Everybody in the audience was mesmerised by the spectacle of lights. Not Anushree.
As soon as she completed her song, Anushree didn’t know from where she mustered enough courage to look up to her mother’s face. She could surmise what the visage on her mother’s countenance would be. And she wasn’t mistaken. It was what it had to be when you lost your tempo in the middle of the performance plus missing out on a low-pitch note completely, twice in succession. This was the first of two stages of the Elimination Round. Her mother’s face looked drained. Reluctantly, she turned. To face the jury.
“Anushree, do you think you did well?”
It was an expected question. She gave it a thought on what to say. The director of the show had showed her the statistics of the SMS votings she had received. And it didn’t look impressive. The director had suggested an alternative to boost up her “rating” – cry.
Tears were at the brink of her eyes, ready to gush out at her command.
“Anushree is a very talented girl. But we think it was not Anushree’s day today. You could’ve done a better job.You lost the tempo in so-and-so stanza and tone modulation too wasn’t upto the mark in so-and-so section.............”
Anushree couldn’t hear any more. The whole amount of lightings was now blinding her. She longed....for a drop of water, a grotesque statuette in front of a hundred pairs of blazing eyes. Even before those words thrust into her brains like shrapnels, she felt her consciousness deserting her.
The microphone which fell from her hand as she fell, send reverberations across the studio.
The director didn’t “cut” even as Anushree fell. In fact, he was elated at her “outstanding performance.” After all, he had “taught” her just to cry, look melancholic. And here was someone doing a better job than he expected. He was continuously motioning to the cameras panning onto the anxious judges’ face, to take shots of the gaping audience as well. Her fellow contestants came rushing onto the stage, and a significant majority of them succeeded in displaying a glance of their faces onto the ever zooming camera lenses.
Even after Anushree was moved from the stage, the sober mood of the session was sustained by the anchor, who the director reflected, very efficiently sensed the pulse of the show. The adjudicators focussed on Anushree’s flashback performances. And one of them even went on to the extent of saying that she was one of the most talented performers in the whole bunch of contestants.
It took quite some time for Anushree to regain consciousness. She glanced around to the faces of her fellow participants-envy and jealousy were implanted all over their expressions. Instead, her “performance” after a flopped performance, gave new ideas to many of her co-contestants, in case something goes wrong. The director too was overjoyed-he got a few amazing moments, which could be used in the show’s advertisements. And he conveyed that with a gleaming nod, to Anushree’s mother.
But the tension on the face of Anushree’s mother still lingered. She knew that Anushree’s SMS ratings were on the decline. And the revalation that “buying” SMSes with their dwindling bank balance sheets was becoming a bleak possibility, set the direction for her thoughts. Calls continued to pour to and from her mobile phone. And her father, who was running around trying to obtain economically viable solutions to the same problem, never stood by for a moment and thought...about Anushree.
That Anushree needed them the most. Then.
Even after they reached home, Anushree’s mind was still pre-occupied with the whole debacle. She often sobbed when she rehearsed the song, the one she had chosen had a sombre tone. She didn’t know why she was crying. In fact, more and more she went through the song, the more she felt that she was isolated in the world.
She despised an alien world. She did.
No sooner had her mother gone to the club, Anushree closed her room door and fell onto her bed. She reflected, sobbing all the while, that she had lost her childhood in her race behind learning and music; rather books and music competitions. She found it hard to recollect a few faces of her kindergarten classmates, whom she once thought she’ll never forget. She saw a small butterfly trapped in the mesh cover of her French windows. She made herself to rise up and go to the window. The little butterfly was making fruitless efforts to disentangle itself from the trap it was in. Wiping her tears, she freed it and opened the windows. Her gaze followed the butterfly as it happily burst off into distant world....into freedom. Into life....And seeing that, as if in frenzy, Anushree screamed and ran off into her bed. She thought she would find some solace under her blanket, hugging her dear cotton pillow. But it was not to be. The cartoon characters imprinted on her bedsheet seemed to mock her.
She discovered some noise in her screaming. To get away. To get out. She felt as if her small world-something that till recently comprised of her mother and father other than herself, had become a mere Utopian concept. The song for the next performance was filtering its way into Anushree’s ears from the Sony music system at the corner of her room. Armed as if by a divine courage, she caught hold of the nearest book she could grasp and threw it at the music system. And she got all the more infuriated when she saw that the music had not stopped in spite. Getting up from the bed, she charged down her room, lifted the music system and threw it on the wall.
As the music ceased to emanate from the “music system” anymore, Anushree for the first time in days, felt relieved.
Armed with her bedsheet, she wriggled her way onto the final stage-one final elimination. Her ears seemed to throng with reverberations of claps from the audience....her eyes seemed to visualise cameras panning in upon her from all possible range of angles. The sobbing picture of her parents made the close up.... wet towels of her relatives formed the long range shot.....And the background was subdued with a solemn song.
The wings of the ceiling fan proved strong enough.
At the recording studio, the director motioned “Start camera rolling...action!” A dark colour clad adjudicator pronounced the verdict, “Anushree Suresh....age sixteen....eliminated from the show.”