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Mysterious Disappearances 
Chapter 15

By Nirupama Akella

Back to Chapter 14

 Fusion Adventures

“OK, girls! That was good,” Parul said clapping her hands. “What do you think, Ma’am?” she said looking at the teacher.

Ms. Choudhary, the Drama Club Coordinator said slowly, “It is fine but they need more practice.” She paused looking at her long shapely fingernails and continued, “ I think Suchi looks self consciousness when saying all those romantic lines, declaring her love to that fellow.”

Parul nodded frowning and said, “Ma’am, are you sure Kanchan Shah will keep her word and deliver the costumes tonight?”

“Oh, yes. She always keeps her promises -- You better talk to Suchi. We can’t have her looking all uncomfortable during the final show.”

“What about Kriti? I think she can do with a little more emotion in her dialogues.”

“Hmm…” Seema Choudhary pondered this and said shortly, “Well, see to it, Parul -- I am going to my quarters now.”

“Thank you Ma’am,” said Parul watching her leave the auditorium. She then turned her attention to the eight girls, now sitting on the cushioned audience seats and, said loudly, “Well done! All of you were good but can do better. Remember the play is the first item to be staged and so we have to be brilliant.”

“‘When are the costumes coming, Parul?” asked Shyama, languidly, who played the lead heroine’s mother in the play.

“Tonight and most probably we’ll have two dress rehearsals before the D- day!” Parul said. Pausing briefly, she continued, “There are some things I like to discuss with each of you individually -- now please remember this play is a team effort, OK! So, everyone’s performance depends on the other…”

They all nodded seriously. Parul continued her monologue, “'Suchi, as Cecily you are perfect but perhaps more at ease mouthing those romantic dialogues to your hero…”

Suchi giggled, her short dark hair falling on one fair cheek and said,”‘Imagine me professing love and undying devotion to Puja…”

Puja Singhalya grinned saying. “Well…even I don’t feel like hugging you and calling you “dearest.”

“Girls, please! You have to do it for the play,” Parul said, hands to her head. She continued, now adjusting her spectacles, “And Kriti please sound more disapproving and shocked when Jack hopes to marry your daughter.”

The plump rosy cheeked girl nodded and said, ‘I have to go now, it’s getting dark and I live far.”

Parul nodded and continued dispensing her comments Some listened with eyes closed while, some took notes. Soon, one by one they filtered out leaving Parul alone with her problems.

 Outside darkness was slowly enveloping the surroundings and the sky. In the hostel room, Lata sat bent over her desk, deep in concentration, writing another short PR article, this time for the local news magazine. Studies had momentarily taken a back seat the past one week, as Fusion fever had gripped the college. Lata frowned, pen in mid air -- in front of her lay a list of all the activities and stalls -- a play -- a classical Indian dance -- a street theatre -- an art exhibition -- a musical dance drama -- choir songs -- seminars and presentations on relevant social themes and economic issues -- a lucky dip stall -- a puppet show -- a kite making stall — a merry go round -- food stalls.

 Lata sighed. The door opened and Shiksha walked in bearing    papers of research,. Lata arched her brows and said, “So, how is your writing going?”

“Pretty well.”

“The show spans over three days right?” Shiksha said plopping on her bed.

“Yeah, from 24th to the 26th -- with both days inclusive- on the first day you have Parul’s play and on the last day you have my presentation on globalization and technology in the Audio Visual room.”

“I spoke to Ms. Chadda and volunteered to sell tickets on the second day to the fair! Its only for small children... and Jyot. told me that she was playing some beggar in the street theatre on the last day….its going to be staged in the clearing before the lawns……near the tennis courts……and she volunteered for the organizational committee…. Such energy.” Shiksha paused to take a breathy and said, “she is still weak.”

“Its got nothing to do with adrenaline levels,” said Lata shortly. “For every event or club you volunteer for and participate in, you get a certificate.”

“So how many are you going to get?”

“Two -- one for being an active member of the PR club, and another for giving the presentation,” said Lata counting on her fingers.

Shiksha said, frowning, “And how many will Parul get?”

“Two, I think.”

“Two…” Shiksha’s brows dissolved into her hairline. “But she is only directing one play…”

“Yeah, but now she is the director and since the costume director has been laid up in bed with flu -- Parul has taken on that responsibility as well…”

“So she will get two…” said Shiksha.

“Right and so will Jyot. You, on the other hand will get only one.”

“Hey,” Shiksha cried indignantly. “I didn’t know about this certificate business.”

“But now you do.”

“So, I will volunteer for another -- no, two other events -- maybe volunteer for the stalls. Then I will get three certificates,” Shiksha mused aloud.

“The merry go around and the puppet show?” queried Lata grinning wickedly.

“Maybe, I will go and find out,” Shiksha said. She stalked out of the room like a leopard after its prey. Lata shook her head and went back to her writing.

The days flew by and soon the D- day had arrived. The college looked as festive and vibrant as ever, throbbing and pulsating with anticipation, excitement and activity. In true accordance to the PR articles, the college was a hub of activity -- the social halo -- the meeting ground of various Dehradun educationists, socialites and political big wigs!

The show started precisely at nine and passes were duly checked at the front gate- the fair was not about to start till ten in the morning -- cars were duly parked and parking tickets issued respectively as college students and the security guards kept strict vigil over the front gate proceedings. The college usherers were dressed in vivid hues of the rainbow, symbolizing the myriad diverse faces of Indian culture and art! Inside, there was bustle and a vivacity seldom experienced on working days. Two seniors clad in similar rainbow attire held counter at the main garden, giving the guests pamphlets and instructions on where to go and what to see. At each concerned building, girls stood in various positions ready to direct wayward invitees.

At the auditorium entrance stood Sister Prudence with her entourage of loyal supporters and colleagues. The play was a huge success. Parul was visibly delighted as the applause deafened the walls of the cool dark auditorium. Outside, movable trolleys of refreshments stood waiting. All in all, everything went off smoothly and as Parul remarked to Shiksha that night before retiring to bed, “Fusion simply escalated me to dizzying heights of critical acclaim and praise -- I have never experience anything like this in my entire academic life so far…”

But problems surfaced on the last day of the great event when the electricity failed and the street theatre was a huge disaster. Jyotsana was later to recall-- “everything started badly --  Hiran who was playing the antagonist had to jump and clutch me in anger and she did jump shouting her dialogue in frenzy, but sprained her ankle and fell with a thud on the rough ground. She scraped her knee and blood started making an appearance and she was whisked away from sight by Ms. Aggarwal. All four of us were a little shaken but we gamely carried on and Hiran soon came back limping a little and I truly felt that nothing else could go wrong. But then Geetika forgot her dialogues and no amount of prompting could make her remember. She just went completely blank and when in irritation our prompter cursed her calling her stupid, she blurted that out in front of the audience forgetting that the play was in the local dialect and not in English.

And then thankfully our miserable performance ended and the audience was served tea and cake which unfortunately was salty to the extreme. Someone in the kitchen had mixed salt instead of sugar!. In short, it was awful -- a horrible nightmare…. I prefer to erase the hours between nine and twelve in the morning from memory permanently.”

A few feet away, Shiksha and another girl got their fingers entangled in the strings and the whole puppet show came crashing down. The cardboard walls simply collapsed as the two girls struggled to salvage the puppets and entertain the small children. But to no avail, the children with their parents in tow left the tent in tears.

Lata Naidu shuffled her papers and started the projector. The Audio Visual room was packed to the capacity and this made her extremely nervous. Her presentation on Economic Globalization and Technology was the last item in the series of presentations held on the last day of the three day cultural carnival. The wall clock in the room on the wall opposite her struck five and she began slowly eyes fixated at the clock refusing to make eye contact with the audience.

In the audience Nandita Sharma sighed and struggled to pay attention. She had been up and about since ten in the morning talking incessantly to the hordes of guests who had been streaming into the college since morning hours. The street theatre had been a momentous disaster and in her private opinion had deviated from its moralistic code to an inconsequential and meaningless comedy. Nandita rubbed her eyes, stifling a yawn. She would have preferred to go to her room and lie down but Sister had made it compulsory for the staff to attend all the seminars and presentations -- till now there had been six in number and Nandita was sure that by now even Sister was losing steam!

Serial novel continued here.....