any expectations from you. You said it well. . . . To you, she’s a housewife, somebody’s mother or daughter, you feign friendship but treat her like a courtesan – a serf indeed; sometimes she’s a goddess – Kalyani , Annapurna , Radha , Draupadi , Chandravati, Nasrin, Ila ; the same story throughout the ages – mine, ours; we don’t have identities of our own, it’s you who lent us identities. Well, it’s more than enough, no more needed. Shh! Complete silence. Silent like the deaf and the dumb.
Krishnaa : Hey, why are you standing alone? What are you musing over?
Noori : Nothing, what about you? Is everything okay?
Krishnaa : Nope, I’m having hard times. And you?
Noori : I guess my days of misery are over now. He’s become a bank manager. You know, he practiced at the court earlier; and the man that he is – a Yudhishthira  – a lawyer by profession, but never told a lie. We could hardly make our ends meet that way. But how long? We are better off now than ever before. From the next month on, he’ll be paid his salary. We’ll do just fine. What do you say? I already have had a loan for my children, but shall repay next month. Say, why won’t I keep well? Forget it, tell me more about you.
Krishnaa : I can’t take it any longer. My husband’s dead, I’ve got two little kids, and no living. How can I afford? Well, your husband is a manager now. Couldn’t you tell him to get me a job?
Noori : Sure thing. I’ll tell him. No worries. He can do it, he certainly will.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Hillol : Umm . . . the house is filled with an aroma! What’s cooking?
Noori : Biriyani and what not! Freshen yourself up. I’m gonna serve the dinner in a minute.
Hillol : All of a sudden!
Noori : I felt like cooking. Nothing else.
Hillol : Well then. But in these days of hardship . . .
Noori : But you’ll draw your salary from the next month on.
Hillol : But that’s from the next month. Why now?
Noori : Okay, you don’t need to eat anything. We’re not gonna have ’em either. I’ll throw everything away. I’ll rather serve you rice. Just gimme some time.
Hillol : Did I say so? I just want you to be thrifty, that’s all. Sometimes you need to be austere, you know.
Noori : Alright, I’ll.
Hillol : You still look sulky. Alright, alright, my bad, I won’t say a word, dearie. Everything I do I do for you. So, do whatever you like.
Noori : I need a little more money.
Hillol : I already gave you enough yesterday.
Noori : I did some shopping for the kids. Had a sari for myself. Saw a panjabi for you, but you gotta go with me tomorrow. And a few more things to do . . . Will you gimme the money?
Hillol : I will, like I said. But there’s a condition.
Noori : What!
Hillol : That dance of yours . . . how about today?
Noori : No, not today . . .
Hillol : Today. Right now . . .
Noori : Now! . . .
Hillol : If not the full . . . just two mudras . . . Don’t you say no to the face, bulbuli . . . .
Noori : So embarrassing! . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Noori : You!
Colin : Surprised? Don’t be, it hurts me.
Noori : What do you want? I paid up this month’s instalment right at the beginning of the month.
Noori : Something else . . .! What do you mean?
Colin : If you give me a more humble look, I can spare you the dues. . . . Just think, such a large sum . . .
Noori : I don’t need that. I’ll definitely pay your dues. Now clear out, pronto! My husband will be here any minute.
Colin : Don’t panic. I’ll be quickly gone before he comes. Just do me a favor. . . .
Noori : What favor?
Colin : You know, I was an employee of the bank where your husband works as a manager now. A petite scandal and I was fired, and I’ve been unemployed for the last two years. If your husband can reinstate me there . . .
Noori : That’s impossible. I can’t make such a request. Moreover, why would he listen to me? You know him very well.
Colin : Then I can’t help informing your husband of the loan.
Noori : Are you trying to blackmail me?
Colin : I’m helpless, you see. My back is against the wall.
Noori : I can’t.
Colin : Of course, you can. The deed is still with me. Better yet, do me this little favor. Thus, both of us can be saved. Believe me, I badly need this job. You need your family, and I need the job. That’s it. Goodbye. See you tomorrow.
Noori : No, you won’t ever . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Roy : Have I come at an ungodly hour? A woman on fire, eh? Who were you scolding?
Noori : O, it’s you. Well, how can I put it? I’m in so deep shit that I can’t squirm out of. I feel much relieved to have seen you. Can I ask you a favor?
Roy : I’m so deeply obliged. I’m like a measly bhat flower before the immense palash . Never thought of becoming an offering at a goddess’ adoration. Just tell me what I can do for you.
Noori : Knock it off, Doctor. I’m really in a serious trouble. It is as if I’m thrown into a mid-stream. Can’t anyhow see a way out.
Roy : Let me leap into that stream, too. If we can’t live together, let’s die together.
Noori : Well, I think you don’t get the scenario. . . . I . . .
Roy : Please don’t remain sunk in gloom. That’s blunt dishonor of your beauty. Call me a doctor or a quirk, my heart is pure. I can’t bear it.
Noori : How can you find beauty in this dead meat?
Roy : I don’t only see, if Rabibabu didn’t cause this great harm, I myself would compose a poem.
Noori : Rabibabu! Which Rabibabu? You certainly didn’t imply Rabindranath.
Roy : I exclusively implied him. You don’t know it, but I used to write poems in my student days. Afterwards, I got into medical practice, and poetry vanished into the thin air! When I saw you for the first time, you reminded me passionately of someone else. The old disease revived. As soon as I got home, I sat down with my workbook. . . .
Noori : You wrote a poem, but didn’t recite me for once.
Roy : Where’s the poem? The more I tried, the more my verses imitated those famous lines of Tagore’s. Finally, I left with those plagiarized lines.
Noori : What were those lines?
Roy : “Dipped in the light at the dusk of Chaitra  / In your eyes I fancied my doomsday sutra.”
Noori : Ha ha ha.
Roy : “O my Queen, I finally acknowledge my defeat today / About your feet my victory flag tosses at its fray.”
Noori : Well, as the flag tumbles, I guess you’ll keep my request.
Roy : You took a very long time to understand this. . . . It’s sheer injustice to me. . . .
Noori : But nobody should know, nor even your friend.
Roy : Just spit it out. You don’t think I’m too insensible to divulge your secret?
Noori : But what I want is something way bigger than you think. It might be a great loss to you. . . . Such a tremendous sacrifice . . . Tell me you’ll comply.
Roy : Did I ever say ‘no’ to you? . . .
Noori : You still don’t know what it is.
Roy : No, I don’t know about it; however, I’ll give you whatever you want. Just name it.
Noori : It’s huge . . .
Roy : The mightier, the better. If the offering for the desired is meager, it surely is an insult to the devotee.
Noori : I know that you are great. I also know you are my best friend; that’s what makes me demand that much. I could have told it to your friend. . . . But you know him . . . such self-esteem! . . . He loves me so much that he can sacrifice his own life for me. . . .
Roy : Do you think he’s the only one who can die for you?
Noori : Only one . . . somebody else . . . What’s that even mean!
Roy : Not understood? “How variedly you pervade amidst the world! / Multifarious are thy forms, / Buried deep in my heart, you dwell in recluse / My ‘heartland’ is laden with your charms.”
Noori : Hmm! . . . I have to bid you goodbye now. Shitload of works to do yet, Doctor!
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Noori : O, another thing . . .
Hillol : What thing, bulbuli?
Noori : O! It’s you!
Hillol : Was anybody else supposed to come? Shall I come later?
Noori : Stop talking nonsense! What’s in your hand?
Hillol : A few letters?
Noori : Whose letters?
Hillol : One or two of ’em is personal, the rest official.
Noori : I wanna take a look.
Hillol : What will you do with them?
Noori : Let me see. . . . You won’t read this letter anyhow. I’ll keep it to myself.
Hillol : You know what’s written in it?
Noori : Uh-huh.
Hillol : Is every single word of the letter true?
Noori : Yea, true.
Hillol : What have you done? How could you do it?
Noori : I did what I did because I love you. When you fell ill, the doctor said, the treatment would be very expensive. Where could I get such a big sum? You would never let me borrow. So, I did it on the sly. I lied to you that papa gave me the money we needed. Since then, I saved every penny you gave on different occasions – for buying clothes, foods, and so on. I thought I could get the requital through this way. But he betrayed me. I did it only for you. What I did was just because I love you.
Hillol : What you did was a sheer wrong.
Noori : I know it wasn’t right. I know you won’t forgive me no matter what. Well then, I’ll take your leave.
Hillol : Ha ha ha! Are you nuts? No big deal, come on, come to me, my dear birdie. Why don’t you sing me that song? “O mischievous bird, no longer / Can I take your teasing / You pain my soul now and then / I don’t like such impudence.” Read this letter.
Noori : O . . . for this reason!
Hillol : Why, if that man didn’t bury the hatchet, we’d be in real trouble. Just imagine, love, how could we show our faces in the society! And now we’re saved by all means. I won’t have to lose my new job. I could hold my ground after all and, on top of everything, I didn’t have to yield to anybody. Phew! That was a close call! He sent me back the deed. I’m so happy; I’m thinking about restoring his job. I’m saved, oh boy, I’m saved! . . . I forgive you with all my heart. . . .
Noori : Good job! I’d never be set free if you didn’t forgive me. Today, I’m overwhelmed with joy, I’m also free.
Hillol : Yay! Both of us are free. Let’s rejoice our freedom . . . together . . . “Ah, what ecstasy is spread out in the sky, in the wind. . . .”
Noori : Not together. Long have we been together, no more. I’ve managed these domestic affairs long enough, and this certainly helped me develop an idea about you. Nevertheless, I had a glimmering hope, but today you proved your worth. Until now you were free, I remained in your shadow, I lived a life of a shadow, but today that shadow got free, too; it transformed into a complete human. We part with each other at this junction.
Hillol : What the hell are you blabbering about? I loved you the most in this goddamned world.
Noori : You truly loved me like a bird owner who loves his bird. There are some who love their toys. You loved me in like manner.
Hillol : You can’t say like that. Couldn’t I make you happy since you married me?
Noori : Uh-uh, not happy, just delighted. I’m your toy wife as I once was my papa’s toy daughter. When you played with me in your leisure, I was beguiled into a phony happiness. Ah, what a fun! This summarizes our conjugal life. If I don’t let go of it, this toy life will never end.
Hillol : Are you talking through your hat? Shut up.
Noori : No dear, I’ve had enough. I have to walk my way all alone. I need to stand on my feet, all on my own and alone if I wanna know myself and the world. Nobody can stand on my way, I won’t allow.
Hillol : Where will you go at this hour of night? You know pretty well what awaits you outside.
Noori : No, not until now, I never knew it by myself; I’ve had a little access to the ideas of the external world as you had shared with me. But I can’t be left with those borrowed skimpy ideas, not any longer. I must know what the outside world looks like.
Hillol : Alright. But you know what? Even our religion doesn’t approve what you’re saying, nor even ethics. We have these two growing children, our family, my honor – what about them?
Noori : Talking of the children, they are the children of this society! And what did you say? Oh yes, religion and ethics! I’ve understood that bit only as you permitted me to. Now is the time for my self-education.
Hillol : Don’t act like a child. Don’t you have any love or attraction for me? Nothing at all?
Noori : Truly speaking, no. I don’t feel anything at all. Not anymore.
Hillol : Don’t say like that. Please give me a second chance. I’ll be a completely different man. Just another chance.
Noori : That’s what I’m giving you. You can only change once this dolly bird parts with you forever. No other means.
Hillol : Well, I’ll make you stay then. Don’t you force me.
Noori : This’s what you are, indeed! This’s your true color. See, you’ll never change, never ever.
Hillol : Shut up. Enough with this delirium. Shut the hell up. Shut it.
Noori : You shut up. Shut the bloody hell up.
Stills from the production of Ninaad, directed by Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman, performed by English Discipline students of Khulna University on 10 March 2017.
. Behula appears as the female protagonist in Shiva Purana and Manasamangal, medieval Bengali epics written on the themes of the eulogy of the god Shiva, but more intently of the snake goddess Manasa. Behula is known for her devotion, love, and sacrifice for her husband Lakhindar.
. A character originating in the part “Satinarir Patininda” (Complaints of a Sati against Her Husband) from a medieval Bengali narrative poem. Her husband traded her for his lost sheep with another merchant. When she came back to him, she wanted to see his guilt-ridden conscience for the act, but found him glowing with relief and ecstasy instead, and thereupon she committed suicide.
. Rudra Mohammad Shahidullah (16 October 1956 – 21 June 1991) was a Bengali poet. Shahidullah was noted for his revolutionary and romantic poetry. Taslima Nasrin (born 25 August 1962) is a Bangladeshi author and a former physician who has been living in exile since 1994. Although they were married for some years, they had their differences and a very complicated conjugal life.
. A hand-woven sari with fiery red laced borders.
. Originally a character from the Persian tales adapted and translated into Bengali romance poetry by Shah Garibulla from the medieval Bengal. Sonavaan is famous for her ravishing beauty and chivalry.
. A species of shaali paddy (unmilled rice).
. Gajamati is believed to be a kind of pearl growing inside the head of the elephant that was used as a mount by Lord Indra. In folktales some rare elephants reportedly grow such pearls in their heads.
. The goddess Durga, whose association follows strength, motherhood, protection, etc., is one of the widely popular and mostly revered in the pantheon of Indian divinities.
. A married woman in Bangladesh is usually greeted so in love affection and love.
. Jarda is made up of flakes of tobacco in company of betel leaves and is used as a preparation for its stimulant and psychoactive effects.
. A blossom-headed parakeet associated with folk tales of the Bengal.
. One of the most popular and critically acclaimed film actors from the Bollywood film industry.
. An adorable, small singing bird found in Bangladesh as well as in some other Asian countries.
. The Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, etc.
. The Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, power, health, love, beauty, joy and prosperity, etc.
. A Hindu goddess and the female protagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana.
. A female survivor and sufferer of the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971), during which over 200,000 women were claimed to have been raped and tortured.
. The Hindu goddess of fertility, love, and devotion.
. The Hindu goddess of nourishment. She is an avatar (incarnation) of Parvati, the wife of Shiva.
. Hailing from a Gopa family (a family engaged in making and vending sweetmeat), Radha is Krishna’s chief love interest as mentioned in Brahmavaivarta Purana. She is noted for her love and sacrifice for Krishna.
. One of the most important female characters in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Rising from fire, she married the Panchapandava (the legendary five heroic figures from the Pandava dynasty), but is worshiped as the symbol of purity and for her unstinting devotion to the upkeep of the Pandavas.
. Ila Mitra (18 October 1925 – 13 October 2002) was a peasants movement organizer of Indian subcontinent, especially in East Bengal (now Bangladesh).
. In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Yudhishthira was the eldest son of King Pandu and Queen Kunti and the king of Indraprastha and later of Hastinapura (Kuru). He was the leader of the successful Pandava side in the Kurukshetra War. He held to truth even at the cost of the great harm done to his clansmen.
. An upper garment for both men and women, originating in Indian subcontinent, with regional variations of form.
. Literally refers to a medium-sized passerine songbird bird belonging to the Pycnonotidae family. This family is distributed across most of Africa, Middle East, and tropical Asia. Hillol uses the term out of conjugal affection.
. A shrub-like perennial wild flowering plant.
. A flowering plant native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of Indian subcontinent. Common names include flame-of-the-forest, palash, and bastard teak.
. One of the twelve Bengali months. It’s the second month of the spring in the Bengal when nature is in its full bloom.
Date: December 23, 2021