Excerpt from: Bhavya’s Afternoon

By Andi Grene (‘20)

Characters:

Alexis: 13 years old, biracial (Indian and white), sister of Rachel

Rachel: 17 years old, biracial (Indian and white), sister of Alexis

Priya: mid 40s, Indian-American (first generation), mother of Rachel and Alexis

Nalani: mid 70s, Indian, mother of Priya. Born in India but has lived in America for the past 40 years

Iyer: Early 80s, Indian, husband of Nalini and father of Priya. Iyer has been living in America for the past 40 years as well, but is slightly less assimilated than his wife

Jayanti: 80s, Indian, family friend of Priya’s parents

Sushma: mid 40s, Indian-American, family friend of Priya

Jaishri: mid 40s, Indian-American, family friend of Sushma and Priya

Setting: Kala and Arvind’s house in New Jersey. Their lawn is sparsely decorated, and a large welcome mat sits outside of the front door on which about 8 pairs of sandals and children’s sneakers have been scattered. The inside of the house smells of jasmine and turmeric. The living room is large and open, and is covered by an old but soft flower patterned carpet. The couches vary in size and color, but are all made of worn in leather and are decorated with brightly colored pillows. A long wooden dining table can be seen behind the living area and is opposite a galley kitchen where the lights are always on and hosts a multitude of family photos on the fridge.

(NALINI stands beside SUSHMA in the center of the living room. Behind SUSHMA are 3 other Indian women who pretend not to listen to NALINI and SUSHMA’s conversation. They look up every so often at NALINI, back at each other, and then down at their plates of food) 

NALANI

Sushma, I’m so sorry. This must be so hard for you. (rubs SUSHMA’sarm) 

SUSHMA

Thanks, Aunty. It’s mostly hard for my parents. They were shocked when they found out about everything. 

NALINI

How did they hear the news? 

SUSHMA

I was the one that heard first- someone must have gotten into Bhavya’s phone when they found her on the street. I only told my parents what had happened once I was at the hospital- I couldn’t think fast enough. By the time they had arrived, Bhavya was already gone. 

NALINI

You shouldn’t blame yourself, Sushma. It must have been overwhelming for you to process. 

SUSHMA

It’s strange when it’s your own sister. She was the last person who deserved it. So pretty, so smart, so accomplished. Much more so than me.

 JAISHRI 

(stands among the circle of women behind SUSHMA. Turns around to face NALINI and SUSHMA) Not smart enough, though. Poor thing. 

NALINI 

What are you talking about, Jaishri? 

JAISHRI 

Not smart enough- you know, to keep herself happy. (looks excited to be sharing gossip) I heard that she purposely ran into the road that night. She wanted to die. The only reason why someone would have done that is because they weren’t intelligent enough to continue living.

NALINI 

(gasps) Don’t say that! Bhavya was very smart- she won her junior high spelling bee every spring. 

SUSHMA 

And no one knows for sure that she wanted to be hit by a car that night, Jaishri. You shouldn’t assume so much after barely knowing Bhavya. 

JAISHRI 

After college, that girl was never happy. My amma told me that she would have crying episodes in the middle of the day for no reason. She had to move back in with her parents for a while, too. Amma says that anyone who moves back home as an adult is a “struggling depressive.” 

NALINI 

Stop, Jaishri! This is painful enough as it is. We must pray that Bhavya is happy now, wherever she is. Clear your mind of negative thoughts like those, at least for today. 

(JAISHRI shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly and turns her back, although she is shaken from being yelled at by NALINI) 

SUSHMA 

(quiet) Thanks, Aunty. 

NALINI 

Don’t believe what she says. Bhavya was happy. (beat) At times. 

(SUSHMA and NALINI stand in silence, but look up when they see NALINI’S daughter, PRIYA coming towards them. She wears jeans, a 3⁄4 sleeve green shirt and converse) 

PRIYA 

Hey, Amma. Hey Sushma. What’s going on? I heard things with Jaishri just got pretty heated. 

NALINI

Nothing happened. Everything’s okay. (gives PRIYA a meaningful look and brushes her away) 

PRIYA 

Well, Sushma, if it’s any comfort to you, I’ve always hated Jaishri- she thinks she’s allowed to get into everyone else’s business, but she just feels left out that she wasn’t included in the first place. 

NALINI 

Shh, Priya. I’m sure she’s just having trouble dealing with her grief today. 

PRIYA 

Sushma’s the one that should be having trouble grieving, not Jaishri. Her sister just killed herself! (NALINI looks angrily at PRIYA for saying this so loudly) 

What? It’s the truth! I’m sorry Sushma. (to NALINI) At least I know how to offer condolences! 

NALINI 

This is a day of mourning, Priya. Be respectful, please. 

(PRIYA rolls her eyes) 

SUSHMA 

(pause) Bhavya really loved you guys. I remember in Flushing, she practically lived at your house. She always used to talk about what a great cook you were, Nalini Aunty. She was so jealous of the meals you made- and of how you let Priya wear American clothes to school. That was what she was really passionate about- how American you had all become. 

NALINI 

I remember. (beat) The person she really loved was Iyer Uncle. Bhavya was basically like his second daughter- she was so eager to please him whenever she came over. 

PRIYA 

(under her breath) She was more like his only daughter. 

NALINI 

(sighs, annoyed) Priya, why don’t you go check on Rachel and Alexis? They looked kind of hungry earlier. 

(PRIYA leaves NALINI and SUSHMA, angry for being shut out of the conversation) 

I remember going to her college graduation. Iyer made us sit in the second row. He was so proud that she was going on to do such big things- she had been talking about being a doctor since she was 6 years old. 

SUSHMA 

She always knew what she wanted. She was so successful so young. (pause) Maybe that’s why she was unhappy. There was too much pressure to keep making everyone proud. 

NALINI 

I hope that wasn’t our fault. 

SUSHMA 

Of course not. You and Iyer Uncle encouraged her just enough. (beat) How is Uncle? I haven’t spoken to him today. 

NALINI 

He hasn’t said a word all day. He’s been so upset since he found out about Bhavya. 

(looks at IYER sitting in the corner of the living room staring at the floor) 

I should make him a plate of food. He hasn’t eaten yet. 

(NALINI leaves SUSHMA and brings IYER a plate of dahl and naan. When she reaches IYER across the room, she sits down next to him. Neither NALINI or IYER say anything) 

NALINI (cont’d)

(looks at IYER’S food) How is it? 

(IYER does not respond. He picks at the food on his plate) 

I just talked to Sushma. She seems like she’s handling everything okay. 

IYER 

(finally looks up) The dahl is too cold. 

NALINI 

(clicks tongue, annoyed) So picky. (silence. NALINI sighs) Everyone here keeps saying that there’s nothing more that could’ve been done. It is hard to hear that. It makes me feel helpless, like we didn’t know Bhavya well at all.

IYER 

(pause) We knew Bhavya well. (beat) We knew her from the moment she was born. 

NALINI 

She was such a cute baby. 

IYER 

I always knew she would go the farthest. (looks up at NALINI) Out of all the other kids on our block, I knew Bhavya would go places. 

NALINI 

I know. (beat) And now she’s gone. 

IYER 

(silence. When IYER speaks, he looks at the floor) I’m sad. 

NALINI 

(sighs) Me too. 

End of Scene. 

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