On August 5th, AIIS Pune hosted its cultural program. Dan, my flatmate in Pune, was the student coordinator and was part of about half of the acts. He did a superb job.
I, on the other hand, did not want any part in the thing. Performing ain’t my cup of tea. Been there, done that – as they say – and I did not like it one bit. People can always find retorts to my professed dislike of performance: “But isn’t teaching a performance?” “Don’t you ever present papers?”, etc. But circumstances being different, those comments are really inapplicable to performance in a cultural program.
I ended up being coerced into appearing in the Antyakshari. This is a game in which two individuals or two teams try to best each other. One team recites a Sanskrit verse and the other team has to recite a new verse that begins with the last consonant of the previous verse. (There can be variations around that basic scheme.) The teacher who “asked” me to appear in it was quite clear that her “request” was “the advice of a king”, which cannot be ignored.
In addition to that, I also ended up manning the computer that was used to display video clips and play sound clips. This happened because the projector to be used in the show was made available to the students only minutes before the show was to begin. Dan had everything on his Mac, presumably knew pretty well what had to be done and had the right software installed. But his Mac would not connect to the projector. At the last minute, we had to transfer everything to a PC. This involved converting movie formats since the PC did not have the same software as the Mac. We had to make a few attempts before we could find a format that would play on the PC and look ok. Then we found out that the Quicktime player on the PC could not do fullscreen. There were other hiccups while we were trying to get everything working.
I was supposed to operate the computer only for one act but somehow I ended up doing it for almost all acts that needed computer support. Now, you have to realize that I had not been part of any rehearsals so all of what the students were doing was just as new to me as it was to the audience. I was pretty much getting information on the spot as to what clips were to be played, etc. So yeah, a few small mistakes were made. More aggravating was that the PC we were using had not been prepared for this kind of job. Some problems that would have been quite solvable had we have time could not be solved while the show was going on. We could, for instance, have tried to get a player that does fullscreen or export the movies to another format. This was made even more aggravating by the numerous wiseasses who decided to play the role of backseat drivers. I had to tell people about a dozen times that “no, the player cannot be put into fullscreen mode”, “yes, this is the right music; that’s the one they gave me”.
I did not really enjoy the performances since I had to almost continuously worry about the darn computer. It is only after the students were done performing that I was able to relax and that the evening became pleasant.