The hard taskmasters at project 365 wanted to know whether I love the limelight or shun it.
Shun it?! I revel in it! I love my 15 minutes of fame that every 21st century citizen is entitled to in these times of media madness. I love to hog the limelight. I’m upset if I’m not the life and soul of the party. When I get the mike on the podium, I’m reluctant to let go. I’m the idiot who asks the long question at the seminar just to get the mike and the spotlight, when everyone is desperate to rush at the cocktails.
I don’t mind the spotlight for the wrong reasons either, like when performance awards are being announced the morning after a boisterous night during the review meetings, and the spotlight finds the awardee, yours truly, fast asleep, and the picture on the screen gets vociferous cheers.
But this was not always the case. I used to be the proverbial shrinking violet while in school. I died many deaths when up on stage for a debate or a minor role in a play. Even in birthday parties playing passing the parcel, I would want to sink through the carpet when I stopped the pillow and was made to stand up and recite something. The fear made me avoid parties and school events. Being a thin dark bespectacled bookworm didn’t quite add to my social confidence. My only skill was the ability to make wisecracks, often at others’ expense and this was my defense mechanism.
Then how did it all change?
In one word: – Ragging. The much reviled institution which is supposed to break sensitive souls actually made me break out of my shell.
When I discovered that the only way to avoid doing chores for seniors in the hostels was to entertain them; a standup comic was born. I literally told jokes for survival, and soon the heady sound of laughter and the social acceptance that followed became like a drug. And I could get away with insulting them under the guise of humour. What a powerful weapon to have.
But the final shreds of shyness were surgically removed in the cinema halls. We freshers were taken to shows by seniors who even paid for our tickets, in the front stalls of course, but there was a price to pay. During the innumerable songs that slowed the plot, we were made to climb the podium in front of the screen, and perform the dances along with the heroine and her backup chawannis and duanis, mimicking their gyrations, to the accompanying whistles catcalls and thrown peanuts from the hoi polloi who frequented these theaters.
Once you have gyrated your hips in sync with Rekha or Helen to general applause from the lungi clad hard nuts of North Delhi, no stage can faze you, ever again.