While there was no dearth of dispiriting news floating around these days, this was one unexpected blow! How deeply I was mourning the passing of my former school headmistress, even as I put one more chapter to rest in the confines of my treasured memories.
I was fortunate to have ‘Sister’ as my headmistress in primary school. Although I feared her greatly, I was also one of those lucky few who got to see her nurturing side.
She had made it a point to give me company every evening while I waited for my father to pick me up from school, which would inevitably be long after dismissal time due to his work constraints.
We’re talking of the ’80s here when there were no after-school facilities in my beloved hometown.
I would constantly be the lone student in the portico and it meant a lot to have an authoritarian figure looking out for my safety and well-being.
I was one those painfully shy nerds who by default went into the good books of the teachers and was in the limelight for all the ‘right’ reasons.
She kept me engaged in small talk during my wait and brought me out of my shell. These episodes compounded my respect for her in an admirable way.
Only when she saw me off in safe hands, would she be reassured, and only then lock up her office and wind up her day. This went on resolutely for 2-3 years without a frown on her face !
They don’t make them like they used to—people who go above and beyond their call of duty.
Bits and pieces of memories of my days at my primary school have been flashing randomly since yesterday.
One fine evening while I was waiting for my father, I was in an unusually talkative mood with Sister.
In all familiarity, I blurted out, “Sister, I dearly wish I could participate in a drama on stage. Not as a prop as I usually land a role for, but with real dialogues or even…dancing.”
She listened to me in all seriousness as I continued, “But I’m very scared to face the audience. I wish I was as bold as the rest and not wonder what anyone will think if I make mistakes.”
One October morning, Sister was at the doorway of our class and she called out my name! There was a hushed silence and looks of disbelief that the headmistress had asked for me— the epitome of all things good and nice, the ‘statue’ of the class as I was nicknamed.
I stood up, with my knees wobbling and the blood draining from my face. She asked me to come along. A pin-drop silence ensued in the classroom, but there was a shrill buzzing in my ears as I felt my face getting hot with fright and embarrassment. All eyes were on me!
As she led me away, she looked at me with her piercing bespectacled eyes and asked,
“So what do think of being part of a dance in the Annual Day programme?”
I was dumbstruck! Was she giving me a chance on stage?
I could merely stammer and fumble.
“Yes, Sister, I want to…”
“Come here, this is a group of 5 and you’re the sixth. Now we have an even number of dancers.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening around me.
The theme was Arabian Nights Tales!
A dream role for a child of twelve who idealized the exotic land with the flying carpets, the domed castles and shimmery flowing dresses.
Sister oversaw all the rehearsals for the dance right from Day 1.
A few days into the dance rehearsals, talks were going on for the drama which was the major part of the musical.
I got my second wish granted as well when Sister selected me to deliver a couple of dialogues, one which I clearly remember to this day— “Perhaps, it’s a Fairy Rose?”
I got a role as the companion for the main lead. But I was over the moon, nevertheless. I was doing something out of my comfort zone and Sister was investing that effort, time and trust in me!
My third wish was the ultimate surprise for me. The costumes had arrived two weeks before the main event.
Shiny, glittery, eye popping!
She picked the magenta coloured flowing chiffon Arabian dress and handed it to me with a knowing and kind smile. I must have told her that it’s my favourite colour at one point of time, in all innocence. And she remembered!
With all the dress and costume rehearsals headway, the big day finally arrived.
I was a bundle of nerves but Sister gathered all the girls and gave a fine motivational talk.
That pep talk worked wonders for me and I felt a surge of confidence like none other. Come what may, I was going to make Sister proud of me.
When the curtains rose, there were murmurs of excitement from the audience when they saw us in our costumes and still pose for the opening dance sequence.
And I knew in an instant that our show was going to be a hit!
Our performance in the open air auditorium was a breeze.
With this, I made my grand exit in my graduating primary school year with the most idealized Arabian Nights role!
Dance+ Drama+ the whole works.
She was the ‘Fairy with the wand’ who granted me my three wishes and brought out the best in me. I’m so glad that I didn’t let her down…
For me, it’s the end of an era.
The world seems so much duller without a bright beautiful soul in it.
Thank you, Sister, you really gave me more than I wished for and a cache full of good memories. It makes me misty-eyed.
Perhaps, it really was a Fairy Rose!