Today is the Annual Function of our School & Junior College – the first one which I am not a part of. Yes, the first one since my retirement.
Hubby teases me, “Oh, you used to be there at 3 for the program scheduled for 5!” Yes of course, it was so to say a function at a very personal level for me. Being one of the persons-in-charge of the function, it was my self-inflicted sense of responsibility to eye the minute details about the A-Z of the program to ensure smooth success – right from the stage décor, mike arrangements, backdrops to be set in readiness for the different items to be staged, and of course look for loopholes with a critical eye and make timely amends.... And then getting the student-comperes ready, giving them last minute hints/modifications, getting participants ready as per the sequence of the program… Of course I had a team of assistants but I’d not rest content unless I personally satisfied myself. So I’d be here, there, everywhere backstage.
20 years ago I was just in charge of the English play and the comperes for the Annual Function. But then we – Kavita and I - were also in charge of the less formal ‘variety entertainment’ program of the junior college section – a two-hour vibrant non-stop program of some 20 dances/ skits/ songs. Both of us complemented each other very well – she looked into the organization part and I functioned at the artistic level. We’d feel the pressure on us when we’d be at our wits end during selection – I’d find it heart-wrenching to say ‘no’ to the ardent hopefuls for valid reasons and would tell Kavita to tackle them. I’d let her do the dirty job and she didn’t mind it – she’d accomplish it willingly and coolly. Of course we had devised a method by which we’d try to incorporate maximum participants in the program by fusing items or participants thus ensuring satisfaction for all. We were known for our rejection of all ‘popular’ dances of the day (read Munni / Sheila kind). Even songs with suggestive visuals were a ‘no no’. Why, some songs would be put on hold with the verdict that they were too romantic – the students would then pounce back on us and say, ”Ok then, it will be “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram” and we’d join in their laughter. We’d finally give the nod to a ‘harmless’ romantic number or better still, a nature song or a patriotic song! I tell you Kavita and I shared beautiful moments with the students and with each other – we were a ‘couple’ and our students looked up to us to provide them with a platform to display their talents and evolve as versatile persons. Our invaluable experience staging this program stood us in good stead in organizing the more challenging Annual Function and we enjoyed doing them together till her retirement seven years ago.
A lot of thought and planning would go into the preparation of the blueprint of the program. After selection based on the criteria of merit/talent/ and variety by a competent committee, the items would be sequenced to ensure variety. Another important fact would be the presence of ‘common factor’ participants in the items – those items had to be spaced apart for costume change. Song – vocal/instrumental or mimicry items would be selected and allotted slots as gap fillers – mainly before a play to provide time for stage setting. Another duty I loved was scripting and training the comperes for the show – evolving new themes and working with a new set of youngsters every year were a challenge. But at the end of the day, it was a rewarding exercise.
The fever and frenzy of the Annual Function would permeate the campus some three weeks before the D day. Dance, skits, songs. Practice sessions. Selection. Rehearsals. Suggestions. Modifications. Flared tempers. Tantrums. Confrontations. Outbursts. EPs. Mediators ironing ruffled feathers and humoring them all into team work and spirit. I’ve seen it all and played a major role through some fifteen years. Every attempt would be made not to disappoint any deserving ardent artiste coming forth to showcase his/her talent in spite of the tight time-crunch and accommodate them tactfully on stage. . In spite of all the meticulous planning and sequencing of all items including interludes before items requiring stage-setting, items would be shuffled in the last minute for inevitable reasons threatening to send the program for a toss! On-the- spot decisions had to be made to maintain minimum disruption to the program and frayed tempers of the affected! Only at the end of the program would I realize that I hadn’t sat for some five hours! The excitement and thrill of everyone on stage and many off stage would infect me and make me delirious.
The show will go on and must go on – no one is indispensable or irreplaceable. Yes, I have passed on the baton to my very capable juniors who called me up to give updates about their efforts at novel presentations and seek my opinion. This has sent me into a nostalgic flashback and I've got to enjoy chewing the cud of those cherished memories!