The Weekend I Didn’t Want To Grow Out Of!

For the major part of my life I have been secretly hoping I would find some pixie dust that would help me travel to Neverland. I like to devolve all the blame to Disney’s Peter Pan book that my dad bought me around the time I was 3. If there was some place I wanted to be stuck in forever, it would be in Neverland with Peter Pan and the lost boys! Perhaps it’s not always the numbers that make you older; sometimes growing is about the experiences and situations you live through. After last week I have finally found my alternative to Neverland!

It all began three weeks ago when I asked myself, “What am I doing at this interview?” At about the exact same time the lady taking my interview wanted to know why I was there. Clueless as I was, I said the first (remotely) smart-sounding thing I could think of – “I do not know anything about theatre, so I decided to volunteer for the theatre fest to learn something about theatre”. In retrospect, it sounds very honest and thoughtful. The prospect of being paid even a trifling was definitely a bonus, although I did not think my interviewer would hire me for that job if I told her that!

As it turned out, my response was good enough for Lakshmi Priya (the interviewer) to hire me for the job. I got placed in the Hospitality bunch. The first meeting took place in a coaching centre that pretended to be a home and was situated right in the middle of a residential place. I had half my mind to walk away and to never come back, but for some strange reason I chose to stay and endure those painful mosquito bites and the equally painful orientation games that brought back the uneasy memories from my junior college orientation! I chose to continue through it and went ahead with the terribly uninspiring promotion work that took place over the next 2 weeks, where we coordinated with Rohith. One Sunday morning, I even got kicked out of my favourite shop in Oberon (Time-Out) for trying to promote the theatre fest inside the shop! By the end I was almost convinced that this theatre fest was going to be an utter waste of time and energy.

Fate does seem like this sadistic person, who ensures you are fit right into a situation you were hoping not to be in! My college decided to give me an entire week off. This gave me ample time to do anything. The only tiny hiccup was that, I did not have much planned out and the theatre fest seemed like something that would keep me occupied. So, on the 4th I packed my bag and went for the meeting with my friend Teesta. That night, we stayed at my mother’s cousin’s place. This lady was almost like my own mother to me because; to her, I was Gigy’s daughter and that meant that I was almost her own daughter!

The next day Teesta and I turned up at the Fine Arts Hall way before the time we were asked to arrive. After initially helping to scrape off the Duct-Tape over conversations about my favourite journalist, I soon found myself volunteering to sit at the ticket-counter to get out of the mindless-labour that removing Duct-Tapes presented me with! It turned out to be an arduous struggle to constantly try to equate the money in the box with the values entered on the sheet of paper while simultaneously selling tickets to potential customers, but I enjoyed every bit of this exercise. After lunch time I continued selling tickets till the head of Ticketing (Prateek) decided the tickets were all sold out!

Soon, as people were about to start crowding in, all the volunteers were awarded a yellow Tee-shirt and a badge. Everyone was assigned a task and mine was to man the stall for merchandise. If I told you it felt like awakening some hidden talent, you might scoff at me; so I’ll tell you this, marketing the most insipid merchandise is more like a habit that grows on you. I spent the first couple of minutes trying to figure out which part of my being would have given these people from evam the idea that I could sell a couple of mugs and bags that I personally would never buy.

However, I could not afford much more time than that on my mental reveries for, the crowd had started to pour in soon after and I decided to try to do something that I had never thought I would do – I donned the identity of a sales-girl, and boy, was I good at it! With some inspiration from a fellow-volunteer, I had some of the actors for that day’s play autograph 3 bags for me. I over-priced these bags and still managed to sell them all off! On the downside, no matter how many mugs I sold that day, I never got to watch The Blue Mug that had people like Rajat Kapoor, Ranveer Shorey and Vinay Pathak acting in it. However, Mr. Rajesh from the Hindu handed me 24 copies of a book that I was to sell. By the end of that day I had already sold 12 copies! I got back to my Aunt’s after 10.30 and soon after a hurried dinner, I was off to bed all excited to start afresh the very next day.

On the second day of the fest, I was woken up by a phone call from my Hospitality head (Aparna) around 6.15, asking me to pick up a lady named Preetita Chawla (To my great embarrassment, I later found out from another person I picked up that day that, her actual name was Preetika!). She was almost the last one on her flight to come out of the Airport, but she turned out to be a woman after my own heart. We agreed on our taste in books. We talked about our hobbies and our likes and dislikes. At some point, Aparna called me up to inform that I had to go back to the airport to pick up another actor for today’s play.

After a hurried drop-off, I got the cabbie to return to the airport. When I finally reached the arrival section, a gentleman standing with two other people asked me if I were Anju. Despite being a little baffled, I asked him if he were in fact the Neil Bhoopalam that I was supposed to be picking up. Turns out, they were people from the next day’s play and Aparna only got to know about their arrival after they got off at Kochi. After running around in the rain in search of an ATM machine and then the manager of the domestic airport and finally getting a taxi for the trio from the next day’s show, I finally called the cabbie who had accompanied me since morning. He picked us up and started my second journey to the Taj Gateway Hotel that day. Mr. Bhoopalam got into the front seat to get a better view of the land that claims to be God’s own country! Our conversations weren’t as free-flowing as the previous one. At some point, I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from agreeing that what he had said did in fact come across as lame to me, but he was cute enough for me to look past all that and carry on. At Taj, I finally managed to get my first sip of water that day at around 1.30 pm.

Back in the Fine Arts Hall, the afternoon passed by as I tried to calculate how I came to have an excess of Rs. 240 in my accounts of the Merchandise stall.

That day, I was determined to catch the play, so I talked to Lakshmi Priya (who insisted I call her LP) and we agreed that I could pack up the stall and move in once the play began. I did exactly that! And thus, I sat for my first ever theatre show. The first part of the play about the democrats, reminded me of my one month internship at a public sector company where the greatest chore of the month was calculating each employee’s pay-check. Although, ‘Dear Richard’ was an entertaining performance by Rajit Kapoor, to me it just seemed like a display of his actual self that I had witnessed earlier that day. The bit I enjoyed the most was the monologue of a Pakistani terrorist. However, the one that left me feeling quite unsettled was ‘Bash’ for the homophobia that one of the characters portrays! At the end of that day I had good sales and a couple of gentlemen had already asked me if I were doing my MBA in marketing, and when I ventured to tell them that I was studying in a National Law School they told me I would do well in marketing.

Finally it was the last day, but time seemed to move on a very lethargic pace. I managed to successfully irritate Anjali with my continuous switch from one South-Indian language to another while trying to match my accounts with the cash in my money-box. Suman told me I was generally the damsel in distress in my personal accounts of the events that transpired. My independent-feminist-side was ‘korachu’ disappointed by this comment. This was the first time in the three days of the fest that I spent so much time helping out my hospitality head. By mid-day I had successfully infected her with the ‘tumse hi tumse’ song from Anjaana Anjaani. For lunch, we bought Dominoes for the entire team. For desserts, we played dumb-charades. Thanks to Sebastian, our team seemed to have the upper hand throughout the game!

Around evening I found myself in a cake shop waiting to pick up the cakes Aparna and I had ordered, instead of selling merchandise at the entrance of the Fine Arts Hall! Ostensibly, the withdrawal symptoms were evident enough for Aparna to console me saying that she was sure someone else was selling the merchandise. I returned in time to sell out the final book in order to receive my incentive promised by Mr. Rajesh. The final play was a musical and although I was not very sure of the Tamil lines, the whole play was still pretty captivating. At the end of the play I was left with nothing but 5 badges and a couple of ‘eco-friendly cloth bags’.

At the final meeting before dispersing we all shared what we felt about the three days and when my turn came, a part of me was hopeful that I could keep on talking so that this event would never end and my new-found replacement for Neverland would stay real forever! When that did not work and I found myself at my Aunt’s home, I stayed awake, refusing to close my eyes and bring an end to this beautiful weekend that I had just lived out. I had enjoyed each moment of it; be it the mindless labour, or the running around, or selling goods that I would not have bought myself! If growing up and earning a living was anything like the past 3 days, I believe I am wasting my time with law books in a Law School! Alas, all good things come to an end, and after the exhilarating experience of the last three days, we had no alternative but to return to the normalcy of life as we know it (in its sad and moribund form!)

On Monday evening after dinner, I found myself feeling rather discomfited by the idea that it was already 2121 hours and I still had not managed to sell a single item. I soon realised from the activity on our Facebook group that everyone on the MPTF volunteer team was going through similar emotions.

So, this piece is dedicated to all my fellow volunteers at MPTF. Also, to my friend Kamran who gifted me with these amazing packet of Merci chocolates that I had for the first time in almost 3 years; those chocolates gave me the sugar high that kept me awake for the past two nights I spent working on this entry!

9 Responses to “The Weekend I Didn’t Want To Grow Out Of!”
  1. Sreekanth says:

    Hey Anju,
    you sure can become a writer as well, if not an MBA :).. very nicely done..


  2. annajohn says:

    Thank you, sree… U know, i always wanted to b a writer more than a lawyer, but now i wudn’t mind doing some part-time sales job or sthg! 🙂

  3. suman says:

    awesome work gurl… u sure do have loads of talent … n who said u cannotbecome a writer after doin law??? my sis writes n is happy with her hob as an environmental lawyer…… all the best sweety ….

  4. Appa says:

    Wonderful…… Simply superb…

  5. teesta says:

    hey Anju,
    i think this article would have been impossible without the “nice- time-booster” called MPTF 🙂

    P.S. – u cut short on the interesting parts woman 😛

    • annajohn says:

      yup… ‘nice-time-booster’ indeed! :X
      plus, the interesting parts needed to be cut short as I like to be a little (hmmm…) ‘professional’ on this blog! 😛

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  1. […] I have never really understood why Wendy decided to return home rather than stay in Neverland forever. That was, until I relived The Weekend I Didn’t Want To Grow Out Of! […]

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