When the school first announced the Parents Day celebration and the fact that each child in the play group and nursery will perform something or other, I said, “Aww, how cute.” It ended at that. I was looking forward to it for a month, but I had no clue what song or dance my kid was going to perform. Avanee was going to school as usual, humming around and dancing around as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until one day, when the school put up a notice inviting the parents for a short meeting. Ah, there comes the costume list and other gyaan, I said. So much for ‘Parents Day’, I said. I’ll have to run around looking for costume vendors and buy that red thing to highlight her cheeks, I said. Hmph.

But here’s what the head of school told us:

“Parents, we have invited you today to prepare you for your child’s first stage performance. We have spent the past couple of weeks preparing the kids for their performance, and they have been doing a fabulous job, and I am certain they will do well on stage as well. But please do not push your child to show you the dance or sing for you at home. Let it be a surprise for you, and let the child not feel any pressure. Having said that, I’d also like to tell you that there is every possibility that children will get nervous and not perform at all once on stage. I urge you to take it in your stride. Please do not judge them or reprimand them in any way–take them for that ice cream even if they stand still on stage throughout the performance. In order to make them comfortable, we have not assigned any heavy costumes; all the performances require them to be dressed in everyday play clothes. No make up of any manner is involved, and we’re taking care of all the props. We request you not to get your cameras along as it distracts the children. We know you have the best gadgets, but please understand that the pictures you will have in your heart at the end of it all will be more precious. We have arranged for a photographer, nevertheless. Please just make sure that both the parents are present to enjoy the performance.”

That’s a first, I said; again reassured that Avanee was in the right school.

When Parents Day dawned, though, I had cold feet. Will she, won’t she? Contrary to my current appearance, I had been a performer throughout my school and college life. I took lessons in Bharatnatyam, and was in every dance on every occasion in school; I sang my way through high school and college. It will break a small bit of my heart if Avanee does not shake a bit on stage, I said to myself and to MK.

We dressed to look like proud parents (for once I was not in jeans and a tee) and went to the auditorium. Teachers greeted the kids and guided the parents to their seats. The stage was set. The moment we settled down, Avanee asked for her snack box. She munched her way through the first three song and dance performances. When it was time for her to go wait in the wings, I took the snack box away and she let out a screech. There goes everything, I said. She’s going to howl for her figs and biscuits on stage. I went back to my seat, held MK’s hand, and waited while Avanee and her classmates were plonked on the stage and arranged in strategic lines. Avanee was in the front row, right in the center, glowing in her pink and white jumpsuit in a sea of denim dungarees. Hey bhagwan. That used to be my position. WHAT IF?

A few kids wailed, their arms outstretched toward anticipating parents. A few looked lost and bored. Avanee was now quiet and was staring at the videographer in the distance. Suddenly the music came on, and almost as if someone had switched her on, Avanee began dancing. Her eyes lit up and her eyebrows were raised expressively. Where did she pick that up? She shook her waist and mouthed the song. She twirled and tapped her feet in rhythm and did every bit of justice to the song. I wept and clapped in joy and am trying very hard not to as I write this. As I got her back to her seat, a few parents appreciated her performance. MK was grinning from ear to ear and he talked about it all day.

I didn’t take a single picture, so I have nothing to show you, but if you are a parent, you know what I am talking about. And if you aren’t, I do hope you get to be one someday–just for this.