Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The First Stage ...

It was yet another event in Kannan's life and Narayan was on stage for the first time. Kannan had his usual set of butterflies in his stomach. The fear and the apprehension had kept him going all these years were there when his son was on stage. The stage always beckoned again and again since childhood. Kannan spent hours to write the speech for him on teacher’s day for Narayan. The pride he had when Narayan rehearsed his lines with style. He saw the smile on Narayan's face when he was rendering his lines to perfection. 

Kannan remembered the first time he was on stage when he was in his Upper Kindergarten. He was enacting a play as the King in "The Sleeping Beauty". Seema played his Queen, Roshini was a fairy and Sheena was the princess. Kids of the same class rehearsed the play over and over again and the day arrived when the play was to be staged. The orange cape, red silk dress and the shoes with the silver lining all gave Kannan a smile which was beyond compare. He went on stage and played his part to the fullest. For years he kept looking at the pictures with pride. Amma was there to see the play, but never expressed her joy thinking it would spoil him. 

The next time was when he was in his Class 1, when he was to give a speech on Teacher's day. The speech was written by Kottayam Thatha and he took pride when Kannan rendered those lines.

"Dear Parents Teachers and my dear friends.... I would like to tell you about our teachers, who make us what we are...." Kannan had learnt those lines by rote and said as if he understood all that he was saying. Kottayam Thatha in his white shirt and dhoti was sitting eagerly to listen to his brother's grandson speak so well. Kannan saw the tears in his eyes when he completed the speech with those two magical words "Thank You"

"Kottayam Thatha... did I say it right" Kannan asked
"Yes Kanna ... you did" He smiled, wiped the tears of joy with his hands and hugged him.

The day when Kannan was to deliver his speech had arrived, but Kottayam Thatha had to leave. Kannan waved goodbye to Thatha the previous evening. As he was leaving, he asked Kannan to say those lines again and Kannan stood on the steps and said it with style to see Kottayam Thatha's eyes fill with joy.

It was teacher’s day and Kannan was at his best. The red and black chequered shorts and the red tie with the school badge, hair cut to perfection and groomed like an army officer at his best. Kannan looked at the mirror many times before he went to the dining table to have his breakfast quickly before rushing to school. Akka was already at the table with her cream top, blue skirt and hair braided well in two pigtails on the sides tied with black ribbon. 

"Amma... give me breakfast quick" said Kannan
"Coming" said Amma

Kannan held the piece of paper, which had the script, in his hand which Kottayam Thatha had given him. He was reading it over and over again with a smile. 

"What is that" asked Akka

For a second Kannan felt blank. and replied

"I had told you... I am giving a speech for Teachers Day today... are you not coming" Kannan asked eagerly
"No we also have something in our class" replied Akka quickly finishing her breakfast.
"Amma..." called out Kannan
"Yes Kanna..." was the reply from the kitchen
"Are you not coming to school today to listen to my speech" asked Kannan
"I don’t know... have loads of work, Appa also has given me a lot of work... I have heard you say the speech so many times" said Amma as she came to the fining table from the kitchen wiping her sweat from the forehead with the back of her hand.

Kannan felt sad and his face did show it.

"Now don’t sulk... be a good boy... I know you will do well" Amma said

Kannan folded the piece of paper and put it in his shirt pocket. He finished his breakfast and rushed to school. 

The festivities added color to the same premises Kannan and his friends spent all the time. The steps of the school turned to be the place where the stage was put up and the back drop read "Teachers Day 81". All the students from different classes walked to the corridor which was the venue for the event. There were parents and other elders too, who were there to witness the festivities. Kannan looked at the stage and there were butterflies in his stomach, which was a new feeling for him. He wanted to do his best and there was the feeling "What if I go wrong..." Kannan prayed hard and was waiting for the name to be called...

"Kannan ... One B" the speakers boomed as the crowd stood there listening. It had teachers, his classmates, his school mates, their parent and so many people. Kannan stepped on the stage with a smile. There was only one thing in mind when he was on stage. How happy Kottayam Thatha would be if he were there. He just thought of those eyes with tears of joy. Kannan walked to the mic, which was set to his height. He adjusted it with his little hands and started

"Dear Parents, Teachers and my dear friends...."

With a thumping heart Kannan finished his speech in a flow, not even stopping for a doubt, as Thatha had trained him so well with the lines. As he finished Kannan said

"Thank You"

The corridor of the school, overflowing with the sea of people, burst into applause seeing the little one finish the speech in confidence and style. The claps gave Kannan the sense of satisfaction and happiness. He was full of joy. His eyes searched for a familiar face among the crowd.... the eyes looked far ... kept looking for his loved ones.... kept looking for Amma, Akka or Appa.... no one was seen. He stood there by the side of the stage and each time a performance finished he saw the child’s parent come and lift him up with smiles galore and hug him. Kannan kept looking if someone would come and hug him too.  His face dropped like a flower in the midday sun and his heart sank deep. 

The event concluded with Victoria miss coming on stage and thanking everyone. Kannan stood there as everyone left, expecting someone to come to him too. But no one came. Kannan had the joy in his heart, about how well he did, but it was washed away by the waves of sadness which rose from the fact that there was no one to hug him. 

"Hey Kannan... You were great on stage" Kannan heard a little voice call out to him
With a smile Kannan turned to see Ajai standing there, waiting for him. Both of them smiled at each other and walked with hands over the shoulders. The friends smile and appreciation made Kannan smile again. They walked through the school gates back home, both being there for the other. 

There were many gathering where Amma made Kannan deliver the speech before uncles and friends, but Kannan felt the lack every time he did. He had no one to lift him up in their arms and hug him. History was repeating itself with Narayan giving his first speech on Teachers day. But there was a difference this time, Kannan was there to see his son on stage and the eyes fill with a smile and take pride. He was there waiting to run up to him and hug him as soon as the speech finished.

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