It was the year 1970. Our school decided to take part in the inter-school group dance competition, conducted by the rotary club. I was in the eighth standard then and was already doing the dance drama for the annual concert of the school. Our dance teacher chose me to take part in the competition, with the lead role being assigned to me. I had my individual performance by myself on the stage, and later was to be flanked by two other dancers on two sides each. This was an Assamese Folk Dance for the competition.
With full gusto the dance practice began in the hall of our school. Our teacher worked hard with us participants and with me in particular. The individual part that I had to do, was the story of a woman who had lost her full family in the tea estate and was left alone. Mad with grief, with my hair open, there was a bit of drama in the dance in the first scene. I did my level best to do my part, as I was central to the whole dance. Even my dress was typical of the tea estate workers. I wore a skin color blouse to go with a black shawl wrapped around the torso till my knees. From adivasi women I had to procure, the age old chunky silver jewelry to go with the attire. This was possible, as these adivasi women were known to my mother, who would buy vegetables etc. from them. They would frequent our house now and then. Finally the day for the competition arrived.
Thunderous applause rent the air in the hall as the announcement was made after the program. “The 1st prize goes to Loreto Convent…”. Our Headmistress nun was there with us. We were literally swept off our feet to hear the news. It took us some time for the news to sink in. Our school participants sat together and one of my classmates Savita Singh, was sitting beside me. Mother, our Headmistress, came up to me and said,”You will go up to the stage to take the prize and certificates of participation.” Now Savita heard this and said, “Tum lambi ho na, isliye tumhe bola Mother ne.” I said nothing in reply.
The 1st prize was a large cup. I took the prize and came back to my seat. After a while Mother came to me and took the certificates from me. “You may take the cup to your home”, she said. I was overjoyed to hear that! There was a great sensation in the school, as well as the BIT Campus, when this news spread with the cup adorning a shelf at home.
Now this girl Savita had a friend in our class called Rita, who was also my friend. Couple of years later we did a rather long and complicated dance drama for the annual concert. It was a combination of Tagore’s “Kaalmrigaya” and Tulsidas’s “Ramayan” called “RAMVANGAMAN”. I had a main role that included enacting that part where young Dasharath, while hunting, kills the young boy Shravankumar by mistake. A bow and arrow was arranged for the scene and I practiced using it. The piano used to be on the right side of the stage, in the corner of the hall. I was advised to aim there as it would not injure anyone seated in the audience.
Rita’s mother came to see the program and liked it very much. She thought my name was Savita. “Savita ne toh bahut achcha naacha. Dekhne me bhi bohot achchi hai…” , she had conveyed to Rita at home later that night.
Next day Rita recounted the incident to me. She explained to her mother that the dancer she was referring to was not Savita but Sharmila. I was only too happy to hear aunty’s comments. Later I performed the Assamese Folk dance on other occasions alone, and received kudos for the same. It proved to be a milestone in my dancing career. Hard work pays off I guess. I bow down to my dance teacher who taught me so well. My pranams to you Sir. You are no more but your memories will always be there with an ardent student like me.