Of course the stage is sacred, it’s where we get high

[For anybody who hasn’t got the ‘we’ of the title, this post is about my college dance team. And for Amma who’s frowning suspiciously at it, it’s just an expression enne kollanda I don’t actually smoke :D]

I must start by mentioning this is an awfully personal version and a limited one at that, as bail for any future complaints.

And I swear it’s completely harmless. Because if I told you about the time when VC and the rest of us were walking to Gp’s place, and she naively went up to a guy and said, “Cheta, aa mund onn mattuvo, athinte adeenn rocket onneduthotte”, it would be blasphemy. So I shall not do it. (Did I mention she was playing with a paper rocket, but sshh.)

And if I told you about Buhari’s newly founded self-declaredly super-efficient onstage technique by which he focuses *cough* biogas *cough* into instant energy, I’d be revealing too much. Also he might kill me, hence I won’t be doing that either (I’m not sure how much effort he put into it, but I know we were all thankfully shielded from some pretty major shit, again sssh).

This isn’t a goodbye post though, because farewells make sense everywhere except in our dance team where it’s pretty much a farce. Not because if-there’s-such-a-thing-in-the-team-as The Official farewell gets postponed until it never happens like last year, but because you’d think you’re bidding seniors goodbye and that’ll be the end of them, but they never really leave :P.

Sure you won’t see them in college anymore, but they’ll always be around with their “Choreo enthayi?” or “How’s practice going?” And just as you thought you were beginning to miss Sreekanth etan’s upbeat chalis, he’ll show up in college one day with his “Njan oru chali adikkate” reminding you there was never anything upbeat about them, and you’re still stuck with his annoying jokes even after he got shipped off to Bosch 😀 And just as you think you’re missing the pillar Arjunetan, he’ll appear unannounced at a fest with his flippant quips and make you laugh until your stomach hurts.

A little more than two years ago though, I wasn’t acquainted with room no. A322 (if you aren’t either, it’s our dance room), I didn’t know any of those I just mentioned, I didn’t know what lay ahead and I was an entirely different person.

LH was where I’d eat as guest for 20Rs from the mess sans the fish because it’s reserved for inmates. Today, it’s where I’d go with the rest of the team for lunch after 2 (it’s free because mess duty would’ve left by then), or for tea in the evening before fests and to #64 during practice breaks to soak Sreelekshmi’s bed in my sweat. She never complained.

College was a place to be left no later than 6.30pm and DEFINITELY not where you broke into spells of crazy dancing to London Thumakda or Mangalyam at A322 at 8 in the night. Triples were wild and fun and once-in-a-while, today it’s squeezing three of our asses onto the tiny two-wheeler seat every second day to go home or to sir’s place. Hari’s Enfield and Akshay’s Duke from the end of the season don’t count, traitors getting rich just as we are getting despatched. Arjun etan’s the best – Dio then, Dio now, Dio forever 😀

A full split was a rift between groups in class, now it’s what Aswin’s trying to accomplish in the left corner of the picture below in the mirror. IMG-20151112-WA0009.jpgAt sir’s studio, standing in our infamous Battlecry photo pose that we never got a photo of. Kj and Akshay missing.
IMG-20160531-WA0005.jpg

 
They were busy with, er, each other. Jk, it doesn’t happen during practice.

Talks being held at CETAA hall don’t mean IEEE or ISTE or EDC or any other club anymore, they mean chaya/vada before practice from outside as long as we pretend we belong to the fraternity inside, though it’s past me how we ever pull it off in our chic practice attire :D.

And college from two years back was where you went to study though none of it happened, not where you sat through and waited for 4 in the evening so you can go to the dance room and meet a bunch of crazy people. Who’ll teach you the 14 districts of Kerala in order, and that your phone gets on Roaming when you leave the state and not Tvm. Or maybe it’s just me who needed the lesson. (My parents believe I should do IAS, geography’s my only weak spot  you know). Who, when you weep and complain that a friend didn’t let you cheat off their test (it was series okay), will first console you and then ruthlessly laugh at you for not having legitly failed a test. Of course I’m bragging.

The reason why this place is crazy though, is cos you spend the first few months in the team wondering if you really belong here, and the rest of your college life feeling like this the one place you really do.


 

I remember when S6 began, I couldn’t wait to go to A322 every day. Days of practice from 9am to 9pm  when post-6.30 evenings turned into major dancing stints outside the choreo-prospectus of contemporary and hiphop. Of days when Ginu almost killed Muth on the eve of Cultaway ’15, of days when the team was deluged with new Asus phones, of mind-boggling quantum of selfies uploaded in the group every evening, of celebrating birthdays and Dhwani and pulling Nami’s leg and Jithu’s Ladio, of days when college practically shrunk to that room atop main block. It wasn’t unadulterated fun, it was euphoria through an entire season of 13 stages. When the most fun moments were after losing Sarang and before performing at Ragam. With undertones of Pazhagikalam and Ethu Kari Ravilum and Vinnod Nee Irundhaaaaaaaal *wink*.

sree.png A322 from last season.

We missed those evenings this year as Dr. David courteously asked us to practise off-campus and we dutifully obeyed. Can’t blame him, University Youth Festivalil event allathathu kondu Cup onnum adichittillalo. I’m sorry he got kicked out of college later though. Could have been sooner.

But if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have had all those hilarious days when 9 of us girls cramped ourselves into Nany’s car to go to Sir’s place for practice while he on the driver’s seat tried to hide his face with someone’s shawl as a Mechanical Professor passed us by at the junction. And an odd semester where we jumped from the studio to temple hall to emmau’s church meeting hall to indoor stadium and finally back to A322. Where the guys miserably struggle to keep up with the girls while we do push-ups, counting away and Muth stands on her head. I’m not winking or coughing.

Where discussions loom over MJ5 to Maroon 5 to Mini Militia.

Where stories are weaved and costumes designed from scratch, pieces choreographed and portions intertwined.

Where you miss a step on stage and get off in despair, you’ll laugh about it with the rest of them for the rest of the season, and the next.

The team is probably also what your parents advise you to think twice and twice again before joining, you’ll listen to them consistently complain about the hectic days -no, not theirs- but they’ll proudly watch you on stage and exclaim, “So that’s what the six months’ practice was about”. Or they’ll say they don’t approve of it, come watch you at NUALS and when asked how it went, like Anaswara’s mom they’ll critique, “You didn’t point your toe during the lift”. Parents 😀

The stage itself is a culmination of sorts of timeless full-stretches, punctuated by the smell of hair-spray and face-paint and smoke, and the clamour of an audience in anticipation. You’d think that the rush of adrenalin before a performance would grow fainter as the stages go by, but it doesn’t. And the jubilant cheer that bears the team name as you get on or off the floor only grows on you, the initial boos that invariably turn into indiscriminate cheers as the dance proceeds only get you addicted.

There are unending on-stage tales that’ll crack you up.  Like that of Ginu’s knee drop that was done an entire half-minute early, she spent the rest of the minute doing a whole 360 degree rotation to see what steps the rest of us on stage were upto, and then calmly waited for us to catch up with her.

The real tales of ours, though, lie offstage. Not just those of the hiphop choreo days when boys had practice all through the night until morning after which they brushed their teeth and proceeded to classrooms, only to be asked to leave after being caught sleeping.

Every person here has their own stories to speak of, some of them more personal than others, and some more painful perhaps. Of how they lost count of stitches done or of how they stayed put at the expense of sacrifices made. Chances are you’ll have one to say for yourself if you belong to a performing clan.

Like a KDP who’s in bed with fits of a 104 fever at 12 and goes on stage at 2.

Or a Kevin chetan who’s resting with a plastered leg that’s practically warped and is yet the first one to jump up with “let’s go” when he hears there’s a stage to perform.

Or an Anu who’s exhausted her physique to the point of collapse and yet turns up at A322 every evening.

Or a Nipun who, when the rest of us are down on the SAC floor in tears after Nany’s accident wondering if we’d ever have the courage to don dancing shoes again let alone perform minutes later, when the rest of us are too shaken to even think clear and when he has every reason himself to break down, delivers a goddamn soliloquy and steers way for the team, for Nany who’d wanted it the most.

Or even a Nany injured in his costume after getting ready for the stage and hospitalised with  a skull fracture and two clots to his brain, the first thing he utters on gaining consciousness and hearing his team went on to win Saarang is, “You could’ve waited for me, I would’ve performed, I just had to get a CT”.

These are the stories that make up our team, these and a hundred more.

Of days of going home/to the hostel exhausted after practice, falling on the bed and not getting up until next day. Of waking up feeling like you never slept and then proceeding to drag your ass to class for attendance. Of  stretching your arm to pick up that book to prepare for a test, then deciding against it because it hurts too much. Of missing calls and weddings and reunions and parties and hangouts and deadlines you didn’t even know existed because college doesn’t revolve around class/department or anywhere close to it anymore. Of a day when it hurts because of a splintered arm or a wounded inside, or of a day when your mind’s a mess. Yet you pull yourself together and hug them all, go on stage and surprise yourself and you wonder how you did it.

Ours aren’t tales of wonder or awe but tales that reek of ache and compromise and are drenched in tears and sweat.

And if you remember those once-sore joints and overworked muscles that became a part of you, you’d know it isn’t surprising if miscomings do not deter the squad. And if you remember those relentless cramps and used up cans of Volini and almost-empty bottles of Murivenna and the Thirumals, you’d know how the show goes on no matter what.

Because nobody said it’d be easy. They just said it’d be worth it.


The best part about the team : Seniors. [And juniors and batchmates, just in case everyone’s reading this :P]

sree.pngAt the IIT IRCTC canteen. Clicking this was followed by tons of food and 6 hours of craziness.

Including a Shebin chetan and Gp who’ll make you laugh when you tearfully lose your first Sarang, then go on to play Anthakshari at the IRCTC canteen from 12 to 6 in the morning. And a Sreekanth, Arjun and Aswathy chechi without whom we wouldn’t have won the next time. Kickass seniors we have, yes 😀

I still remember our last SNIT fest from last year. Until then, I didn’t know there were engineering colleges with swimming pools atop beautiful hills, going where feels like a bloody awesome excursion trip. We were accompanied by Sreekanthetan’s Thor tee that came with us for every fest in its never-been-washed self with the excuse of being lucky. I remember how we loitered by the poolside and watched the familiar teams arrive, ran through the rain and took a million selfies in –finally – MY AWESOME NEW Lenovo phone.  And that’s the day Arjun got locked out of his house because he returned with his friend’s car past 12 midnight when he’d promised to return by 4 in the evening. He’s passed on the baton to Sangeeth now.

I remember returning home in Arjun’s car, the cool after-showers night air swept in as Devika chechi said, “Can’t believe this is the end for us final years” from the window seat. I can recall every little nuance from that trip. And I could recount every single detail from that day like it happened yesterday, perhaps cos it’s one of the best days of my life. No I do not throw superlatives around like shit.

That’s why it’s sad to know that it’s our turn now, that there’ll be no more routinely arranging and rearranging those desks and benches of A322. No more of sitting on the courtyard steps of LH with the rest of the girls, sipping tea while a familiar face asks, “Innu fest ondo?” No more standing on the surreal side of the stage while listening to the chorus of ‘CET’ or ‘Watch the Freakz’. That’s why it’s heart-breaking, because this was what we loved the most about college, and for some of us the only thing we loved.

Anu’s “erangiyooo” that transcends corridors and LH walls. Nami regularly ‘not sleeping’ on trains. KDP’s push-cart and his forever-cool. All the times when Anjaly got – undopingly – stoned 😀 Burping after eating too much of Nipun’s biriyani – oh wait, there’s always another Ragam. Pratheeksha’s slapstick remarks and AAAAAYYYY. Akshay’s adventures with meen. I’ll try my best to not miss Nany or Nikita though, they can do the missing themselves, as long as no curtains are destroyed.

Whenever I chance upon If I Lose Myself, I’ll remember the rainy days at the studio dancing with Jithu and the others and the unfinished story of our group duet.

I’ll miss waking up half-dazed in the morning, trying hard to remember if we sweated too much during previous day’s practice because otherwise – never mind – I’ll miss stuffing freshly washed practice dress into my college bag every morning 😛

I’ll miss ringing up Arjun before practice on weekends and nagging juniors to drop me home and listening to Hari and Sangeeth and Arjun’s stories (Hari’s the nicest kid around btw did I mention).

I’ll miss the workout chit-chats and the Ladies’ Hostel – my version of it, anyway. I’ll miss #64 during practice breaks and Sreelekshmi and Lekshmi. I’ll miss Aswathy and her tales of her brother. I’ll miss seeing Nanditha around the dept, I’ll miss her ransacking my bag for shit in the evenings, I’ll miss sharing upper berths in general compartments and talking until the apoopan below politely asks if we’d like to shut up and sleep.

I’ll miss Ginu – from class, from #48,  from A322,  from her home and her beautiful family in Aluva, wrapping ourselves up in early morning buses to offset shivering to death, but mostly the one who plays with paper rockets and engages in mindless monologues.

All the triples while being squashed in between or holding on for dear life at the edge, of jingling coins in pockets and asking around for loose change to add up to 10 for one lime at chechikada for a team of 21, of surprisingly never missing a 4am alarm to beat and cook 20 eggs before morning trains, of journeys dotted with umpteen stories told and retold, of seniors’ unexpected visits and juniors pestering for treats.

And somewhere in between laughing our asses off at each other’s hilarious military poses and our old age acting-‘workshops’, between tying Nany/Arjun etan’s hair to create pretty girls and ‘Practise at 10’ every Saturday, between Hari dubiously handling someone’s schoolbag at his tuition and an 8th standard KDP crushing on his teacher’s daughter, between sitting down with Vivek etan or Sreejith sir listening to their stories and Anjaly’s updates about Goldfather,  between those train rides to Madras and cycling through forest-lined campus roads at 4 am, I guess we all fell in love with this team a bit more than we knew.

That’s why I love this place, because it gave me people who could turn my days around. It gave me a bunch of faces who made mine light up with a beaming smile every time I saw them, because they’re a piece of that part of my life where I found happiness of a sort I didn’t yet know existed.


 

There are certain things that’ll come across your way in life, you’d just know it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime gambles that’ll change the shades of your day. Maybe it’ll repaint your black and white hues with a tinted rainbow, or maybe it’ll turn the sepia pages into an orchestra of brilliant strokes. You won’t know if it’ll be for the better or for worse, you won’t know what exactly would come out of it – a lot like when you fall in love. It’d look unfamiliar, maybe even a little daunting, yet intangibly amazing at the same time. And once you’ve tasted it there’s no going back to the way you were before, because nothing less real will do.

Years down the lane, I’ll perhaps bump into an old costume or a random picture of the team, or a can of brown hair-spray or an unlikely orange stocking hung out, or a wedding playing Bella’s lullaby that’ll send forth a deluge of memories. And I’d pause and ponder for a minute or two, about how we spent days and nights of college days within a class room coloured in our sweat atop the main block, how we fought for that last bite of LH sandwich or the last sip from bottles of water, how we watched the rain from the shady corridors and dozed off on our dance room’s cool floor after practice, how we travelled from college to college ticketless in trains and wrapped together in buses, how we shed tears together and laughed a hell of a lot more.

And how within the boundless walls of our team, seniors and juniors dissolved into family.

I don’t know if I’ll tear up then. I don’t know if Pratheeksha and Nipun would have kids by then.

But I know I’ll smile as I remember, this was the best thing that happened to me. To us.

 13048163_1050189105054123_8229974287425393695_o.jpgTeam Watch the Freakz in 3.2.1. GO!

 

 

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