by Swatee Jog
The backdrop is invariably deep blue or white, so that any number of bright flowers/clouds/ trees can be stuck on it. The stage is a good 20 feet or so in length and always more than 10 feet deep. The new additions are the huge towers of speakers and music consoles for blaring out the music which everyone except me seem to enjoy.
My heart thumps as it goes ‘Disco Diwane…aha’ and the kids on the stage punch their index fingers diagonally in the air. All of 4 and 5 year olds, cheeks pink with the pancakes, rosy rouged cheekbones, cherry red lipsticks which 90% of the grown -ups would never dare flaunt.
It’s that time of the year again, when schools are done with their yearly Picnics and the next task to be done is the Annual Days or ‘Gathering’ as it is sometimes called.
Preparations beginning a good fortnight ahead, the kids and their teachers are busy with the dance steps, the skits and the parents scout the city for the perfect fit of dresses for their Kings, Princesses, Trees, Pumpkins and strawberries!
A good30 years ago while in the lower grades of school, I was a rabbit with flopping ears, aptly named Floppy the rabbit. The pristine white dress made of Turkish cloth with ears stuffed with silken material. I loved those ears more than anything else. Back then, the schools provided for the color coordinated dresses, mostly pink frocks with red linings or white tops and black trousers which could be used again. Not so with today’s kings and pumpkins with expensive dresses on.
I’ve been to numerous such annual days and thoroughly enjoyed the innocent performances. The anchor, most of the times, drags her accent for she thinks that’s the way formal announcements need to be done. I’ve actually recorded some and played them for my students to demonstrate ‘ how not to make announcements at public functions’.
But frankly, it’s the enthusiasm that counts. I’ve never understood why, but almost all schools prefer to invite, as chief guests, dignitaries who deliver their speech which is rarely understood. I am waiting for a chief guest who’d speak to the kids in their tone and language, where the students would forget for a while that he/she is a chief guest and literally split in laughter or at least grasp what’s being said. While the kids present the latest filmy hits, it is a moment to watch for.
In all the frenzy behind matching steps with the ones besides you and peering into the audience to check if mom is in, the innocence always makes for some ‘Aww’ moments. When there’s a group song, watch out for those folded hands and tapping feet, when there’s a speech, there’s got to be some gulping and pausing, when it’s a skit, relish the dramatic accent.
It was in class 2nd that I understood that a green room is actually the back room of the stage and it took me much longer to know what wings were. Today’s schools rent huge auditoria and schedule separate functions for their primary and secondary sections. Photos taken by misty eyed parents serve to remind of the good-old-days for us when we grow up and cringe/ feel proud at the thought of having done all that, depending on whether you were a tree or a queen or a maid.
Tired but happy, you can always spot a Hanuman holding his tail or a big-eyed Bharatnatyam dancer on their way home after these functions, riding papa’s bike or perched on mother’s lap. What a sweet moment to cherish!
Even if today’s annual days resemble the award functions on TV in many ways, Belagavi has still retained its charm when it comes to celebrating talent.