Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jo jeeta wohi bandar?

I remember the time when I was in primary school and the highlight of the winter term used to be the Fancy Dress Competition. While my mother strove, year after year, to dress us up in style, her inventive ideas never seemed to go down well with a small-town jury. So all those bandages, which took her hours to bundle me up in, and the
anaar juice that I was supposed to dribble down the side of my nervously clenched jaw through lips that had to open just the right amount for preventing the 'blood' from becoming a bloodbath, came to naught.

And that was because inventiveness never won a fancy dress. Real recognition and accolades lay only in conformity, which ensured that the competition would be between clones of Rama/ Sita/ Hanuman, the madari and the
sabziwali, diffident dakus or heavily made-up princesses and frilly fairies. The beaten path was where you would probably not be beaten. Really.

I mean, really?

In fact, the trauma of NEVER winning has made me suppress all thoughts of that (rigged, I tell you!) competition. I even forget what I was supposed to be doing on that stage in bandages with pomegranate
paan-type substance for company. Well, at least by the end of the show, I was feeling quite like the bruised-and-battered-got-hit-by-a-truck type person. Or was that what it was? Utter humiliation, I tell you, compounded by the realisation that I was unlikely to ever own a properly kitschy costume, other than a shroud conjured from a generous donation made by an uncle's nursing home. But my mom refused -- and I repeat, REFUSED -- to dress me up as a gopi or gowala, arguing that it was just too blah to be so predictable.

Well, to be honest, I used to often worry about being different from the
bansuri-dhari Krishna avataars and all those runny-nosed Radhas with the risque make-up, feeling like a misfit amidst all them clones and clowns. But as I reflect upon those awardless contests (rigged, I tell you!), and juxtapose and triangulate my mom's faith in the extraordinary with my now-practised ability to somehow fall off the beaten path, I think I was a bit too hard on myself.

But yes, it did help me get others things straight. Like hide my mortification in a crowd, even as I can't bother with hiding my age, while holding
the much-humiliated ol' head up high as well as that 6th drink... and I feel strangely rescued. From conformity. From anonymity. And from the fear of just being myself. Strange, but I guess I kinda' feel on top of the podium right about now :)