You know everytime I watch the movie ‘Poomaram’, I am flooded with my own memories from back in 2005/2006(frankly speaking I dont remember the exact year). Yes almost 15 years back, no kidding.
So I had just moved from Maharashtra to Kerala, yes a complete change of culture, language and ofcourse a land with zero friends. I cried and cried while I left Pune after my 10th,but my mom was adamant that I should complete my remaining education in Kerala. It made no sense to me, so, since I was furious with her, the only condition I put forward is that I would stay in a hostel/boarding and that I would NOT stay with my mother. Yes she agreed and rest is history.
So coming to my 11th std life in Trivandrum, I slowly and steadily made friends in school as well as in the boarding home. Yes it was the typical boarding types you may have read in the Malory Towers series. Long hallway, dormitory, huge study hall, prayer room, mess area, restroom area etc.
Anyway now coming to the Higher secondary school sub district level youth festival in Trivandrum, this would further pave the path for district and state level youth festival in Kerala. So since I had just landed from Pune and since my Hindi speaking skills were good, I was forced by my principal to try a hand at Hindi elocution. I was terrified, not cause it was in Hindi but this was something I had never ever tried before. I mean dance was(is) my jam but hindi elocution?! I finally gave in as you know I could not say no to my principal. So I was trained with an ex student from my school who was a really strong and capable young lady. She was then studying at All Saints college(I think!) Anyway she trained me for days and days . The poem selected was ‘Khooni Hastakshar’, written by GopalPrasad Vyas, it was a tribute to Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. Mind you the poem was in itself quite difficult to memorise plus my trainer was particular that I had the right emotions while reciting. She said it was not mere reciting, she wanted me to actually feel each and every line. And so I did. I memorised it thoroughly, with the right emotions and right gestures. I almost became Netaji myself whilst reciting it. So much so that it was exhausting to recite it completely even just once.
And FINALLY the day arrived. The youth festival location was bustling with activity, young girls and boys, most of them decked up for their performances in various dance events, some just loitering around (bird watching) while some responsible ones arranging and running the whole show. I found the venue for Hindi elocution quickly. So there were about 25 or so registered for the event and I remember I was among the last ones to perform. Initially when it started there was hardly an audience and I felt maybe its because nobody is interested especially in Hindi recital. But by the time I was called on stage, I could see a jam packed audience, I almost freaked out. But then I composed myself and thought to myself that all the days of rigorous practice was for this one day. I didnt care to win but I wanted to give the best performance of my life. And so I started. I don’t know if it was my tone, my dramatic gestures or my emotions, I had the audience hooked from the very first line. Till then the audience had never seemed interested in the event, but when I ended my khooni hastakshar, the entire audience broke into an applause, so did the judges and I knew I had performed reasonably well. I went back to my seat and everybody around me (strangers, teachers n students from other schools all congratulated me) I was pleased because one I had no idea I could ever pull this off and I had just done it and two I respected my principal and my trainer too much and wanted to genuinely make them proud.
And so there was another performance or two and the program ended, curtains were down and I saw the judges discussing the results. And Lo, a man walks in from behind and talks hurriedly to the judges. They all discuss something for a while and again the curtain opens and there appears another contestant. He has all this makeup on, I realised he had just come from another dance performance. His chest number for Hindi elocution was way before mine but they allowed him to participate. I obviously wasnt bothered but then people around me started mumbling. And then he started his poem. Yes, it was again, Khooni Hastakshar. I was dumbstruck, quite disappointed that he had chosen my exact poem. But tats not the point. He recited it in one stretch with no emotions, no tone change and even some wrong words. It actually looked weird cause here he was saying a very serious poem asking for fighters to join in the war for independence and his face was dressed up like a kathakali artist. If we have to compare our performances, the only similarity would have been the actual poem but our ways of presenting it was truly poles apart. So he ended, the crowd hardly gave any reaction but I clapped because although I hated his performance I knew how difficult the poem was to memorise and I also admired him for reciting it despite the whole makeup avatar.
The results come in and I was awarded second. I was shell shocked, no not because I was second but because the kathakali guy won the first prize. I was furious, because I was willing to lose to just about anyone but him. Because he didn’t deserve it, he had ruined the poem and Netaji would definitely never have accepted the tribute had he heard his recital. Those around me were shocked too and urged me to file an appeal. Now an appeal is like a third umpire call in these youth fests and believe me, its quite a process. Everybody in that audience asked me to file an appeal. It was then I heard some flying news(udti khabar). Our boy was actually a favourable one for some overall trophy for max participation (equivalent to Kala pratibha types) and he could win that only with those crucial 10 or so points from Hindi elocution. Yes it was all fixed and he would have won the Hindi elocution any which way.
So I was advised against an appeal by some wellwishers who told me that this was anyway a fixed affair and there wouldn’t be any point. So yes I let it go. (Let it go, let it go…) I even went on to see him win the overall trophy. Mind you his dance performances were really good. He went on to participate in district and state level I think but I am not sure if he won there.
So after I watched ‘Poomaram’ movie, I suddenly tried to search this guy on fb after almost 15 years. But I was not able to track him perhaps because I don’t remember his name and I am not even sure of the year. I think I heard many years back that he is a doctor now residing outside India.
Well it’s not like I have any bad feelings from this whole episode, but it’s just that this movie refreshed all my dormant memories. Youth festivals are truly a very different n fulfilling experience in student life, and something that only those who have experienced it atleast once can relate with!
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15 years later the youth festival ways in Kerala haven’t improved, right? Anyway your reminiscence is charming.
Ha ha, but I heard they scrapped the Kala thilakkam n Kala Pratibha titles now.
Very nice post. I think there is always a favourable one.
“Netaji would definitely never have accepted the tribute had he heard his recital.” – That’s a good one! 🙂 I love the story of ‘Poomaram’ particularly because how passionate every participant in the youth festival is. Hence it feels good to have read the thoughts of a person who actually attended the festival!
For a malayali, it’s part of life.