Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Epic Reversal

There are moments in life when a quick wit and presence of mind work wonders.This incident was no different. The play practice was going on in full swing, the theme being the evergreen epic, the Ramayana. As all the participants were physically or mentally challenged, the roles had been chosen with much care to make sure they could be essayed with ease.The young hero, Rama, was a hearing impaired child, who guided his little spouse, Sita, tenderly across the stage as she was blind. In return, she paid heed to the music in the background and the ensuing dialogues, prompting him at opportune moments.

Hanuman performed his antics wonderfully, despite being afflicted with cerebral palsy, and the audience rooted for him whole heartedly. The rehearsal was really going well, especially as all the little actors had memorized their lines and knew their cues perfectly. Suddenly a high pitched voice piped up. “Ma’am, ma’am!” The teacher looked down only to see Ravana, tugging at her dress.
“What’s the matter, Rohan?” she asked, for the little fellow’s lip was quivering and he looked as though he would burst into tears any moment. Though he was mentally challenged, Rohan was excellent as Ravana, performing his role just the way his teacher had coached him. When he twirled his fake moustache and guffawed, everyone would clap in appreciation.
Yet today he did not seem his normal chirpy self. The teacher knelt down and brought her face down to his level. “Why are you upset, Rohan? Did anyone say anything to hurt you?”
Rohan pouted as he struggled to explain, tears flowing down his cheeks. He wanted to say something but his emotions were getting the better of him. Wiping his tears for him, the teacher smiled, and said loudly, “Ok, children, take a break!” As the youngsters ambled out, she made Rohan sit down beside her. “Now tell me what the matter is, Rohan!”
“Ma’am, why do I have to die every day in our play? Why can’t Rama die instead?” The little boy’s question came like a thunderbolt, even as the teacher struggled to answer. What could she tell him? “Nobody dies but me all the time!” he wailed. “Why can’t Rama die instead?”
The teacher listened to the young boy’s reasoning patiently. How could she solve the dilemma? What words could she use to console her Ravana? Suddenly a brainwave struck her, one that was simple yet effective! It was as though God Himself had decided to intervene. Drawing the little rebel towards her, she caressed him on his unruly mop and said. “I agree. Why should Ravana die in every performance?” he turned to the other actors who were looking on, raising her voice.
“Listen, all of you! Ravana here wants a change of plot. He does not want to die today.” She smiled as she continued, “So today Rama will die instead of Ravana.” There was a gasp, followed by a silence when she stopped talking. The other teachers who were helping out looked at her in amazement. How could Rama, the hero die? How could the epitome of good be defeated by evil?
The teacher’s next words solved the enigma. She turned to Ravana again and asked, “If Rama dies today, will you allow Ravana to die tomorrow for the stage show?”
The little face brightened up as Rohan nodded enthusiastically. After all, Rama would die today! He did not know the difference between a rehearsal and an actual show. The so-called insurmountable problem had been cracked through the patience and sagacity of an understanding teacher!
Needless to say, the show was a huge success, as the children performed beyond expectations. The audience members had tears in their eyes as they watched, and little Ravana got a special encore and a round of applause for his enthusiastic portrayal of the Lankan king!
Picture courtesy: Shailesh Nanal -

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