Never in doubt – to be or not to bee!
School events were celebrations. We went all out to plan, decorate, manage, and perform. Every small detail was taken care off. From costumes, to props to backdrop and even music. Needless to add that the script was also done by us and either our nuns or our teachers would go through the same with minimal changes. Often the point of discrepancy would be whether a particular aspect elaborated was hilarious enough or not and whether the timing of an incident shown was right or not.
While in Grade 10 a hilariously funny play: If only we could cook! had me in a lead role on one occasion and as the father on another. Our interpretation of adult situations and emotions thereof was always a matter of pride to portray on stage. We innovated impromptu and extempore and if we found someone forgetting their lines or saying something which wasn’t part of the script then we would at the spur-of-the-moment add and salvage the situation unrehearsed. And apart from our teachers who had helped us put it up & practise the same, no one else wouldn’t even know about it. It was seamlessly taken forward.
I remember while at St. Ann’s, Secunderabad way back in Grade 5 /6 when my father was posted there (and I had no clue that my life would bring me back to the place/state which happened to be the only place where the school I went to, I never liked & hence have never gone back to visit it even once in my three decades and more here), I was selected not as a first choice but as a ‘no-other-option-right -now’ by the house in-charge. The original girl had fallen sick suddenly. I had auditioned for the part and my English wasn’t the reason for not being selected. Neither was my emotive ability or the lack of it. The reasons for the snob value in that school, I could never decipher, and my later years gave me so much more and so abundantly that the 3 innocuous years at St. Ann’s did not ever matter. In fact, I have always remembered those days as a learning experience for myself. I have thus strived in my whole career as an educator to make every child feel important and trust the school to be fair to them always.
Coming back to the St. Ann’s experience of being in a play by circumstance and not choice. We were putting up the play for the inter-house Dramatics competition. I was with the Pansies house and our house colour was pink. I wonder why not mauve (?) Anyways, a pretty drab play called the ‘Mannequins Parade’ was the chosen one. I was in the lead role as I someone, I don’t remember but I was to lead the mannequins and after they come alive or some such thing, we were to sit and have tea. The tea was served with lovely lemon cake from the nun’s parlour.
Result on stage: We all started to enjoy the lemon cake, some ‘mannequins even took a second helping and forgot our dialogues.
Result of the competitions: We came @ No. 4. And there were four houses: Daffodils, Pansies, Roses & Shamrocks.
Years later I’d recall that it was possibly the best thing to do at a moment when the play in itself was insipid and the unexciting, bland story line had ensured we’d not be the race at all, so enjoying the lemon cake was a wise decision by all of us.
I remember the cantankerous Ms. Robinson, whispering agitatedly from the side curtains with the dog-eared script paper in hand urging us to get up and complete the last bit of the play. Get up we all did but only after our plates were polished off.
No one found it funny except me, I recollect. I found it funny that all chose the cake over the dialogues.
This memory has always reminded me that if I wasn’t invested in something fully, I should not take it up. Another vital life lesson learnt from that incident was that never should I take up any position/role which is a hand-me-down and hasn’t come to me as a first choice. A rule I haven’t broken all my professional life.
Much like me in that play on stage: Heck with the dialogues & the competition, we hadn’t performed well anyways, at least let’s have the lemon cake – irresistible!