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November, 2012:

Annul the day

To all those young parents looking for suggestions on which school to choose for their children, I have one simple advice, opt for the school that doesn’t conduct Annual Day functions. You parents should not mind even if the school doesn’t have proper classes and teachers. In the long run, you will realise that it is a small price to pay for the much-needed calm and peace in your household.

No, I am not joking. The thing about school Annual Day fests is that they never seem to end. I should know. For, I have just come out of a function (at my daughter’s school) that looked like it lasted for roughly 379 hours, which is also the time that I as a parent devoted in getting the daughter ready for the event.

For an event that happened this week, the preparations started some four months back. Some scientists have taken lesser time for their Nobel-worthy inventions/discoveries.

Anyway, the actual break-up of the four months of preparations is:

First month: Gather every weekday evening and decide on the theme and the four songs to dance to (usually in a fusion). It’s just like our office meetings, the split being rambling, animated talk: 99%, some work: 1%.

Second Month: Decide on the dance attire and the accessories to go with the songs. As you can very well imagine, consensus is difficult to arrive at on the choice of bangles and bindis, the least visible items from the audience point of view.

1st half of Third Month: Hurriedly rework the songs as another group in the school has also chosen some of the same songs.

2nd half of Third Month: Scout for emergency replacements, as a couple of girls in the troupe have taken ill through food poisoning (Most likely their parents have willingly spiked their food. You can’t blame them. Tending children who have fallen sick is a lot easier and less stressful than getting them prepared for a dance event).

Fourth Month: No idea. The last month prior to any event, due to the effect of Einstein’s Relativity on time or some such, generally whizzes past by.

In all the fourth months, the time to taken to actually practise the songs: A sum total of six hours.

Styles of dance to be performed: Classical, hip-hop, bizarre and bewildering.

But even if you have gone through some of the most demanding moments of your life for the better part of four months, nothing in the world can actually prepare you for the tumult and tension that are bound to descend on your household on the morning of the event.

The morning of the event dawns with the same foreboding unease that might have hovered over Normandy on the day of the Landing. But the possibility of hostilities seems more potent here.

The wife, the same woman who had the insouciant air of a Saravana Bhavan waiter even when being wheeled into operation theatre with the labour pain kicking in, is now a nervous jelly. If we were living inside a cartoon panel, all her words would appear capitalized and carry electrical shock-symbolizing wavy lines for dramatic effect. The daughter, like on all days of importance, and exams, has overslept. In general, if daughters and sons were in charge of the world, the New Year will break out only on the afternoon of January 2.

The event is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., and it’s already 8 a.m., and not a single daub of makeup has been applied on the daughter’s face. Dance makeup generally needs more time to apply and set than it takes to lay RCC over a standard 2-bedroom house. Also, it is apparently mandated that girls, when they have to give a dance performance, need to sport makeup that can cover an airport runway or, to put it another way, Saroja Devi.

And now the hair needs to be styled up. The hairstyle for any dance programme, as laid down by an UN convention, is the one that your daughter’s hair lends itself least to.

After this we move to the dance dress, which, with their stylized cuts and trendy colours, make even a silly wearer, look totally stupid, too. No, you need not take my word. Just watch our films and you will realise this to be the case since the first talkie to the still-to-be-released Vishwaroopam (Kamal in that kathak outfit looks like the love-child of the Pope and Popeye).

After all this drama and heat in the house, you drive the daughter to the auditorium, deposit her with her team members and move to the audience section, choose a comfortable chair, plonk yourself and get ready for an afternoon of exciting sleep. For, what will unfurl that afternoon is dance and dance and dance and dance and dance… more dances than Kalashektra witnesses in an entire year.

But all the weariness and strain will vanish when they announce on the tannoy your daughter and team’s performance. You heart will swell in pride, as your angel swishes in like a gazelle, pirouettes like a polished puppet, twirls and turns like a terpsichorean spring, bends and balances like a ….no, wait. It is not her. It seems to be her friend. Where is she? You scan the stage, and from the distance you are sitting, all girls look the same; all girls look like your daughter.  But before you can zero in on your daughter in that random, moving images, the performance is over.

You sigh and get up and move to the aisle and wait for your daughter to emerge out of the green room. You are overcome with gnawing guilt because you are a father that cannot identify your own daughter. You are so filled with so much unease that you forget that this is a humour column, and as such it has to have a funny ending.