Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 21 | November 12, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   A Roman Column
   Straight Talk
   Photo Feature
   Time Out
   Slice of Life
   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home


Slice of Life

Stage Fright

Richa Jha

It is official. Stage, no stage, I have stage fright, and looks like there is no way I can get over it.

Last night we were at a friend's place, and as happens when people with musical pretensions decide to come together, I never realised when a perfectly normal get-together transformed into a stage for singers.

Let me establish at the outset: I cannot sing to save my life. I don't croak, but I could never woo a boy with my singing prowess. Besides, I never pay attention to the lyrics of any song. Give me a tune to hum, I'm fine; ask me to sing the song, I'll still hum and be fine. But the others around me may not be. And, I have never sung in public. I don't even sing behind closed doors.

In one of the classic literary Proviso settings, when, before we decided to get married, The Hubby and I were having a frank discussion on what we looked for in an ideal spouse, the fourth point on his wish-list was that she should sing to him, sing for him. He said he was used to having his mother lull him to sleep with her mellifluous voice (even then, he insisted!). It would have been rude to laugh, or let a reckless comment pass from my lips at such a moment, so I didn't say a word. He misread my silence.

Once married, the inevitable was requested for. You can't avoid these things for long. A man's gotta sleep when he's gotta sleep. The day the withdrawal symptoms (with a new bride around for her son, the mother had stopped singing her son to sleep) got the better of him, he woke me up in the middle of the night and said, "Please sing."

My half dead brain took it as a nightmare, and didn't care much. Moments later, a gentle jolt woke me up again, "Please sing."

So I sang. I sang my school song, the only other song besides the National Anthem that I know by heart, and know without a fault. It's been nearly a decade since. The Hubby had never repeated his request until last evening. And we both have been happier for it.

Of course, it doesn't mean that I have ever been scared of singing. Far from it. If the world were to be divided into singers and non-singers, I would probably lead the pack of those non-singers who would be most willing to defect to the other group. It is just that I don't want people to suffer me.

But last night, I found myself in a tight spot. I don't know why, but for the first time in my life, I froze when I realised there was no escape. With a little presence of mind, I could have excused myself, said my child is allergic to songs, or that singing late in the evening gives me insomnia, signalled to The Hubby, and left the place. Once gone, no one would have missed us in that musical soiree. But he seemed happy sitting where he was (to the point of completely ignoring my visible discomfort).

The countdown began. As the melodies floated round the room, I did my best to not think about what it would be like to hear, "yes, yes, bhabhi, now it's your turn. Sing us your favourite number." Favourite? My mind spinned. The only song I could recall then was the Madhuri chart topper "Ek, do, teen, chaar…". It is one of the most avoidable songs that I have heard in my life, and here I was stuck with the only one tom-tomming in my mind. Place it in the context of an evening where only the grand masters of Indian cinema were being paid tribute to, you can imagine how jarring this song would sound. Five to go before my turn would come, four to go…if only I could melt, three, …why didn't they have a more powerful air conditioner in the room, two…I was about to have a black-out, one…and sure enough, the dreaded moment was upon me.

Thirteen pairs of twinkling eyes trained on me; thirteen faces looking at me, each with a peculiar grimace that said we've got you! I was looking at them, yet not quite. The silence could have drowned me had it not been for the constant nudging from my son, "What mamma, why don't you sing? All aunty uncles have sung. We are waiting. Sing Dhoom."

"I don't know that song dear," I told my son.

"Okay, then you sing Twinkle Twinkle," he offered helpfully. At least he was trying to help. The others sat there mute watching me squirm.

I wanted to sing. Honestly, I did. But every time my brain wanted to sing, my mouth wouldn't comply. Each time my mouth was ready, my brain went dead, resulting in all of an embarrassing gurgle that came out. I could count my breath. I knew they could count the strands of grey hair sitting pretty on my head. I knew they could notice my mismatched saree and blouse, my unkempt nails, the sandals wearing off at the sides…

I could sense the restlessness in Hubby's body language. "Sing Wifey, sing anything".
"I can't think of a song,"

"Sing what you like…just start, you are holding up the others…" the firmness of tone, the annoyance, and the feeling of being let down, was hard to miss. I was equally put-off by his behaviour, and for having aided others in pushing me in a corner. Couldn't he just have said, "no, actually, she doesn't sing. Let's move on…" and everything would have been fine. I tried my best to avoid his direct gaze, but my eyes would find their way back to him. It was, undoubtedly, the most embarrassing moment of my life.
The evening went by without my song. I couldn't have
sung "Ek, do, teen…", could I have?
Last night I dreamt of a furious Hubby walking out on me and taking a Sultan's daughter's hand in marriage instead. Why, because she agrees to make a public appearance with him by walking up to the stage with him, waving at the crowds, singing Ek, do, teen (what else?)!

But on second thoughts, even if in a nightmare, good riddance never came any easier! And guess what? Now I am determined never to get over my stage fright.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004