This one's a slightly shorter part than what you might have grown used to. Part 4, which will follow, is what I've been trying to get to since the end of Chapter 5!
It was the day of our performance. Ruksana, ever the opportunist, had set up a joint meeting with some two other clubs. The audience was sizeable, and in my mind, that was fitting for a play of the likes of Laanat. For this meeting we’d booked a decently sized hall in the Vidyarthi Sahayak Samiti off Fergusson College Road, which was just as well, since Laanat involved a lot of screaming, a lot of physical hand-to-hand combat simulations, a good deal of falls and rolling around in the dirt, and generally total hysteria.
Back in the little room next to the hall, which served as our green room, the mood was somber. There was no make-up needed, and our costumes were restricted to a plain black t-shirt and blue jeans, what I like to call Laanat-wear. But we all needed our own psych-up rituals. Mayukhda sat brooding in the corner. Karan and Sagar were chatting about something. Ketan and Saurabh were expressing their apprehensions of performing in front of so many people. Rono alternated between partially stuttering to me that he was freaking out, and frenetically air-drumming to some heavy metal on his i-pod. And I sat hyperventilating.
Pretty soon one of the Club members peeked in and told us that the meeting was about to begin. We stood up for the National Anthem which marked the beginning of every Rotaract Meeting, and thereafter, while Ruksana began the usual formalities of welcoming the guest Rotaractors, I turned to the boys and said, “Guys, I know we’re probably all nervous. Performing in front of people is never easy. But we’ve practiced this play for a whole week now. We know the dialogues and sequences backwards. We’ve laughed our guts out over this play in practice, we’ve been hurt, cut and bruised, all for today. We know what this play has done to us, and so we know what we’re gonna do to those people out there. Let’s give them something that’ll blow them away!”
Evidently my little pep talk was adequate for the moment, as all the boys said “Yeah!” in muted tones, and Rono engaged in one of his violent bouts of shadow boxing before we took to the performance area (I’ve gotta ask him who won those bouts??).
What can I say about that performance? It was anything but uneventful. Rono told me later that the first time he turned towards the audience and said the first word of the play “Laanat”, something just galvanized in him, he apparently said to himself, “Fuck everything!!!” and threw himself into the play with confidence the likes of which he never believed he had. Ketan forgot his line at a point when each of us had to scream out a scathing news headline, and simply repeated the line of the guy before him, causing some slight humourous confusion at a point which was supposed to be rife with tension. Midway in the play, one of Rono’s flatmates in the audience suffered an epilectic seizure, and we had to spend a good amount of time trying to revive the guy. But in the end, after we were done with the play and our curtain call, and the floor was thrown open to questions, we all felt pretty vindicated when one of the guest Rotaractors managed to stammer out, “Wha… How… Who has wr.. wr.. written this p.. p.. play?” (I verified it later; that guy doesn’t normally stammer). I got my first ever Director’s standing ovation, the joint meeting was a big success because of the play, and when we had dispersed, I discovered that somebody had stuck a female sanitary napkin (thankfully unused) on my bike. Nothing like broadening one’s horizon with a pair of wings!
Veni. Vedi. Velcro.