The Debut Night

As the practice came to an end Joshna’s thoughts wavered and she began missing the crucial end steps. Her partner Sadanand and teacher Vaidehi looked on with concern. “What’s bugging you, Joshna?” asked Sadanand. “I don’t know, Sada.” responded Joshna, visibly upset and obviously angry. She began to walk away from them, took a bottle of water and paced the floor to and fro. Sadanand and Vaidehi let her be.

Joshna was preparing to debut on the ballet stage at a concert in the town hall the next evening. “I think it’s just nerves, Madam.” Sadanand tried to reassure Vaidehi. “I can understand that but she has been missing the end steps the whole of this week. I think something is bothering her. She should be stealing the show tomorrow night and if she continues to be like this I don’t know what will happen,” Vaidehi lamented. “Please talk to her.” she  implored. Sadanand shook his head and concurred.

The dancer-pair made efforts to sign off after the gruelling final practice session. They had practiced the entire grand pas de deux starting with the entree, the adagio, the solo variations and finally the coda. It was at the culmination of the coda that Joshna had missed steps each day that week.  Sadanand was zipping his bag when he looked Joshna in the eye. “Are you going to tell me what’s at the back of your mind? Tomorrow is so important for you, you know that.” he admonished her. Joshna’s eyes began to well up and her lips trembled. Her bag fell off her hands as she ran to the window, hiding her tears from Sadanand.

She turned back and muttered, “I don’t know if I want to make this debut, Sada.” Joshna and Sadanand went a long way back and she was the only person who addressed Sadanand as Sada. Sada meant always in Hindi and and like that, he was always there for her, through the ups and downs. “2012 comes flooding back. I wake up every morning with a shiver and go to bed with a heavy heart.” she continued. “Look Joshna, you have to get over the past. Just by thinking about it, you can be carried away. So I want you not to think about it. Just hold my hand, that’s all you need to do.” Sadanand advised her.

Three years back a disturbing incident on the stage had left Joshna petrified and she had abandoned what was to be her debut and had run away from the venue. The past was haunting and taunting her at the same time, she had felt for the past week. At the start of the rainy season, she was bubbly and visibly excited to don the pointed shoes again and chase her dreams. She had practiced patiently and diligently with Sadanand and Vaidehi but things were nearly falling apart, or so she felt.

“Hold your hand, oh yes. That’s all I have to do, but I don’t know if I will be able to do that even.” Joshna said. “Trust me, you will be able to.” Sadanand assured her, squeezing her shoulders gently.

They ate together that evening – a light dinner at their favorite eatery. Joshna regained some of her bubbly self and then Sadanand dropped her off home. “Tell my hi to Malathi aunty.” Sadanand said as he wished her goodnight. “Yeah, will do. Goodnight.” As she saw Sadanand drive back, she began to think about the simple words he had uttered – Hold my hand. It was really spot on. If only I held his hand in that grand pas de deux, everything would work out fine. She mentally readied herself as she wished her mother a good night’s sleep and retired to her room.

Joshna went through the music notes for the concert, made some notes on her journal and set a reminder on her mobile phone to read those notes again the next morning. When she glanced outside her room, she saw the rains had left little mists on the window pane. As she went closer, she felt as if the cold was creeping through the glass and into the room. Joshna shivered and her thoughts began to waver, again. No, not now, she controlled herself. She imagined holding Sadanand’s hand and felt immediately better.

The morning came with bright sunshine, one that had not been seen for the past couple of days. As the sun shone through the window and hit Joshna’s eyes, she was agitated and slowly rubbed her eyes and woke up. She felt good, in fact, so good that she did not shiver for the first time in a week. That’s a good start, she commended herself and smiled. She re-read the notes from the previous night and felt even better as the day progressed. By afternoon, she was cracking jokes and had a spring in her steps, Sadanand noticed as they met at the dance school. There would be no practice, but they would talk each step of the performance, which was a unique style Vaidehi had developed to instill a sense of ease into her students before a big performance.

As the afternoon sun shed its warmth, some grey clouds began to build up. As if on cue, Joshna began to feel uneasy again. H-O-L-D M-Y H-A-N-D – Sadanand had mouthed as he saw the slightest change in Joshna’s demeanor. That seemed to perk her up.  They got ready and set off for the venue, wished by Vaidehi and the other teachers and students in the dance school.

The venue was getting almost full as they reached. ‘Tonight’s going to be jam-packed,” remarked Sadanand. “Yeah, looks like it.” agreed Joshna making sure to smile at Sadanand. He could sense her smile vanish in an instant as her eyes searched the far end of the venue. “Come on, let’s get our costumes on. We have only 45 minutes left.” Sadanand suddenly took Joshna’s hand and walked into the changing rooms. He did not forget to say a silent prayer.

By the time the curtains were up, Joshna and Sadanand had heard that a staggering 1,075 people had turned up to watch the concert. The crowd cheered as the dancers appeared on stage for the entree. The dancers then prepared for the adagio. The crowd erupted as Joshna’s elegant movements were complemented by Sadanand. They performed the pirouettes and the lift with aplomb. As the show made way for the variations, Sadanand was the first to perform acrobatic leaps followed by Joshna. As the variations came to an end, Joshna’s eyes began to show fear and there was an unmistakable knot in her stomach. Sadanand’s words rang like bells in her ears, reminding her of the task she had to do in the coda.

The dancers started the coda well as the crowd appreciated each of their moves. Joshna kept her cool but her eyes still showed fear. She cleverly pointed out to Sadanand towards the left section of the audience and he could see what she was being afraid of – that man again! They quickly regained their composure and continued the coda steps. The culmination was nearing and Joshna had Sadanand’s words ringing in her ears again. She held his hand and they danced the climax of the performance perfectly to an accompaniment of a superb music. They had done it! She had done it! Joshna felt proud of herself but Sadanand had felt even prouder. She had followed his advise perfectly.

The crowd gave a standing ovation and as they acknowledged the crowd’s gesture, they could see a couple of policemen whisking a guy off with handcuffs on. They looked at each other and smiled.