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I was going through my albums today when I came across this old black and white photograph from the late 70s, probably 1979, if I am not mistaken, and memories came flooding back. The place where it was taken was the old auditorium at St. Teresa’s College, which has now been demolished to make way for newer buildings. The event was the annual drama competition of the college hostel and this was the show being put up by the third year degree students. With me on stage that particular day were Sheila and Silvy, playing my brother and sister respectively.

Yes, that is yours truly to the extreme right in a male get-up, in the role of a bank manager who has been wrongly accused of siphoning off funds, and dismissed summarily from service. Quite a pathos filled character who is full of anger at the system that has failed him, the people who cheated him and a family that doubts his integrity, and holds him responsible for their loss of face in society, a pariah in his own home.

Hmm… Someone wronged by everyone around, it was a role just up my alley, something that I could identify with, and do full justice to. I did too, walking away with the second best actor award. The skit itself was also placed second much to our delight, which delight somewhat dimmed later on. You see, after the results were announced, one of the judges, who was also the same nun teaching us Malayalam, hurried over to share some insider-info with us. It seems our group was slated for first place, but were unceremoniously pushed to second position for a reason.

A little about the skit: It opens with the scene depicted in the picture above, where the family is lamenting the misfortune that has befallen them. The elder brother (to the left) is shouting at the younger brother (right-me!), the wronged hero, warning him to stay away from the guests who are expected to arrive that evening to ’view’ their sister (the one in the middle). He does not want the alliance to break off because of the presence of the disgraced younger brother, who understandably so, is hurt at this unjustified rejection by the family.

In the following scene, the man aspiring to marry the sister is comfortably ensconced in the living room on stage, when the ex-bank manager brother, shocks everyone by entering the scene like a hurricane, brandishing a huge knife, threatening to cut the prospective suitor to pieces. No, he has not taken leave of his senses (all that pressure, you know), though the rest of his family think so too along with the audience. It is just that he recalls the suitor to be an acquaintance, the same man who had come to the bank with a sob-story, begging for help. The manager had lent him the money trusting the man to return it the next day (What a sucker Bank Manager!). But the man had vanished with the cash, and his own head had rolled instead. But, what angers the ex-bank-manager the most is the memory of the man’s pregnant wife who had accompanied him that fateful day and, here he was, come to marry their sister!

While this flashback is being narrated, the scene is played out in the background. So, they show the bank, the manager at his desk, and the acquaintance walking in with a very pregnant lady, enacted by another of our friends, Lissy. She is on stage hardly a few seconds before the girl starts giggling. Well, THAT it seems had been the reason that pushed our skit to second place. The rest of the cast was naturally aghast, but luckily, kept their heads and the show went on.

The last scenes went like this: The younger brother chases the suitor off the premises with threats and the grateful older brother, suitably chagrined, receives him back into the family fold. The mother cries, the sister who never really had taken sides, follows suit. The young man, finally vindicated, is happy to be re-united with his family. Don’t ask me whether he got his job back. He probably didn’t, because instead of being practical and handing the man over to the police he had got all emotional and chased him off the premises. But then may be that did not matter. Don’t mind me. This is how I am: indulging in idle speculation about stories, their endings and most importantly, what turn things could possibly have taken after the curtain had fallen.

Trivia: The first year of my degree course, I won second place for English essay, in my second year it was second place for Malayalam essay, and in my third and final year I was the second best actor. Hmm… Looks like second place and I had some inexplicable connection those days.