UBC DAY 2 – FROZEN FOR EVER… (A STORY)
He stood behind a pillar and waited. A crowd was beginning to gather behind him, but he didn’t move. He couldn’t. His eyes were closed, and his legs felt like the orange-flavored jelly he had had that morning after breakfast. He hoped against hope that he wouldn’t begin to sweat, and make the creaseless white shirt with grey stripes wet. He loved his uniform, and absentmindedly checked if the shirt was properly tucked into the dark grey pants, and if there were any specks of dust on his shoes. From somewhere, he heard a girl’s voice announcing it was prayer time.
om bhur, bhuva, svaha,
tat savitur varenyam;
bhargo devasya dheemahi,
dhiyo yonha prajodaya.
The voice read out a line, then chanted along once more with the audience, then moved to the next line. On other days, he would be in the audience, and the prayer would be over in a minute, but today, each line felt longer. He knew he would have to wait. The prayer would be followed by the national pledge.
After what felt like an hour, he heard the girl’s voice announce, “… reciting the poem which was published in The Times of India” and a smattering of applause broke through. Someone gave him a push, and he moved toward the stage, no feeling in his legs as he did so. The applause continued for a bit, and when it died down, he cleared his throat.
“To.. write…or or…”
The stutter sent a chill through his spine, and he looked to his right. His classmates smiled, mimed him to take a deep breath and continue.
“To write, or not to write,
Is that even a question?
To write is why I breathe,
But that’s all that would come from him. Staring into the audience, he froze. He closed his eyes, and the words began to stutter. Two of his classmates came out and led him to the side, and he heard another friend recite his poem.
He knew his classmates would tease him about it later. He hadn’t felt any nerves in the rehearsal for the assembly, when it was just him and his friends.
He was determined to try again someday, but to his surprise, that day would never come. With one frozen moment, his destiny had been frozen too. The teacher had delivered the verdict soon after.
“Your stage fear will not embarrass me again.”
(2nd July 2014)