When I started work on The Vaidya’s Oath, I planned the structure of the play a lot longer than I normally would before starting on writing dialogue. The result was a first draft that ran (or perhaps more accurately, hobbled) from start to finish. The human story has been sketched out, with several holes large and small awaiting research and immersion on the medical and scientific side of the story.
During my background reading, I was intrigued to find that infection follows four stage process:
1) Incubation: the interval between the entrance of the pathogen and the appearance of the first symptoms
2) Prodromal: the appearance of generalised symptoms of illness such as malaise, fatigue and low-grade fever.
3) Acute: when specific symptoms of the infection present themselves, such as rashes or a sore throat.
4) Convalescence: Or, if things have not gone well, death.
It’s easy to see that classical storytelling follows much the same process, and I didn’t need much persuasion to adopt this structure for TVO, which now is loosely in a four-act structure, the acts named after each stage of infection.
It feels right, because at its core, TVO is the story of the “infection” and decline of a marriage. Who will convalesce and come away stronger, and who will succumb, as it were, to the disease?
Let’s meet the characters in TVO, without revealing too much of course.
We first met this guy in The Invisible River (TIR), a previous Theatrescience play on bacteriophage therapy and the Ganga. A driven, inflexible man, Dr. Ajay was seen stalking up and down the banks of the Ganga shouting at people dipping their babies in the water. In TIR he confronts a politician and since then he’s been given a punishment transfer from Allahabad to a rural area somewhere in Uttar Pradesh.
Another character from TIR, Uma is a microbiologist from Bangalore. She met Ajay during a research trip to Allahabad where she was studying bacteriophage action in the Ganga. Though she didn’t like him at first, TIR hinted at a developing relationship between Ajay and Uma. Since then, they’ve fallen in love, got married and spent about nine months out here in this rural posting.
A young seismologist from Bangalore and a friend of Uma’s. For much of the play, we’re not sure what their relationship is—they are comfortable with each other and seem to be very close friends.
Played by the same actor who plays Rahul, he is a young doctor in the government hospital Ajay supervises.
A young mother who lives in poverty and has a recently born baby under Ajay’s care in the hospital, severely ill with infant sepsis.