Schools have a method of making every child feel important. In my school, especially in the younger classes, the goal was to get as many children as possible onto the stage. Rounds of auditions were held for roles requiring no dialogues to speak of. The whole process instilled a sense of pride and the camaraderie was memorable. Every child wrote home stating they were to participate in the play on Founder’s Day, and parents would take time to gather from all parts of India to see their off-spring shine forth and perform on stage. Well … not exactly, since most children would be part of a queen’s maids or fairies or some such similar thing, and just stand on the stage long enough for a photo-op. The point is: it was a major highlight in their lives.
As I grew older, and occupied my status as an aunt, I was invited several times to performances of nieces and nephews. One such performance a decade ago still gives me goose-bumps. My niece, V, was to perform on stage as a Sunflower in her nursery school. Preparations were on at a feverish pace. She would sing and practice religiously everyday. I was there dressed in my best clothes to watch my dear niece perform.
I stepped back-stage before the program started, and wished her luck, before snaking my way through the crowds to an inconspicuous chair in the rear-end of the auditorium.
This is where things start getting interesting.
We were ready for the “Sunflower Song & Dance”. V stepped on stage, and the sunflower field was before us. To state it mildly, V’s vocal chords are noticeable even in a noisy bunch of first graders. She stepped on stage, scoured the audience and started singing. All this while, she was combing the audience evidently looking for me – her favourite aunt. She spotted me, stopped singing, pointed at me and waved – “Hi chitthi!” .
I have never got a nastier jar in my life! I slowly felt the people farm turn and look at me. I turned red with embarrassment. I could have done the beetroot song and dance just there but I went with sinking as low as possible into my chair, and prayed for the sunflower dance to be over!
What brings these reminiscences back after all these years you might ask – aah a good question. This time, it is the role of my nephew in his School play, which I will have to miss on account of living half a moon away from him. Nevertheless, I look forward to the narration of the event with gusto. Here is the first account from my sister:
I received a circular last week from Siddu’s school stating that he was selected for the school concert and that he was to be sent to school for practice even after the exams. I beamed all over and thought ‘ How proud I am! Now I know why my parents were always proud when I was performing on stage during Founders’ ! I promptly blew the trumpet to some select close friends too! He went for the rehearsal yesterday and I couldn’t wait to hear about his role!
I asked him and he gave me his usual cynical reply ‘big deal‘ !! I gave him a talking and said it was a big deal of course and these are the things that would take him a long way in life- he would become confident and face an audience with no stage fear etc etc! He listened to my monologue and said ” Amma , I am a clown in the play and there are many such clowns. That’s why it is not a big deal!!!” I tried to hide my disappointment and asked him if it was an important part. He said ‘”Amma, stop getting so excited! There are atleast a dozen clowns and I am just one of them. I am having lots of fun with my friends so this practice time is cool.They won’t even miss me.”
I was persistent and said “So what are you supposed to do in the play? Are you going to say something on the stage?”. He said ” Yeah” and went off. So I raced behind him and said ” See you said it won’t make a difference but you actually have something to say on stage. Take your part seriously. Do you have any dialogues to learn by heart? Come I will help you. ” He sighed- ” Amma, I learnt my part the first time Sir said it. Basically I come cart wheeling on to the stage, whistle, make a noise with my nose closed and then stand in a corner with all the other clowns. After some time, one of the clowns punch me and push me down. I fall down flat. Then I raise my arms from the ground and say ‘ I am dead’. So what dialogue are you talking about? ”
See the way the human mind starts thinking between nursery school and 5th grade? The same role in first grade would have had him rehearsing his part at home, and exacting reviews from folks at home. Nevertheless, performing is great fun, and an important part of growing up. That letter opened a flood of memories – all pleasant!