Today was it.
It was it.
Even the knowledge of the fact that there were two more shows left for us to perform in front of separate audiences couldn’t deter us from thinking that this was it.
Isha and I met at 11am, and went over all our lists once. We checked and rechecked every detail and then parted at around 1pm for lunch. After eating lunch and making some important phone calls I rested a bit to be fresh for the evening show. I packed all the costumes, props and electronics in separate bags and got the thermocol trees and bushes (they were giant, by the way) put into the car safely. I then took a refreshing shower. At 3:45 pm Isha, my mother and I left for the Asha Home for the Destitute to stick the banner onto the wall and set the trees/bushes and keyboard up on the with the chairs and tables.
When we reached at 4:30 pm there was lots of mumbling and excitement among the ladies of the Destitute Home. Several of them came up to us to ask what was going to happen. We told them about the drama, the singing and the dancing which was to commence at 7pm. A few of the ladies who had met us the previous week (when we had come to look at the place to decide the feasibility of the performance in the building) shook our hands and lovingly patted our heads. Several of them even offered to help us shift the props around. One of my favorite ladies there, Dhannima, slowly walked out of her room after hearing the hubbub and asked us, “What are you here for?” to which we replied, “We are here to show you all a play. It is going to be performed by children…” Her mouth twisted in thought and then she tentatively asked us, “Were you those girls who had come last week?” At this, our smiles grew wider and we stated, “Yes, we are those girls.” She smiled back and said with a twinkle in her eye, “You will entertain us. Ah, entertainment is wonderful!”
The helpful lady in charge of the place, Sister Leena, helped us organize the speaker system and bring the chairs down from the attic of the place. Needless to say, we were very dusty and filthy by the time the job was over! We then left at around 5 pm, waving goodbye to everyone.
By 4:30pm the make-up of all the other children had started in the creche room. We reached home at 5:30, changed into our costumes and then reached the creche to have our make-up done. The creche was resounding with the excited voices of all our children and the laughs and call of the mothers – Shaila Aunty, Kusum Aunty and Rinku Aunty – who had very graciously come down to do the make-up of the children. I was greeted by shouts of, “Riya, look at me! I look fantastic!” and “Riya didi, do we look pretty?” and even, “I look terrible, don’t I?” With both words of praise and of reassurance, I too sat down to get my make-up done.
By 6:15 we were all done. The other children left for the Home while Rashi, the pianist, Isha and I bought fruits from a nearby shop to give to the Home as a gift. That was great fun. Isha, dressed in pink and with lots of make-up, and I, dressed as the evil, wicked old witch, complete with terrifying purplish black makeup and a hat and cloak, pranced around the shop, bewitching pomegranates, dramatically reciting dialogues and singing country songs at the top of our lungs. Looks of disapproval at us were evident, but to our surprise several people approved of the din we were making in the otherwise solemn shop and laughed along with us. Two or three mothers encouraged their small children to join us! It was an experience in itself. The simplicity of the fun we were having in the fruit shop made me find so much more meaning in the quote by William Butler Yeats, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”
We reached Asha Home for the Destitute by 7pm. The ladies in the place sat quietly in the central courtyard of the place while the final arrangements were made. The children backstage were so nervous and excited. Parents had come along with them to watch. We couldn’t wait!
Being a simple (but beautifully maintained) home, excessive and professional equipment as a theatre would normally have was non-existent. Yet the play went wonderfully well and I was extremely proud of the children. It went smoothly. At times, if a character would slip or miss a beat, the play would carry on as if nothing had happened. The silence of the atmosphere of the Home, on this evening, was broken with the laughs and voices of 11 energetic children and the notes of instruments played by them. During the play, we would hear the occasional giggles and laughs of the 23 ladies seated in the audience as the children laughed, sang, danced and fell over (don’t worry, it was all a part of the script). It lifted our hearts so much. We hardly gave heed to the occasional insects (that we are terrified of) that alighted onto our stage, too, because all we saw was the grins on care worn faces and heard the laughter rippling through the still air.
Then as the roll call and vote of thanks came to a close and silence ensued for a second in the building, Sister Leena got up from her place and called out, “And thank you to this group of children for doing this for us. It was a very good play. God bless you all.” It was followed by a thundering round of applause from the entire audience and the high fives and hugs of the 11 children on stage who managed to doing something beautiful for these sweet souls.
I will not be able to forget one lady who came out of the building and went to stand by the gate, waving goodbye to all the children and parents. When I approached her, she grasped my left hand with both of hers and whispered, “Thank you, thank you.”