The Stage

SUMANA SAHA

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Camelia asked him, “Father, can we use the other staircase?” The Principal gave him the look which silences busy corridors.

It was an empty classroom in an empty corridor. We were a bunch of seniors lying around discussing a script. Spoofing Shakespeare in Bengali was probably not that great an idea in hindsight. But you know what they say about hindsight. It gives even the foolish the impression that he is wise.

As Father Richard walked into the classroom, the transformation of appearances from lazy to diligent took only a few seconds.

“What are you boys doing here?”

The shameful bowing of heads in unison did not help much either. Getting caught bunking was one of the stupidest things you could do. And sadly, I was getting quite good at it.

“Actually Father, we are practicing for the Bosco Fest. And since the auditorium was occupied, we decided to start off here”, ventured Rishav.

There. Go President! Go!

“And do you have permission?”

Uh oh! Trouble!

“Yes Father, signed by the Vice Principal himself.”

Maybe! Just Maybe!

“But this allows practice only for the 8th period. And this is the 6th.”

Doomed.

“We thought we’d do well with a head start.”

Speechless.

“Go back to class.”

There are certain joys in life which are inexplicable. They overwhelm you to such an extent that at the end, all you are left with is a flurry of emotions you are not really sure of; and which, on introspection, brings forth to you a certain side of yourself that you didn’t even existed. The stage, to me, is such a friend.

No. The stage to me is my mother. She has held me, been a patient guide to my complaints, reveled in my glory, cried at my failure. The stage listens. She does not complain, she does not fret; whether the sound of silence or the euphony of euphoria, the stage listens. She listened at a time no one was willing to. She listened to all I had to say.

She has seen the best of me. She has seen the worst of me.

I am not a person who cries; and definitely not in front of people. When admissions into class XI were supposed to take place, my name was not present in the list; not even in the later published waiting list. That was one day I had cried; cried for not money; but because I felt I was being disowned. Augustine’s runs in my bloodstream. And being told that you cannot return here, to your own home, to complete the last two years of your school life was absolutely devastating.

They say you learn the true value of things only after you lose them; and that day I was losing a chunk of myself.

I later realised though, that my heart was till there on that stage. It wasn’t mine to take away just yet.

I returned to school a month later with a trophy in hand after winning an Inter school dance. And what followed was history. Going through the process of being impelled to leaving your mother and then returning to represent that very uniform at Agusto In-vogue and performing a Fusion piece at Agusto Footloose was the most turbulent transition I have ever had to face. But Mother was always there to console me; to cradle me. She was the firm pillar of support standing strong through all anguish and bedlam. The stage was and is always there.

Whether the joyous symphony of applause and victory or the crass cacophony of criticism and defeat, the stage has seen me through it all, and has been there through it all. She has never given up on me. Only a person who has performed can tell you what it feels like to perform on stage in front of a large audience. No one else can understand that exhilaration: that thrill: that nervous energy that makes your legs shake: that titillating sensation down the back of your spine. You know you have it in you. You know you’ve put in the hours. You know deep within you, that this is it. Go big or go home! Those few minutes determine whether you’ve successfully made the leap into the realm of the extraordinary; whether you’ve made it big.

And your audience is your verdict.

But even before gauging audience reaction, you know the verdict deep down. You know whether you’ll be subject to vociferous jubilation or silent rolls of suppressed laughter.

But somehow, you realise that it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’ve had your share of time with Mother. You’ve experienced what only a lucky few get to. And that is true appraisal; true epiphany that you are a true artist. And that is your reward.

I shall keep going back to the stage. Because for me, it is only at the stage that you realise your true self. And at the end of the day that is all that matters.

For me, it is only on the stage that I’m truly happy. And it is there that I belong.

Annotations: Theatre has a culture of its own that many people don’t understand. To those that do understand it, they often make it a very large part of their lives. Plays are sometimes attempts to spread awareness about problems like racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of persecution. The playwrights write about something that matters to them as their form of expression. These plays help our society function better because they cause individuals to realise what is happening and take action. It builds a passion in many groups of people making them realise what is really important to them and that they have the power to make a change. Theatre is a powerful medium for exposing problems because those who understand it know how real and active theatre is in the world.

The main reason people take part in theatres is to discover themselves. This means that they want to come to a self understanding and fulfilment. Human nature leads us to be original. Theatre is the perfect outlet for people to be original and to express themselves. This also helps to bridge the gap of our misunderstanding as to why we exist. For many people, theatre also gives a purpose for life. Human beings naturally want to express themselves, and theatre is the most expressive art form. “This is why theatre is important: because it presents a reflective vision of a life that is vastly more fascinating and alluring than the one in which we’re stuck.” – Lemoney Snicket.

উপহার

সারাদিন আজও দম ফেলার সময়টুকু হয়নি হয়তো তোমার,
সকাল থেকে রাত অবধি নিঃশব্দে করে গেছো সব কাজ, ঠিক অন্য দিনের মতোই..
কতো অলিগলি ছুটে বেড়িয়েছো, পেড়িয়েছো হাজারও মোড়..
কখনো বাইপাসের ধার তো কখনো পাঁচ মাথার মোড়, আবার কখনো উল্টেও গেছো উল্টোডাঙায় এসে..
সারাটা দিন বছর মাস বিশ্রাম নাওনি কখনো অধৈর্য হয়ে বলো নি “আর পারবো না কাজ করতে”…
দিয়েছো অনেক কিছু প্রত্যুত্তরে চাওনি কিছুই
উচ্ছিষ্ট খেয়ে কাটিয়ে দিলে সারাটা জীবন..
সাক্ষী থেকেছো কতো অশালীনতা, অপমান, নোংরামির, চেয়েও প্রতিবাদ করতে পারোনি…
শুধু মুখ বুজে করে গেছো কাজ সহ্য করেছো সব…
হয়তো একটা গোটা কেক দিতে পারবো না তোমায়, আর নাই পারবো পায়েস খাওয়াতে..
শুধু উজার করা ভালোবাসাটাই উপহারে দিলাম তোমার ঝুলি তে, এই শেষ বেলায় কল্লোলিনি কলকাতা ভালো থেকো..

অনুশ্রী কর

A Guardian Angel

SUMANA SAHA

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   “Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good”, said Terrance Mann. As I sit in solitude on a cold winter night like this, my mind starts wandering even as I start wondering. A sense of nostalgia sweeps my being. I enter a sort of trance as my heart restlessly starts visiting the lonely corridors of a building in 23 Darga Road and it invariably finds solace on what people call the stage. I have never written a piece like this. This is not the cynical article I am wont to writing. This is different. This is about my temple. This is about the place where I actually reside. This is about my temple, the stage. The stage for me is different. It is not a place where I go in search of name and fame. It is rather the place that knows the real Pulak Chatterjee. It is the place that has seen the vulnerable side of the frivolous, sprightly and smiling entertainer. The stage is a place that contains my blood, sweat and tears. The journey so far has been like living a dream but it has not been a fairy tale. Since I began my rendezvous, I have been extremely lucky to be a part of great teams. But I keep wrongly taking that luck for my brilliance. I was arrogant and all the applause and praise made me a complacent kid. Just then came the blow. For the first time I felt real pain. I realised in this great stage of life no actor is bigger than the play itself. That day the actor bled. The character remained intact but the actor cried. Knowing not what to do, I went to the stage. It was dark but it suited the feeble me. I wept copiously. My heart lacked a companion. The stage very calmly accepted all of what I had to say. It made no fuss. It neither demanded nor complained. It soaked in whatever I had to give. That very day I made a promise; A promise to be humble to myself and the stage. From that day I have never rehearsed on stage with my shoes on. Since then till tonight and maybe for an eternity and beyond, the stage has been my temple; My heart’s dearest companion. Since then whenever I have gone up on stage, I have worked hard; I have spent hours rehearsing, falling and realising how the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall. The sheer joy of spending unadulterated time on stage is unparalleled. People say that I’m very dedicated to the stage and devoted to my roles. Honestly, I try to give the stage my hundred percent in the distant hope of repaying it but with every passing performance, I swiftly fall in deeper debt because on retrospection, I realise without the stage I would never be the person I am. With every passing moment I understand that the stage is not meant for answering and avenging. It is too beautiful for such trivial things. So when I have found people often mocking me for crying after performing on that stage for the very last time, I just smile. I smile because I feel sorry for them for they will never know how sweet success is when you deserve it. They will never know the real value of the stage. Now the praises, claps and applause are inspiration. It is a reminder of how much it is left to fulfil. It encourages me to work harder than before because I know I can let myself down but I cannot let the people down. I realise I have to do justice to the stage. Distance, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. Though I might never be able to perform on that stage ever again yet it is never too far away from me. The stage has become a part of my system and our intimacy is beyond my own comprehension. As I come out of my trance on this cold night, I know not the implication of my erstwhile words. I know I have hardly made sense. I might have sounded like a lunatic because I’m only a seventeen year old little boy lying on the hospital bed with wide awake sleepless eyes staring at the ceiling. The doctors said they’ll take me for another of those chemotherapy cycles tomorrow. However, the greed has transformed into hunger. The impatience has taken the shape of perseverance. And as the night closes in, I begin to fathom how I have miles to go and promises to keep, though at my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near!

A Gory Sight…

SUMANA SAHA

The silence of the night was shattered suddenly, with a deafening noise. Jerry sat up in his bed to find his brother, Tom already awake, his eyes wide with terror. Once again Jerry almost jumped as the same explosive sound thundered all around them as the entire floor seemed to shake. His mouth went dry as he realised what was going on. The city was being bombed.

Immediately a sharp piercing sound filled the air all around them. As the sound of the air raid alarm engulfed them, the brothers went sprinting out of the house. The Second World War had already given man more than his fair share of running practice. As they dashed through the streets, the road shuddered under their feet as they saw houses exploding into balls of fire. There was total pandemonium everywhere they looked.

Families fled from their houses as the bombs rained down, mercilessly. Not that the roads were any safer. Without warning, a bomb fell on the street a few blocks away from them. Instantly all those who were within the blast radius of this bomb, one of the many boons of modern sciences, were ripped apart and the buildings surrounding them caught fire and collapsed. It was a sight no human should ever have to behold. Jerry fainted as hopelessness encompassed him. He was jerked back to his senses as his brother took his hand and pulled Jerry along with him, forcing him to run as tears filled their eyes. The entire city had been enshrouded in a fiery inferno. Men, women and children had been reduced to mere animals running in the streets, nothing but survival in their mind. But then I suppose, that is the cause, method and result of all war; humans losing their humanity.

There was no respite. The bombers were coming back, their engines roaring as they came closer and closer. Tom and Jerry had just turned to run when a heart-wrenching cry came from behind them. They turned to find a woman sprawled on the ground trying to extract her leg from some metal debris that had entrapped her by the leg. Seeing them she cried out, “Help! I’m stuck! They’re coming back!”. “Wait here!” Tom said to Jerry and rushed to the woman’s aid. He started heaving the heavy pieces of metal off her leg. She was almost free when the bomb fell. With a blinding flash it exploded right where Tom had been. The little kid was flung aside by the shock wave and fell to the street. Hours had passed and dawn came. He knelt there on the road, his brother in his arms. He no longer breathed. His lifeless body was cold to touch. Jerry screamed out in despair. He had lost his brother. His elder brother who had always protected him and been by his side was now gone. He felt angry at everything. He felt angry at himself, at the enemy and at this whole war.

Jerry looked at the horizon and saw the sun slowly making its way into the sky. He sat there wondering whether this new day brought with it, a world of pain, suffering, bombs and war, staining our legacy with the blood of battle. Or maybe it brought a solution, a solution to find peace and to live in a world of love and brotherhood, a world where people did not get repaid for their kindness and generosity the way his brother did.

 

OATH OF SACRIFICE

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It’s the 70th Birthday of Indian Independence! We didn’t even realize that this much days are gone, did we? Then what had happened in the past that made us dependent and independent? Well, there is a deep, enthusiastic and heartening tale of this auspicious day. Then let’s go into the flashback, recall the names, remind those incidents and reverberate the slogans of our heroes again on this Independence day!

Once upon a time, European countries like Britain, France, Portugal were having a peaceful trading in our country. They tried to take control of India in various ways, but only British succeeded. It turned on their greediness as the ruling Mughal Emperor – Akbar died in the 17th century. The political instability rose and the British took advantage of it. Through the medium of war, they managed to snatch many regions, and then the whole nation.

 

Some of the massive Battles:

• Battle of Plassey, West Bengal (1757)

• Anglo-Mysore Conflict, Karnataka (1799)

• Maratha War, Maharashtra (1818)

• Anglo-Sikh War, Punjab (1849)

 

British Governance:

British governance had ill-effects on Farmers, Artisans, Adivasis, Fakirs and Soldiers. Due to exploitation, the discontent finally exploded in the form of 1857 mutiny, when Indian soldiers were given cartridges covering with grease of fats of cows and pigs, which was against our religion. The extremist Mangal Pandey shot the British officer, and the revolt began.

 

Well, the Britishers were smart enough as they implemented the ‘Divide & Rule’ technique to bisect the Hindu-Muslim bond. This led to the emergence of ‘Muslim League’ later in 1906.

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Although Britishers were exploiting, they started Railways and other transport, mills, technology and most importantly – Western Education. Now, Indians took advantage of this and realized the necessity of revolution in the backwardness of Indian society.

 

The Beginning of Renaissance:

~ Women reform: Raja Ram Mohan Roy

~ Girls’ & Dalits’ school: Mahatma Phule

~ Caste discrimination reform: G.G Agarkar

~ Growth of Literature and Science:

Mahadev Ranade, Rabindranath Tagore, C.V.Raman – Nobel Prize winners

 

Patriotic Perception:

In 1885, Indian National Congress was established. It helped to create political awakening and cultivate patriotic values. The extremist leaders like Lokmanya Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai led the nation in an aggressive way. ‘Swarajya majha janmasidhha hakka ahe ani to me milavnarach!’ (Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it) were Lokmanya Tilak’s immense words. Through newspapers like Kesari and Maratha, the unity started to develop.

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Bengal Partition:

Showing the cause of inconvenience for administration, British decided to do the partition of Bengal state in 1905. The hidden evil purpose was to divide the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal. Citizens strongly opposed the decision through agitations. 16th October 1905 was considered the ‘National Mourning Day.’

 

Division of Viewpoints:

There were some leaders who had the opinion to deal the issue with peace while some had the fire bursting out in them. The division of leaders – ‘Moderates’ and ‘Extremists’ resulted in a new concern for unity.

 

Mahatma Gandhi:

After the death of Tilak, now the barrister from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi was given the responsibility of freedom struggle to make it reach to the peak of Independence. Through the extreme new ideas and values of Non-violence and Satyagraha, he managed to reunite the people and re-pressurize the government.

 

British was never ready to be defeated. They passed ‘Rowlatt Act’ by which the government could arrest any Indian without inquiry. Gandhiji and other leaders were arrested to prevent the patriotic volcano eruption.

 

Jalianwala Baug Massacre, Amritsar (1919):

Public meetings and conferences were banned in Amritsar. In order to protest, a massive contribution was made by 400-500 people in Jallianwala Bagh. General Dyre was ordered to open fire the unarmed people, in which 400 people were killed and 100 got injured.

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Non Co-operation Movement (Aug 1920):

There was no way now that could stop Indians from fighting for their motherland. All government places and things were boycotted. A peaceful procession at Chauri Choura in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh had been fired by British police. A tit for tat, protestants set the police station on fire.

 

Revolutionary Movement (1925):

          Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and other revolutionary fighters planned to take out the treasure from a train in Kakori railway station for the funds for revolutionary work. Shouting the slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (Long live the revolution), they also conducted bomb blast in court and shot the men in red suit to protest against the unfair laws.

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Dandi March (1930):

To oppose the unjust of taxation on the basic necessity like salt, Mahatma Gandhi along with 78 followers completed the journey of 385 km from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat.

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Quit India Movement (1942):

England declared Indians as their army for 2nd World War. When asked for Independence in exchange for this, they clearly denied it. The situation started becoming more serious.

Gandhiji appealed to the people,

“Every one of you, from this moment onwards, consider yourself a free man or woman. The Mantra is: ‘Do or Die’. We shall either free India or die in the attempt.”

Massive agitations resulted in the arrest of Congress leaders & more than 60,000 people. Despite this, from school children to old people, all participated. A school boy named Shirishkumar was brutally fired by the police.

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Indian National Army:

The words from Subhash Chandra Bose – ‘Tum Mujhe Khoon Do, Main Tumhe Aazadi Dunga’ (Give me your blood, I will give you freedom) were strong enough to fill the energy in the atmosphere. The powerful magnetism of Freedom struggle motivated the Indian soldiers in Navy and Air force. They also decided to have their nation independent and hence went on strike. Soon British realized that their time was going to end.

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India as an INDEPENDENT NATION (1947):

At midnight hour on 14th August, 1947 i.e on the beginning of the bright day of 15th August 1947, the Flag Hoisting ceremony at Red Fort was celebrated by millions of aspiring Indians along with the sacred souls of martyred freedom fighters. ‘Jana Gana Mana’ written by Rabindranath Tagore was declared the National Anthem of Independent India.

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This motherland has seen many Sacrifices, Revolutions, Patriotism, Unity and Faith.

We Salute the Real Heroes of India, the True Fighters who created a Dream, had the passion to aspire it, the ones who taught us that big things take time to happen but they are worth, and you can achieve it once you have faith and unity. The living legends who were, are and always will be encouraging to every Indian and make them feel proud!

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It’s been a long time and we’re trying our best to make India a developed country. There are certain obstacles of corruption, discrimination and superstition, so let’s take a vow to battle these and make Independent India a ‘Developed Independent India’. So what are you waiting for? Get up and create the magic again!

Pallavi Ekbote