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Rice

By Michele Lee
2016

Rice

Rice
Characters
Nisha, 28, female, second-generation Indian
Nisha is the Executive Officer of Golden Fields.
Yvette, 61, female, first-generation Chinese
Yvette is a cleaner in the building where the Golden Fields office is located.
Nisha also speaks the lines for characters in Yvette’s life including Valerie (60s. Russian,
supervisor), Sheree (early 20s, Yvette’s daughter), Johnny Song (20s, Chinese-Aussie bogan,
warehouse owner), David Egan Junior (early 20s, Caucasian, son of CEO Coles) and also a
widow (Indian, late 30s)
Yvette also speaks the lines for characters in Nisha’s life including Tom (early 40s,
Caucasian, colleague), Avineet (Indian-Australian, late 20s, Nisha’s boyfriend), Graeme (late
50s, Caucasian, boss), Gretel Patel (Indian, early 30s, chief advisor to the Indian Agricultural
Minister)
Setting
The main setting is the Golden Fields building in Melbourne. Nisha and Yvette also go to
other places in Melbourne. Nisha also goes to India.
Time
Present time.

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Rice
ACT ONE

1.
NISHA’s office. One large desk, one smaller desk. A big view of the Melbourne CBD.
NISHA in her suit, heels, her lanyard dangling from her hip. YVETTE in her cleaners’
uniform, with a vacuum cleaner, gloves, her lanyard around her neck.

Stand-off.
NISHA: We’re in competition.
YVETTE: About rubbish.
NISHA: About rice.
YVETTE: About who cleans up your rice and rubbish.
NISHA: You’re the one with the vacuum cleaner. End of story.
YVETTE: Not the end.
NISHA: This is the part of the story where we first meet.
YVETTE: Indian princess.
NISHA: Chinese cleaner.
YVETTE: The princess eat breakfast in here.
NISHA: Green smoothie.
YVETTE: Lunch in here.
NISHA: Salad.
YVETTE: Dinner.
NISHA: Not on Mondays – salsa dancing.
YVETTE: You eat in here, all day. Keep your rubbish on table.
NISHA: My bin is for paper and staples.
YVETTE: Dinner: Chinese. One tub for stir-fry chicken, vegie. One for rice. Eat half of this.
Leave two container out.
NISHA: You’re the cleaner.
YVETTE: You’re a baby.
NISHA: The other cleaner didn’t have a problem.
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YVETTE: Other cleaning company lose contract for this building.
NISHA: The other cleaner, in fact, offered to clear that table every night.
YVETTE: New company hire cleaners three buck cheaper an hour. Hire me. Train me do two
minute only. Two minute: vacuum, wipe, empty. If you put rubbish in bin, I empty.
Two minute up. I go.
NISHA: I stay. I eat. I make a mountain of mess for you. You don’t clean it. I make a
complaint through my facilities manager, who speaks to the client services manager at
the new cleaning company, who speaks to their site manager for this building. She’s the
prickly old Russian woman, who – of all feeble and ineffective things – with no
punishment, merely passes on my complaint to you. Yvette Tang. The cleaner.
YVETTE: You. Nisha Gupta. The client.
NISHA: I’m not the ‘client’. I’m the EO of Golden Fields.
YVETTE: ‘E’ ‘O’?
NISHA: Executive Officer, second in charge. So clear that desk.

Beat.

YVETTE: I do it. I clean up after you.
NISHA: Thank you.
YVETTE: You say it once. I clean it up once.
NISHA: I don’t ask again.
YVETTE: I don’t do it.
NISHA: I watch my phone. It doesn’t sing. The Indians aren’t calling.
YVETTE: I go, you stay.
NISHA: I escalate the complaint.
YVETTE: I bring another bin.
NISHA: What for?
YVETTE: For you. Second bin. Keep here. Next to table. Put your rubbish in.
NISHA: Two bins?
YVETTE: Same for me when I ran my business.
NISHA: What business?
YVETTE: Should finish your rice.
NISHA: Not enough gravy.
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YVETTE: Should take back your complaint.
NISHA: What was your business?
YVETTE: Import.
NISHA: Importing what?
YVETTE: Products.
NISHA: Bins? Plastics?
YVETTE: You think I import plastics? Ha! Like every other stupid Chinese person?
NISHA: Tell me what happened.
YVETTE: Competition. Undercut.

2.
NISHA’s office. YVETTE is vacuum cleaning. NISHA’s working.

NISHA: The paradigm is shifting. Dr Graeme Hartley. The new CEO. Level 21. Upstairs.
YVETTE: You complain.
NISHA: You clean.
YVETTE: I watch. Your friend is in your office.
NISHA: My colleague. Tom Budd. Marketing Director of Golden Fields. He hired me, once
upon a time.
YVETTE: Tom has a book, pick up off your table.
NISHA: Financial Equilibrium: Finding Peace with Numbers. By Dr Graeme Hartley. Tom
reads from the inside blurb.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] “Dr Graeme Hartley’s management textbook guides us through his
theories of ‘modest innovation’, and the need to temper big ideas with pragmatism.”
NISHA: An academic running Golden Fields? Tom, he’s one month into the gig and he’s
downsized out of the exec suite and he’s getting rid of the fountain on Level 21. He’s
got no fucking idea. The week I had that fountain installed up there, IGA met with us
and, boom, they were gagging to give us third-shelf placement for all of the east coast.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Because of a thirty-thousand dollar fountain?
NISHA: Because of me. Because I pay attention to the fucking details.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Interior decorating?
NISHA: [Pause.] Give me that book.
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YVETTE: [As TOM.] Oh come on, Gupta. I’m just making a dad joke, I’m 43, I’ve got kids,
it’s my God-given right to.
NISHA: The book.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Ok ok, here. I was just holding onto it so the cleaner could wipe, do her
job. You know Gupta, if you keep this lying around he’s going to think you’re his fan.
NISHA: Of course I want Graeme to think I’m a fangirl. You should get your own copy. Get
him to sign it. Let him think you’re his little bitch. He’s shrinking your marketing
budgets for the next quarter. You know that, right?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] You kidding me?
NISHA: Graeme had me go over the sums. The Board doesn’t bring in a fiscal conservative
without already putting targets on people’s backs.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] But you’re my EO mole, you champion every cent I spend.
NISHA: Well, Tom, you’re not the only person I’ve got to fend for up here. I’m also covering
my own ass. Any day now this phone is going to sing. Gretel Patel, Chief Advisor to
the Indian Agricultural Minister, is going to confirm that the Indian government has
accepted our offer for a majority share in the PDS. India’s Public Distribution System;
biggest rice retailer to the biggest rice-eating population in the world. This is big, this is
I’ll-kill-ya-if-I-tell-ya sort of news, this is game-changing, history-breaking.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Turn around.
NISHA: What?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Just wanting to check if Dr Graeme Hartley has put a fiscally
conservative target on your back yet. Want the cleaner to wipe it off?
NISHA: [Pause.] Push back on your budget cuts. Spin some story about getting a one-off
good deal on bulk ad buys. I’ll back you up, buddy. [Pause.] Your phone.
YVETTE: [As TOM, checking.] It’s Libby. Do I want pizza? Night, Gupta.

Beat.

NISHA: Tom leaves.

NISHA and YVETTE watch each other. YVETTE turns off the vacuum cleaner.

YVETTE: I empty.
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NISHA: Both my bins are full. Nothing on the table. Happy?

Beat.

YVETTE: I go. Finish up. Thirty second to the basement. Valerie. Russian. My supervisor.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Yvette. My dear Yvette. Long shift? Crappy wages? How is fussy
bitch tonight?
YVETTE: Which one? My daughter? Or client?
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Daughter first.
YVETTE: Tonight she good. Very good. Sheree meet with a lawyer. Best Chinese lawyer I
buy for three buck less an hour.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Made-in-China lawyer for made-in-Melbourne daughter.
YVETTE: Lawyer made in Hong Kong, better quality.
NISHA: [As VALERIE] How is fussy bitch from Golden Fields?
YVETTE: Very fussy. Very big bitch. Hope she get fired.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Ha! You read the paper? See here. New Golden Fields CEO is
‘getting business back to basics’, ‘balancing the bottom line anyway he can’! Yvette,
it’s going to be a bloodbath! Bring me the popcorn!
YVETTE: Fancy fountain is going. Hear them talking.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Good! Was sick of cleaning of it.

Beat.

YVETTE: Take the stair to ground floor. Outside, on street, I get into the car. Made-inMelbourne daughter, she pissed off.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] What the fuck was that, Ma?
YVETTE: This is how you say ‘Thank you mummy for find me a lawyer’?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma, Johnny’s wife hasn’t been admitted to practise law.
YVETTE: Johnny wife just get here from Hong Kong.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Did you cut some deal with Johnny? Pay her in the fake Pradas
you’ve got at his warehouse?
YVETTE: [Pause.] Who does assault on Coles CEO? Who go to jail? You. Doesn’t matter
about ‘admitted’. Can help you, Sheree, can get you minimum sentence.
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NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Well you better get a refund. His wife isn’t admitted. And she’s a
cookie-cutter capitalist. She got up in my face, lectured me about quitting law school,
about the virtues of big business, about the ‘foolishness’ of my protest.
YVETTE: Not protest. Assault. You assault him, Sheree.

Beat.

YVETTE: In this world, you bring me shame, but I only have you, you only have me.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] I’ll just stick with the legal aid lawyers.

3.

The foyer. NISHA and YVETTE are there.

NISHA: We work. Long days. Long nights.
YVETTE: I’m waiting.
NISHA: I’m waiting. Avi. My partner.
YVETTE: All around us, big photo. Green rice paddy. Floor to ceiling.
NISHA: My idea. High-quality custom decals of Australian rice paddies.
YVETTE: In this building, 301 Collin Street, five client. But only one take over foyer.
Golden Fields.
NISHA: Avi’s here. Late. I swipe him in.
YVETTE: I see him. Hipster. Very skinny jean. Checked shirt. High-top sneaker.
NISHA: See this pair he’s wearing: six hundred bucks. Nike released a special edition to ‘the
followers’. Avi bought number 45.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Go on.
NISHA: You stink.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Really? Really? Fuck me, that’s the // first thing you say?
NISHA: You’re hours late. It’s 10. 10, Avi. That’s the facts // of this issue.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] I’ve been working.
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NISHA: Thursdays are date night. Thursdays, 7-9pm, are when I’ve made time to have
dinner with you. I waited. I’m starving. // What about a ‘sorry’ then?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Ok, fine, fine, fine, fine. Nish, let’s go somewhere now to eat.
NISHA: I can’t. 7-9pm, yes. Now? No. The phone-call.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] What phone-call?
NISHA: The phone-call that’s coming. The big fucking phone-call.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] With who?
NISHA: The Indians.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Which ‘Indians’?
NISHA: I’m not going to go over this. You wouldn’t get it.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Get what? ‘The Indians’? What does that – India’s a big country,
you know? We’re not all the same. We’re from West // Bengal –
NISHA: Yeah I know where we’re // from.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] So are we ‘The Indians’? It’s pretty tacky, Nish.
NISHA: As if you can talk. ‘Kiss My Kathi Roll’ is such a nasty name for a food truck.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Kiss made three grand tonight.

Beat.

NISHA: Really?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Community football match tonight in West Brunswick. Brunswick
Beetles vs the Northcote Orangutans. I parked the truck right by the match. Smells were
driving them insane. I sold out of kathi rolls.
NISHA: When did you start following community football?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Stacy gave me the tip-off.
NISHA: Stacy. Right. Stacy-who-used-to-be-on-Masterchef-and-now decorates-inner-citycafes. Stacy-with-pink-hair-and-skater-clothes-and-tattooes. Well say thanks to Stacy.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] I do say thanks. I say it a lot. She’s an awesome business partner.
[Pause.] Here’s your present.
NISHA: A kathi roll? Your leftovers?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] It’s an apology for missing date // night.
NISHA: It’s limp. And the chicken looks soggy. And the rice is… And you haven’t even
crisped the edges on this naan like a real ‘Indian’.
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Quiet.

YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Quit.
NISHA: [Pause.] I don’t think Golden Fields needs any more changes in senior personnel.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] It’s a rice company, not Google.
NISHA: I know it’s not Google. I’m not some Cheryl Sandberg clone.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Well, you’re definitely not a farmer.
NISHA: And you’re an expert on what a farmer looks like? Do you even know what goes
into producing a grain of rice? I am a farmer. We are all modern, evolved farmers, from
the paddies to this building. Especially this building.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET, laughing] Nish, fuck me, you just called yourself a farmer?
NISHA: You’re pathetic, you realise that? You think you’re some hipster kingpin in the food
truck wars. You’re just another brown boy who stinks like masala.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Fuck you, Nish.

Beat.

NISHA: He goes.

Beat.

YVETTE: I can cook Indian food. Not these kathi rolls. I cook coconut curry. Have an Indian
friend. She come to my house. Teach me things.

Beat.

YVETTE: My friend go home to Malaysia. Trouble with Aussie husband. Men are no good.
Or too good to be true. You marry?
NISHA: Excuse me?
YVETTE: Avi, he seem nice. Hard-working too. You’re right. He stink. Smell him from over
here. But stink so good. Spice, fat. ‘Kiss my Kathi Roll’. Funny name.
NISHA: [Pause.] We’re not married. We’re high school sweethearts.
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Beat.

YVETTE: West Bengal. Next to Bangladesh. Yes?
NISHA: What’s your point?
YVETTE: This your home country?
NISHA: I was born in Melbourne.
YVETTE: But your family…?
NISHA: [Pause.] My diduma is from West Bengal.
YVETTE: ‘Di-du-ma’?
NISHA: My grandmother. She left West Bengal, moved her life here. Started with nothing,
raised a family. It’s the usual story, isn’t it?

Beat.

NISHA: She always wanted me to be a CEO.
YVETTE: She die?
NISHA: What?
YVETTE: Your diduma. You speak like she is…
NISHA: No, she’s not d– she’s fine. She lives at home. We look after her.
YVETTE: Sick?
NISHA: [Pause.] Why do you want to know this?
YVETTE: Just ask.
NISHA: [Pause.] Alzheimer’s.
YVETTE: This is a hard fate.
NISHA: She’s doing well. Because she has her own room in our house, she’s surrounded by
family. My parents, my little sisters. And me.

Beat.

YVETTE: [About the kathi roll.] Eat it.
NISHA: It’s cold.
YVETTE: Heat it up.
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Beat.
YVETTE: Tonight my daughter say ‘fuck you’ too.
NISHA: What do you mean?
YVETTE: I am here, you and me we talk. I wait, wait. Sheree not come.
NISHA: Do you live far? There’s a cab rank on Elizabeth Street.
YVETTE: Too expensive. Get a train.

4.

NISHA is in her office. NISHA (as the INDIAN WIDOW) wails.
NISHA: [As an INDIAN WIDOW.] He’s dead! I’m alone now! Where is my government? We
voted them in to look after poor farmers like us!

Beat.
NISHA: My computer, a video’s playing. One of the links from Tom’s daily media scan.
Headline caught me: Freak flood kills in West Bengal. At 41 seconds, there’s a closeup on a young widow who lost her husband. [Pause.] Graeme’s at my door.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] All prepped for tonight’s Board meeting?
NISHA: Watch this. [As an INDIAN WIDOW.] He’s dead! I’m alone! Where is my
government? We voted them in to look after poor farmers like us!
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] What’s this video?
NISHA: India, Graeme. West Bengal. A levee split. Caused a flood. Federal and state
government had been arguing over who should pay for it. Now 200 Indian farmers are
dead, and counting. As such, Gretel Patel has noted that the Indian Ag Minister is
occupied in West Bengal and hasn’t made a final decision on the PDS. My advice is
that we tell the Board that we discuss India next month.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, wanted to chat with you about that.
NISHA: Did you have a chance to read the briefing papers? Gretel Patel’s proving to be quite
the // obstacle.
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YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Look, I wanted to let you know first.
NISHA: Know // what?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Before I tell the Board tonight // about the –
NISHA: Tell them what? [Pause.] You’re cancelling the PDS project.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] All current major projects have been under review // since I –
NISHA: With all respect, you’ve only been here for a month. Don’t you think // that – ?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve checked the governance
framework, the EO isn’t an official member of the Golden Fields’ Board.
NISHA: Not officially but an exception was made for me // being present –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Which, from what I can observe, has created additional duties for
you. Which goes against my maxim to ensure senior staff, like you, aren’t overworked.
NISHA: I’m not overworked. My role is highly stimulating, it’s // strategic –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] And I’m glad to hear you’re stimulated –
NISHA: I’m strategic.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] You won’t be needed at future meetings after tonight, unless
requested.

Beat.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] The EO role didn’t exist until a few years ago.
NISHA: It was created for me.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] I know. I was told that you’ve got talent. To watch out for you.

Beat.
NISHA: He goes. Fuck. You can’t just cancel the PDS. Cancel the biggest motherfucking
rice takeover in history. Pull the plug on fourteen months’ of work, on consultation, on
paying Ernst and Young to do the independent audit. Sucking up to that Gretel Patel
bitch. Fuck.

Beat.

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NISHA: Chicken, vegies, rice. Leave it cold. [Pause.] Who’s going to keep this ship sailing?
Him and what support? Barb, the 60-year-old PA that plays solitaire on her computer?

Beat.
NISHA: Take the stairs up to level 21. It’s where the Board meets. Five voting members.
Including Graeme, the CEO. I sit. Take out my agenda. My last Board meeting,
evidently. Graeme wants to shuffle the agenda tonight. Graeme wants an update on the
Corporate Games first. Followed by the magic: the organisational financials, by week,
month and quarter. Year to date, compared to last year’s performance. Then the //
overview of key projects.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] The overview of key projects is an internal process that I
commenced, as per my agreement with the Board, while I transitioned from // DEPI.
NISHA: We’re going to India.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Beg your pardon?
NISHA: This company is on an international trajectory, and although not all existing key
projects can be carried over as legacy // projects –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, we already discussed this // before –
NISHA: I – I’ve already got agreement from the Ag Minister. Agreement to meet.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] What?
NISHA: Tonight. Yes. It was… well, last minute. The floods in India. You’ve all read about
it? Indian Ag Minister was occupied but now his office just called through // to say –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Just now?
NISHA: Yes. Now, before. His office wants a meeting. Pronto. If I may address the Board, as
we’ve discussed for fourteen months now, the PDS is in the interests of Australian crop
farmers. Our domestic retail markets are plateauing. Our protein rice, our pre-flavoured
rice – discontinued. The tennis turned down our sponsorship proposal, again.
Australians want to eat paleo. Cauliflower for rice. Australians want to eat quinoa.
Freekah. Not rice. Australia is limiting. Our future is in India.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] It’s a multi-billion dollar risk.
NISHA: Which I’ve done the maths on, comprehensively.

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YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] We need stability. [Pause.] I believe that Golden Fields is poised
for great ventures. But not before a period of imposed decline. Of course, as per the
governance framework, I’ll put this PDS project to a vote. Voting members only.

Beat.

NISHA: One vote no. Four votes yes.

5.

YVETTE is on a bus, the tail end of a long ride.
YVETTE: Business better face-to-face. Sometime say ‘fuck you’, most time better say sorry.
Catch bus, train to Dandenong, stand in Johnny Song’s warehouse. Stand here so I can
say sorry, so sorry, nephew. Say Johnny, please. Say can I have my money back?
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] My wife met with your daughter. Deal done. No refunds.
YVETTE: I know you angry, nephew. So sorry Sheree so rude. Your new wife a good
lawyer. But your wife not ‘admitted’. So deal is rotten.
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] My wife’s a motherfucking gun. Straight outta Hong Kong’s
top law firm. And Sheree fired her? Sheree’s a drop-out.
YVETTE: Sheree on break from study.
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] Sheree’s a check-out chick whose skinny ass is going to jail.
Catch.
YVETTE: Johnny! What are you – put them down. Don’t throw! // Leave them there.
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] Catch. Catch it, Aunty. Sheree disrespected my wife. I’m sick
of doing you favours. Looking after your fake-ass shit. So get ya Prada shoes. Get ya
bags. Get ya shit outta here. Now.
YVETTE: Now? But // Johnny – !
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] Oh fuck you, aunty, don’t try this sad old lady bullshit on me.
YVETTE: But nephew, your Aunty is old, how to carry this all. How? Have to work tonight.
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] Whatever. 9am, Aunty. Pick this shit up tomorrow.

Beat.
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YVETTE: Fuck you. Fuck you. Everyone these day say ‘fuck you’. But I say nothing. I go.
Bus and train late. Get into the city, get out late for Collin Street. Valerie smile, look
happy as the devil.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Yvette! You’re late! Train workers strike today. Long shifts, crappy
wages. This city! This country! Why Yvette? Why is this world worse than when we
came into it?
YVETTE: This is life.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Don’t look so tragic. Life is shit. Company training say so.

Beat.

YVETTE: Upstairs, 301 Collin Street, company training say life is shit, so I clean shit. Look.
Disgusting. Who shit like this, never clean toilet bowl after? And why Johnny call me?
I tell him Aunty Tang clean tonight. Why he ring? He think I have my phone on me
when I work? Check Instagram? He call, call, leave a message.
NISHA: [As JOHNNY SONG.] Yo Aunty. Second thoughts. Ain’t keeping ya stuff tonight.
Imma dump it outside my warehouse now. Get it before the council does. Peace out.
YVETTE: Empty, vacuum, wipe. Long shift. Thirty second to basement. Bah!

Beat.

YVETTE: I wait.

And NISHA arrives.

NISHA: I see you.

Beat.

YVETTE: What?

Beat.
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YVETTE: You meet Avi now? Huh? Have another stupid fight in front of me?
NISHA: You didn’t empty my second bin tonight but // I’m not –
YVETTE: That’s all! That’s all you have to say to me? Nisha Gupta, big fancy EO, second in
charge, come down here tell me this?
NISHA: I’ve decided, Yvette, that I’m not going to make a complaint.
YVETTE: You think my boss she care? She always mark our timesheet with extra hour! We
do not care if you complain!
NISHA: Then what the hell are you doing in this building if you don’t give a shit?
YVETTE: Yes I give a shit. Care too much! In China they say I am getting old, but I have
prospect, send me to Australia. Send me here and nothing! Aunty Tang, you hear, she
so useless. Has baby girl but no daddy. He piss off before baby born. Her business
always fail. Printing shop. Dry-cleaner. Import. All fail! Aunty Tang is stupid, always,
always, try and try but competition undercut her!

Beat.

NISHA: Food.
YVETTE: What?
NISHA: Did you import food?

Beat.
NISHA: Food makes sense. You’re practical. I thought perhaps it might have been dry goods.
Not frozen foods. Because of the refrigeration premiums, which you can never fully
pass onto the retailer. So dry goods. Maybe sauces. But not gluten-free. You bought a
glut of gluten-rich sauces before the gluten-free fad took you out of business.
YVETTE: Fashion.
NISHA: Pardon?
YVETTE: Not food. Shoes, bags. Fakes. [About her own bag.] Like this one.
NISHA: Prada?
YVETTE: Autumn/Winter collection.
NISHA: So. You’re not completely practical.
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YVETTE: Practical is boring.
NISHA: Fake is better?
YVETTE: People spend big on fake.
NISHA: So?
YVETTE: What?
NISHA: What happened?
YVETTE: What? Huh?
NISHA: Who undercut you and your fake Pradas, Yvette?
YVETTE: No one undercut me! I stupid! I undercut me! I hold out too long for top price then
no-one buy my thing. Me!

There is an echo as YVETTE yells.
NISHA: It’s this foyer. It echoes at this time of night.
YVETTE: [Yelling.] I undercut me. Me!

There is an echo again.

NISHA: [Trying it.] Me!

There is an echo.

YVETTE: All my bag, my shoe. Worth nothing. Keep in my nephew warehouse, far far in
Dandenong. Now he chuck out. Tonight. Tell me go back there to pick up my thing.
NISHA: Can you arrange a courier?
YVETTE: Expensive!
NISHA: You have goods to sell.
YVETTE: No customer to buy.
NISHA: There’s always a market.
YVETTE: Who wants this old stuff?
NISHA: Obviously you wouldn’t tell anyone that it’s old. [Pause.] Sheree should drive you.
YVETTE: Huh?
NISHA: To get your Pradas tonight.
18

Rice

Beat.

YVETTE: I come upstairs to Level 20. Now. Empty bin for you.
NISHA: It’s fine.

Beat.

NISHA: I wanted to come downstairs. Use the vending machine. Need a Coke Zero top-up.
YVETTE: You should buy big bottle. Save money.
NISHA: I should do a lot of things. I should arrange a face-to-face meeting with the Indian
Agricultural Minister because I told the CEO and the whole Board of Golden Fields
that it was already arranged and they’re all expecting me to go to India and cinch a
multi-billion distribution buy-out.
YVETTE: Ok.
NISHA: Ok what?
YVETTE: Make the meeting.
NISHA: It’s not as easy as that.
YVETTE: Sound easy.
NISHA: I haven’t been able to get onto the Minister for months, his advisor, Gretel Patel,
keeps fobbing me off. Lying through her teeth about why he can’t get back to me.
YVETTE: Call this man. Don’t bother with this advisor.
NISHA: He’s the Minister. I can’t just leap over Gretel and call him // directly–
YVETTE: Yes you can.

NISHA is looking outside.
NISHA: Sheree’s here.

Beat.

YVETTE: He slip in food. Fall in pond at Botanical Garden. Hurt his leg. Many eels in the
pond also. Swim around him.
19

Rice
NISHA: Who?
YVETTE: David Egan.
NISHA: David Egan’s the CEO of Coles.

Beat.

NISHA: My God. Your daughter was one of those Coles protestors?
YVETTE: She bring shame to me.
NISHA: It was in the news. [Pause.] Mr David Egan, CEO, Coles. Jogs every morning in the
Botanical Gardens. One morning, a group of Coles customer assistants chased him and
dumped food on him. It was political, an employee ‘protest’? About food wastage?
YVETTE: Bah! Sheree boss of the protestors. She organise it all. She go to jail. Two year,
maybe more. Try to get her a good lawyer, she fire her.
NISHA: [Pause.] I saw the video she and her friends put up on YouTube. They filmed their
‘protest’, they filmed him in that eel pond, covered in out-of-date food.
YVETTE: Bread, ham, dairy. She collect this, keep in my garage.
NISHA: [Pause.] Any old fish?
YVETTE: Salmon. Salty.

They share a slight smile. A car beeps.
NISHA: David Egan is a single parent too. He raised his son on his own. It’s in his memoir.
[Pause.] Tell him to drop the charges. You’re a poor little old Chinese cleaner, a hardworking single mum with one daughter.
YVETTE: I just walk into his office, tell him this? Bah!
NISHA: But you could. It’s just in Docklands, the Coles headquarters.

Another beep from the car.

NISHA: Good night, Yvette.

6.

20

Rice
NISHA’s office. The sun is streaming in.

NISHA: This is the part of the story where I tell you about an Indian princess. Not the one
who drinks green smoothies for breakfast. In India, once upon a time, a beautiful West
Bengali princess lost her husband. She was a widow. Diduma was poor, she had her
husband’s name but she had nothing without him by her side. She scrimped and saved,
and she fought her way to her own Level 20. And when she couldn’t punch any higher,
she made the phone call that she had told herself she could never make because her
Hindi was so rubbish. A Minister. ‘Fuck it’. She picked up the phone. Spoke her best
Hindi. Bluffed. Put on her deeper voice. Made the case for why he should support her
application to leave West Bengal and come here, Australia.

The other day I came home and I gave her $50, so she can have her own money, buy
her own things. She went walking down the street the next day and gave it all away to
school kids. I yelled at my sisters, my parents. Let’s pull our fucking act together and
keep her safe. And don’t tell me not to yell, don’t blame me for not being here. I’m
pumping money into this fucking household. I am busy, I am strategic, I am the EO.

For breakfast, green smoothies. For lunch, salad. Cold leaves sitting in my stomach. I
cold-call the Indian Agricultural Minister. Bluff. Speak my best international ag talk.
Put on my deeper voice. And… it works. Diduma would be proud. I’m going to India.

Beat.

NISHA: And we stand on Level 20, above this city, and we work, and we eat, shit, sleep.
YVETTE: Graeme’s at your door.
NISHA: Graeme, just the man I wanted to see. Been enjoying chapter 13 in your book.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Final chapter’s riveting, that’s what the critics say!
NISHA: The hero saves the bottom line? [Pause.] What’s this?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Your PDS memo, signed off. Subject to a few changes though.
Don’t be offended by all the red pen.
NISHA: [Looking.] There’s quite a bit here....
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] And for your flight to Delhi // I wanted to –
21

Rice
NISHA: I’ll need internal flights booked too. I’ll be going across India. West Bengal, Andhra
Pradesh, Kerala. Back-to-back meetings, maximising every minute.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Think you and I should scale down to economy for this trip.
NISHA: You’re coming?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, I’m the CEO.
NISHA: Of course, but there’s the compliance conference, the intergovernmental steering
committee on water and I hadn’t heard you confirm yet // if you were coming –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Can you print me out a copy of the updated itinerary while I’m
here?
NISHA: Well, I’m still adjusting it, I’ll ask Barb to print it // for you later.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Email it to me. I’ll forward it to Gretel.
NISHA: Gretel Patel?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Very officious, isn’t she? Like all the Indians I’ve dealt with.
She’s cc’ing me into any emails she’s exchanging with the Minister.
NISHA: How’d she get your email?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] You.

Beat.

YVETTE: Graeme goes.
NISHA: Gretel. Fucking. Patel. Going behind my back, direct to my fucking CEO! Shit. Shit.
I’m scouring all my emails now, seeing if she’s dobbed me in for going over her head.
Wait. Well. Ok. Ok. She hasn’t dobbed me in. Fuck.
YVETTE: Is she ugly?
NISHA: Fuck, she’s going to use this against me!
YVETTE: Fat? Old? // Ugly women –
NISHA: What?
YVETTE: Ugly women suck up to men. So many stupid Chinese women like this.
NISHA: [Showing YVETTE on the computer.] Look. Her Linkedin.
YVETTE: Ugly. Very. Bring Tom. Pretty boy make ugly woman happy.
NISHA: You go.

Beat.
22

Rice

YVETTE: Look at this! This bloody view! Up on Level 21! 301 Collin Street. Fancy
fountain. Take so long to clean and smell so rotten. Finish up. Thirty second to the
basement.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Yvette! Fuck you! Fuck you time-sheet!
YVETTE: Tell me, Valerie, we clean all building in this city? Dockland?
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Any logo, any company, you name it, we clean their buildings.
YVETTE: I want to visit Coles. Go up to Coles Level 21 top floor. Spit in Coles fountain. Go
direct to the CEO of Coles. Mr David Egan. Make him see me. Tell him to drop
charges. Sheree not go to jail. Because I say so. Can you help?
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Piece of fucking cake. Now, should Valerie say we started at 5pm?
4pm? How many ways to say ‘Fuck you’ with our timesheets? Ha!
YVETTE: Careful. You sound like my daughter. Can’t save you both.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Didn’t you know, my dear Yvette? I’m Sheree’s biggest fan. I watch
her video. Funny stuff! Those eels!

Beat.
NISHA: Tom. He’s here. I’ve summoned him. Level 20.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Japanese? Thai? I know you’re not a big fan of curry. Help me, Gupta.
The only food on offer at home is the mashed up leftovers of a pumpkin pie a 3-yearold toddler didn’t want to finish.
NISHA: I’ve booked you flights to India.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Ok…well, that’s a long way to go for dinner.
NISHA: The PDS. Next week I’m getting on a plane. You are too.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] And you want me in India because…?
NISHA: Do you know how overstaffed they are in India? You can’t buy a samosa without
five people serving you. Meeting with an Indian minister requires more personnel than
just me and Graeme. Golden Fields is taking a contingent there. Come.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] I’m very flattered but I thought that the PDS project was…
NISHA: That was what?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Pipedream, a retired project.
NISHA: Where did you hear that?
23

Rice
YVETTE: [As TOM.] You may live up high and mighty here on Level 20 but you’re not the
only one with eyes and ears in this organisation.
NISHA: Well apparently I’m the only one with any balls. Graeme wants to come so he can
ensure that we ‘impose decline’? Because he likes ‘retiring’ projects. Fucking hell! This
isn’t a nursing home. This is India.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Pretty sure we’re still in little ol’ Melbourne.
NISHA: [Pause.] I don’t need your help.

Beat.

NISHA: What?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] This… this free market neo-liberal Milton Friedman stuff. It’s… kind
of sexy.

Beat.

NISHA: When we sign that agreement with the Indian government, when we take over their
PDS, we are going to need a shit-storm. That means every media contact you’ve got
and then some. If you don’t want to do it, if you’re feeling like a pussy // then –
YVETTE: [As TOM.] And the media buying?
NISHA: Next financial year you’re going to be pissing ad campaigns in your sleep, and
they’ll be flavoured Bollywood. You want a bigger challenge, more media space, more
consumers, we’re going to sell motherfucking rice to the biggest market on earth.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] My budgets?
NISHA: I’ll sort them out. Just get your media ammo together, ok? Your phone.
YVETTE: [As TOM, checking.] Shit. Now to tell Libby that I’ll be M.I.A. for…?
NISHA: Five days. Quick smash and grab.

TOM is gone.

There is the sound of the elevator going down the 21 floors.

Then both NISHA and YVETTE get out into the foyer.
24

Rice

They yell.

YVETTE: Me!
NISHA: Me!

Their voices echo.

7.
NISHA’s out in the open.

NISHA: Mondays are for salsa. Tonight: salsa showcase at Federation Square. Me and the
girls. Amanda, Leticia, Rebecca, Natasha, Serena. We worked for months on this
routine. We paid good money to Juanita so on Mondays she could show us how to
salsa.

Beat.

NISHA: Thursdays are for Avi. Date night.

Beat.
NISHA: But I’ll be away in India. So he’s here. In amongst the crowd, Avi’s smiling,
clapping. Stacy’s there, beside him, laughing. Stacy-the-tough-tattooed-vegetarianchick-who-made-a-pork-‘manwich’-on-Masterchef-that-everyone-loved-because-ithad-apples-in-it. She didn’t win. People remember her though. We nail it. The salsa.
Avi?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Babe, you nailed it. Great work up there.
NISHA: Me and the girls get drinks from Transport. Avi puts his arm around me. Buys us all
cocktails. Buys Stacy a beer. He is the perfect, funny, smart boyfriend who talks to all
those friends of mine that he never really liked. Stacy slams a shot. Then she goes home
to a share-house, some vegan hipster wankfest. Avi drives me, deep into the suburbs.
25

Rice
Outside my parents’ house, inside Avi’s car, he slides past the sequins, slides in a
finger, I hold his cock, pump it, ole ole ole. God. Yes. Done.

Beat.
NISHA: Diduma’s light is on.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] How’s she going, Nish?
NISHA: She could be better.

Beat.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Tini bijaẏa mata calē āsē.
NISHA: What’s with the Bengali?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Stacy’s going to invest in a second truck for summer. She asked
me to give it a lucky name. Tini bijaẏa mata calē āsē. What do you reckon? [Pause.]
Wait, you know what that means, right?
NISHA: Of course I do.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Stacy’s lining up spaces for us at Meredith, Boogie and Falls
Festival on New Year’s Eve. You should come, help out, it’ll be pretty fucking
awesome.
NISHA: Well, sorry, but no. Avi, please, I’m not going to be slaving over a fryer in a truck
over summer. And it’s harvesting season then. I’ll be travelling.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] We really should get our own place, babe. Cross paths more than
once or twice a week.
NISHA: What about all these fun and trendy festivals?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] After festival season, obviously, Nish.
NISHA: What about Stacy?
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] What about her?
NISHA: You tell me.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] No, Nish. You tell me.
26

Rice

Beat.
NISHA: You don’t get it.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Get what?
NISHA: Get what I’m on the verge of achieving, you don’t get anything.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Nish, I get you like a fever. And you hate it. You hate that I’ve
known you almost half your life. That I can see right-through your whole… thing. Your
corporate act. You say you’re doing it because of diduma // but you’re –
NISHA: Don’t bring diduma into this.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] You hide behind an old lady who’s sick.
NISHA: [Pause.] Graeme.
YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] What?
NISHA: My boss. You’re like him. I used to think it was going to be young people ruling the
world. But it’s not age, it’s a mindset. Your mindset is so narrow. It sickens me to even
touch you.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As AVINEET.] Fuck this.
NISHA: He leaves.

Beat.
NISHA: Inside my parents’ house, diduma’s light is on. She’s staring at the boxes in her
room. Someone’s been packing up diduma’s things just in case. Just in case she gets
worse. Someone’s been looking into nursing homes. I pick up the brochures, trash
them. I unpack the boxes. [Pause.] Diduma. I’ll look into a nurse when I get back,
someone to be here full-time. [Pause.] She doesn’t say anything. She’s lost her English.
I never had much Bengali. She always spoke English to us. Her rules.

Beat.

27

Rice
NISHA: In the bathroom, I take off my sequins. Shower. Bed. And diduma’s in my doorway.
Staring. She wails. And wails. A Bengali widow. She’s wailing and she won’t stop. I
flee. Back into the CBD.
YVETTE: On Mondays, you salsa. I empty, wipe, vacuum. Then I sit, Level 20, I eat.

NISHA is back in her office.
NISHA: Yvette? Jesus, that’s my desk. I need to – I need to work. Right now.
YVETTE: Here, you sit, please. Sorry.

NISHA stands.
NISHA: Tini bijaẏa mata calē āsē. It’s Bengali.
YVETTE: Diduma teach you this?
NISHA: Avi did. [Pause.] ‘She moves like victory’. God, I had to look it up on my phone.
That’s the name of his second truck. He’s expanding his business with Stacy.
YVETTE: You, Nisha Gupta, EO, move with victory.
NISHA: Do I?
YVETTE: [Pause.] Sit.

NISHA sits.

NISHA: You should be at home.
YVETTE: Can’t be. Will strangle Sheree. First she fire my lawyer, now she fire her legal aid
lawyer. She want maximum sentence. Think she teach David Egan a lesson this way.
NISHA: Did you tell her about your plan?
YVETTE: Not tell her yet. She piss me off so much.
NISHA: [Pause.] You’re both so fired up. Like mother, like daughter.

Beat.

YVETTE: Eat with me. I make this. Chicken, vegies, rice.

28

Rice
Beat.

YVETTE: This is part where we eat.

They eat and share rice.

There is the sound of water rushing, breaking a levee. Loud and crashing, then sudden
silence.

29

Rice
ACT TWO

8.

The foyer of Golden Fields. The green paddies of the floor-to-ceiling decals. NISHA
and YVETTE step out from the foyer, out onto the street.

The sound of the train going around the Melbourne city loop, the announcement of the
train stations. Flinders, Flagstaff, Parliament, Melbourne Central, Southern Cross. The
sound of an airport, with announcements for international flights. Bangkok, Hong
Kong, Los Angeles, New Delhi.

YVETTE is in her living-room, carpet wet and soggy.
YVETTE: A flood. My laundry flooded. Water through my house. My Prada bag, shoe – wet.
I put them on the sofa. Spray Glen 20, try to make them stink less. Sheree wake up.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] God it reeks, Ma.
YVETTE: Plumber coming later. You stand there? Or you help?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Enough with the yelling. I just woke up.
YVETTE: Always sleeping. Middle of the day. Get the sheets off your bed.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Why are the Pradas out on the couch?
YVETTE: Have to dry them. To sell. Always a market to buy them.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Earth to Ma. You’re not Asos. Or The Iconic.

Beat.

YVETTE: Tonight, I go to Coles. Speak to David Egan. Everything is different tomorrow.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] What the fuck?
YVETTE: I speak to David Egan.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] To tell him what?
YVETTE: What do you think? Huh? Tell him sorry, so sorry that my stupid daughter make
trouble. Ask him nice, be very sorry, make him drop charges.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] What?
30

Rice
YVETTE: You not go to prison. You go back to law school, stay out of trouble.
NISHA: [As SHEREE, bursting out laughing] Ma… you fucking weirdo! David Egan can’t
‘drop charges’. The police are charging me // not David Egan –
YVETTE: Stop laughing.
NISHA: [As SHEREE, laughing.] I do not need or want salvation. Ma, for fuck’s sake, I want
trouble. I want the maximum sentence, like the best modern-day martyr.
YVETTE: You think this a game? // Big joke!
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Yes!
YVETTE: Ha ha! So funny? // So clever?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Yes! Fuck yes! And you don’t help me, you never do // you can’t!
YVETTE: Your Ma always, always, everything to help you // keep you –
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Bullshit. You only ever do things for yourself. You hate what I am.
God, half the time I wish my loser dad had just used a condom with you so I didn’t end
up here or I wish you’d had an abortion after he fucked off so I wouldn’t have to listen,
once again, to my poor Ma telling me how she’s suffered my whole fucking life.

YVETTE slaps NISHA/SHEREE.

Silence.

YVETTE: Make dinner. Pack for later. Dress for work. Such ugly shoes.

Beat.

YVETTE: I come for you, Mr David Egan. Take the bus. Train. Southern Cross station.
Dockland. In CBD, Russian people supervise, they know all building. Valerie help me.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Ha! Yvette, you’re crazier than me! How you make peace with Mr
David Egan tonight? You speak English like crap, worse than I speak Chinese.
YVETTE: You speak Mandarin?
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Aha! You have never asked me about my many talents!
YVETTE: Why I ask? All the time you talk about yourself.

31

Rice
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Look at Docklands! Like a holiday at a fishing village in Belarus.
And just like a family holiday, we already argue! Now Yvette, level 21 at Golden
Fields has fancy fucking fountain. You think this king here has a throne?
YVETTE: Bet he has three.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Have you read Ayn Rand?
YVETTE: No.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] Good. Don’t.

Beat.

YVETTE: I clean first. Of course. Still do my job. But I come for you. And what will all
stupid Chinese people say now? Level 21. No fountain. One big desk. One big chair.
You, big boss, you sit in it, sit turn away to window. Look over Dockland. Company
training say to knock. Not tonight.

Beat.

NISHA: This is India. 530 million women, 500 million men. [Pause.] Body count grew in
West Bengal. A total of 378 people died in the flood. Farmers’ collectives are howling.
The government is in retreat.

Beat.

YVETTE: This is it.

Beat.

NISHA: Humidity is hell. Five sweaty days ahead.

Beat.
YVETTE: Mr David Egan. I… My name is… My daughter is Sheree Tang. Work hard at
Doncaster Coles. She work very hard. She see food chuck out, waste, she get so angry.
32

Rice
Take this food, put in my garage… Why didn’t I stop her? Am I stupid? I should have
known. In business, face-to-face... is hard. Mr David Egan, I see you. So angry too. But
is only food she dump on you, just eels in that pond.

Beat.

YVETTE: The chair stay still. The chair stay still.

Beat.

NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] Sorry.
YVETTE: The chair turn.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] Did you say something to me?
YVETTE: But this boy, this is not big boss. It’s not Mr David Egan. It’s a baby. A boy. Jean,
hoodie. He take out his headphone, turn off his iPhone.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] What?
YVETTE: [Pause.] You’re not the big boss.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] Uh. No.
YVETTE: You’re not him.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] So?
YVETTE: Why you here?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] I’m chilling out.
YVETTE: Chill out? Huh? Why?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] What’s with these questions?
YVETTE: When Mr David Egan come back? Tomorrow?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] I don’t have to tell you anything about my father.
YVETTE: You’re his son?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] Totally.
.
Beat.

NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] If you want me to leave so you can clean...
YVETTE: No, doesn’t matter. You stay, you go. I just clean. I go. Two minute.
33

Rice
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] I’m going to be sitting here then. Chilling out.
YVETTE: Ok you sit there then, chill out then. Chill out all night.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] You missed a spot.
YVETTE: Huh?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] The computer monitor was filthy when I came in.
YVETTE: Where is Mr David Egan?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] My father is unavailable.
YVETTE: He come later? Pick you up? I speak to him.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] He’s incredibly sick, ok? And you would be too if
some random nut-bag employee protestors dumped disgusting past use-by-date produce
on you and you fell into an infested pond and got infected with Type 1 eel herpes.
YVETTE: Eel herpes?
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] It’s an actual thing. A disgusting virus transmitted via
blood and revolting secretions. The eels in that pond are like zombies and they attacked
my father. He’s in hospital.

YVETTE laughs.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] Don’t laugh.
YVETTE: No you lie about this disease, you joke.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] He nearly died. It’s not funny, ok?

Beat.

YVETTE: You love your dad.
NISHA: [As DAVID EGAN JUNIOR.] Obviously. FYI lady. I don’t know when he’ll be back.

Beat.

YVETTE: Thirty second to the basement. No king in Docklands. Just a prince. Valerie grin.
NISHA: [As VALERIE.] You win? You charm this Mr David Egan?
YVETTE: I don’t. I go. At Southern Cross station, I wait. Hate eels. Me too, I think they full
of germ.
34

Rice

9.

The sound of Delhi.

NISHA: This is India. This is Delhi.

Beat.

NISHA: The smell, the heat. First meeting with the Indian Ag Minister tomorrow in South
Delhi, then another meeting at the end. In between, meetings with state ministers in
West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala. Tom texts me.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Friedman. Dinner?
NISHA: Already ate. Room service. Steak.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Aren’t cows sacred here?

Beat.
NISHA: I sleep. I don’t. Not really.

Beat.

YVETTE: I sleep. Long time. Wake up. Same house. Same job. Same daughter. Sleep again.

Beat.

NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma?

Beat.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Epic midday nap. You’re running late for work.
YVETTE: Stupid. Forget to set alarm.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] There’s a bit of rice leftover. Want me to pack you dinner?
35

Rice
YVETTE: Drive me.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Into the city?
YVETTE: Huh? Where else I go? Fancy holiday? No.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] The plumber came today, while you were napping. He was hopeless.
We got it sorted though. [Pause.] Sorry about yesterday, what I said. How did it go?
Was David Egan there?
YVETTE: You think big boss just wait around for me to visit?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] So are you going back then?
YVETTE: Don’t be stupid.

Beat.

NISHA: I wake.
YVETTE: I shower. Dress. House stink. Carpet soggy.

Beat.

NISHA: Shower. Dress. Holy fuck. Back into the hotel bathroom. My stomach. The sacred
cow churning in my belly. Scramble to the toilet.
YVETTE: I’m sweating.
NISHA: I’m sweating.
YVETTE: I’m late. Traffic busy.
NISHA: Graeme’s in the dining room. Breakfast buffet. Eating paw paw. I march in. Wince.
My stomach. Still queasy.

Beat.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] You’re looking pale, Nisha.
NISHA: Just a slight touch of Delhi belly.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] No in-built immunity for you? Better stick to liquids for now.
NISHA: I’m fine. Pass me the yoghurt. For my paw paw.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Shouldn’t have dairy // either.

36

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NISHA: Graeme, I need to eat. Can’t have me with low blood sugar in this humidity. And I
have to get my brain carbed up for our first meeting // with the Minister –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] I reviewed your meeting strategy with Tom last night.
NISHA: With Tom?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] He was in the bar, he wasn’t jetlagged.
NISHA: I wasn’t jetlagged either // I was just in –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] I’ve marked up the changes and wanted to run them by you.
NISHA: [Reading.] You want to talk about money upfront?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Have you done business in this region before, Nisha?
NISHA: Graeme, of – of course. Yes. I grew up surrounded by my family, negotiating.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] We’re not talking about individual family dynamics.
NISHA: We can’t launch into money. We just can’t.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] You’re sweating.
NISHA: This paw paw is rotten.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] It’s fresh. Tom. Morning.
NISHA: Tom. Morning. Not jetlagged then?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Not at all. You?

Beat.

NISHA: In Delhi, men are serving. Beyond the waiters in the dining room, men on the
streets, the cab drivers in their black-yellow cabs, the men hocking chai on the street,
we see women, in and out of air-conditioned buildings. Women, brown-hued, cow-free,
rising up to run the country. Miss Gretel Patel. Chief advisor. Big fake smile. Come at
me, bitch.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Miss Gupta.
NISHA: Miss Patel.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Look how far we’ve come.
NISHA: It’s far, here we are. The PDS.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Nearly a year since we began talking about India’s PDS?
37

Rice
NISHA: Fourteen months.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Come come, sit down. Dr Hartley. Mr Budd. The Minister will join
us shortly. Did Miss Gupta tell you that I studied my Masters degree in Australia? In
Sydney. Australia is very flat. Such handsome men but such a tiny population.
NISHA: But plenty of acreage.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Arid. Tea? coffee? Cumin seeds? Chew them. A traditional Delhi
welcome. Miss Gupta, you must be familiar with chewing cumin.
NISHA: I’m not from Delhi, Miss Patel.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Now I apologise if this is a bit basic. But we prefer to start with a
PowerPoint presentation. Slide One! The average rainfall across the different states of
India. It’s quite a difference, don’t you think? Slide Two! Very exciting. 70% of our
population work in farms. Slide Three! Green Revolution. Still a sensitive subject in
Delhi. Are you aware of our history with America? The Rockefellers? Dr Hartley?
NISHA: And Graeme is nodding, making eyes at me.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] With the IMF? Mr Budd? Tom?
NISHA: And Tom is nodding. And we’re all agreeably nodding, saying yes when we mean
no and thinking what about the PDS? We push on. All 78 slides.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Now Dr Hartley, Mr Budd, Miss Gupta.
NISHA: I-move-with-victory. I-move-with-victory. I-move-with-victory.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] I’d be pleased to show you through our building. Dates back to the
days of the East India Company.
NISHA: And Miss Gretel Patel explains the history of the bricks. In lengthy detail.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] I should add that these walls are painted gold.
NISHA: Which we can all see.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Saffron paint.

Beat.
NISHA: Miss Patel. Please. The Minister? I’m concerned he’ll think we’re dawdling.

38

Rice
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] I’m very glad that you’ve raised this, Miss Gupta. I’m afraid the
Minister won’t be making the meeting today.
NISHA: Pardon me?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] I just received this news. Another appointment has run over time.
NISHA: We can wait.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Take the day off? You’re booked in to see the Minister again in
approximately a few days? Whatever you need to say to him, you can discuss with me
in the meantime. I’m very much looking forward to showing you our country.
NISHA: I’m sorry, you’re coming // with us?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Coming along for the next few days. Did you read my emails?
NISHA: Every single one.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] You must be busy. I wrote to you.
NISHA: I shake hands. Agree to meet the Minister in five days. Say how delighted we are
that she’s now coming with us. Leave the building.

Beat.
NISHA’s outside. Traffic’s swarming.
NISHA: Graeme, I have to apologise, that meeting was // utter bullshit –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Seems like the Minister’s busy.
NISHA: So are we. Who does she think – ? God! These bullshit ‘appointments running over
time’.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha. You’ve got this, don’t you?
NISHA: Yes. I’ll check in with Miss Patel, get her to ensure the meetings run // on time.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Tom, dig up the media. See if there’s something we don’t know
about. Anything to do with the floods.
NISHA: Good idea. Yes, Tom // why don’t –
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Not a problem, Graeme.

Beat.

39

Rice
NISHA: No aircon in the cab. The aircon in the hotel won’t go below 26 degrees. I work.
Don’t sleep. Check out. Another cab. Airport. Gearing up for West Bengal.

10.

Melbourne. Night falls.

YVETTE: Sheree drive me. Into the city. Pass by Coles headquarters. Get Sheree to turn onto
Collin Street. Up to Golden Fields.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma, sorry, but I don’t have any money on me.
YVETTE: Not pay. We park downstairs. Free park.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] They give you free parking here?
YVETTE: No, stupid, not for cleaner. Client. Use her car spot. There. Park there.
NISHA: [As SHEREE, reading.] ‘Nisha Gupta. Executive Officer. Golden Fields’.
YVETTE: Indian girl. She on business trip.

Beat.

NISHA: [As SHEREE. Pause.] So you really want me to help tonight?
YVETTE: You want to keep complain? You here now. You want to leave?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Fine. Far out, I’m helping you, ok? Jesus, Ma. You’re such a –
YVETTE: What? What am I?

Beat.

YVETTE: We both so fired up.

Beat.

YVETTE: Daughter get out, mother get out. We go to basement. Tell Valerie that Sheree is
helping tonight. Valerie approve. Big fan of Sheree. I show her best way to do two
minute only. Look at the office, see what the client see. Where do they see dirt, where

40

Rice
do their colleague see dirt, where do their boss see it? She ask many question. I tell her
off. She tell me off for telling her off.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma, Jesus, chill out. Just sit down.
YVETTE: How to sit down? You do it wrong.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Just different, I do it different.

Beat.

YVETTE: When I run dry-cleaner shop, I teach you how to use steamer. You love it, do it
wrong way but you love it. You remember?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] I do. I remember the small details. The big ones too. You were a
franchisee. You were always going to get fucked over.

Beat.

NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Look at this obscene fountain. [Pause] The businesses in this
building, Golden Fields, they’re the sort of brands we stocked in Coles. Should have
dumped that soiled food here.
YVETTE: You already make your choice.
NISHA: [As SHEREE, pause.] I’m fucking terrified of jail.

Beat.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] I am sorry. About what I said to you yesterday. You’re the parent that
stuck around. You looked out for me from day one.
YVETTE: I terrify too.

The roar of India.
NISHA: The paradigm’s shifting. West Bengal. Shitty bed. Shitty sleep. Tom’s knocking.
What. What, Tom?

Beat.
41

Rice

YVETTE: Terrify to be alone.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma, are you crying?

Beat.

YVETTE: [As TOM.] Friedman? Open up.
NISHA: For fuck’s sake, don’t call me Friedman. Don’t call me Gupta. It’s fucking
disrespectful. I’m the EO.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Ok ok, Nisha. Got it. [Pause.] Look, Delhi was a downer but today’s a
new day. We’re in West Bengal. Come on, open up.
NISHA: Fine.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] La-de-da. Look at your room. You get an upgrade?
NISHA: This isn’t fancy. This place is a dump pretending to be a three-star hotel.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] I like it. I like India. I really like it.
NISHA: Well, it’ll wear it off. It smells, it’s busy, people are // rude –
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Gretel Patel, she’s something. Like the Indian version of you.
NISHA: I am Indian.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] But she’s the Indian Indian version of you.
NISHA: Gretel Patel is a scheming, two-faced bureaucrat who enjoys stringing people along
and playing little power trips because she doesn’t actually have any authority to get
things done. That’s not me, Tom. I don’t like wasting time.

Beat.

YVETTE: I sit. Sit by the fountain. Want to stay all night. [In Mandarin.] I will miss you,
little shadow.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] What, Ma?
YVETTE: Finish up. Let’s go.

Beat.

42

Rice
NISHA: Downstairs, outside the hotel, the driver arrives. Golden Fields is going for an
excursion. Seeing real Indian rice paddies. Out of Kolkata. Into rural India. A village.
Gretel, our self-appointed chaperone, already awaiting us and dressed like the fucking
locals. Fuck this. It is so on. I’ve already picked up a sari. I wrap it around me.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Dr Hartley, Mr Budd, Miss Gupta. What a pleasure.
NISHA: In what way?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] A pleasure that you’ve decided to wear such a pretty sari.
NISHA: Well the Minister’s invitation extended to see this village, we were only happy to
oblige and dress appropriately.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] My invitation, Miss Gupta. Everything the Minister has scheduled
has come through me. I felt it was necessary for an Australian company to see what it
was getting into. You must know that India already supplies the PDS with an
abundance of affordable rice.
NISHA: And Golden Fields will ensure competitive prices.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Then you flood the PDS with your surplus weevil-ridden grain.
NISHA: Miss Patel, in Australia, we regulate our weevils. All our nasty little pests.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Mr Budd! What an especially large camera. The locals won’t know
if they should be terrified or mystified.
NISHA: Tom’s not the terrifying kind.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Not unless you’re easily ruffled.
NISHA: Miss Patel, the paddies? Shall we?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Did you know I grew up less than 20 kilometres from this very
spot? I still stay with my family when I come to visit. How can a civil servant do her
civic duties if she loses a connection with her land? Please, come inside this humble
restaurant. They make the best kathi rolls in all of West Bengal. After we dine, then
we’ll need to switch into a more suitable vehicle to go to the paddies.
NISHA: Excellent. And the footwear?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Footwear?
NISHA: I understood that we would have gumboots arranged for us.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] My sincere apologies. We don’t wear gumboots.

Beat.

43

Rice
NISHA: In the swampy paddies, farmers are bent over, tugging up the stalks. Graeme, Tom
and I plough through, slowly. I hold my lambskin pumps. Lift up my sari. Squelch my
toes. Through mud. Drop one of my shoes. Gretel laughs. Loves it out here. She loves
getting back to the basics. And I’m standing in a cemetery. I’m… What?

Beat.

YVETTE: [As TOM.] Nisha, this is where the floods happened.
NISHA: No it’s not, Tom.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Miss Gupta, the thing about this flood is that it doesn’t make for
the most tear-inducing scenery. It was utterly destructive but the foreign eye wouldn’t
be able to tell. The widows have been aggressively campaigning.
NISHA: Campaigning against your oversight to fix the levee?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Well between you and me, my government really should be
looking after their livelihoods, their crop.
NISHA: Well is it the best time for an Australian contingent to be // here –
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Here? Yes, Miss Gupta.

Beat.

NISHA: You want us to meet the widows. You want us to feel their aggression.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] I simply want these constituents to meet the people wanting to buy
into the Indian PDS. Come.
NISHA: Now?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Oh yes, Miss Gupta. They’re waiting.
NISHA: We’re covered in mud. We’re filthy. Tom?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Come on, let’s face the jury.
NISHA: Gretel, we weren’t briefed on this, we’re not prepared.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, we can’t just stand here.
NISHA: But Graeme // we can’t –
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] This lady here. I believe her name is Padma. She’s 39. How’s your
Bengali, Nisha? It would be a great gesture if you could speak with her.

44

Rice
Beat.

NISHA: Gretel Patel goes, stands by the truck, chats to the driver. At a safe distance. The
widows beseech me. They assume I’m the interpreter for the two Australian men. I can
make out a little of what they’re saying: Don’t come here. Don’t buy the PDS. Leave.

Beat.
NISHA: We don’t have much to say. We make it back towards the car. Feet caked.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Where’s the media angle on that one? ‘Australian farming company
visits blood-soaked paddies and announces their intentions to undercut poor, recovering
West Bengali widows’.
NISHA: There’s still an angle, Tom. It’s still coming.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, this is day two. It’s not looking // very good for us –
NISHA: Graeme, it’s not meant to be easy. But we still have a meeting with the West Bengal
Minister unless, for some Gretel-related reason, // it’s been cancelled.
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] Bad news, Miss Gupta. Very bad news. Just came through.
NISHA: What just came through?
YVETTE: [As GRETEL.] While you were talking with the constituents, I got the phone-call.
The Minister’s office in Kolkata // called –
NISHA: Let me guess? The Minister’s office has called to say the meeting is cancelled?

Beat.

NISHA: She nods. She moves with victory.

Beat.
NISHA: She waves us off. She’ll meet us at the state minister’s office tomorrow, if we don’t
mind re-arranging our other meetings? We get into the car. Back to Kolkata, on the potholed highways. Laughing at her piss-weak efforts. Does she think she represents the
poor plebs of India? What the fuck?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Keep the meeting tomorrow. Don’t re-schedule.
45

Rice
NISHA: Graeme, she’s just playing us like little bitches // in the school-yard.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Don’t contact Gretel. I’ll do it. You’re letting it get personal. So
leave West Bengal to me. Tom, you’re coming too.

Night falls in West Bengal.
NISHA: Dinner’s awkward. [Pause.] Bed. Sleep. I don’t. My phone buzzes. Tom.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As TOM.] 2 bad about the meeting 2moro.
NISHA: It’s fucked.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] This might cheer you up. Channel 96. Turn it on. It’s 4 Westerners.
NISHA: Is that Demi Moore?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Young Demi Moore. Disclosure.
NISHA: Don’t know it.
YVETTE: [As TOM.] Saw it on my first date with Libby. Showing my age. Ha. Want 2
watch it 2gether and have a laugh?
NISHA: Is it a comedy?
YVETTE: [As TOM.] No.

Beat.

NISHA: In his room, I sit on a chair. Tom sits on his bed. We watch each other, then we
watch the movie, we watch each other watching. Young Demi Moore tries to give
Young Michael Douglas a blowjob. Michael Douglas is distraught. I come to the bed. I
sit. Tom puts his hand on my leg. Demi Moore is crying. Tom kisses me. I kiss Tom.
We kiss. Hard. Fast. Sprawling over his bed. My phone vibrates. I should check. I
don’t. Michael Douglas defeats Demi Moore. My God, Tom. Yes yes yes. Tom. Done.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As TOM.] Hey.
46

Rice

Beat.

YVETTE: [As TOM.] You crying?
NISHA: No.

Beat.

The night is ending in Melbourne.
YVETTE: My fuck-up start long time ago. Have sex too, in Chinatown hotel. Sheree’s dad,
Cathay Pacific pilot, Chinese boy, quarter German, like Bruce Lee. Half my age. Fly in,
fly out of Melbourne, we meet in Chinatown. No protection, so then get pregnant.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma? Can I just chuck these gloves out?
YVETTE: Huh? You want to keep them? Make nice present?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ok ok ok, chill out. Just thought you might re-use them.
YVETTE: [Pause.] Thank you.
NISHA: [As SHEREE] For what?
YVETTE: What you think? Help me clean tonight.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] It’s fine, Ma.
YVETTE: Thank you for being mine.

Beat.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] I was thinking, actually, that I’ll call the legal aid lawyer, tomorrow,
see if they can still represent me. Maybe I can get the sentence reduced.
YVETTE: They can still help?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] I hope. I’ll try to gather more character references too.
YVETTE: ‘Character reference’? This is what?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Like letters, from people saying good things about me. How I’m a
good person blah blah, not a threat to society blah blah.
YVETTE: You are a good person.

47

Rice
Beat.

YVETTE: He did not quit you.
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Who?
YVETTE: Your daddy. I tell you that he quit, I say this long time. Your whole life. But I quit
him. Had to. Me, pregnant to a pilot, he just a kid. How to make it work? What will
everyone say? Huh? Aunty Tang… pregnant to this kid, she so stupid. So stupid. Stupid
Chinese people talk, talk. I never call him. Never let him meet you. Never hear from
him again. But Sheree, better is just you and me, me as your mummy. Like mother like
daughter. Yes?

Silence.

YVETTE: Sheree?
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] So you lied. About my father? I could have had – For my entire life,
he was… you stole – you stole him from me!
YVETTE: Is not – not steal, no no no… I…
NISHA: [As SHEREE.] Ma, you fucking fake.

Silence.

NISHA: Tom was stroking my face. And then the door. A knock. Thank God the door.
Another short knock. Graeme walked in. His face red, unsettled. Seeing me naked.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, what on earth’s name // is going on –
NISHA: I… This was a… Tom invited me // to his room –
YVETTE: [As TOM.] This was the first and only time I’d do this with an associate.
NISHA: An associate?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Check your phone, Nisha.
NISHA: Pardon?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Your boyfriend. Avi. Couldn’t get through. Got hold of me. Your
whole family’s been trying to get through to you.
NISHA: [Checking.] Diduma’s in hospital. She was… walking alone.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Book us back to Melbourne. Now.
48

Rice
NISHA: No no no, it’s ok, Graeme. My grandmother goes for these walks, evidently it’s
more serious this time – shit! My fucking family! Not locking the doors – Shit. Shit. Ok
ok ok, look, I’ll check in, and if a doctor says she’s stable, Golden Fields can stay here,
finish our trip.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] I spoke with Gretel. In depth.
NISHA: What?
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] You broke protocol. You lied. You never had a meeting lined up
with the Ag Minister. You put him on the spot. This is not how we do business, Nisha.
We don’t piss off our stakeholders, we don’t get them offside // with us –
NISHA: She’s been offside from the start, and now she’s trying to // get to –
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] If this is how it’s been from the start what on earth did you think
you’d achieve by pursuing it?
NISHA: Making an actual difference for Golden Fields. We’re modern, evolved farmers.
YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Nisha, for God’s sake. We sell rice. That’s all.

Beat.

YVETTE: [As GRAEME.] Book us back to Melbourne.
India roars. Melbourne’s CBD does too. Planes, trains, buses clang. NISHA and
YVETTE step back into the foyer. Two men in work uniforms come and start taking
down the foyer decal. NISHA and YVETTE watch.

YVETTE: Sheree stop speak to me. At court, she is quiet too. Maximum sentence.
NISHA: Diduma was walking, she was dehydrated, she fell on a bridge in a park, into the
creek bed. She slipped into a coma for half a day. While I was flying back, she died.

Beat.

NISHA: Look, the decals are peeling off.
YVETTE: Cheap glue.

49

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ACT THREE

11.
Level 21. This should be an open plan office and it feels more expansive than NISHA’s
former 20th floor office. There is a large but elegant fountain in the foyer. It’s a modern
fountain, so it’s more on the sleek side rather than something gaudy. Maybe it’s a wall
of water, maybe it’s a sunken fountain floor. Whatever it is, the fountain should be or
feel very central and present.

YVETTE is cleaning, in a pair of fake Prada high heels. We watch her and her method,
how she vacuums, wipes, empties.

Maybe after a few minutes, we see NISHA.

NISHA: You missed the bins.

Beat.

YVETTE: Not miss, not finish yet.

Beat.
NISHA: Have you noticed? I’ve kept the two-bin system going up here.
YVETTE: Yes.

Beat.
NISHA: I’m being watched. The joys of Level 21. The joys of open plan. The joys of being
Golden Fields’ one and only ‘Special Projects Officer.’

Beat.

50

Rice
YVETTE: Sound fancy.
NISHA: It’s not. I don’t do anything ‘special’. It’s a bullshit title. I am very much in the bad
books. I’m not even allowed to stay back past 6pm. Lest I come up with more
international schemes.

NISHA walks in further. She keeps watching.

YVETTE gives NISHA a little soapy sphere.

NISHA: What is this?
YVETTE: Perfume ball.
NISHA: Why?
YVETTE: Company training say Level 21 make special request. Put perfume ball into
fountain. Make fountain smell more like fountain.
NISHA: Smells like the ocean.
YVETTE: Throw it in.
NISHA: Where?
YVETTE: Anywhere.
NISHA: [Throwing it.] Have we got you doing anything else new?
YVETTE: No.

Beat.
NISHA: He’s keeping the fountain. Facilities came back with the quote to remove it and it
was cheaper to keep it. So Graeme, of course, opted for the cheaper option.

Beat.
NISHA: He’s thinking about moving into the Exec Office now. Says the fountain’s too loud.
All day it sounds like the men’s urinals.

Beat.

51

Rice
NISHA: But you, Yvette, make it smell like the ocean.
YVETTE: Just a perfume ball.

YVETTE keeps cleaning. NISHA looks inside a larger rubbish bag, which has been
collecting rubbish from levels 10 and up.

NISHA: Interesting seeing it all mixed up together.
YVETTE: Not interesting.

NISHA starts to help with the cleaning. She gets the other bins, and empties them,
squashes all the rubbish down in the large bag, and then adds in new bin liners.
NISHA: We should pay you more. Next time Facilities is working on the contract, I’ll make
sure I’m involved in that conversation.

They clean. They finish.

Quiet.

NISHA: Why were you wearing your Pradas?
YVETTE: Give most to op shop already. Keep some. Nowhere to wear them.
NISHA: You need proper shoes for your work.
YVETTE: I have proper shoes.

Beat.

YVETTE: Just try something different tonight.

YVETTE sits down. She rubs her feet.

NISHA: I can smell Glen 20.
YVETTE: It’s on my feet.

52

Rice
Beat.
NISHA: They’re talking about me tonight. In the Board room.
YVETTE: Who?
NISHA: The Board. I asked Graeme if I could stay back, report on India.
YVETTE: You get your old job back?
NISHA: At the least I get to present what really happened. [Pause.] Is my makeup ok?

Beat.
NISHA: I’m operating in a very judgemental environment. Everyone’s talking about me.
They have no idea how complex India is.
YVETTE: No one talk about you.
NISHA: They clearly are.
YVETTE: I don’t hear them talk about you.
NISHA: Level 16 is.
YVETTE: No. They not talk.
NISHA: 13?
YVETTE: No.

Beat.

NISHA: What about Tom?
YVETTE: No.

Beat.
NISHA: My guess is that the Board will keep me in ‘Special Projects’ for a while, so I have
to sit next to Graeme and Barb, so Graeme can watch me, and then Barb can when he’s
not there. Then after a few months, they’ll demote me back to Marketing. But I can’t
have Tom line-manage me. It would be inappropriate. But if they force that
arrangement, then I’ll wear it. Twelve months, tops, then I’ll find my way back up.
YVETTE: He quit.
53

Rice
NISHA: Pardon?
YVETTE: Tom. Hear him talk.
NISHA: He’s quitting soon or he’s already quit?
YVETTE: Not sure.

Beat.
NISHA: Should I – I should text him.
YVETTE: He’s married.
NISHA: I know.
YVETTE: Why you want to be with him?
NISHA: I don’t. But I care about him as a colleague. It’s not going to be easy out there
getting a job. Look, anyway, here, I am deleting his number. I am deleting all the text
messages too. Goodbye Tom Budd.

NISHA deletes the messages. It takes a while.

YVETTE: You text him a lot.

Beat.
NISHA: I haven’t told Avi about Tom. He and I were talking. Stacy didn’t fancy him after
all, she’s gay, she’s moving to North Carolina for a Naval Officer. So turns out that
Kiss my Kathi Roll doesn’t have a business backer anymore.
YVETTE: Sorry to hear.

Beat.

NISHA: Yvette!
YVETTE: Yes?
NISHA: Say something.
YVETTE: Say what?

54

Rice
NISHA: Say something about me. About what I’m doing. Am I stupid to be presenting to the
Board? Is Graeme just humouring me? Is Tom quitting because of me? Should I tell
Avi? Should I get back with Avi? Should I become a little suburban wife working at
Country Road? Should I stop drinking Coke Zero? Tell me. Judge me.

Beat.
YVETTE: Can’t tell you.
NISHA: Yes you can.
YVETTE: I know nothing.
NISHA: You just told me that Tom was leaving. You probably know what they’re going to
say in the Board room. You could go in there, clean. Listen in.
YVETTE: Why I do this?
NISHA: Because I need the help.
YVETTE: You need help? Huh? Why? You are young, you have a job. Look at you.
NISHA: I’m about to get fired.
YVETTE: You just say they not fire you.
NISHA: Of course they’re firing me.
YVETTE: Why you want to stay anyway? Huh?
NISHA: I don’t have anywhere to go.
YVETTE: Liar.
NISHA: See?
YVETTE: What?
NISHA: You do have things to say about me.
YVETTE: I have nothing to say.
NISHA: Yes you do.
YVETTE: Stop.
NISHA: You told me to call the Indian Ag Minister.
YVETTE: Stop, stop –
NISHA: You told me to be kinder to Avi. You told me to bring Tom.
YVETTE: Stop it! Huh?
NISHA: Stop what?
YVETTE: Why you listen to me?
55

Rice
NISHA: Because –
YVETTE: Why?
NISHA: You tell me what to do.
YVETTE: I tell you to do many things, you do them all?
NISHA: Well I pretty much did, ok?
YVETTE: I’m just cleaner.
NISHA: Bullshit with your ‘little old cleaner’ victim bullshit.
YVETTE: Not bullshit.
NISHA: You’re not some victim.
YVETTE: I am not your diduma. Ok?
NISHA: Of course, Jesus, I know that.
YVETTE: Your diduma is dead.
NISHA: I know. And the funeral was wretched, by the way, in case you were wondering.
YVETTE: Yes, I wonder. I think about it. But not everything I think I have to say.
NISHA: So you’ll say nothing? Your daughter is furious with you because you kept a secret,
then you let it spill, and so you think the only way to deal with things is to fall silent?
YVETTE: Bah! My daughter is silent one. I visit her, she say nothing. So angry.
NISHA: And?
YVETTE: Bullshit.
NISHA: Bullshit what?
YVETTE: Bullshit to this. Talking talking. Talking mean nothing.
NISHA: It’s not bullshit.
YVETTE: See?
NISHA: What?
YVETTE: This. Say to me you are not clever but you know already all the answers. You
pretend you want help. No. No. All you want is me to say you are right.
NISHA: Say it then. Tell me I’m right. Tell me I’m number one.
YVETTE: No.

Beat.

NISHA: Your hair is purple.
YVETTE: It’s black.
56

Rice
NISHA: Your hairdresser sucks.
YVETTE: Priceline is my hairdresser.
NISHA: Well, Priceline made your hair purple.
YVETTE: I make it purple. Me. Yvette Tang. I buy wrong colour.

Beat.

YVETTE: Usually Sheree buy for me.

Quiet.

NISHA sits.

NISHA: When mum was little, she and diduma used to sleep together in the same bed.
They’d fall asleep together, wrapped up in each other like sisters. And then I was born,
and diduma loved me, she’d nurse me, sleep with me, wrapped up, for so long, even
after I was too old for it. [Pause.] My two little sisters are fighting over her room.

Beat.

YVETTE: Stupid babies.

Beat.

YVETTE: Train not come for 29 minute.
NISHA: Which train do you catch?
YVETTE: Eltham.
NISHA: You live in actual Eltham?
YVETTE: Yes.
NISHA: With the trees? And the hippies?
YVETTE: I live far from Chinese people.
NISHA: Do you like it there?
YVETTE: I like the trees.
57

Rice
NISHA: Diduma always wanted more trees in our yard.
YVETTE: Where you live? Toorak?
NISHA: Werribee.
YVETTE: You live in Werribee! It’s the country! Kangaroo. You live so far.

Beat.

YVETTE: I wait with you. When I sick of you, I go.

Beat.

NISHA: Quit, get a job closer to Sheree. Visit her every day. Stay in her face.
YVETTE: Find a new job?
NISHA: Whatever it takes.

Beat.
NISHA: My God, Yvette, Sheree’s got guts. She got that from you. She’ll go so far.

Beat.

YVETTE: [In Mandarin.] I will miss you, little shadow. [In English.] I will miss you, little
shadow.

YVETTE gets up. She leaves, taking the big rubbish bag with her.

NISHA: Yvette?
NISHA gets up. After a moment, she picks up YVETTE’s shoes. She carefully cleans
them, using the hem of her skirt, her suit jacket.

YVETTE comes back in. She watches NISHA.

58

Rice
YVETTE: Mr David Egan. Fuck you. I am Yvette Tang. My daughter is Sheree Tang. Coles
is evil and the system is broken. My daughter said this. Remember that time, stink of
your own rubbish, you fall into a pond? The eel pond. Very embarrassing for you. Very
funny video for me. I watch all the time. See you yell at her. Fuck you. And that is all I
have to say to you. Mr David Egan.

Beat.

NISHA cries, no wailing, but one or two small sobs. YVETTE stands beside her.

Then NISHA helps YVETTE back into her shoes.

Silence.

YVETTE: This is the part where we leave together.
NISHA: Thirty seconds down to the basement. You put your equipment away.
YVETTE: We drive to Eltham.
NISHA: I drop you off.
YVETTE: I invite you inside for some food.
NISHA: I say yes, and I eat a little dinner with you.
YVETTE: Rice.
NISHA: I wash the dishes.
YVETTE: I give you one pair of best-quality fake Prada.
NISHA: I thank you. I go. I don’t know where I’m headed.
YVETTE: I stay.
NISHA: Diduma would have loved all the trees out here.

Beat.
YVETTE: That didn’t happen.
NISHA: No, that didn’t happen. I didn’t drive you home.
YVETTE: Waste of petrol.

59

Rice
Beat.

NISHA: This is the part of the story where we get to smell like an ocean.

They step into the fountain. The water washes over them.

They enjoy this.

Then they step out.

YVETTE: This is the part where we go.

They leave together.

THE END

60

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