Thursday, September 14

Facing the Music 

Raked this one up from the archives of a certain 'Humor Month' theme. Don't come telling us how to behave, now! Har har!

The act of crooning into an unsteadily set up microphone, for an audience of bespectacled, burned-out forty-plusers in the community was not exactly my idea of shooting into stardom overnight. Sure, there’d be other kids, but the most they’d get up to would be booing. Even at the tender age of six, I had it all neatly schemed out and strategized - there would be a red carpet, an audience of hundreds, a panel of the most esteemed judges, and of course, apart from a glittering tiara studded with diamonds and rubies, the grand prize would be an elegantly wrapped gift box with hordes of pricey goodies in it. I would be dressed in the snazziest, trendiest outfit, Cinderella shoes, and shimmering stars would cascade on me as I took stage, not to mention be proclaimed sole winner. In retrospect, I don’t think I pictured there would be other participants at all.

So when my mom proposed the idea to me, I refused downright. What infuriated me further was that the only judge they’d chosen was my friend’s dad - who, in my six-year-old mind, hadn’t the faintest knowledge of music, because, as I knew it, they seldom listened to any. In fact, he had once chided me for humming a perfectly melodic rhyme, as he was listening to a commentary of what he’d claimed to be the most crucial cricket match yet, on radio. And I certainly didn’t want someone like him, who couldn’t tell a donkey’s gun throat braying from a cuckoo’s sweet cooing, to call the shots. Besides, I was cut out for bigger things, and couldn’t care less about petty, local contests held in the vicinity of my own house.

Anyhow, my poor mother had to cajole and coax me into it one way or another - primarily because it was her way of encouraging me to showcase my talent, although it did occur to me that she cared more about being accepted in immediate social circles. So she made many promises - and the one that eventually lured me was the prize - she said she’d taken a peek into the stock, and the winner would get a stainless steel (it was the rage then, mind you) compartmentalized snack tray, a tall, sleek glass with my name etched on it (to drink Complan out of, she said), and a box of expensive chocolates. I couldn’t resist the offer, and so I jumped right in.

As fate would have it, I was the first contestant, and my entry had to be melodramatic. First, I tripped over those precariously connected wires, nearly fell off the rickety dais, and after I’d finally pieced myself together, the mic made an earsplitting, screeching noise and I was asked to move aside. I was sweating profusely and was feeling so intimidated that I wanted to flee. But they somehow managed to put things in order, and I finally had my chance. Sparing minor hiccups, I’d performed rather confidently, given my parents’ apprehensions, and couldn’t wait for cricket-crazy crackerjack to announce the results. Of course, I had declared all the other participants void, and my mom too had nodded, seemingly in agreement, when I had called a couple of them unmusical and plain raucous.

After what seemed like a yearlong wait, the results were finally announced, and I had won the second place. I was morbidly disappointed, and marched up rather hesitantly to accept the prize. My mom was waiting for me with open arms and a bar of Cadbury’s. I, on my part, was way too eager to rip the pack open - and when I did, I found a compartmentalized tray all right, but only with a few junky toffees scattered carelessly about. And before my mom could realize the enormity of the situation, I was back up on stage, demanding the organizers why I hadn’t been handed that glass to swig my daily dose of Complan from. My poor mom had probably gone underground by then, and even as I looked around with tear filled eyes, I noticed that crackerjack was laughing his head off, and then, of an abrupt sudden, my priorities shifted. And all I wanted was to hurl that tray at him and howl ragingly into his ears till he turned deaf.

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