I happen to think very little of the concept of ‘selling out’ after the Edinburgh Fringe. I attended sold out shows with 30% empty seats in Scotland. In mid-October, on the last day of a 3-city tour, BC:AD’s show sold out in Krakow with two dozen people standing in the wings without tickets because the organizer did not turn them away. I wouldn’t have wanted them to. I felt a moment of deep gratitude, assisted expertly by a 10pm espresso. We then had an interesting Diwali with several twists, turns and unexpected turbulence. A family emergency, times four. The upside was performing in India for the first time. And did we hit that out of the park. You win some. You lose some.
The prelude to the show was the real show for me, however. Our family had been hit sideways. Leaving all of us with severe post-traumatic stress. So much so, that I had to ask my moustached husband to babysit me. Take me to the start line. Ensure I had my filter coffee in moderate doses prior to getting on stage. Sit in the back seat and laugh inappropriately. Although, I think he was so sleep-deprived that he was snoozing once he hit the record button on my iPhone. I couldn’t see him in the back so it didn’t matter. What I could see however was myself. Performing to an audience who welcomed me with open arms. As I stood barefoot on stage and tried to mould BC:AD to a new thing (and it is a new thing with every performance) I found myself improvising. In Tamil.
We sold out. Then we sold some more tickets. What moved me most about performing in Chennai was one wonderful performer who stayed back to tell me about S V Shekar’s take on comedy and comedians. That triggered this memory. And then some more.
As a teenager, I moved to Chennai to compete for an insane entrance exam to the Indian Institute of Technology. I was sixteen, and the first high school I attended literally drove me up the wall. They were despotic and one evening, early in the term, there was a live comedy show. The great S V Shekar was on stage. I had planned to jump out of the hostel walls to call my dad to rescue me. He had obviously made us watch the great Richard Burton’s Where Eagles Dare and I thought a wall with some glass chips on it couldn’t deter me. I was delayed in my great escape though. I got distracted by that comedian. And what he was saying. So much so that when I did jump the wall an hour later than intended to make my call, I would come back to the hostel only to find the guard and the warden snoozing. And have a huge belly laugh at my bandaged hands. Soon after, I transferred to an even more despotic high school to encounter my own Nurse Ratched in our then principal but, the upside was that I did not quit. And I lived alone in my aunt’s flat. It was unheard of for a sixteen-year-old to live alone, but my neighbours took great care of me. Through many twists and turns and unexpected turbulence. The optical illusions that seem like the centre of our world are often times just a peephole to several worlds beyond us.
Soon after the performance, we found ourselves in the middle of green rice fields for three days, meditating for 72 hours. That did us a world of good. The PTSD is not over but, we are healing. One step at a time. What a year it has been. Really! As I stumble towards getting back on my feet before the year ends, all I know is that I am due for a long hibernation because I am eager to assimilate all that I have seen, learned, heard. To jog some memories that help me understand why it is that we do what we do. To express gratitude. To sleep without a care in the world.
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