An atypical comrade

I looked around for a flash of a lanky arm, a tiny braid or the brown sandals, but he was nowhere to be seen
Last Updated : 12 June 2023, 19:27 IST

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In a play in my first PU, I was cast as Laura Wingfield of The Glass Menagerie. Though excited, I found myself challenged at umpteen levels. Acting, clearly, wasn’t a piece of cake. We were first asked to memorise the lines cold during which my diction was dismissed as “below par.” While voice throw was satisfactory; my dialogue delivery, gestures and facial expressions left much to be desired. My natural optimism and self-confidence made getting into the skin of the delicate, mentally-fragile Laura a humongous task.

Endless criticism from play directors made me feel demoralised. Being rebuked in front of a group of bystanders (mostly college kids) added to my agony. When I was on the verge of quitting, I heard someone say, “Keep trying. You will do wonders.” The voice had emanated from a willowy youth of my own age clad in a dhoti, khadi shirt and open-toed sandals. His shorn head ended in a tiny braid and a long tilak ran along the length of his forehead. A bit of the janeu-thread peeked from one side of his shirt. I had never seen this boy before. Since there was no Vedic Pathsahala nearby, I assumed he was a student of the science stream, which had many sections and students.

Rehearsals were never-ending; I couldn’t even ask his name. I thanked him and moved on to find him turn up for my play rehearsals everyday for the next few days. He offered nothing but encouragement. As we wrapped up the rehearsal on the day before the performance, the guy was ecstatic.

“You were brilliant today!” he said “I could see Laura’s pain in your eyes. Mark my words – your performance will win you a prize!”

When on stage the next day, I sensed a marked change in me. For a couple of hours, I had transmuted into Laura and lived her fantasies, fragility and crushing reality. After the play, I caught glimpse of my friend outside the green room, smiling broadly and flashing a victory sign. By the time I hauled myself to my feet and jostled my way through the small crowd to talk to him, he had disappeared.

When prizes were announced a few days later, I discovered that I had won one of the three prizes my play had swept. My friend’s prophesy had indeed come true. I looked around for a flash of a lanky arm, a tiny braid or the brown sandals, but he was nowhere to be seen.

For the next few days, I fervently hoped to catch sight of him in college. However, my atypical comrade had vanished as abruptly as he had appeared.

Published 12 June 2023, 18:04 IST

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