The first thing that came to my mind, when I had finished speaking over the phone, was that I aught to plan better. Stop thinking all the time that God was on my side looking out for me. I aught to think ahead, I aught to plan. Not take life as it came and not let chance decide what and who and with who I was when I was 40, 60 or 90. Otherwise, "Tera kuch nahin hoga, Kalia!"
If not all these thoughts, at least a deep disappointment with myself, that I had not forseen the likelihood of such an event happening, filled me. "All tickets for today sold out. Only a few remaining for tomorrow, won't last more than an hour. And we don't have an afternoon show tomorrow".
I had been looking forward, all week, to this new play from Girish Karnad, "Flowers". Last time I had tried watching it, my car had broken down on the way. God knows when the play might come to Bangalore again. But then, it was pointless travelling 20 kms or so only to be told that the tickests for tomorrow were sold out too. Afterall, it was just another play. A monologue at that. Not my kind of play at all. Why should I bother.
After wasting more than fifteen minutes dallying, I decided I would go afterall. There could be someone looking to sell their extra ticket. Or atleast I could get a ticket for tomorrow. Or atleast it would be fun to drive this wonderful spring evening.
So I drove. The spring evening was quite warm, and the pollution made me close the windows. My feet began to sweat (rubber sandals, bad investment). I had to take off my sandals and direct the fan outlets of the car to my feet.
The traffic was better than weekdays, but worse than on Sundays, and cyclists and scooterists kept cutting me. I honked, uncharacteristically, but not vehemently. I had given up all hope, actually. A Girish Karnad play in Blore. No chance! I had reconciled myself to having a tea and buying a Wodehouse at the bookstore at Rangashankara. But still I was optimistic. Only the week before last was I selling an extra ticket myself. There are often too many people who want to sell extra single tickets than there are takers, I told myself. A result of relatively cheap tickets at Ranga Shankara.
I seemed to be getting stuck in traffic at the non-usual places. Which irritated me. Afterall, had I not squeezed past all the orange signals. Then why all this first-gearing? But still I was calm, practising some new-learned raag, wondering if the komal gandhar was ok (I am showing off here), for ultimately I did not expect much from this evening. Stoicism is a wonderful thing.
The traffic inched forward and presently I could see more and more pretty girls on the sidewalk, which means I was in Jaynagar and close to Rangashankara. But I kept my eyes on the road. And my feet on the accelerator - well atleast as far as the traffic allowed me to.
The first thing I did was to buy a ticket for Sunday. Today's tickets were indeed sold out, but they still had wads of tickets for tomorrow. And it had been more than 1.5 hrs since I had made that call. These guys are shrewd liars.
The second thing I did was to get myself a tea. Then I settled myself near the ticket counter and waited for my quarry. The tiger in the forest. A picture of alert nonchalance. I wanted to watch the play today if I could. I didnt want to travel 20 kms again tomorrow, if I could help it.
I was looking for people who would be rushing to the counter, tickets in hand, anxious about not wasting the hundred bucks. But all I found were people rushing to the counter empty handed, or with money in their hands, getting disappointed and returning with tickets for tomorrow.
But I drank my tea in peace. I'll watch the play tomorrow, I thought. A backup option is a wonderful thing.
There were a couple of girls looking for tickets too. They spoke bong. One of them was displaying the classical courtship gesture-clusters described in the body language book which I had been reading at friend's house. But I had excuse for inaction. More than one ticket would be impossible to secure.
I don't know what people thought of me. I was scrutinizing everyone with a desperate, searching eye. As if I was Mowgli seeing other people for the first time in my life.
I should have seen her, for she was the kind of person I was looking for. Tickets in hand and money on the mind. But she was too fast for me. In a moment her extra ticket was taken. Some girl at the ticket counter had bagged it. Drat!
It was 7.15, and they opened the auditorium. The crowd rushed inside. Now I would have an easier time. Only the interested parties and the late comers would be left behind. Easier to scan. The rest would take their places inside. And, hopefully, the hopes of delayed friends turning up would finally be given up and there would be more extra-tickets in the market.
There was competition for me too, mind you. But this was from couples or bigger groups. I had the advantage over them. I needed just one ticket.
The outside of the auditorium began to fill with fragrant smoke, dhuup
. I guessed it was part of the play's setting. I had noticed handfuls of jasmine in the toilet. The producers wanted to offer a complete experience, it appeared. It would be too bad to miss it.
The smoke must have caused distress to some honey bees somewhere, however. They started gathering at a light next to where I was sitting. I am used to honeybees. They are generally harmless. But one fellow in his hunt for clean air started buzzing near my ears. I had to get up, move away and shed some of my nonchalance.
Meanwhile, I struck a deal with a girl. She had one ticket, wanted one for her boyfriend. She agreed to sell me her ticket if she did'nt get one herself. This was something, but still I had to be wary. She capturing any available single ticket would be disaster for me. This girl went around charming people, asking all and sundry if they had an extra ticket. I found my hopes diminishing in the presence of such aggressive shopping. But what the hell, I had tomorrow's ticket as backup afterall.
It was 7.25 and I felt the urge to gently counsel the girl that it was too late and she better part with her ticket. At this time I spied a slightly overweight chap, clutching a ticket and rushing towards the counter, with the desperation of a North Indian bridegroom who was late for his own wedding because his mare had bolted. Hmm. I pounced on him like the anxious father of the bride.
You have an extra ticket?
Almost before he had said yes, I had snatched it from him, taken out my wallet, handed him a hundred ruppee note. And said, here you go. "You are welcome" he said.
The girl's boy friend had seen this interchange in shock. I left him bemoaning (perhaps) the vagaries of fortune as I rushed to return my tea glass and enter the auditorium as the second bell rang.
The hall was thick with dhuup
. Rajat Kapoor sat with his back to the audience on an elevated pedestal. The effect of him standing above the audience would have been grand, but I only got a seat in the back row. From there he was at eye-level.
I inhaled the fragrant smoke in grateful nosefuls. I wondered briefly whether the girl and her boyfriend would find another ticket.
Violet beams of light had lit up the stage. There was a huge heap of jasmine (I am sure the jasmine only covered something huge) and a big, shallow copper vessel, representing the temple tank. This was a play about perversion, well, in a way. And I, unlike Freud, am sympathetic to perversion. I looked forward to the next ninety minutes.
Amdist silence, and with a long pause, the play, the monologue, began....