(Title fully and content mildly inspired by Stephen Leacock’s – My Financial Career – taught to us in Class XI (or some other class) CBSE English)
When I was in school I was a leader. I was a leader of outstanding ability, who took on great responsibility. (Ok, more like someone – who stood “outside” the classroom a lot and was “held responsible” for the general noise coming out of the classroom too.) Being a leader (called “Monitor” and not CDO (Class Discipline Officer) for some weird reason), I had to take several important roles. Like “maintaining silence” till the teacher came to class, or “conducting the assembly”.
A morning assembly at DAV Public School Patna, where I studied from Class II to VIII, (you know Roman Numerals don’t you?) was no ordinary session. We used to have chanting of Vedic Mantras (including the Gayatri Mantra – we never removed our shoes though – although when BIG B did that he got into trouble), followed by “The Pledge” (where we used to pledge among other things – “...all Indians are my brothers and sisters...”), Thought of the day (where we used to say some proverb or something – stuff you frequently see as Facebook statuses these days), News of the Day (prepared by diligently copying Headlines from the 8.30 News on DD the previous night – must be hard doing it now when you have to take the news from Arnab Goswami’s mouth), Poem of the Day (where students “by hearted” either English or Hindi poems from their text books – mainly to impress their teachers to give them more marks), Song of the Day ( patriotic songs written in the school diary – most of which were later found by me to be Hindi Film Songs – such as Hothon Se Choo lo tum, Itni Shakti Hume dena Data etc) and Shanti Path. Add to that, there was a drum – beaten to shift people from “Attention” to “Stand-at-Ease”.
I had been performing all roles (with elan I thought) apart from singing the Song of the Day, but was fairly certain of graduating to be able to do that. I had been confidently rattling off my shlokas with impeccable pronunciation (regular viewing of BR Chopra’s Mahabharat gave me the added edge) and my Shanti Path rendition was world famous in Patna. Some of my poem recitals had received spontaneous standing applause from the students (mainly because students had to stand during the assembly). I had a rich, baritone voice (although my mother kept insisting that it was a case of voice breaking during adolescence). I had a great stage presence (being “healthy” as a kid helped matters). My mother was an accomplished singer and so my genes were all right as well. All in all, my future as the next Kishore Kumar seemed well and truly on course.
In Class VI, a new Maths teacher – Mr Ram Kumar - arrived. He quickly went about impressing the girls by claiming that he was also a “famous singer” on All India Radio, Patna. Very soon, Math classes became part rehearsals for his next song on Radio (I exaggerate this part). And then the moment came. My turn came for “conducting the assembly” with the said Math teacher now playing a Harmonium next to me. I went about my business as a professional and delivered yet another great performance (I thought). And then I moved to the back to allow others to perform. I was taken aback a moment later, when the teacher hissed to me with clenched teeth – Don’t you ever come close to the mike again!! You don’t have the voice to sing!!! (Or something on those lines) My confidence in my voice was Shaken. And Stirred. And Snapped. And a lot more. My musical career received a devastating blow.
So that has been one blow I am yet to recover from. And while I have received offers from various sources, I have never again sung in public since that day, other than in group Antaksharis among friends, where I am found gently humming and lip-syncing.