The Independence Day 'drama' in Sri Sathya Sai's presence - Part 2 - Darkness...
Have you come straight here?
For you to derive the complete joy of reading about this wonderful experience, the author suggests that you read the first part of the sameand then proceed to read this second part.
The problems increase...
Days passed this way and though in the heart of our hearts we knew that ‘infighting’ and ‘disunity’ were not the ways to prepare for two dramas, one of which would be staged in the Divine Presence. It was so ironic that we were presenting stories of unity and brotherhood while we lacked those very virtues.
Moving ahead with the story, we were told that the vice-chancellor would be visiting the hostel to see our practice. He would also take a call on whether the drama had ‘stuff’ in it to be presented in public with Swami as the chief audience. This viewing could be the ‘semi-final’ effort for us which would decide whether we would be ‘playing’ the finals on the 15th of August.
When we presented the drama on the morning of the 14th of August, the vice-chancellor, based on his wealth of experience, pointed out some ‘defects’ which he wanted to be rectified. This came as a big blow for us. Why? Here I list out the reasons:
1. We were opening the drama with a powerful scene in Hindi in which Bhagat Singh was the protagonist. The story was based at the time of his hanging and thus a noose had become an integral part of the scene. As mentioned earlier, we did not have many artists in our ‘mandir team’. It was with great difficulty that we had made this ‘noose structure’. It was one of the only sets we had for that scene. The vice-chancellor felt that it would be too ‘strong’ and ‘gruesome’ to be portrayed in front of Swami. He asked for the noose to be taken away and the scene to be changed a bit.
2. There was a very poignant scene in the drama based on a heart-rending episode during the freedom movement.. A huge group of protesters seeking complete freedom are conducting a peaceful march against the British rulers. When they do not heed to the warnings, the British soldiers open fire on them. Even as the non-violent protesters fall down dead, row after row, they do not allow the Indian flag to fall. They keep passing it to the person behind. When the last protester is shot with the Indian flag in hand, he plants it into the bullet hole in his body so that it stands upright and does not ‘bite the dust’. The vice-chancellor felt that this would again be a very brutal depiction of violence which may not be all that good in a holy gathering place. He was completely justified for, as I said before, such a drama had never been done before.
3. We wanted to conclude the programme with the National Anthem. Here, the vice-chancellor brought up a subtle point which we had not thought about before. It was the time when Swami had a fall and would walk ‘with support’. the vice-chancellor said,
“If you sing the National Anthem and Swami decides to stand up in spite of His condition, it would be us who are imposing it on Swami.”
“But sir, we could request Swami to be seated all the while...”
“I don’t think we should take a chance because if He decides to stand up, then nobody can do anything about it.”
That sealed matters. He told us to incorporate those changes and that he would be back again, the next day to see our drama and give a go-ahead. And the next rehearsal, he said, would be with all the sets in place too!
We were all in a spot of bother. First of all, how were we to change or replace three powerful and important portions of the programme? Secondly, what sets would we show when we had none at all?
A brave step...
After a whole night of deliberation, we came up with a very brave plan. We would simply drop the shooting scene completely and remove the noose from the opening scene. As for the sets, we thought we would confess to the vice-chancellor that ours would be a ‘dialogue-based’ drama and the minimal sets were a way of focusing attention on the acting and dialogue-delivery (which were fantastic thanks to the sincere efforts of all concerned). As for the National Anthem, we had the bravest part of the plan.
We thought that the next day morning (i.e. the 15th August), after the flag hoisting when we went to mandir, we would seek Swami’s permission to sing it at the end of the drama. If Swami permitted us, then the vice-chancellor would agree too.
Before I delve into the mind-blowingly amazing happenings of the next day, let me state that the ‘hostel team’ was also doing pretty bad on their drama front. They had magnificent sets ready no doubt - they had dozens of lanterns in three colours that would constitute a flag at night as the highlight of the many props they had made. However, they lacked the acting and dialogue delivery skills. There was not much ‘stuff’ in their presentation and they were wondering as to what they would do.
There you are then - we had two teams struggling on different fronts for putting up dramas in different venues.
The morning of the 15th of August 2004 dawned. We attended the flag hoisting ceremony at the Institute before going to mandir for darshan. Swami had already arrived and had completed the darshan rounds. He was in the interview room. However, when He saw that the students had arrived, He came out to take another round. Three of us were seated in the front row and we thought that this second round would be a boon for us to seek our ‘National Anthem’ singing chance!
That was not to be however. Swami passed by us but He just told us to sit down. Thus, we could not seek any clarification nor make any prayers to Him. He went into the interview room again. We thought that the three of us should go and sit in the front of the bhajan hall. Since the front door there was by the side of the interview room door, we thought that we could get another chance to ask Swami about our singing if we sat there.
The unexpected bounty...
As we sat there, we saw that our warden was called into the interview room. Seeing this, we got excited,
“I think Swami is about to discuss about our drama and so He is calling in the warden”, we told each other.
In a short while however, the warden came out of the interview room. He seemed to be frantically searching for someone. When he turned to our side, a feeling of relief wiped across his face. He came straight to us and said,
“Swami wants to know the entire story of what is being portrayed in the drama today... I am not able to recollect all the details...”
“Sir! Is it possible that one or two of us come in to tell the story to Swami?”, I asked with a lot of excitement and a tinge of nervousness.
“I think that is a good idea. Two of you can come in and tell Swami the story. The other one should ensure that all the boys taking part in the drama are assembled here, in this bhajan hall. We never know what Swami has in mind. In case He decides to bless all the boys, it is better that they are here.”
This was simply amazing! What a turn of events and what a chance! We wanted to sit at the door so that we get a chance to speak to Him and here He was, summoning us into the interview room!
The two of us, Jagdish and myself, slowly entered the interview room. Swami was sitting on a sofa in the corner and seated on the floor was the vice-chancellor. The warden sat down next to the vice-chancellor. We were still standing when Swami asked Jagdish,
“What is your role?”
“Swami, I am the grandfather...”
I did not say anything for I was not acting in the drama as such. He continued,
“Are you the one running away to America?”
I immediately knelt before Him and told Him that the grandson is the one who wants to go to America but towards the end of the drama he has a change of heart. He stays back. I also told Him that the grandson’s role was being played by someone else.
Swami smiled and told us to sit down. My heart was beating so fast and I was simply thrilled at the beautiful opportunity. Looking around, I saw that I was seated beside the warden and vice-chancellor of the Institute! Where else but in God’s presence could all be seated as equals?
Swami was looking at the roof. He seemed lost. After about 11 seconds of silence, He began to say, (still looking at the ceiling)
“There are 11 main characters in the drama. 5 of them are in the same family. There is a friend who comes in. There is Bhagat Singh. The other characters are distributed in the other parts of the drama... Right?”
He looked at us.
We just nodded in agreement. He had stated in perfect order, the beginning of our play. We were so happy and we knew that this would be a very memorable session. What we did not know was that this interview would be the basis of many lessons for life...
We will stop for a drink of water before we continue on this tasty maincourse.... And then, it will be exciting dessert! :)
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