The clock struck one .. and still no one

Yesterday was the Annual Day of the Shanti Gyan International School, the little boarding school where five of our kids study. The show was to begin at 11 am, and we were there on time! None of us were prepared for what was to enfold. More than just a school function, it turned out to be a taste of India in more ways than one.

Needless to say we were the first to arrive, guests I mean, the children were all there, dressed up and ready to put their best foot forward. And boy they did. The show was enthralling and that is what I first want to share with you. It started with a beautifully executed Saraswati Vandana by the senior girls, a delight for the eyes and the soul. Then the school orchestra took the stage and my heart swelled with pride when I saw Utpal come on stage tugging his little Casio. The piece was a foot tapping percussion and keyboard original composition and we were again spell bound. Next was the turn of the tiny ones whose action song got the audience clapping and cheering. We were then treated to a patriotic song, befitting the coming Republic Day. I was amazed at the perfect rendition and beautiful arrangements.

The moment we were all waiting for was finally there. A dance medley that included four of our pwhy stars: Babli, Vicky, Nikhil and Utpal. The children put the best of Bollywood to shame as they executed the intricate steps to perfection, swaying their hips with abandon and swinging their arms with the expertise of a professional. They were true stars and I was moved beyond words. What a journey it had been for these children of a lesser God. The next part of the show was a beautiful ballet entitled the Golden Rules. All religions were portrayed in an enchanting way: the Jewish wedding dance was perfect, the Gurudwara scene was touching, the Qawali got everyone clapping and the Bhumi dance was mystical. The finale was filled with energy and enthusiasm, a perfect ending to a perfect show. But there was more: the stage was slowly filled by the entire cast with faultless entries and all the children sang the National Anthem again impeccably.

As I watched the intense little faces singing, my eyes filled with tears and I quickly mouthed a silent prayer to the God of little beings beseeching him to always walk by the side of these five little kids who had braved all odds and done us proud.

Please spend a little time and see the pictures below. They are nothing short of small miracles. Enjoy the pictures before you read on!

The picture I conjured above should have been the one that played out in reality: an uninterrupted show by a bunch of lovely kids for all to enjoy and revel in. It would have been the case in any other land but ours. What if I told you that the show that was no longer than 2 hours at best, lasted almost 5! That the children who were dressed in their costumes at 11, appeared for their final tableau at 16.30! Never mind if some of them were tiny, never mind if some costumes were too flimsy to withstand the winter! Sadly that is what happened as concurrently to the children's show we were unwilling spectators to another one, this one produced and staged by adults and whose main protagonists were Very Important People - or should is say Irritating -, the necessary component of any celebration in India. My heart went out to the management of the school and above all to the young and charming principal who stoically defied all odds and never lost his smile or composure.

Before I go on to describe to you the happenings of the day, I must stress on the fact that in India, the very existence and success of many business and other activities depend entirely on your ability to garner adequate support from the powers that be. No honest or hardworking soul can ever master the intricacies of the laws that govern us: they seem to be made in such a manner that help is always needed. The help comes at a price, one being the compulsion to include personalities in any celebration you organise. So the annual day of a school needs to have its plethora of VIPs!

As I said earlier the children were ready by 11.30 and so were we. But the clock ticked on and the front rows remained empty. An announcement was made requesting us to go and have a cup of tea. We did. The clock continued ticking. The children were seen peeping from behind the curtain. The head boy and head girl of the school stood patiently at the lectern, their big sashes gleaming. Another announcement informed us that the chief guest was on his way and should be with us in a few minutes. The clock struck one and still no one! You could see worried faces and people talking frantically on phones. The children waited in the wings. Then some activity as one of the guest had arrived. The show could begin. It did. It was 1. 45. The first three items were performed after the guest had been duly welcomed with flowers and speeches. We were to say the least relieved. But our relief was short lived. Around 2.20 the show was stopped. The chief guest had arrived. More speeches, more flowers.. and the children waiting.

After some speeches, prizes were distributed to a batch of kids. Great photo ops for the VIPs as I have forgotten to mention, there was a band of pressmen and photographers in attendance. The guests were plied with refreshments as is custom in our country, while we could amost hear our stomachs rumbling. This drama went on. One had to go through 4 VIPs each seeking their place in the sun. Finally it was over and the children could perform their final acts.

What got my goat and left me speechless was the fact that none of the so called VIPs had bothered to even remember the name of the school whose function they were attending and had to be prompted. The speeches were mutually or even in one case self adulatory. One wondered who their were being addressed to. The whole act was to say the least galling. A necessary evil one could well have done without. A total disregard for the hundreds of people who had waited patiently and for the little children whose day it was and who were the real VVIPs. But I guess we were all parents and thus vulnerable. Even I waited patiently. Had it been any other occasion I would have walked off!

As is often said: Oh darling this is India!