Vol XIII An Angel on the Rock

Scars in my memory…not quite I doubt if it will be staged again. The first play I wrote and directed. After a decade of engaging with different forms of writing, I find it awkward to read the plays I wrote in the early years. They don’t feel like my works anymore.

Four of them have made their way into a collection so I don’t think I will ever live them down. But as far as the others are concerned, I try and pretend they never happened. So it comes as a bit of a shock that when I am asked to go back in time and recall a high that surpassed all other highs in my life, I find myself in Yavanika, an auditorium in central Bangalore, where I staged the first three shows of the first play I wrote and directed, ‘Scars in my memory.’

I think it was the second day and the auditorium was packed to capacity. I sat with the audience in the darkness, sensing they had connected with the characters. And just as the last line had been spoken, one gentleman stood up and started clapping. There was something in his cheering that mobilized the others who were present and they too got to their feet and started applauding. I realized I was experiencing a standing ovation for the first time in my life. It was a curiously humbling experience and a lump came and settled down in my throat as I walked to the stage to join the actors for the curtain call.

It took a long time for all of us involved in that all male production to get over that experience. The rehearsals used to take place late in the night in a flower shop. The city still had its wits about it and roads would get deserted as early as ten in the night. On my way back home, I was discovering the joy and liberation of being a theatre person and basking in the beginner’s luck the first few shows had produced. Anything seemed possible after that night. Everything was within my reach.

We did a few more shows. A few of the actors departed and others replaced them.

The play turned oppressive. I could sense some of the actors were getting dependent on the production…not because anyone was making any money from the shows but because they were discovering the thrill of being recognized by perfect strangers in Koshy’s and lavish compliments being heaped on them.

One night in a fit of pique I deleted the soft copy of the play and dumped the few hard copies I possessed in the garbage bin. I wanted to move on. I wanted to experiment with other forms of writing. Work on a novel. String together a screenplay. I tried my best to free myself from this awkward, contrived piece of drama. But it came back while writing this piece. A standing ovation beats the smell of a freshly printed book that you hold in your hands. The headiness of it refuses to go away. And of course, the thing with memory is that it does not know how to discriminate.

Vijay Nair is the author of Let Her Rest Now (fiction, Hachette India, 2012), The Boss is Not your Friend (non-fiction, Hachette India, 2011), Master of Life Skills (fiction, Harper Collins India, 2006) and The Gloomy Rabbit and other plays (Drone Quill, 2003). His essays have been included in international anthologies. A recipient of the Fulbright Senior Research Grant and the British Council Charles Wallace Award, he was also awarded a US State Department Grant to attend the International Writers’ Program at the University of Iowa. Vijay is currently on a Fulbright scholarship and can be reached at vijay@vijaynair.net.

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