Episode 1: EYEWASH
OK Wait, we might have time for an introduction.
One Line: How Raju runs about in the city occupied in adventures which might or might not help him in writing his novel.
One line ends.
Fancy dress competitions would have been the most interesting form of entertainment for citizens of this planet; if only the poor school kids weren’t made to portray the same personalities again and again. It was the advent of the summer holidays, when my one of my relative’s daughter was playing the part of Mother Theresa; I was naturally called to be part of the gathering and cheer the young girl.
I used the word naturally because, Raju is the first name which comes to their mind whenever they think of an unemployed relative who says yes to almost everything. There are few such specimens in our family, like my elder cousin Vaidi; but since he argues with the whole lot; he is avoided or is sent word in the last moment as a replacement.
The school auditorium was packed, twelve of the crowd was contributed by members of my family, and it was quite a get-together. The older members blessed me, while the younger ones asked me what salary I was drawing writing inspirational columns for a weekly woman’s magazine, the middle aged members however ignored me, as they had business to attend to and because they believed that writing was not in any form a profession. Vaidi was absent, for the whole evening.
As I was saying before, fancy dress competitions should be made more interesting; this one was exactly the same as the millions held before it with the theme of Freedom Fighters.
Then in the moments that followed, we were treated to three Gandhis, two Nehrus and two Subash Chandra Boses and one poor fellow who was supposed to have been the third Bose came dressed as Nehru(without the rose) because of an acute shortage of Nehru attire, most of them spoke on similar lines prepared specifically for this occasion by over enthusiastic parents, whose zeal was infinite compared to their kids, whenever one would walk nervously over to the stage ; the parents would stand up and clapping and saying things reserved for only football teams contending for big titles, which would make the children more tense. When the children forgot their lines, parents would mouth them semi secretly, like when one of the Gandhis forgot a keyword; the father stood up and shouted, “Quit India, Quit India”. But the boy playing Gandhi showed calmness like the one who he was impersonating and spoke into the microphone with crystal water clarity, “No Appa, Quit India comes only later”.
A teacher, probably having a thing for timing broke in, “we didn’t expect such non co-operation from the parents”
Then our moment had arrived, a tiny Mother Theresa slowly walked towards the center of the stage, the half open windows brought in air which made it difficult for her to walk in a saree that was three times her size.
“See, she is really walking like an old woman; my wife did all the training” the relative whose name was Kashinath boasted into my ears.
“But Kashi…Mother Theresa isn’t a freedom fighter, she was a social worker” I said, breaking all tenets of social decency and depriving myself of any more festival dinner invites.
The pride on my relative’s face vanished, he gave me the ‘why do you care?’ expression. But I was not a person not to be bogged by these expressions, so I persisted with my question. Kashinath motioned with his fingers that he will explain everything after the show finishes.
Mother Theresa made quite a long speech about helping others, the girl tried a little too much to get an old woman accent. Then it was announced by one good looking high school girl that the competition had come to an end and the spirit of independence had prevailed throughout the evening and the judges would announce the retails after a Bharatanatyam recital by sisters Muktha-Brindha.
The judges comprised of two secondary school teachers and one celebrity. I eagerly waited for I wanted to know who the celebrity was; after minutes of building up the tension, the high school presenter announced it was ‘Hanuman’ Murali, the famous TV artiste who was popular as the face of Hanuman on the screen and stage. The choice didn’t surprise me, Murali lived three houses awa from my house; he had been acting in plays from then and got his major breakthrough as the monkey god in the epic TV series. He later told me that he had gone through seven rounds of rigorous selection till he was given the nod.
All the participants were asked to assemble on stage, Murali having the apt frame for playing Hanuman occupied most of it. Microphone in hand, he was a complete professional. Singling each contestant and praising their pros and joking about their shortcomings in a way which made the children laugh and their parents red with shame and sometimes anger, he also gave away the prizes. Theresa was given a consolation prize for make-up while one Mr. Gandhi was given the first prize.
After, all this the auditorium was emptying gradually, a fuming Kashinath with his daughter, now only a partial Mother Theresa came towards me and said, “Cheaters, my girl was the best there on stage, look they gave it to the boy who played Gandhi, surely Esha was better”
“Kashi…I told you before, Mother Theresa was not a freedom fighter, and you should have stuck to the overall theme…” he didn’t let me finish.
“see Raju, she was supposed to have played Rani of Jhansi; but the teacher who was in-charge of all these things, said the Rani should ride a horse on stage and that another boy can play the horse, but you see I did not agree…”
“See Raju, if there is a horse and Esha wins the first prize, she is supposed to share with the boy who played the horse. What nonsense I said and made last minute changes and asked my wife to train this girl as Mother Theresa…”
“Appa…Vincent only won the first prize, it’s Ok” said the sporting little girl, I commended her on her spirit; but her father was more inquisitive who Vincent was. The girl with her make-up smeared fingers pointed one thin boy around whom a small crowd had gathered.
“That boy! That boy won the first place?!!” exclaimed Kashinath, he then placed himself in the nearby seat like a statue speechless.
When I asked his wife, why Kashi was so affected by Vincent’s win, she replied while trying to regain her husband, “Vincent was the boy supposed to play the horse, now he has won. Such is life Kashi, it’s Ok Esha also won something, it’s ok if it’s not the first place.”
But the girl’s father gazed at the victory lap by the winner’s parents and all that laughing and said in a very mystical way with an undercurrent of anger, “Politics, school politics. Eyewash, the whole thing complete eyewash”
I congratulated that boy, Vincent after my folks left and continued on my journey home to start writing my novel.
THUS ENDS PAGE 1 OF HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT