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