I was in the fourth standard, not that young really for such naivety, when I thought I could turn into a parrot, merely by painting myself green. Well, this thinking propelled by a suggestion from teachers at school, was so encompassing on my imagination, that I even tried to do it. In reminiscing this, I realise how I’ve always had a penchant for getting under the skin of people, things, animals and birds even; soaring really high if someone would give me a wing to such ideas.
It was the afternoon of the all-school concert. In my times, in the absence of an auditorium yet, to occupy the whole school along with teachers and parents, it used to be held on a stage built at the end of the large play field. The smaller open hall and stage, which was actually quite pretty with red floors, was used, in addition to our morning assembly, for a host of other events, even concerts when they were only a class or two at a time. Now each of us participated compulsorily in these concerts, either at a dance, a drama, or a musical sequence, or whatever was curated. We would have spent months practising for the same.
That year, I was assigned to be in the group parrot-dance, along with about a dozen girls from standard IV. Our costume included parrot green ankle-length kaftans, along with head-gear and wings. After lunch, we went into one classroom per group, based on the events we were participating in, to get ready; to enable our entry on the stage, for our show. The two teachers who had choreographed and taught us the dance sequences, were stepping out for tea, after ensuring each of us had our costumes that fit accurately, ready to slip into. Before they left, they instructed us strictly to “go get green watercolour and paint each other’s full hands and faces with it.”
After the classroom door shut behind the two young ladies – our teachers, we girls looked at each other, quite convinced from the firm instructions brandished at us, that we would need to paint ourselves, before their return. I went across to our study hall immediately, brought over a few bottles of varied green shades of Camlin water colours, along with a handful of brushes. In those days, sketching and painting were my greatest passions, and I had the skill as well for them, from what I had been told by teachers who made me draw and decorate the black boards of various classes for every other school event. This passion in the next couple of years was to shift to photography, even as I was to angrily ostracize writing, after a group of girls would read my personal diary at the same study hall I now fetched the water colours from.
Back in the classroom, still in our uniforms, waiting for the teachers to return, everyone by now turned sceptic of the teacher’s instructions to paint our limbs. But since I was the one who was most enthusiastic, even had the paint ready, the girls suggested they could all help me paint my arms and then my face. The rest of the parrot dancers would follow me in acquiring my green shade, one at a time. So by the time the teachers returned, both my arms – the sleeves pulled right up and pinned, were glistening as good as that of an exotic baby parrot. After all, I had even got a palette and applied my painting skills to get the right mix of colour. The arms done, I was about to put my face forward to get it painted as well, even while the other girls were considering the seriousness of the teacher’s instructions to paint ourselves. I felt really smug, proud even, as an obedient child – who could not wait to be applauded for being the only good girl in her class.
The two teachers entered and we all looked up at them. I looked at them with a sense of achievement, even as they looked at me quizzically and asked “what have you done to yourself?”
“Miss you asked us to paint green,” I said innocently, “that’s what I’ve already done.”
The teachers looked at me in horror, as I displayed both arms, as the other girls looked from me to the teachers, and then back again at me. One of the teachers burst into a grin “What have you done to yourself Shuvashree?” as the other added laughing “We were only joking, no one else has painted themselves all green, then why did you have to? Why are you so gullible, such a fool?”
I looked at the teachers desolately. Was I really such a fool after all? Had I no common sense that I had to follow their instructions blindly, being the first one to do so in the group. Could they not have said a kind word to me for my obedience, being the only one to take them seriously?