Limelight, Chapter 17, of Memory, a novella

Limelight, Chapter 17 of Memory, a novella
Written for Nanowrimo extended 
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
We have seen Boy start life as a reclusive bookworm and a shrinking violet, in dread of the limelight, shunning it with passion and cunning, preferring anonymity. People who knew him then wondered how on earth he summoned up enough nerve to propose to a real live girl and get her to agree. He was one of nature’s wallflowers. Gussie FinkNottle could have taken a correspondence course from him.
People who know him now, cannot believe this ever was so. Shun it?! He revels in it! He loves his fifteen minutes of fame that every 21st century citizen is entitled to in these times of media madness. He loves to hog the limelight. These days Boy is upset if he is not the life and soul of the party.
When he gets the mike on the podium, he is reluctant to let go. He is 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.
Boy does not 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 awardees, like Boy, fast asleep, and the picture on the screen gets vociferous cheers.
But this was not always the case. He used to be the proverbial shrinking violet while in school, as the loyal reader has seen earlier. He 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, he would want to sink through the carpet when the pillow stopped with him and he was made to stand up and recite something. This fear made Boy avoid parties and school events. Being a thin dark bespectacled bookworm didn’t quite add to his social confidence.
His only skill was the ability to make wisecracks, often at others’ expense and this was his defence mechanism.
Then how did it all change?
In one word: – Ragging. The much reviled institution which is supposed to break sensitive souls actually made Boy break out of his shell.
When he discovered that the only way to avoid doing chores for seniors in the hostels was to entertain them; a stand up comic was born. He literally told jokes for survival, like the celebrated Roald Dahl story, and soon the heady sound of laughter and the social acceptance that followed became like a drug. And he could get away with insulting the bullies under the guise of humour. What a powerful weapon to have.
But the final shreds of shyness were surgically removed in the cinema halls. The “freshers” or first year students, the poor victims of the great institution of “Ragging” were taken to shows by seniors who even paid for their tickets, in the front stalls of course, but there was a price to pay.
During the innumerable songs that slowed the plot, Boy and his fellow sufferers 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 theatres.
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.



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