Monday, June 20, 2011

Swapna Vasavadatta

A drama by Bhasa, adapted to Twitter.
(This is a sequel to Part 1)
Reading time ~ 10-15 minutes. 
Since research on impact of Twitter on social norms is still underway, I would like to offer a fictional account of impact of Twitter on society, with a historical perspective.
(Note: This enactment is naturally heavy in Indian context and Twitter terminology. But the story is universal)

Time Period:  About 600BC
Place: Kingdoms of Vatsa and Ujjaini (In parts of modern day UP and MP of India)
Chief feature: Everyone uses Twitter.

Main Characters:
@udayana, King of Vatsa,
@vasavadatta, Princess of Ujjaini,
@yougandharayana, Chief Minister of Vatsa,
@mahasena, King of Ujjaini,
@queen, Wife of King Mahasena,
@godavari, companion of Vasavadatta,
@shramanaka, @udayana's attendant,
@dindika, another attendant of of @udayana
and other minor characters.

King Udayana is a skilled player of the veena. He is also famous for his ability to tame wild elephants by playing his veena, called Goshavati.  King Pradyota Mahasena of Ujjaini sent a fake elephant made by craftsmen into Udayana's kingdom to entice and trap him.

Act 1
Scene: Forests around the Narmada river. Early morning.
Twitter feed and general Time Line (somewhat modified for flow) read like this:
@woodcutter I think I saw a blue elephant #cannotbelievemyeyes
@tuber_gatherer I saw one elephant too, it looks majestic. Blue.
@snakecharmer A blue elephant is a good omen
(Retweeted by @justpassinby, @yogaby_narmada and 5 others)
----> Reply by @elephant_lover OK then. Let it go. #kindnesstowardsall

One of the tweets reached @dindika (he follows @snakecharmer)
@dindika A blue elephant is a clueless elephant :)
 ----> Reply by @shramanaka clueless or wise? #samething
(Retweeted by @mahasena_spy1, @mahajanapadas and 15 others)

DM (direct message) from @mahasena_spy2 to @mahasena O King, Operation_Akashavani has commenced.

Act 2
Scene: Kaushambi, Capital of Kingdom of Vatsa. King Udayana's palace.
The minister Yougandarayana has many followers. He also follows many and has his keen eye to the ground. Many of the tweets reached him.
He tweeted - @udayana O noble king, A blue elephant has been seen at the Narmada.

The handsome and debonair @udayana was busy playing bhairavi raga on his veena and did not check his tweets. He checked his Android a little later and was intrigued by the elephant that everyone was tweeting about.

He tweeted @yougandharayana Is it true? Have the spies confirmed
Now, @udayana's tweets are private. Because he is the King.
Spies of @mahasena cannot check his timeline but can infer from @yougandharayana's outgoing tweets that @udayana is falling closer into the trap.
----> Reply by @yougandharayana to @udayana Yes, it is true. Shall I make arrangements?

Act 3
Scene: Narmada banks, territory between Vatsa and Ujjaini.
@udayana set off to tame the blue elephant. The elephant kept eluding him and crossed into Ujjaini territory. @udayana followed. When he got close to the elephant with Ghoshavati, enemy soldiers tumbled out of the elephant and captured him.

Tweet from @yogaby_narmada OMG! I was 5 meters away when @udayana was captured. Attn @yougandharayana
(Retweeted by @buddhism_I_like, @marryme_udayana and 30 others)

@mahasena_spy2 sent another DM to @mahasena O King, Operation_Akashavani is completed

Act 4
Scene: Mahasena's Palace, Ujjaini.
@Mahasena seized the Ghoshavati and presented it to his daughter, @vasavadatta.  His sons, @heavymetal and @kabbaddi_Only were not interested in veena playing.

@udayana was put in prison and was asked to teach @mahasena to play the veena. @udayana said he will, if all the obeisances due to a guru are given to him. @mahasena did not like that and came up with a plan. For now, he walked away.

He tweeted his wife @queen O Rani, my lotus eyed one, tell me, how well can our daughter play the veena?
(Both their tweets are protected. So only their followers can follow the conversation)
The queen replied to @mahasena O my valiant Swami, she has dabbled a little

@vasavadatta's attendant, @godavari, a mutual follower (she really did not have any choice about that) followed the exchange. She chimed in-
@queen @mahasena O King, O Queen, forgive my life but @vasavadatta 1/2
@queen @mahasena is good at veena. She practices daily 2/2
------> Reply by @mahasena to @godavari What good news. Collect award of a pearl&diamond bead chain fr yr iphone

Act 5 
Scene: Mahasena's Palace Gardens, Ujjaini.

The mysterious-eyed @vasavadatta was not checking her Twitter timeline.  She was busy practicing penalty kicks with a ball of flowers in fruit-tree lined courtyard.  @godavari approached her and told her about her father's query.
@vasavadatta tweeted @mahasena Oh Respectful Pitrudeva dear, whatsup?

Now, @vasavadatta's tweets are private. Because she is the princess.
@mahasena replied to @vasavadatta O beautiful and dutiful daughter, I want you to learn a few lessons of the veena from someone.
@vasavadatta to @mahasena I will do as you say. But from whom I say?
@mahasena to @vasavadatta An old man very accomplished in veena but sick with an infectious disease. A curtain and a distance shall separate you both.

@mahasena told @udayana about the pupil – She is a hunchback and does not wish to be seen. A curtain shall separate you both.
@udayana requested his all his gadgets be given back as gurudakshina. Which was promptly followed through.
@udayana promptly DM'd to @yougandharayana @dindika and @shramanaka Yo all, lessons now. Time pass. Make escpe arngemnts

Act 6 (Last act)
Scene: Vasavadatta's chambers.

@udayana and @vasavadatta are playing their veenas, separated by a curtain.

@udayana this pupil can't get anything right. Did she have breakfast? #justsaying
@vasavadatta this teacher is awful. Wonder how he became a teacher #justsaying
They cannot see each other's tweets since they are private and they do not follow each other as yet. But they have heard of each other and had checked out their DP's and bios.

His bio read- Veena maestro, Throw me a raga. Vatsa King. Got an elephant?

Hers read- Slender as a Jasmine stalk. But do not stalk... I can have your head chopped

@godavari came and announced lunch-
@udayana A welcome break. This disciple has fingers made of lead #peacockmeatisbest
@vasavadatta About time too. Starving. Skipped breakfast #peacockmeatisbest
The post lunch session was tepid. After trying some lessons for the entire afternoon and failing, in extreme frustration, @udayana pulled the curtains away.  He saw the princess and was very surprised.  
But you are @vasavadatta! he said.
And you are @udayana! she said, with a smile.
Chemistry sparked and flowers showered from the sky on the lovely couple.

@vasavadatta's female elephant Bhadravati was brought over by @godavari in cahoots with @shramanaka and @dindika. @udayana and @vasavadatta used the elephant to run away and marry.
A tweet by @justpassinby News Flash!!! @udayana and @vasavadatta are eloping on Bhadravati. Twitpic
(Retweeted by @veda_reciter292 and 97 others)

--- The End ---

Note1: In fact, a terracotta plaque depicting Udayana and Vasavadatta astride on Bhadravati from the 2nd Century BC, is based on this twitpic and is on display at the Mathura museum.

References: There is more to the story. If interested, please read the Amar Chitra Katha 'Udayana' and History of Indian Theater, by Manohar Laxman VaradPande.


  1. This is really nicely done! *Deep bow*

  2. Excellent read. Might as well spark off a new version of "abridged classics".

  3. Nicely done. Like the ramayana from facebook. Waiting for more.

  4. Hey Shenoy- *Deep Bow* back to you...(Japanese style)

    GSai- Why not, right? Thank you.

    Harkrish- Thanks! Oh yes, like that one.

    Pavithra - I'm glad you liked it.

    ND, Avinash- Ah, thanks & thanks :)

  5. Pleasantly irreverent. Enjoyed it - syam

  6. Nice / funny - Narayana

  7. I stumbled upon your blog when I was trying to find more about Nanavati Murder case (1959) which I had followed avidly as a teenager in Mumbai and which I though about recently while watching the film "Yeh Raaste hain Pyaar Ke." Then I saw this blog about Swapna Vasavdatta. I had read that drama almost 55 years back. you have done fantastic job creating twitter version. " @marryme_udayana " and "@heavymetal and @kabbaddi_Only", I still cannot stop laughing! Hope there will be many more twitter versions coming from you. Thank you.

    Gaurang Vaishnav, NJ, USA