Thursday, January 27, 2011

A thank you... twenty six years later....

1984. Early April. It was Elocution Day at Carmel School.
My mother was up since 5 in the morning. Making me rehearse and rehearse.

The rehearsals had started a month back.
With Ma requesting Sister Concelia to "help me" with my elocution.
Sister Concelia asked me to choose a poem I liked best. I chose "Lord Ullin's Daughter".

Every morning, I would land up in Sister Concelia's room at 645 am , where she would teach me how to modulate my voice, how to pack in emotions, how to look at the judges in the eye, how to pronounce "oowoter" ( water!)- she said it sounded much better if we stressed on the "oo".

Oneday she asked me why I had chosen such a tragic poem. I told her I liked it because Lord Ullin's daughter defied her father and everyone else to do what her heart told her to.

So that was how the month rolled by. Rehearsals at school, rehearsals at home, with Ma adding her inputs on how I should  stand up straight and not get nervous.

Finally the D-Day. Ma was a teacher in Carmel School , so was one of the selected teachers to welcome the judges. Sister Gertrude Rose gave her warm welcome speech and also sang a welcome song on her spanish guitar.

Then, the contest. I stood back stage and heard students recite and was convinced that everyone was better than me.

Heard my name announced. Said a silent prayer, clenched my slightly quaking hands and walked out.

Saw him sitting at the judges table. He was one of the judges. I  saw him only once in a while when he was back from college in Mumbai. He obviously never went beyond a nod or a hello- he was more Ma's friend, so to say. Liked talking to Ma, liked her cooking and her infectious laugh. But everytime he came over to our house, I would stare at him from behind the wooden pillars. Hoping he would say a word , or at least give me a smile.
 I was too shy to venture out from my pillar.

I must have slipped into my usual reverie for a split second. Heard Sister Gertrude Rose saying " Babita, please begin."
"Lord Ullin's Daughter. By Thomas Campbell".

.............``Come back! come back!'' he cried in grief
``Across this stormy water:
And I'll forgive your Highland chief,
My daughter!--O my daughter!........

I was the father, the daughter, the highland chief.... I could feel them as I recited, I could see the raging waters, I  trembled at the fear in her voice, and exulted in her love for the Highland Chief as she chose the stormy waters over her father's rage.....

Thanked the judges... looked at him once more.... and walked back into the wings.

Shared the nervous wait with the other contestants as the judges whispered and debated.

Stood straight on stage as Sister announced the winners.....
The voices around me blurred and dimmed till I was once again in another world, though I could see what was happening... Ma and Sister Concelia jumping up from their seats, clapping and looking at me, my friends cheering....and the voices became loud again, dragging me to the present.

I looked at him again. Why didn't he give me a smile at least? So what if he was so handsome and grown up and I was a shaky, gawky, thin, dark twelve year old? He was almost like a prince in my dreams.....

But only in my dreams.... noone knew... noone ever would....

I walked out of the auditorium, clutching my trophy....
Saw Ma  and him together. They were talking about me!
" She was really very good" I heard him say.

I slipped up to them, my breathing nearly stopping... finally he would be congratulating me....
Once again, I went unnoticed... as Ma and he talked about his college and holidays and visits and the contest..... and once again I slipped behind a pillar, this time the school stoned  pillar....

And realised that sometimes dreams  bring one closer to  people than reality...
Dreams made me happy..... and made me feel like a princess.....

Twenty Six years later, I am a princess. In my mind.
I believed in my dreams and dreams do come true.

It's time to say thank you for that trophy for Lord Ullin's  Daughter.

No comments:

Post a Comment