Flirtations With The Worlds Of Music And Theater

The School Music Teacher

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Image Courtesy http://www.worldofstock.com/slides/PMU1956.jpg

A Choirboy

In an all-boys boarding school, you were considered a sissy if you had anything to do, even remotely, with institutions like the school choir. As a result, the music teacher was perpetually trying to rope in new talent, even if the talent was suspect. Music was something I enjoyed so I decided to volunteer, much to the teacher’s delight and the chagrin of my mates. All went well, till one day, the music teacher resigned and another was appointed. In the time-tested tradition of all nouveau appointees, one day the entire choir was summoned and to my shock and horror, we were asked to sing solo while our new teacher played the Church organ.


When my turn came, he looked at me and said “OK, now Singh, sing” and pressed a key on the keyboard. “Aaaa” I went, trying to emit a sound similar to the one my ears seemed to hear. The teacher looked quite astonished but decided to hold his peace. "Try again" he said, patience personified. He played a higher note. So I went “Aaaaa”, hoping my voice sounded suitably sopranoish. His expression changed from one of concern to that of one who has discovered a tadpole swimming in the soup. Aghast would probably sum it up nicely. Realising he would run out of choirboys if he was too strict, he decided to give me one last chance. This time a lower note was thrown. "Aaaaaa", I went with gusto, bringing out as much of a bass voice as I could at that tender age. I could see the music teacher cringe. As he was bereft of hair, he could'nt pull any out but I had the feeling he would have if he could have. So it was that I was asked to leave the choir. Imagine the trauma. A volunteer choirboy being asked to go. A bit like one of the Chargers of the Light Brigade being sent home midway down the Valley. But I lived to tell the tale. That was about the only noteworthy brush I had with the world of music.

A Group of Sikh boys

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Image Courtesy http://www.buddhachannel.tv/portail/local/cache-vignettes/L500xH328/sikhs-2cfe8.jpg

On To Theater

If you know something about the Sikh religion, you would know that Sikhs are required to grow their hair from birth and cutting of hair is strictly forbidden. This practice paved the way for my first interaction with theater. I was nine years old then in the same all-boys' school when I played the part of a girl in a play called "Bus Stop". I was one of those with long hair and a smooth, hairless face and therefore an automatic choice for the role.

As soon as I walked onto the stage in a salwar kameez (a pajama and shirt worn by girls and women), the audience burst into laughter. Somewhat surprised as I had not said or done anything remotely funny, I looked around till my gaze fell on an offending string used to tie the salwar. This string was hanging a bit obscenely below kameez level. Without further ado, I quickly hiked up my kameez, tucked the string in, and started my delivery. This action provoked further laughter. So I grinned back happily and unabashedly at the audience.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

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Image Courtesy emeraldjewelry.wordpress.com/.../

Cleopatra

Theater caught up with me again during my post-graduation days at Calcutta. We were putting up a spoof which required a person with long hair to act as Cleopatra and another as her handmaiden. Although by then we had a few women classmates, no one volunteered so I was promptly given Cleopatra’s role. While I still had long hair, my face was by then covered with a thick, black beard.

The challenge of a bearded Cleo was easily overcome by providing both my handmaiden and me with a handkerchief each designed to serve as a yashmak – a veil worn across the face by women in the Muslim world. I have a strong suspicion that our beards showed through the veil as again this time, the audience burst into laughter as soon as we appeared on stage.

And if that was'nt bad enough, halfway through the First Act, one of my breasts rolled down onto the floor and nearly exeunted left. I had no option but to quickly bend low, retrieve the offending orange and restore it to its original home. The exposure of Cleopatra's beautiful breast left Julius Caesar tongue-tied and the audience in gales of laughter. Were it not for the clapping, I am sure the prompter's frantic prompts would have been heard across the hall.


Oh Calcutta

The third was at Calcutta again when auditions for the famous play "Tughlaq" were being held. Tughlaq is a renowned drama and a well-known theatre personality was directing it. My friend Paulose Joseph and I were supremely confident that given our past experience and deep, manly voices, one of us would clinch the lead role of Tughlaq. So it was with huge expectations that we made our way to the audition. The Director gave us a passage to read. Before either of us could recite even half, she said "Okay, you", pointing at me, "you can be Guard No 1". "And you" she said, looking at Paulose, "can be Guard No 2". So there we were, at the play opening, holding spears, walking across the stage saying “Jaagte Raho, Jaagte Raho" - Stay alert, stay alert - in the few scenes where our presence was required. So much for making it big on the stage.


Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

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Image Courtesy http://www.whatsonstage.com/images/res_images/LaurenceOlivier_Hamlet.jpg

Murder He Said

Giving up is something I abhor. So when the next opportunity arose, I volunteered again. This time it was for a play being staged for our company’s annual day celebrations. I was assigned a role which required me to shout at the top of my voice, for some reason now lost in the mists of time.

We used to rehearse at our office located opposite the residence of a senior police officer who had a 24-hour guard at the gate. I recall one practice late at night, when I really belted out whatever it was I was supposed to shout. I think it was “Murder, Murder”.

A few minutes later, we had several armed policemen from the adjoining residence rushing in to investigate. It took a little while to reassure them that all was well and that the scene in front of them – one person lying on the floor, another holding what looked like a pistol and a third shouting murder, was only a drama rehearsal.


I could quite easily have ended up in the cooler that night so I decided discretion was called for. I therefore did the theatrical equivalent of hanging up my boots and have stayed on the other side of the curtain ever since.

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Comments 18 comments

cashmere profile image

cashmere 7 years ago from India

Hahaha.

I love they way you have portrayed the school incidents.

My husband had to be a girl in a kohli dance in school and his sari came undone. He still has nightmares about it.


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 7 years ago Author

Thanks Cashmere for your kind words. I am sure you could do a piece about your husband's acting experiences too


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Very funny Sabu - your childhood sounds so exciting!


dianacharles profile image

dianacharles 7 years ago from India

I remember a teacher coming to class with a 'nada' hanging through his trousers zip...but no one said anything to him...the girls were too embarrassed and the guys just wanted the laugh. :)


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 7 years ago Author

Thanks for reading Shalini and Diana. I just hope my 60+ is as exciting. That is funny too Diana - thank God this "nada" incident has'nt happened to me in adulthood


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

LOL, entertaining as ever Sabu! Obviously your tryst with the stage has been very eventful...why did you give up?


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 7 years ago Author

I have no hair left FP so no more girls' roles

The only options open are those of a villain - too near real-life for my liking.

Thanks for reading and your encouragement


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I think your persistence with the theater shows great courage.

You see, I have a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule, which goes something like this: if it doesn't work out the first time, consider it a learning experience and try again; if it doesn't work out the second time, look for the problem and correct it, and try again; if it doesn't work out the third time, then it wasn't meant to be, so kiss it goodbye. You, on the other hand, gave it a fourth try. Kudos to you!

An absolutely delightful read.


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 7 years ago Author

Thanks Sally for reading this. Always nice to receive your comments and feedback. Glad you liked it


Sharing Insight profile image

Sharing Insight 7 years ago

ah...now Sabu I can also add you as a highlight to my afternoon...

That was great! I giggled so...what a great read...I visualized it all---for sure you did a great job detailing your circle of childhood drama scenes(literally)lol...Cleo's part- made me laugh the most...

Talk about try and try again...that's the strong spirit we should all be so fortunate to possess or utilize...:)

Thanks Sabu!


Sharing Insight profile image

Sharing Insight 7 years ago

ah...now Sabu I can also add you as a highlight to my afternoon...

That was great! I giggled so...what a great read...I visualized it all---for sure you did a great job detailing your circle of childhood drama scenes(literally)lol...Cleo's part- made me laugh the most...

Talk about try and try again...that's the strong spirit we should all be so fortunate to possess or utilize...:)

Thanks Sabu!


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 7 years ago Author

Thank you so much Sharing Insight. I feel happy that this Hub made you smile.


stoob 7 years ago

delightful reading sabu. Brought back so many funny memories from my own school/college days. You are an expert at 'nostalgia'.


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 7 years ago Author

Thank you Stoob for your comments and for reading this Hub. Why don't you do a piece on your own experiences? I am sure it would make interesting reading.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

.

This is FUNNY! Hubpages will make an ass out of anyone of us and I now don't feel so bad about making a fool of myself. I am not alone! :-)))


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago Author

Glad you enjoyed it Bro DG. Rest assured there are enough asses around (how else are we going to run our business)?


krishna 4 years ago

hi sabu! all this hidden talent getting unleashed. you were always a great guy no doubt and a true friend. but never realised you were a genius with so much potential cleverly disguised. keep it coming my friend.


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 4 years ago Author

Thanks Krishna. I don't really know about the talent bit,but I do enjoy writing.

Thank you for your encouraging comment.

It would be great if you wrote on HP too.

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