Ghumi Stories

The Other Side of the Curtain

By Nabanita Sengupta

Raya had always seen Sunny with one leg bent at such an angle that made walking a difficult process. But she was so used to seeing him as such that it had never struck her as anything unusual. The boy had a happy face that never failed to cheer her up whenever they met. So that day when she was feeling particularly miffed with the world, a chat with Sunny was all she wanted. The reason for her sudden dip in mood was the forthcoming annual function of her school. When was the last time that she did not participate in the school annual programme? But this year Madam Rawat did not select her for any of the performances. The play that her class was doing had only one female character and that role went to Pankhuri Sharma. Wasn’t it a conspiracy against her!

— But she can’t even speak a single line properly!

Raya complained to Sunny. Sunny smiled at her, his eyes displaying wisdom much beyond his eleven years. He was Raya’s classmate, her best friend, her companion in their short walk to school, yet somewhere he was way ahead of her in understanding and patience. Perhaps in denying him the use of one limb God had given him these qualities in ample amount to survive in this complex and selfish world of negotiations. The time that children of his age spent in running about, Sunny contemplated – thoughts from all parts of the world congregated in his mind, and he coloured them with his imagination and experience. Raya of course didn’t understand all this. To her Sunny was the comfort zone where she could release all the pent up emotions of her life. His words had magic and she always found the world better after a little chat with him.

She continued with her rantings against Pankhuri and Rawat ma’am on their way to school along the fiery orange corridor of the palash and krishnachura. Sunny listened, without interrupting her tirade. Few minutes later she was already feeling better, after pouring out her brooding heart to a sympathetic listener.

“What would Elizabeth Jane do in this situation?”

He remarked casually after she had calmed down a bit. But she didn’t fail to notice the mischievous twinkling in his eyes. They were currently engrossed in the Naughtiest Girl series by Enid Blyton and often imagined adapting some of her pranks in their own school. He knew Raya loved role playing from her favourite book and that never failed to cheer her up.

“Of course she would cook up an awesome plan to avenge herself!” Raya piped.

“But whom would she avenge herself on?”

“On Pankhuri! She stole the role!”

“Poor Pankhuri, she was just following the teacher’s orders.”

“Alright, then on Rawat ma’am.”

“And what would be the charges against her?”

“Not taking an audition of course! Do you think with an audition Pankhuri could have surpassed me?”

“Well, you have a point there! But tell me when was the last time you went for an audition in all these past years!”

Suddenly, Raya realised, like always, Sunny had shown her the one-sidedness of her thoughts. There was no answer to his last question. She didn’t feel that anger bubbling in her anymore though a whiff of disappointment surrounded her like the glow on the western sky even after the sun had set.

Slowly it was the day of the programme and she felt excited like all other students. Those who were not participating would get to watch it along with their parents and other distinguished guests. This was the first year that Raya was going to watch it from the audience’s perspective. Every year she had  spent this time along with other participants in the green room, coming onstage only for her part. This year, she thought she would watch the entire programme with Sunny and other friends.

As the curtains were drawn, Sunny intoned in a deliberate monotony: “ Now the Principal will come on stage and deliver a speech lasting half-an-hour, followed by another short speech by the headmistress. Then the first programme will be that of the outgoing classes of tenth and twelfth. These students will then be allowed to go home while rest of the programmes will follow.” He also told her that this was the schedule followed every year. While the principal was delivering his lecture, Sunny entertained Raya by anticipating most of his words.

Raya somehow managed to stifle her laughter and said, “have you fitted telescopic eyes into his notes! How do you manage to anticipate so much! I don’t know any of these, how come you know all about the order of performances!”

Sunny replied, “Just as I don’t know anything that happens on the other side of the wings Raya… You are lucky enough to get a glimpse of both sides of the curtain. I don’t think I will ever get to see the other side.” His tone was quite even but Raya was once again left speechless. She suddenly realised how privileged she had been in her life, just to be born in a way which most people considered normal! She flinched at her own insensitivity towards her best friend, the umpteen times in which she had cried for some trivial injustice, without even realising how unfair life had been to her friend. She held his hand and silently promised to herself that in one of the Annual Days of her school, she and Sunny would perform together on stage. Sunny would see the other side of the curtain too.


Nabanita Sengupta is an Assistant Professor of English by profession and creative writer by passion. Translation remains one of her chief areas of work and interest. Her works can be read in various journals, anthologies and e-zines.



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