The Drama never ended!
Every new posting and move of my father’s tenure in the army taught us a new life skill. But the one which stayed throughout was: adaptability.
We have lived in barracks in two rooms.
Shifted temporary accommodation four times before landing ourselves a house, with a year and a half.
We have travelled 3500+ kilometres in less than week from central India to its Northeast.
We have travelled back and forth from school each day, 365 days in a Shaktiman army truck with three rows of benches, one bhaiya (army chappie) hanging on the stairs, and us playing antakshari ( A chain singing of songs – its first few lines- after picking up the last letter sound of the previous song’s line; a very widely played Indian music game) blissfully enjoying the ride.
We have sat on the open-air theatre concrete steps clutching our bottle of water and feeling our racing heart as we waited for the picture to start rolling on the white, concrete, gigantic screen a few meters away.
The lists are endless.
A new school. Another exciting year and an annual day. Enacting George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man was such a delightful experience that the goosebumps come up each time I remember that balmy night one November. Days of practise were culminating in an exciting evening as the Army Commander walked in as our Chief Guest. Army life was an existence of another level of awareness.
The welcome songs and dances gave way to the highlight of the show: Our play. The envious eyes and the palpable expectation was like an aphrodisiac shot in the arm. All of us playing the different characters felt utterly important and responsible for the show to be declared an absolute success depending on our performance.
Then the curtains lifted, and I found myself on stage with a picture of my best friend – Suma Nair – in a frame which was to hold the photograph of one of the main protagonists of the play and my fiancé in the play. The classmate was irritating so Suma’s photograph had to replace his. “The dialogues don’t happen Sir”, I reasoned with Sreedhar sir. He threw up his hands in exasperation and allowed the discretion. “Go on get the dialogue delivery right”, he implored quietly.
Difficult teenagers. Is what would have crossed his mind then. Sir, cut to today and you’d realise we were angels!
The Act One was breeze. Act Two, needed a dress change. From a night gown I was to change into a party gown. The changing rooms were a bit walk away and the time in between was less than two minutes as we changed scenes. A walk wasn’t possible. Mom had been explained of this problem as she stitched my two costumes on a borrowed hand spun Singer sewing machine, sitting in the two room temporary accommodation in the Military Hospital mess.
She devised what costume designers would need training for. My party gown was my exact fit – a beautiful blue checked one with organza detailing – and my night gown a bit bellowing in pink with hand embroidered roses done my yours truly. The idea was to peel off the pink night gown, as I get off stage from Act One behind the stage itself.
A gasp let out and aghast expressions gave way to admiration as I peeled off my night gown to reveal the pretty blue dress and clipped on small hair pins fitted with tied knots of blue ribbon to complete the hair doo.
My Act started and we aced it.
We had an encore in our curtain call with a standing ovation.
Years later the same play written for children by me, wasn’t ever used by schools because none had the nerves to trust an ordinary teacher educator with such an ambitious play. The ‘professionals’ were preferred.
I reverted my play script to my other life dream project.
Lessons were vital:
One enjoys and achieves more when one’s heart is completely in it.
Do it, dream it. Not everybody will dream with you. So, accept it!
I was always left wondering if ‘they’ who came from outside the school were deemed professionals then what was I? A question unanswered till today.
Looking beyond from within – my life experiences have been my main guiding force and make me aware of what I am and who I do not want to be!