Monday, January 21, 2008

Fantasia Report One [anecdote]


It's been two days since the team came down to Pune. Standing at the main-gate of Sindh society, it was quite a sight to see a white bus with a Goa plate emerge from Baner Road, packed with its 25 children, the 3 drivers, the 3 accompanying staff of El Shaddai and the 7 pillars of Teatro Per Caso without whom Fantsia wouldn't be.


Tanu and Lally, despite their rounds all over the city, the thousands of phone calls, the right people met (at times they met the wrong ones as well!), and despite the help they received from the other passers-by in this journey, were as tensed as over-charged electric wires. Still, seeing all those happy faces peering through the windows of the bus, with curiosity in their eyes, a slight tinge of anxiety on their forehead, and above all, smiles on their lips, made us all forget our worries and stresses. It seems to me that the children have now scientifically proven that smiles are contagious: it's with smiles that we welcomed the whole troupe to the house.

It was rather strange for me, since I had not met the children previously, to see them looking at me in a rather alien way, and I am sure, I must have done the same. After they all had lunch however (Oh! They were famished after the journey!) things changed. I came to realise that Pune had in the midst of its city a wonderful group of youngsters, talented, fresh, energetic, and to my surprise, with a great sense of maturity.

It barely took me 30 minutes to talk to all of them, get to know them, what they do, what they like, how they said that Pune is beautiful and the list goes on.

Tanushree on her side was making her best to handle it all: more rounds around the city, more phone calls, more frowns and sighs, but without a single short-circuit! She was as good as a juggler with electric wires! A real artist!

As for me, I was just there, mostly for the sake of being there: to be with the troupe on the one side, and on the other to fill up those blanks of doing the small things that I could take off Tanu's shoulders. In short I tried my best to take care of the "minor" stresses, like fixing the bulbs missing in the house, making sure everybody eats properly, fixing the lines to dry the clothes etc!

The evening turned out to be a rather eventful one where I guess the whole "Pune team" was on the verge of tears. We took the children to Shaniwarwada to watch the lights and sound show, where we previously had a confirmation that said "yeah, please get the children on Friday evening". I was rather nervous at having my first BIG responsibility for I, alone, was to take the whole El-Shaddai team and the drivers to the famous fort.

However, reaching there we saw a gate to which we did not have the secret code, and a web of phone calls brought to our notice that the show was in fact cancelled. Well in Pune, there is only a very thin translucent line that divides confirmations and cancellations, and that line often tends to get blurred. I was really surprised at the children's maturity though- they all understood the fact that the show was cancelled, and they kept smiling despite the shadow of disappointment that crossed their faces for a few seconds or so. But on the whole, they were thrilled to be out in the bus at night discovering Pune with its congested roads, fly-overs, malls and the bike-culture!

We then arranged for a TV and a DVD player so that the children could watch "Le Cirque du Soleil", and by the time the food reached, we witnessed the whole bunker of dal that within an eye-blink simply fell off and spread all over the ground like a tsunami attacking the shores of the house. There was barely anything we could salvage, those things happen, we told ourselves, and we would sort it out. I took that as a sign of my second BIG responsibility for Erica and I were the only ones around. We finally let
the children eat the Kichidi, salad and the sweet dish that were there, while (thanks for even more phone calls!) Tanu said she was on her way with more dal but just to realise on reaching that every-body had eaten already!!

Conclusion of day-1, we all went to bed with a smile on our face! For me, it was a great day, a day that I had been anticipating for long now, and what I retained from that day was simply the beauty of it all! Life is beautiful when you take time to smile!


Day-2 was one that was loaded with the minor and major stresses! But day-2 was also the day of the first performance in Pune!!

An hour before the show, we still had doubts as to whether the show would be happening or not. Well, while the "minors" of the morning were about too much food, and not enough food, and no water, and geyser to be fixed, and clothes that were washed the previous day washed again, the afternoon saw sound problem, electricity problem and crowd problem.

Hopefully and quite surprisingly, the promised help from the Philanthropist, that till now had been only "talk talk and talk" turned into something more concrete. We managed to settle all the technicalities an hour late, and here I must say hats-off to Tanu for handling so much pressure! And by the time the philanthropist had finished his interminable speech, the show started.

The children in the meantime were all very calm backstage, and if they did feel nervous, the nervousness did not even see its way till their faces. The show started! The 100 odd people who were there watching turned into 500 or so within minutes of the beginning.

Fantasia had settled in! From all the balconies, windows, from all the places possible, including the porch of the temple across the roads (where prayers were being recited at the same moment), there were just faces peering. People looking out for the beauty of a dream, the beauty of a smile that would come true.

The children gave the best of themselves! Sonia said it was their best performance ever. Yesterday was also Sonia's birthday, and the children had all decided that the performance today would be for her, a gift to her! In the process, it was also a gift to the hundreds of people who had come to watch.

I could not believe the talent I saw. In simply 10 days' work, what they produced was beauty and energy in their purest form! It was unbelievable how so naturally they seem to surpass themselves, become magicians of smiles, and spread so much joy around. It was subliminal! (As an aside, I would like to mention that I felt small drops running down my eyes at three points of time during the show, and I am not the kinds who cry easily!)

It was with beauty that the performance started and it was with beauty that it ended. Many of the people present came to backstage after the show, to specifically congratulate the Teatro Per Caso and the children for the wonderful performance, and many of them were extremely overwhelmed...

As for the evening after the show, it turned out to be a "fun" evening! I guess the whole group needed it after such a hard day. The children knew there would be a surprise for them, but they could not figure out what it would be! Then, I did a Kathak performance for them, and Preetal and I also performed a piece of contemporary dance that begun with a candle dance! The children received it really well! They clapped and asked for an encore, so Preetal and I thus improvised another piece that was to be Sonia's birthday gift!

We had a wonderful time performing for the children, reversing the performer-audience order, till the order was reversed again when the children started parodying us!! They again surprised me by their talent! Not being content with having enjoyed watching us, they observed and were capable of turning us to ridicule! Again they brought so much smile to all our faces!
Today is Sunday, and its a day's rest for the children. Right now they are at the Park in Sindh Society, and later this afternoon we are taking them to see Shaniwar Wada, after which we have another surprise for them to-nite! But that will have to wait for the next article! Tomorrow's performance will be in Sindh Society and we expect an audience of 1200 children! Am excited already! But till then, I have a whole afternoon of smiles ahead... :)

[For more please do check and also check the short docu-video by G. D'Souza on ]

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