“Mrs. Vyas, Natasha is a very bright student, but I fail to understand why she’s so timid at her age! I mean, she’s in ninth standard.”
Natasha’s class teacher, Anita Mathur had called me for a special meeting and after a few pleasantries, she’d come to the main point. It was only the two of us and I was grateful we were not having this conversation in front of my daughter.
Anita affixed further.
“Mrs. Vyas, we are only two months shy of our annual day, and principal ma’am has selected Natasha for the lead role because she’s got a perfect face for the character. But if she can’t speak two complete sentences in front of four people during practice, how will she perform on stage, in front of five hundred parents?”
I bit my lip, trying to comprehend the situation. Yes, my Natasha was a little reserved, nonetheless I didn’t want her to miss this golden opportunity. Clearing my throat, I began carefully,
“Ms. Anita, thank you so much for your concern. I really appreciate you taking personal interest in my daughter’s well being. Please give me some time, I will help out Natasha at home and make sure she stands up to your expectations.”
When Natasha came home after school, I gave her some time to refresh and relax. Later, I sat with my evening tea and pushed the hot chocolate towards her. A couple of sips later, she was the first one to break the silence.
“Mom, I know why Ms. Anita called you to school today. She must be complaining about my poor dialogue practice, isn’t it?”
I took her hand in mine and said gently, “Darling it’s true that she called me regarding your practice sessions, but dear, she wasn’t complaining. She was worried for you.”
Natasha lowered her gaze and shook her head as tears welled up in her eyes. I could see she was choking while opening her heart to me. “I know all my dialogues mom. But I can’t seem to voice it out with expressions. I don’t know why I become so nervous.”
Putting my arm around her shoulder, I brought her close to me.
“Natu, baby, are you scared of something?”
She was still clogged with emotions.
“Even before I say my lines, I feel as if all are scrutinizing and judging me. Then I feel so skittish that my voice dies in my throat.”
Studying in an IGCSE school, her language skills were excellent. Even on a daily basis she spoke so beautifully that it amazed me. I didn’t want her to stay behind in other fields either. Determined to pull her out of her shell, I hugged her and patted her back.
“Natu, don’t lose heart baby. Let’s google some techniques and I want you to practice at home with me. Is that okay with you?”
She wiped her tears and glanced at me. “You know mom, this is my last annual day.”
“Yes my love, let’s work on it and make it the most memorable one. Alright?”
And the marathon began. I surfed through the net and found some ideas which might help.
“Natu, I want you to say some of your dialogues like you are supposed to, and I’m going to record your performance. Then we’ll replay it and see where you need to improve.”
She took a deep sigh and began. I noticed her body was very stiff and she hardly used any gestures. Her voice wasn’t much of an issue. When we replayed the recording, she realised it herself.
“Sweetie, try practicing your lines in front of the mirror. So, on an ongoing process you’ll be able to see your expressions and revise them.”
I finished all my work before Natasha came home and then we began. Religiously, we practiced everyday. She liked the idea of recording and we did it quite often. Sometimes I read her dialogues and she observed.
“Natu, I think you are too static at one place, use the space around and move a little. And why are your hands in military attention? Use them to express yourself.”
And it went on. Slowly but steadily I could see an improvement in her. No calls came from school and I assumed she was doing well there too. One weekend I invited a few close friends of hers and requested her to perform in front of them. She was apprehensive at first,
“Mom, you should have asked me before calling them!”
“Natu, this will fill up the gap in your confidence if any. On stage, remember you are not Natasha, you are Ms. Watson. Blend in your character and do what Ms. Watson is supposed to do in the story.”
She breathed a ragged sigh, but finally agreed. She was far better than day one. Moreover, when her friends applauded her, there was a big smile on her face.
The ‘the day’ was eventually here.
“All the best my girl. I’m sure you’ll do a brilliant job.”
“Thank you so much mom!”
Sitting in the audience, I was anxiously waiting for the curtains to open. Keeping my fingers crossed, I was praying hard for all to go well. Butterflies were literally doing somersaults in my stomach. Practicing at home and on stage were poles apart. On Natasha’s entry, I could barely recognise her. With make-up and costume, she looked like a gorgeous young woman.
She wasn’t flawless. Nevertheless, she had come a long way from what she was, to now when she was into the character and performing on stage. I was proud of my girl just the same. At the end of the show, when all were filling out, I couldn’t stop my grin when I heard a nearby lady say,
“I liked Ms. Watson’s character the best. She was too good.”
We had won the battle!!