K.V. Dominic’s God’s Tribunal as the Departure from the Reality
Prof. Dr. K. Balachandran
(Paper presented in the 64th All India English Teachers’ Conference, organized by Magadh University, Bodhgaya and AESI, Feb. 6th – 8th 2020)
K. V. Dominic’s God’s Tribunal is a One Act Play which stands as a good example in Indian English literature for the departure from the reality. Reality is one thing / aspect and departure is another. Reality narrates one as it exists, prevails and functions. Departure is a deviant one deviating for the present position/existence. This One Act Play presents a complicated issue - man mishandling the problems on the earth, about which animals (cow, tiger), bird (cuckoo), Nature (tree), fish, the earth, why even women complain to God for justice. What are their complaints against man and how God reacts to them are truthfully narrated by the writer. Has the earth become unlivable? Is the earth for human beings only? What are the problems in the human kind? Is man doing more harm than good? The 9 characters (God, Earth, Man, Woman, Cow, tiger, cuckoo, tree and fish) also present a deviant argument and picture which are lively and true. The paper presents a vivisection of the One Act Play and also a reality of departure – a novel portrait in words by the playwright.
Dominic’s One Act Play God’s Tribunal is a departure from the reality because (i) The 9 characters are from all sections - not only human beings (man, woman), but also animals (cow, tiger), bird (cuckoo), Nature (Tree), one of the five elements (earth), fish and God. (ii) It is not only about people but for people and by people. (iii) All the eight characters (except God) have assembled on the top of a mound expecting God’s appearance and arrival. (iv) Generally when God exhibits Himself there’ll be thunder, rain or storm; but here it is a gentle breeze and a gleam in the sky. (v) It is God’s voice and not his presence. It is like a voice from the heaven.
The voice of the God proclaims that He has summoned all, since he has been getting complaints from the above mentioned 8 characters. The voice (speech) of God implants his views: “I have created this earth and then all inhabitants with a purpose that you all should live here most happily. I have bestowed here on this planet whatever needed for your existence. So there is no scope for any complaint. But I am fed up with listening to your complaints” (God’s Tribunal, p.154).
When God asks man about his complaint, man tells, “We have little happiness and peace here”. God explains to him, “Heaven and hell is here on earth itself. It is in your own minds I reside in you and all my creations. I have no separate entity. As I am invisible, I live in your soul. It is true that you are separate from other creatures by having reasoning power or developed brain. It is the same reasoning power which makes you most selfish of all creatures.” He asks him who are responsible for destroying his happiness and peace. Is it because of his co- existence with other creatures?
As a kind of reply to God all the 5 (cow, tiger, cuckoo, tree and fish) tell, “Human beings have destroyed our peace and existence too.” God pacifies them and again asks man about his genuine problem. As a representative of human being, he speaks “13% people are starving, 1% richest people control the lives of the entire human race” (GT, p. 155). He questions God, “Why have you created such divisions among us very few rich and vast majority poor?” He argues further, even if the poor people raise above their standard of living they fail.
They are born poor and die poor. They have been praying regularly in temples, mosques and churches. But nothing has changed. Still majority people have no basic amenities without peace of mind and happiness. When human beings have such problems, God created non human beings without problem. They don’t work hard as human beings have to for their food. Whatever they need are provided by God around them. They don’t worship him; yet they are provided with what they need. His complaints are the playwright’s ideas about the humanities.
God replies him that his (man’s) problem lies in his brain since his brain function is different from creatures’ brain function. His mental activities are both advantageous as well as disadvantageous. With his brain he has done more harm than good for him and others. Man is more selfish than other beings. He (God) admits that he is responsible for all the mess in his (man’s) brain which now boomerangs on him. He further elaborates that the entire earth is for all creatures’ living. He hasn’t created any wall between the human beings and other beings. He has bestowed the earth with sufficient food and other necessities. When other beings are happy with them man alone is not. Because of his selfish nature and not satisfied with the necessities endowed by him, mighty people conquer and deprive the weak, and amass and become richer.
God admits that he is helpless at this juncture and clears the doubt of man, “I never demand you to worship me. Instead you have created innumerable religions and gods”. These are all part of his (man’s) selfishness. He is not praying for the welfare of all who are his own brothers and sisters.
The creator again proclaims that there is only one creator. Man creates many Gods and religions for power and wealth and to exploit the poor. Maximum number of crimes, massacres and violence are committed in the name of religion. They forget to promote love and compassion. In lieu of it, they instil hatred and discomfort. Each religion (falsely) believes that theirs is the best and followers of that religion alone will be saved. He advises man, “You should first learn that work is worship. What I expect from you is love and compassion. Love your fellow beings, all living and non-living bodies and the planet itself which is your abode. When you love them, you love me. Live and let live should be your policy” (GT, p.156). This is the playwright’s idea about humanity and he speaks through the mouth of God.
Now God asks woman about her complaints. She tells him that God created both male and female in all the species. For the continuation of his creative process both are needed. Among non human beings both male and female have equal status, whereas in the humanity, women are controlled, exploited and suppressed by men. Men assume superiority over women. There is no equality in any field. In most homes, decisions are taken by men only. Wives have no rights, but duties only. They are treated as servants or slaves: destined to labour from dawn and dusk. Ill treatment by their husbands is a common sight. Physically they are tortured. Parents prefer sons to daughters. Birth of a son is a happy occasion whereas the birth of a daughter is seldom welcomed and celebrated. Female feticide is a frequent one in the low income class. She continues:
Rape, kidnapping, sex trade, murder of girls and women are found in almost all societies. There is discrimination in the labour sector. Women are given lesser wages. They are sexually exploited. We are not treated equal in praying and worshipping you. In most of the religions, clergies are all men. Women are denied entries in some worshiping places. Dear Father, kindly make men refined and good natured. (GT, p.156)
What the woman spoke is the reality in this world. It picturises the precarious plight of women. Her accusation against men folk cannot be denied. Her earnest entreaty to God to make men refined and good natured is timely and it has to be tackled without further delay. Here the playwright brings out the struggles and sufferings of women and by doing this, he expects reaction and amelioration from the stronger sex.
As a kind of reply and relief measure God tells her, “I haven’t injected any evil instincts into any of my reactions. Females in other beings have no such complaint. There male and female live in perfect harmony. No female being will surrender to a male being. She will resist and he will go back” (GT, p.157). He advises her to apply the same strategy that non human beings practise. “Man can’t live without woman and woman can’t live without man. They are created for each other. For the continuation of a species, union of both is necessary. So there is no question of superiority or inferiority. Both are equals and they should live with perfect harmony and rhythm. They are part of the universal concert and symphony” (GT, p.157). This is not only the voice of God; but also that of the playwright who has a very clear vision about male and female, their importance for the species called humanity. There is no question of domination by one sect over the other. Equality should be the axle of husband-wife relationship.
Animals have their own grievances. When God asks them, cow comes as the representative of domestic animals – cattle, sheep, dog, cat, pig, fowls, horse, donkey, camel and elephant. Its complaint: “We have been serving man as he likes but in return we have not been treated gratefully. We have been poorly fed and beaten. When we are old and weak, not able to serve him like slaves physically, he kills us and eats” (GT, p.157). Man slaughters them and kills them inch by inch. Dogs are deserted and they roam in streets. Puppies and kittens overrun by man’s vehicles. Though domestic animals have the tag ‘domestic’ (meaning enjoying man’s love and their liberty) very rarely they are treated so. The cow continues, “We could have lived happily in the forest along with our counterparts there with no fear of human beings. Dear God, either set us free or make them refined and compassion- ate to the animals” (GT, p. 157). Here also one can find the playwright’s ideas about domestic animals and man’s attitude towards them in the speech of the cow.
On behalf of the wild animals, Tiger expresses their complaints to God. They have been leading a very comfortable life in the forests. Whatever they need, are in plenty in forest.
But human beings, not satisfied with what they were allotted, started encroaching our dwelling places, destroying forests. We have been hunted by them. Now we have little food and water for our survival. So we are compelled to go out of our dwelling places in search of food and water and we are killed by human beings, since we entered their villages. What justice is there? Dear God, command human beings to reforest and regain our dwellings and never enter into our area. (GT, pp. 157-158)
From the tiger’s complaint one can understand how human beings are inhuman to the animals and their encroachment in the latter’s area.
Cuckoo representing all birds on earth tells God about their complaints. “Our grievance is similar to tiger’s. Since man has destroyed forests as part of encroachments and trees in his villages to construct building after buildings we have lost our abodes as well as food and water. Many of our species have become extinct” (GT, p. 158). The complaints from birds are truly represented by the cuckoo. If the existing condition continues, birds will be wiped of from this planet. They don’t do any harm to human beings. Instead they have been serving the humanity - giving happiness to their eyes, ears and minds. Is this not true? Here also one can see the view point of the playwright, his concern for the birds and how human beings have to change their approach and attitude towards them.
Next comes a tree to record its complaints to God on behalf of all trees. They are fated to live static and immovable. Their selfless sacrifice and service only sustain all living beings. Mainly they take carbon -dioxide and let oxygen which is the most important for all beings. “Human beings so ungratefully kill us, uprooting us, cutting into pieces and even burning, alive… they do it for their comforts and luxuries. They don’t understand that we too have life and sensations like them. Their recklessness and destruction mania will wipe out plant life, animal life and their own existence from this planet” (GT, p. 158). The voice of this tree is the voice of the playwright who feels much for the various plant kingdom in Nature.
On behalf of the living beings in water, a fish comes forward to complain to God. It is very angry and asks, “Are we created just for the consumption of other creatures? Aren’t we dear to you as all other beings? Don’t you see the cruelty and massacre done to us by human beings? We never do any harm to man but he tries to extinct us from our habitations… we are used for their pleasurable taste. In addition to the mass butcher, man poisons our dwelling and billions die of toxins every day” (GT. p.158). Nobody will say that the complaints are untrue. The writer’s concern for living beings in water is justified by the argument of a fish.
Lastly God invites Earth. She voices forth her complaints:
I am your daughter and these all are my children. My complaint is, in fact, the totality of their complaints… human beings are the only species responsible for the imbalance of Nature. They are not only exploiting and destroying other beings and plants, but also wounding me inch by inch. Don’t you see the atrocities they do on my body digging, mining, quarrying, building huge structures, dams and above all poisoning my wounded body by dumping electronic and plastic wastes… if you remove man from my body, I will recover soon and you can find a paradise once again. (GT, p.159)
As the complaints of all, here also the complaint of the earth is true and unrejectable. It is the playwright’s ideas voiced forth by the cow.
So all the complaints have been registered by God and now he has to give his judgment for which all have been waiting anxiously. He declares it that after hearing all their complaints, he has come to the conclusion that human beings are responsible for all the problems on the earth. Like them God is also much grieved because he only created man with a noble purpose. Like any human father, he also will he happy to see the well being of his children, their happiness and harmonious life with co-habitance. But he is not able to see it. Human beings have more mental powers and functions. They have reasoning power. They can differentiate between good and bad. He had the impression that human beings would choose only the right things which are beneficial to them and other beings and avoid bad things that are detriment to them and also for others living. His final verdict, “Having created I can’t call them human beings back. I am still hopeful that they would learn lessons from their wrong deeds and lead a harmonious life with other beings and Nature. If they do not change, a total destruction of human race would result”. He at last cautions humanity, “Life would continue on this planet without man and harmony would be regained, and there will be no more complaints from any creations” (GT, p.159).
All the 6 characters (excluding man and woman) heave sigh of relief and tell in a chorus, “We long for that doomsday.” Now man and woman are in a precarious condition. Is this warning necessary? Yes, it is for their inhuman life. Why there are so many storms and forest fire in all the continents? Excess rain during rainy season, rain during the harvest times, no rain when it is needed - are not these punishment by the various elements (Rain God, Fire God) in this universes? They occur only to punish human beings. This realization has not come. But political leaders and people cry, “This storm has come! That rain downpours!” When human beings exceed their limit, naturally the five elements will start punishing. This has to be realized and understood by human beings and mend their ways, not indulging in unfair activities. If they change they will find Heaven on earth (Terrestrial Heaven), if not hell only on the earth.
In this regard K.V. Dominic’s One Act Play, God’s Tribunal in a fine eye opener to all. Though it is small in 6 pages, its message is powerful, multifarious and multi functionary. He has deviated from other playwrights to inculcate what he wanted to convey. Thus the playwright has word painted a vivisection of the present day humanity and man’s harmful activities and how it is most urgent that he turns a new leaf in the interest of all human beings. “Live and let live” is the simplest message, but it is really a noble and timely one!
Dominic, K. V. God’s Tribunal. Writers, Editors, Critics, vol. 9, no. 1, March 2019, pp.154-159.
Prof. Dr. K. Balachandran, Former Prof., Dept. of English, Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar – 608 002 (Tamil Nadu), is a bilingual writer who has published 20 books (16 in English and 4 in Tamil) and a number of poems, research articles and reviews in India and abroad. A Gold Medalist from Annamalai University, he has won several awards. He has been serving as UPSC Examiner for the past 20 years. After retirement he has served as Dean and Principal in two colleges.