Long Questions and Answers
Q. 1) What is the main theme of this play?
Answer. In the screenplay Harvest, by Manjula Padmanabhan, many global borders arise in which organ selling occurs in India in the near future, 2010. This screenplay deals with the first and third world countries. In India, there are more developed places than others. With people still suffering and finding a way to support their families with food and shelter they will do almost anything to make a living. The main character, Om Prakash loses his job while living in a one-bedroom apartment with his family and decides to sell unspecified organs through a company called, InterPlanta Services Inc.
Harvest, however, presents an empowering scenario of the naming process. Throughout the duration of the play, Virgil, the foreigner buying Jaya’s husband’s organs, persists in pronouncing her name as “zhaya”. But at the end of the play when Jaya finally meets him and realizes that it is in her power to decide the further implementation of his plans she refuses to go any further until he pronounces her name properly. In the face of her adamancy, he is forced to bow to her wishes and says it correctly. “zhaya”. But at the end of the play when Jaya finally meets him and realizes that it is in her power to decide the further implementation of his plans she refuses to go any further until he pronounces her name properly. In the face of her adamancy, he is forced to bow to her wishes and says it correctly.
Padmanabhan does not shy away from using strong language. The female characters mouth bold words like arise, pimping rascal and wetting yourself without any inhibition. The dialogues, hard as shrapnel, do not allow any margin for the sensibilities of the audience. The playwright uses a language with no circumlocution and adopts a language of power/men.
The main theme of Harvest is about organ transplant and it’s abuse, the subtext focuses on how women are treated as possessions of men who harvest future generations from their bodies but refuse the same women even a modicum of autonomy in life.
Q. 2) How does the writer bring about the feminist context of the play?
Answer. The play shows how feminist playwrights like Padmanabhan have not only used innovative techniques but have also adapted some conventions of the proscenium to effectively establish their agenda. This paper also makes an effort to illustrate how certain aspects of language have been adapted to enhance characterizations and how techniques as diverse as realism, social gest and alienation effect have been yoked together for this purpose.
Like other feminist plays, Harvest starts media res, at a point where a crucial decision has to be taken. Light’s Out is set in the affluent upper floor apartment of Leela and Bhaskar. The first scene establishes the fact that Leela is traumatized by the disturbing activities and cries for help emanating from the neighbouring building. Her dishevelled appearance and tense words are proof of her fear which she describes as a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. As soon as she sees her husband Bhaskar her first words are to find out whether he has informed the police about the disturbance which has been going on for some time.
In total contrast, Bhaskar is relaxed and interested only on unwinding. He asks their servant, Frieda, for his evening tea as he starts reading the newspaper and casually informs Leela that he had forgotten to call the police. Leela gets very agitated at his words and attitude as she had been able to convince him only after a lot of arguments. But her agitation and anger have no effect on her husband who tells her to relax with some Yoga. The first scene of Harvest shows Jaya waiting anxiously for her husband Om.
She keeps looking out of the window with worry written large on her face. Her anxiety is better understood when we realize that the job that they are hoping for is of selling his organs. Om decides to do this in spite of Jaya not agreeing to it. He even makes her promise not to tell his mother about it. The playwright shows the limbo that the two women are in. They have no autonomy or deciding power in their own homes and are prime examples of, in psychoanalyst Jean Baker Miller’s words, “the submissive group”(qtd. in Roy,1999,42). They are bogged down by female passivity, inability to act, to decide and to think. The women show a reluctance to voice their disagreement and frustration strongly. Their sentences are, at this point, hesitant, broken and incomplete, ex. Leela’s “Did you……do it?” Oh…..Bhaskar”, and Jaya’s” what they say in their room—none of your business”
Q. 3) How is a fictitious context brought out of the play Harvest?
In Harvest, a fictitious atmosphere is created by the presence of a white faceted globe which looks like a Japanese Lantern, which lights up, moves in slow circles and also vertically. Throughout the play, the characters on stage are seen talking to the image of a beautiful woman called Ginni, the alleged buyer of Om’s organs. The movement of the globe creates a disconnect in the realistic aspect of the play. It also draws the attention of the audience towards the illusory nature of economics which society sees as the basis of success.
It lights up the irony that the people who have the money to buy organs are dependent on those very sellers for their existence. By breaking the wall of suspension of disbelief, intrinsic to realism, this dramatic technique makes it possible for the audience to question the effects of poverty on man. When Jaya realizes that Ginni is actually only an animated front of an old man called Virgil she strikes the globe to break it. This act shatters any acceptance of the globe as an intrinsic element of the play and pushes the person watching the play out of the comfort zone of his own life into thinking about people like Om, living desperate lives, where relationships, ethics and even basic humanity are forgotten in the struggle for survival. The shattering also brings into focus, quite strongly, the strength of Jaya who holds onto her dignity and humaneness in spite of all the trauma and disillusionment that she faces. The loud sound and jagged light forces the audience to ask is Jaya (as her name suggests) victorious over the forces trying to exploit her?
The lighted, flickering globe moving around on the stage creates an eerie but contrived atmosphere and this ambience negates any notions of the play being only a piece of evening entertainment and refuses to absolve the audience of active participation. The end of the play where images are created out of thin air, the shattering of the globe along with the guards shouting for Jaya to open the door are enough to disturb the complacency of the spectator and provoke him/her into thinking of some kind of intervention to the chaos on stage. It forces the spectator to imagine her/himself in Jaya’s shoes and taste for a brief moment her desperation.
Q. 4 ) How do you bring about the concept of globalization in The Harvest?
The economic losses and social dislocation that are being caused to many developing countries by rapid financial and trade liberalization, the growing inequalities of wealth and opportunities arising from globalization; and the perception that environmental, social and cultural problems have been made worse by the workings of the global free-market economy and the soaring degree of attack by elements of terrorism are some of what have characterized globalization today. It means developing nations have faced more problems than ever as a result of the phenomenon of globalization. He further describes it as a “dystopian play” because nothing is good in the lives of Om and his immediate family. You sell your body organs in order to improve your standard of living, only for you to lose it all in the end. The play indicts America which is the greatest promoter of globalization and liberalization because Ginni –the Receiver of the body parts is American. She controls the family in the play until toward the end of the play.
The play exposes the true extent of psychological coercion that abounds in the globalization world. It also shows the patterns of seduction and policing the developed world ensures on the developing world. Globalization deceives a lot that is why Om becomes ecstatic: “We’ll have more money than you and I have named for! “He says to Ma “who’d believe there is so much money in the world?” (P.219). When Jaya expresses her reservations for what he has done he becomes defensive: “You think I did it lightly. But … we will be rich! Insanely rich! But you‟d rather live in this one small room I suppose! Think it such as a fine thing. Like monkeys in a hot case lulled to sleep out by our neighbours’ rhythmic farting! … And starving (P.223). When Jaya accuses him of making the wrong choice.
Padmanabhan goes to the extreme of the unholy relations between the Third World and the First World where the basic commodities of exchange are the body organs. This is on the basis of individual autonomy. Om’s last statement confirms the aghast state: “How could I have done this to myself? What sort of fool am I? ( P.238). Om’s mother, Ma, expresses no such regret, she is mesmerized: “What kind of job pays a man to sit at home?” The “new” mass culture engineered by globalization encourages consumption and a life of “abundance”.The InterPlanta services can be seen as some of the international organizations that aid in exploiting the developing nations of the world whether in terms of global politics, justice and economics. An organization such as the World Bank, IMF, International Court of Justice, etc have come to mean almost nothing to the Third World because of the „little‟ that is realized from them in terms of benefits and justice. Now Ginni represents the developed world and she appears to control everything that Om and his family do including the time they eat: Om: You know how Ginni hates it when we were late to eat” (p.228). Ginni ensures this control through her Contact Module which can also be seen as the hi-tech media gadgets used by advanced nations to mystify the Third World and further attract the latter on to itself Ginni keeps telling Om that he should make sure he smiles. This is because if he smiles, it means his body from which organs are going to be removed for the survival of Ginni is healthy. It means you should not complain when you are being exploited. Now Jaya, the only surviving character of the play, becomes the glimpse of hope of the Third World nations who oppose Om’s decision in the final scene of the play, comes to the moment of no surrender. Om has abandoned Jaya having willfully chosen to seek out Ginni and give up his body to her. Ma is plugged into her Video Coach; Jaya faces Virgil, the unfamiliar voice on the Contact Module. She chooses to win by losing. This portends a lot for the developing nations.
Globalization through its evils is pushing the developing nations to the brink, perhaps, to the moment where, like Jaya, it must threaten total annihilation. It would be wrong to say that it is inappropriate the way Padmanabhan portrays how the First World cannibalizes the Third World to fulfil its own desires. Like Padmanabhan, artists in the developing world must rise to the occasion of salvaging their traditions and stick to what gives them an identity, and guard their economies for their own survival. The Artist in the Age of Globalization Padmanabhan has written Harvest to remind us that the situation we are in is not comfortable for all of us in the age that we are in. Since this phenomenon is the defining process of this age, then artists must rise to the occasion to make sure that people do not neglect what has helped humanity right from time. A peep into the prevailing socio-economic atmosphere of both the developed and the developing nations would reveal that the whole world is at a moment of unease. It cannot be a surprise if someone wonders whether we are happy or not.
The playwright should guide his/her society towards the path of true impendence in production and utilization of what is produced. This is because every people have shown a capacity for independently increasing their ability to live a more satisfactory life through exploiting the resources of nature. Every continent independently participated in the early epochs of the extension of man’s control over his environment-which means in effect that every continent can point to a period of economic development.
So Asia, Africa and Latin America are not exceptions to this fundamental truth of existence. The playwright’s role in the polity may not be piquant as he or she can invoke a moment of unease and make the audience to feel quite uncomfortable as in the case of Padmanabhan who creates a situation in the play that is really not palatable for a reader or an audience that is seeking pleasure. Padmanabhan confirms this fact in an interview when says that: I knew at the time I wrote it that there would be no question of writing it for its own sake_ I had no doubt that a play of its type would find no takers in India and even after the publicity it got, the play has certainly not been popular in any form. It does not surprise me in the least. It presents a harsh view of reality and has very little comfort to offer the average reader (2006). It is really a play that elicits the description that is somewhat rough as in crass obscenity. This is because it deals with the sale of human parts – macabre like. She paints the picture of the Third World populace caught in the brackets of the exploitative First World who leave no chance of survival for the former. This scenario is really not comfortable to the reader/audience. In Nigeria, the situation is a little bit different; women are hired and gathered somewhere hidden to be impregnated by men. When those women deliver their babies, they are paid to leave the babies to the buyers. Those places are known in Nigeria as “Baby Factories”.
Most Nigerians believe that those babies are used for ritual or occultism. There is no practice or hegemony that is really beyond the probing pertinence of art. A lot of negative myths and stereotypes have been created about the Southern parts of the globe, though most countries in Asia and South America are getting their development efforts very correct, China, India, Malaysia, and Brazil among others are dominating the global economy today. It is also said that India has not really defined its position and policies in global politics that is if the praises it receives are not mere shibboleths. Pant (2008:1) states that: In its seventh decade after independence, India today stands at a crossroad in its relations with the rest of the world. Being one of the most powerful economies in the world today gives India clout on the global stage matched only by a few other states. Padmanabhan portrays India as a very vulnerable and helpless country in the hands of America which is representing another advanced world, while Pant sees India as capable of “shifting the global balance of power”. This is why India’s traditional view of world affairs has to change because of its growing stature in the international system. Now India is expected to move to the centre of operation in global politics when it had always viewed such a system with suspicion and in solidarity with other Third World nations.
This can be seen through its years of “sloganeering” position. India still sees other world powers as imperial powers who perpetrate nothing but hegemony in the global markets, arts and politics. But African countries are taking very little to the globalization table; they are more or less consumer nations and a dumping ground for all kinds of worn out and fairly used articles and materials including cars and clothes. Corruption, nepotism, tribalism, embezzlement of public funds, disregard for constituted authorities and the tension occasioned by terrorist attacks are the trappings that accompany the imperialistic tendencies in the continent. Thus we can say that the play focuses on globalization.
3) How does this play fit into a modern historical context, and how might it be different based on where it was staged?
4) Would it change the play if the names were changed to fit the specific cultural site in which the play was being staged?
Short Questions and Answers
Q.1 Why is globalization considered to be an evil in the play?
Answer. The evils of globalization is considered to be a major theme of Harvest. Globalization is evil because it does not foster the humanity of things in the world. What it drives towards is for the greater benefit of the developed or the First World countries. Khor (2005:1) opines that: The reasons for the changing perception of and attitude towards globalization are many. Among the important factors is the lack of tangible benefits to most developing countries from opening their economies, despite the well-publicized claims of export and income gains…. The economic losses and social dislocation that are being caused to many developing countries by rapid financial and trade liberalization, the growing inequalities of wealth and opportunities arising from globalization; and the perception that environmental, social and cultural problems have been made worse by the workings of the global free-market economy and the soaring degree of attack by elements of terrorism are some of what have characterized globalization today. It means developing nations have faced more problems than ever as a result of the phenomenon of globalization.
Q.2 How does this play launch a scathing attack on the organs market?
Answer. Harvest is a play which, can be argued, launches a scathing critique of the organs market and of the global, predatory capitalism that results in the commoditization of the third-world body. Indian writer Manjula Padmanabhan’s 1997 play confronts us with a futuristic Bombay of the year 2010, a time when legal, moral and bioethical debates about organ sales and transplants have been overcome. The trade-in human organs is now fully institutionalised and smoothly operated by the entity embodying all the rapacious forces of global capitalism: a transnational corporation named Interplanta Services. The cast, Padmanabhan’s stage directions tell us, is divided into two main groups consisting of Third World donors and First World receivers.