Friday, April 29, 2011

The passing of a generation

I was always in awe of the two ladies who always were different from anyone else I knew in my grandparents’ generation. My mother and her siblings were definitely a bit wary of them and I guess that rubbed off on me. However, I don’t remember ever being reprimanded or spoken to in a harsh tone by the sisters of my grandmother. They were strict and led disciplined lives but were never unreasonable or austere.

For whatever reason, neither of them got married and lived with each other until the end. I remember their home in Fraser Town with the large tiger skin carpet complete with the head of the tiger. There were always the most interesting things in that house, from the artefacts picked up around the world to the rare collection of wonderful books in the dining room shelf.

Both were extremely active, teachers by profession, and conducting home tuitions until very recently. My interactions with them were always wonderful and their command of English and world affairs fascinated me to no end. Unlike most people of that generation, these were two practical people. Not once did the do the usual emotional blackmail of me not visiting them, that they’re old and dying and that our generation doesn’t care for them…blah blah bah. Whenever we met, which wasn’t very often, we conversed like we had met the day before and all they would say was ‘Do come by when you have time. We know it’s not easy with your work and personal commitments, but know that there are two old ladies to visit when you can’. I loved that!

Almost everyone in that family circle who ever fell sick would land up in their house. They pretty much looked after anyone who needed any kind of care. All this was done as routine – as part of their lives, never once feeling that they were doing a favor or that they were going out of their way to help. Eternally cheerful and full of good humor, these were role models of a rare calibre. Nothing bogged them down and nothing was insurmountable.

My first grand aunt died a year and half back. Her sister died on April 26th this year. I think the passing away of the elder  one took a lot out of her. She had wanted her body to be donated to the medical college and I went there on 27th morning to pay my respects to a great human being. Not that I was every close to them (mainly because I hardly saw them), but seeing her lying on the stretcher brought a few tears to my eyes. The inevitable finality of it all hit me and the fact that she was the last of the siblings of whom my grandmother was one.

To their dying day, my grand aunts were strong independent women, cherishing life and spreading happiness and positivity all around. I will miss them and think of them often as I attempt to lead my life the way they did; trying to make a difference in an uncomplicated manner. As I write this piece, I can’t help but wipe a tear from my eye as I realize how much people really mean to us and we find out only after they are gone. May their souls rest in peace.

Friday, April 22, 2011

First Act

One of the first plays I remember seeing was from a British troupe that had come to my school in Ooty. For some reason, one of the lines from that play remain stuck in my mind. It goes something like this:

When Shakespeare played

The Stage was bare

and the throne of England

was just a chair

My own foray into theatre began at the tender age of 42. A chance conversation with my nephew saw me don the hat of a 73 year old ex-Vaudeville performer in Neil Simon’s ‘The Sunshine Boys’. Frankly, I had no clue as to what it takes to act in a play, my experience being limited to being a casually interested audience. One look at the 60 page script gave me strong misgivings especially being in the lead role. For some reason, my eternally optimistic nephew felt I could pull it off and I went with the flow.

The first few rehearsals were cause for much merriment and mirth. Reading directly from the script didn’t seem to be very tough and not having a performance date set in stone contributed to my lackadaisical attitude. My nephew too, probably out of deference to his uncle, let me be. A couple of changes in the cast and a few weeks later, we pretty much had a good set of actors for all the roles.

The date of play was finally decided as April 1st and that’s when reality slowly sank in. Rehearsals became more serious and durations became longer. Practice sessions that happened in the club house of our apartment complex slowly shifted to a rented out room and then to my cousin’s house which was lying vacant. One big motivation for me not to do the rehearsals at home was the constant ‘feedback’ from the spouse. Enough said!

D-Day dawned and the plan was set. All stage settings ready at 11 a.m, stage rehearsal from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m and a break from 3 – 6. Yeah right! When the stage was ready, it was almost 7 p.m. and there was frantic scrambling to get the props. Most furniture came from our house and almost everything that could go wrong did. We had dubious help backstage and my nephew did most of the running around, in addition to being the director and one of the main performers.

Though 8 p.m was the start time, we finally got going around 8:30. The sound went wrong in the first few seconds, props could not be found and nothing was where it should be. A comical scene was when my nephew says (in the play) ‘It’s freezing in here’ and he’s dripping with sweat due to the back-stage work he was also doing. Anyway, as one of the lines from the play go…’still we got terrific applause!’. The hundred or so in the audience seemed to genuinely enjoy the humor and comedy. We had a large family contingent which was also helpful and I remember most of my lines, doing some improvisations as we went along.

An eventful first performance, got lots of encouragement from everyone near and dear. It was great to see my Lawrence buddies make it to the play in the heavy downpour that decided to grace us on show day. Looking forward to a lot more acting opportunities in the coming months. Who knows, this could be my calling!

A wedding in Chennai

It's been a while since we had a massive wedding on the wife's side of the family. This one was especially important as it was the...