Charity Hospital

(A One-Act Play)



(Rendered by the Author from his Telugu skit)


(Morning–A charity hospital–crowds of patients along the corridor of the hospital, waiting for the arrival of the doctor. An old decrepit woman sitting under a tree with her young dying son lying in her lap.


At last arrives the doctor. All the withering faces of the patients brighten. The old woman’s son also coughs as if to indicate that he can be saved even now.


The doctor who is a well-preserved middle-aged man with two small eyes, one always suspecting the other, goes to his room straight and finds some friends waiting for him.  He instructs his the patients to his junior, shakes hands with his friends, seizes the newspaper lying on his table, sits down and starts reading it seriously. A looks round his room, which is decorated with portraits of political leaders, national and international (there are also some portraits of the trustees of the hospital in a corner which is conspicuous only in the opinion of the trustees) and a moment’s reflection on the voracity with which he is devouring the columns of the newspaper will convince you what a passion politics are with him. God knows–and unfortunately He doesn’t tell us–where his politics end and his profession begins).


Doctor: Anything interesting today?


One of his friends,

Rai saheb: Yes: the New Year’s Honours’ List is out: Our Lala Junglemal has been made Rai Sahib.


Another Communist: He should have been made one long ago, for the invaluable services that he has been rendering to the crown and the country through his charity hospitals, orphanages, widows’ homes and pinjrapoles.


A third, Pacifist: The Pope has declared the 2nd January as the day of mourning to be observed allover the world, irrespective of caste, colour or creed in memory of the millions that are dying every day on the battle-front.


Communist: There is a prediction in the ‘Pravda’ quoted in today’s issue of the ‘People’s War’ that Hitler and Mussolini will finally embrace Bolshevism and find Russia quite a nice place to live in.


Doctor: You seem to have missed an important news? The German War Council is now in session. They are perhaps discussing the prospects of a spring-offensive. Do you think they will reach a unanimous decision this time?


(He is determined to start a discussion on the international situation in the midst of groans of the patients outside, most of whom being destitute cannot be his patrons).


Communist: Go ahead. The day is not far off, when doctors who kill their patients in their anxiety to dance to the tune of a pack of social parasites will be simply stripped naked and whipped in public places.


Rai Sahib: (Ignoring the fireworks of the Communist) Spring offensive? Against whom German Civilians? I strongly feel that the war is approaching its climax and close.


Pacifist: Yes: but what have we got to offer to the Peace Conference?


Rai Sahib: Atlantic Charter.


Communist: (Fearing that his convictions are at stake, joins the discussion). Atlantic what! Bosh! Throw it in the Atlantic Ocean. I know only one charter.


Rai Sahib: (Whispers in the Doctor’s ear). He means the Communist Manifesto. I wish he were within the hearing of the police.


Pacifist: But, Rai Sahib, are you quite sure that your Atlantic Charter can establish peace and plenty in this weird world of ours? No: there must be universal disarmament, and an international organisation, some sort of League of Nations, to enforce it on all the nations.


Communist: Oh! 1919 rot.


Doctor: Supposing the Allies win the war, as they are destined to–


Communist: (Interrupting) Why do you look at the Honours list with tearful eyes? Steady, Comrade.


Doctor:  (Continuing): What do you think is leading them to victory?


Rai Sahib: Mr. Churchill’s speeches.


Pacifist: No. America’s dollars.


Communist: Neither, Comrades, Russia’s bullets, hard bullets.


Pacifist: Who do you think will preside over the Peace Conference?


Rai Sahib: Some Aga Khan: that doesn’t matter. (At the top of his voice) But the Atlantic Charter must be accepted by all nations: it alone can save the world from the ruthless and competing vanities and egotisms that have produced this terrible conflagration. Perhaps my Communist friend doesn’t know what this historic Charter contains. There are eight clauses in it. Let me enumerate them. Number one is–


Communist: (Enraged): Bolshevism. Number two is Bolshevism. Number three is Bolshevism–and Number eight is Bolshevism.


Rai Sahib: What must then happen to those sacred principles, Liberty, Justice, Civilisation–


Pacifist: (Whispers in Rai Sahib’s ear). Don’t blurt out ‘status quo’ in your exuberance.


(Enter the old decrepit woman abruptly).


Old Woman: Which of  you is the doctor, my sons? (The Communist directs her to the Doctor). God bless you, my son. He has been coughing and coughing. Save his lungs, my son, he is collapsing.


Doctor: Who?


Old Woman:    My only son who is lying unconscious under that tree over there. So long as he was with me in our quiet village home, he never coughed at all. He lived in light and shade provided by our great mother, Nature. He used to look full and fresh. He had plenty of flesh and blood in him. Now he is his own ghost. Oh! What a deadly disease! Save him, my son, he is slowly sinking, God will bless you, my son.


Doctor: What made him leave his village home?


Old Woman: Food in return for work. But there never seemed to be any work for him in this busy world. If he had been literate, perhaps he would have got at something to live by. He was a simple robust rustic youth whose only resources were his nerves and muscles. Save him my son, God will bless you.


Doctor: He needs good nourishment. Why not ask him to join the Army? I will tell you why he should join the Army.


Rai Sahib: He will get free food, free clothing, free accommodation, and free medical aid: what else does he want?


Doctor: No. There are stronger reasons. (To the Old Woman) Please take your seat. Let me explain to you why India should help Great Britain in this horrible Armageddon, (with his eyes intent on the Honours List) and India is nothing but strong, simple village folk like you and your son. How old is he?


Old Woman: I don’t know. But this much I can say: he was born, exactly when his elder brother died in a French trench during the last War. Those two events occurred on the same day.


Communist: That is: was it before or after the Russian Revolution? 


Pacifist: It was before the Armistice.


Rai Sahib: Yes. It was after the historic Delhi Durbar. Oh! What a great event it was? I can never forget the vivid memories of those picturesque pageants of the Princely Order, those grand parades of the Knights, those splendid processions of the people, in honour of their Majesties’ visit.


Old Woman: Save him first, my son.


Doctor: Please let me trace the circumstances that led to this War. Then you’ll clearly understand what vital issues are at stake.


Pacifist: Yes: Start from the Treaty of Versailles.


Rai Sahib: No, from the great Delhi Durbar. Otherwise where is history?


Communist: No. You should start from the dawn of history, Comrade, right from the birth of humanity. But, for convenience sake, you may now start from the Birth of Marx, for the birth of Marx marked the birth of humanity. Now go ahead, Comrade. She is absolutely unarmed: don’t fear.


(Enter Rai Sahib Lala Junglemal who is one of the trustees of the hospital: all except the Communist stand up and bow to him).


All except the Communist: Heartiest congratulations on your well-deserved honour, Sir.


Lala: Thanks. Please sit down. (They sit down).


Doctor: How is your puppy, Tiger?


Communist: Poor creature! But how am I to blame for its stupidity? 


Doctor: What’s the matter?


Communist: It died this morning, while trying to bite me.


Lala: (Furious): Yes, I know it. I am suing you for damages.


Communist: Oh! I don't care: You will get nothing out of it.


Doctor: What’s the use of suing a communist for damages?


Lala: (To the doctor): My wife is having some trouble in the stomach.


Communist: Oh! She will be all right, if she eats less.


Doctor: (Enraged) Please behave yourself properly. You are not the doctor. (To Lala) I have already examined her, Sir, I find in her some symptoms of appendicitis.


Lala: Appendix!! Is it serious?


Doctor: Not very. But in 1938, it took a heavy toll throughout the world: over 60% of humanity that died in that year died of this disease.


Lala: God save her!


Communist: Why? The whole property is already in your name, isn’t it?


Doctor: I can save her, Sir, don’t waste your hard-earned money in trying to appease gods that don’t exist. There is no God greater than drugs and doctors. I have got a wonderful drug with me which can remove the word appendicitis from the dictionary.


Communist: Damn your dictionary. Answer to the point: can it remove the disease from the patient?


Doctor: Of course, it can: why not? All my medicines are remedies.


Old Woman: Please save him, my son, if he is not already dead.


Lala: All right attend to him first.


Doctor: (To the old Woman): What is his complaint?


Old Woman: He coughs and coughs. But it cannot be simple cough.


Doctor: Does he suffer from fever?


Old Woman: Yes, only during mornings and evenings.


Doctor: Does he shiver?


Old Woman: Yes, when it is too cold.


Doctor: Have you seen my junior?


Old  woman: I don’t know him, my son. I have heard only of your miraculous powers. I feel confident that my son will be quite safe under your care. 


Doctor: (Rings the bell: enter a servant): Take this Woman away to Chota Sahib.


(Enter Chota Sahib)


(To the servant): Now you may go away. (To the Chota Sahib): How is that Sadhu progressing?


Chota Sahib: He has just expired.


Communist: So you have at last despatched him to Heaven!


Chota Sahib:   We thought that only his lungs were affected. But finally his liver killed him.


Communist: You shouldn’t have concentrated on his lungs.


Doctor: (To Chota Sahib): Please go with her and examine her son. I think it is a case of Malaria.


Chota Sahib: Most probably. 90% of the cases that I have examined today so far are those of Malaria.


Doctor: Examine him also.


Chota Sahib:   At present, my hands are full. I have to prepare some ointments for Mr. Ram Singh. He says he wants them immediately.


Doctor: Who is Ram Singh?


Chota Sahib: Sardar Sir Gadbad Singh’s chauffeur.


Doctor: Oh! I See. All right. Ask her to come again at 4 p.m., with the patient. Meanwhile you may give her three doses of quinine mixture. (To the old woman): Haven’t you brought any empty bottle with you?


Old Woman: No, my son. Can’t you spare one?


Doctor: (To Chota Sahib): Just try, if you can. (To the old Woman): Please go with him.


Old Woman: God bless you, my son.


(Exit with Chota Sahib)


Doctor: (to Lala) Shall we go now?


Rai Sahib: All right. We can resume our discussion at 4 p.m.


Lata: What discussion?


Doctor: We were considering the measures to be adopted to combat successfully the menace of malaria.


Lata: Yes, Yes. We have asked the government to increase the quota of quinine allotted to our institution. I hope our efforts will be successful. Now let us go. Good afternoon, gentlemen.


Rai Sahib and Pacifist: Good afternoon, Sir.


(Exit with the Communist)


(The doctor and Lala go out but recoil at the sight of the old woman crying over her son’s body).


Doctor: Sheer neglect. We shouldn’t crave for children, when we can’t look after them. She shouldn’t have wasted so much of her precious time in our room, He must have died of sun-stroke, I am sure.


Lata: (Mutters) May his soul rest in peace!


Doctor: What else can we do?