The spotlight was on me. I was trembling inside. It had nothing to do with butterflies in my stomach. I knew I was very good at what I did. I knew I could do this even in my sleep. But the exhaustion was almost killing me.
I glanced at my mother and father sitting at a distance. I saw nervous excitement in their eyes. My eyes swept past the crowd of people. They did not even register. Today was THE day!
“I don’t want to go, mom!” I said
“How can you say that? You know you have waited for this day for so long? We have worked so hard for it. And you are willing to throw it away?” her mom ranted.
She saw her mother’s famous temper surfacing. She knew what was next. But today she was in no mood to acquiesce.
“Not me, YOU! It is you who has always pushed me since the time when I didn’t even know what I wanted. I am but a puppet in your hands. You don’t care about my happiness. It is always about what you want! I hate you and dad for being pushy monsters. I want you to know that today.”
Slap! My mom’s hand hit the side of my face. She hit me twice more and dissolved into tears. Her phony tears made me hate her even more. She was about to lapse into her Nirupa Roy routine of name calling and emotional blackmail, all basically conveying that I was ungrateful and undeserving of her affection and all her efforts into honing my skills.
“You can beat me. But you can’t shut me up. I know exactly what or why you did what you did. You were a failure yourself and now you want me to compensate for that with success.”
Dad had walked in by now. They knew how to play the ‘bad cop good cop’ routine to perfection. He threw an admonishing look at my mom and came to me.
“You can’t talk to your mother like this. She has sacrificed so much for you. We both have. It’s your big day today — the Grand Finale! Just work on that. We will talk about this later,” he said.
I nodded. “I have the perfect revenge planned for you,” I thought.
I threw venomous looks in their directions, as I put my make up on for my performance. I was a trained classical singer. People called me a child prodigy with my silken voice and understanding of nuances of music.
I was all of 10 years old, but I felt at least two decades older. For as long back as I remembered, it had all been about music classes day in and day out. I started when I was 3. My mom lugged me to classes and back. I could never do anything like normal kids. I could not even enjoy silly childhood treats like ice creams.
I remember always being tired. Did anyone ask me what I wanted? This voice is a curse. I hate my success. I hate all these people. I hate my parents! I want to be a normal 10-year-old girl worrying about dresses and dolls instead of grueling classes and riyaz sessions. These days I missed my school. My studies have taken a hit, as I am now carted for stage shows and performances one after another. I will never ever have the education I wanted. I am trapped. I am a prisoner of this society that only sees my talent and glosses over the little girl in the bargain.
My thoughts were interrupted with loud cheers and clapping. I came out of my reverie. I was back on stage, done with my performance which was a winner yet again. My doting parents were by my side hugging me, meticulous in front of the cameras.
I had the evil pleasure of knowing that this was for the very last time.
Inside, I was shedding bitter tears for a childhood lost. If only life had panned out differently, and I did not have to end it this way. That was my last thought, as I collapsed.
Finally I was at peace!