(A review of the drama " Towards the Light"by
Jayan Varghese’s drama "towards the light" has the fundamental imagery of the Bible. This one book or rather Book of books has been warning us for thousands of years that if we do not do what it teaches us, we will end up in misery. Christ said “verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away”. In this play Jayan portrays the message of the messiah in a more powerful and convincing way to the audience. His focus is in exploring the modern humanity's feelings of bewilderment, alienation, despair and general misery exposing its causes and suggesting the remedy. He has based the plot of this drama on the Bible and the Hindu philosophical teachings. The title of the drama is taken from the Upanishadic prayer, which says :Lead me to light from darkness – "thamosma jyohirgamaya").
The world is getting dark with the works of the evil but what we really need is light. Who can bring light? Who can light this chaotic and confusing world? How do we dispel the darkness of sorrow, peacelessness, ignorance, disease, disappointment and loss? Jayan addresses these issues in his drama. Jayan’s poetic ability enables him to establish his prose plays with symbols that have broad meanings. Symbolism suggests a meaning beyond the immediate and concrete reality. Symbolists wanted to look beneath the surface reality. Without long and complex series of facts he has efficiently conveyed his message. In the preface he has mentioned the names of Ibsen, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett and Shakespeare, the famous playwrights of the past. Though his drama may show an affinity to those playwrights his play stands independently in its own form and content. The style he has adopted is independently of his own but the mention of the above names may be to make the reader/viewer aware of the symbolism, realism, absurdity, and other aspects of drama the above writers had used in their plays in this drama too. This drama is symbolic, realistic, expressionistic, naturalistic, and idealistic with penetrating intelligence.
The drama presents a picture of the present world. It is not confined to a country, nation or continent. Its theme is universal. It is a pointed critique of contemporary values and issues. An indignant protest against the injustice in this world along with a hint that help is available for the salvation of the world. There are seven Characters in this drama but they do not have names except they are called by the role they play in life. Accordingly there is a Superior, who has assumed the authority and power of the world, Protector who is subservient to the Protector, Navan a new man who comes up with new ideas to change the world, Humanist who protests and revolts against the policies and plans of the Superior and Protector, Guru who represent the modern science, death in the form of ugliness and to dance upon the tune of the Superior, and finally the ordinary people who compromise for everything and cannot resist temptation. The dramatist compares them to the masses in the exodus led by Moses. The masses who were liberated by Moses and taken to the Promised Land were never satisfied inspite of the divine food God provided them. They were impatient and could not believe Moses’ words that there was a Promised Land. When he had failed to show up before them for days they lost faith in him and created a golden calf for their worship. In the drama we can see the people who desires easy means to achieve things in life abort the efforts of the humanist. The ancient saying that idleness is the mother of all evil’s refers to laziness. Man basically dislikes work and therefore invents robots to work for them and lives in blissful ignorance without understanding the future consequences. Jayan has convincingly depicted this idea. The bible also says that “the desire of the lazy man kills him for his hands refuse to labor. (Prov)
The message this play conveys will endure forever and influence the society sometime later if not now. This is a perfectly crafted plot of contemporary importance. In fact the characters in this play are not merely fixed in a script to play but they represent various groups or associations of people on this planet. The playwright has used the actors as a mirror of the world voicing his message. Man has challenged the traditional theories through centuries but a diabolical force, which takes their incarnation in different shapes and names, have repeatedly suppressed him. This has been convincingly presented in this drama.
The drama begins with the question of the Humanist. Humanist is the representative of the majority of the human population. The humanism encompasses a wide variety of philosophical or religious thoughts. We know there are various types of Humanists such as secular humanists, religious humanists, modern Humanists. The character in this drama fall under the category of Modern humanist. The humanists have always stood up for human rights where such rights are suppressed. In this play the Humanist has been chained by the Superior, who represents the powerful group in the world. But he is optimistic and asks the question: is it dawn? It is a significant question. A question of hope, a question implying the Questioner’s dissatisfaction, fear, pain and expectation. At the same time the question is fraught with hope as he is expecting that there will be a dawn. Humanists have always challenged the authority. Here the Humanist appears with limitless scope of his action. From antiquity to the present the Humanists have served human kind with a dream for an ideal society. Their inveterate optimism has strengthened them in perils and disappointments. Socrates was a skeptical Humanist. Jayan’s character of the Humanist is not skeptical but rather hopeful. He asks is it dawn.
The humanist is identified as the present day ordinary people whose view of the world is not in accordance with their expectations. He has been put in darkness and is incarcerated. This is the tragedy with the world. The majority of the present generations of human beings are in such situation. Throughout generations they have been in chains and still are in chains, the chains of power and influence. The people’s dreams and expectations are crushed under the burden of those who have power and influence. Their struggle for supremacy has deteriorated the existing poor condition of human beings. These people have been exploited by them with the weapon of temptation. The temptation of heaven after this life. Jayan mocks at this trick exposing the Superior with multicolored keys that allegedly open the door to the much-talked about heaven.
Drama is a hybrid of performance and literature This drama can be read as literature as well as be performed on the stage. Jayan has conceived this drama observing and perceiving the present day trend of the world, which is going drastically wrong. There is pollution, deforestation, global warming, religious intolerance and wars, which nobody seems to be concerned about. The politicians and government are interested in keeping their positions of power over the people. The media project the news about calamities as an act of God. The people are always at a disadvantage. This work presents a commentary on the capitalist system, the establishment, and the misuse of power of the political and religious groups and the good and bad side of science. Jayan is attacking a system that is exploiting the ordinary man and indicating ways of release through Navan. Navan with the help of science was able to release the humanist and overthrow the powers of the Superior. He then preaches that the universal love is the only means to achieve an ideal life in this world. Jayan is showing the potency of human beings for their growth and ability to affect change their life through this character. This is the moral teaching of this play.
Most of the world lived under feudalism until recent history. The first section of the most widely read Communist Manifesto introduces the development of various strata of society such as freeman and slave, lord and serf, oppressor and oppressed who are presently known as establishment and the common man. Those who have grabbed and assumed power and retained through generations have built an establishment, a citadel of power and influence. This establishment continued exploiting the weakness and helplessness of common man. Jayan’s characters speak of the maladies of the modern world. The best example is the diagnostic report of the Guru who after examining the Protector says that he has to eat at least occasionally. The author hints about Marxist humanism. In order to emphasis this fact he has shown the Humanist in one of the scenes resembling Karl Marx. According to Marx Capitalism has always stood as an impediment to man’s natural freedom. Capitalism employs workers to produce something according to its plans and wishes for which the workers are paid. But the workers do not get better pay and unable to maintain their status and dignity. The dramatist portrays the dissatisfaction of this group through the conversation of the Protector who served the Superior for long. The Superior wanted the Protector to retire from his job as he has been aged but did not want to compensate him adequately. The Superior gave him a false key from his multicolored key bunch. Watching this the humanist comments that when golden keys could not open the lock how a false key would do it. Humanist knew the intention of the Superior but the Protector realizes it later.
Jayan questions the unscientific dogmas of traditional religion. People depend on religion for guidance when they are met with life’s challenges and difficulties. But religion too does not provide adequate help to human beings. In fact birth of many religions created fanatics and cruel and powerful leaders who too exploited the human race. Jayan has ridiculed this by stacking the ancient, religious, theoretical books in the background of the first scene of this drama. The brilliance of the dramatic art of Jayan shows an excellent evolutionary process in the drama that went through a various systems of establishments. The grudge of the exploited man and his dissatisfaction grew but they were in chains. Many were compromised to the needs of time but the humanist kept a hope of a better tomorrow. A new earth and new sky as Bible promised. But he is not sure of the time that becomes a reality. Hence he asks is it dawn. The arrival of Navan gave him happiness and comfort and he utters that the dawn is not away.
Jayan’s forte is to write powerful dialogues with a moral insight. His focus is on an ideal society where everyone lives without exploitation of anybody. The dialogues styles and symbolic devices have been excellent. In two scenes we see the Superior’s rod rather his scepter is slipped of his grip and lay upside down on the floor. An indication of his imminent downfall and impotence. With the power of the science the Superior kept the world under him. This is brilliantly portrayed when he says that he has the sword science invented for him. The moral decay, the loss of faith in God and the poverty, the threat of nuclear bombs have been disgusting to the dramatist who constantly recurs to the subject in his writings. Poverty and sickness have enslaved the mankind. With the advent of science many medicines were invented to cure the once fatal diseases. The dramatist has portrayed this advancement with the arrival of death on scene that was sent back by the Guru the symbolic figure of science.
Navan told the Superior that he could immure him in the same prison where he had incarcerated his generations. This new voice of the new man gives strength and confidence to the Humanist who expects his freedom soon. The disadvantage of the science has been flagrantly pointed out by the dramatist through the conversation of the Superior and Guru. Rapid advances in science and technology are increasingly available now which provide social and economic benefit but Jayan warns that in wrong hands this would emerge as a threat to man and the world. The Superior wants a situation in which the human population lives in fear. He knew how to make the world dance to his own tune. Science has built the sword for the Superior and the shield for the Newman. Science has the power to control even to the extent to stop death. The Superior always gains power and strength manipulating the inventions of science.
The more changes that science made in the physical world, the more it challenged the faith of man. Modern inventions provided comfort and luxury to mankind at the same time posed a hidden threat to them. When scientists worked for the betterment of the world the Superiors always used them to their advantage. But the ordinary people did not realize it until it is too late. This has been symbolically presented in the drama when the humanist in the drama refuses to be freed from the chain attached to his legs when the mass outside rejoiced at the invention of the Robot whom they addressed as saviour... He wanted freedom of heart, a complete freedom which is possible only when the inventions of science are directed towards the welfare of human beings. Hiding the equation of the theory of Relativity with a Newspaper that reads Man to Mars has been the best specimen of symbolism. Jayan points out the paradoxical relationship of both the above and invites the viewers/readers attention to the realities. He boldly writes " Einstein, you have been cheated". People are always attracted towards the surface truth and do not know what lies under the truth. The Vedas therefore rightly says that the truth is always covered with a golden pot.
Jayan’s conclusion that the only solace and help is from God may be based on the thought that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge, they are to be filled by Him. The Holy book of Gita says that God steps into this world when there is a decline of Dharma and the rise of Adharma. Lord Krishna said to Arjuna :… O Arjuna, then I manifest (or incarnate) Myself. I incarnate from time to time for protecting the good, for transforming the wicked, and for establishing Dharma, the world order. (IV.7-8)
In this drama Jayan introduces Navan who has been resurrected from the ashes of immemorial destruction of humanity to save the mankind. Jayan proves that all efforts of men to eliminate power (represented in this drama as Superior) have not helped them. Rather, those powers take birth in different form and become a threat to them later. The religion and science cannot be conflated, as each has their own way of saying and proving things in this world. However Jayan indicates the fact that majority of the people would opt for science than religion for the comfort and luxury it provides without the least expectation of its impact on them later. Accordingly, Jayan shows the people in his play with the mark of the devil speaking to the Humanist in the same manner the liberated Jews from Egypt assailing Moses with their doubts and questionings in the wilderness The Humanist boldly meets the crisis and warns the people. We know that the 666 (note the English chronogram for 666 is:”expect the devil”) is commonly known as the number of the beast also called the antichrist in book of revelation chapter: 13 versus 17-18. Bible also tells men that the mark of the beast is received only after worship of the beast or his image (Rev. 14-9, 14-11, 16-2 …) This is a warning from the playwright to the humankind to exercise caution.
According to Hindu philosophical thought we should light a lamp within us along with the external lamp. This is possible with the purity of the body, mind and speech. Whenever there is darkness we should light the lamp that is shining within us and carry it wherever we go. This is path of action. Those who are idle cannot use this divine effulgence. That is why it is said that if you have a lamp and you have to travel some distance you cannot keep the lamp in one place and walk. You have to carry the lamp and it will provide you light. The purity of heart will be filled with love and love is light, which shines the world. According to Upanishad: Truth wins over, not falsehood. With truth is paved the road to the divine. And its invocation is for light and understanding. The drama is a blend of the words of Christ and the Hindu philosophical teachings.
This drama leaves the question in the minds of the audience. Is it dawn? That is a gentle indication to the humanity whether they are able to recognize the darkness around them and to look forward to the dawn. It also tells that unless the people of this world do not reform their ways they will live in darkness fully exploited by the inscrutable power of the devil. The portrayal of Navan who resembles Jesus Christ is showing the way, truth and light to the world.
The denouement of the drama indicates secular humanism for the betterment of human beings. This drama is a combination of expressionism and symbolism fused efficiently by the playwright who is adept in such style.