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A Memoir, Inspired by a Childhood Photo

Pic: Me, as a Baker, Participating in “The Grumbler” Play

Pic: Me, as a Baker, Participating in “The Grumbler” Play

Once upon a time, I was going to an English Medium primary school. A foreign teacher started teaching from a Radiant Reader book, and in it, she came across a play, which she wanted all of us to participate in from our grade. There were a grumbler, baker, princess, and fairies. I don’t remember the whole story, but I do recall that all the girls except me raised their hands for the role of princess. I was the least interested, and I didn’t like the idea of participating in a play at all.

I was already in a chorus sing-song. Yes, there was a cultural program coming up at school, and all the teachers, students, and parents were invited. Since all the girls raised their hands for the role of princess, the teacher suggested there would be a lottery. All the girls were anxious.

They picked up a paper piece each from the lottery bag. I was shocked to find that I got the piece with “princess” inscribed boldly on it. Immediately I reported to the teacher that I didn’t want the role but some other role where I didn’t need to speak much.

The teacher said, “Okay, Rosina. How about the role of a baker?”

I said, “That is something I would prefer.”

So, who got the role of the princess? A taller and more mature girl who always showed enthusiasm for the role.

Then came the dreadful days of rehearsals. At school, the teacher would make us practice at the end of classes.

Then in the middle of nowhere, the teacher left the school. A mature Bangladeshi guy came to teach us English instead. Many of my classmates had their roles in the play changed by the new teacher. But I still had the role of a baker. We no longer practiced in school. We had regular classes. Then we would go to our home complex. Luckily there, in one of the distant apartments, the teacher preferred to make us practice the play in the evenings.

I didn’t like practicing at all. I couldn’t even share with anyone how I felt. And deep inside, I suffered from agony the way the teacher criticized my every move in the play. Nobody got rebuked for wrong moves in the play as much as I did. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it.

As the date of the cultural program approached nearer, we rehearsed full-fledgedly even more. The apartment host gave a new sealed cookie packet on a small tray that would act as bread.

Well, the play started with me. Yuck! How I hated it. And then, I looked at the cookie packet on the tray in my hand and said my dialogues. But our teacher criticized and asked me, “Why are you looking at the cookie packet? Do you want to eat it?”

I felt embarrassed. From that moment on, I decided to give myself the best shot. No more wrong moves. I was willing to excel like I was in my academic studies. Day by day, I became more skilled. I also started enjoying my role like others in the play.

When it was time for the big day, we had a chorus song and another song from another grade soon after. Then it was time for our play.

My Mom had baked both white and brown bread. She also made me a baker's cap, gloves, and an apron. And then, dressed as a baker, with brown bread in my left hand on the stage, I addressed the audience:

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, would you like a loaf of bread? In fact, this is for Mr. Grumbler. I don’t like him. I hate him.

And then Mr. Grumbler appeared on the stage and cleared his throat.

Afraid and trembling, I said, "Sir, I brought you brown bread just as you wanted."

Mr. Grumbler said, ”I told that I wanted white bread, not brown bread."

Gathering up my guts, I said, "I am sorry, Sir. I was advised to bring brown bread. All right, I will get you some white bread."

And I came down the stage.

Then Mr. Grumbler met the princess and fairies, and a lot happened- lots of dialogues, which I fail to reminisce about today.

In the end, Mr. Grumbler was again waiting for bread.

I said, "Sir, I brought you white bread just as you wanted. Would you look?"

Mr. Grumbler was nice to me now.

“Thank you so much”, he said, “Yes, I will accept the white bread now.”

Throughout the play, Mr. Grumbler seemed to have gone through many life lessons with the princess and fairies. And finally, he learned not to grumble, and so, he was nice to me, the baker at the end.

Then all the participants of the play got on the stage and stood in a line facing the audience. We started singing in a chorus:

Goodbye, our friends. Goodbye, our parents. We promise not to grumble; we wish to be humble. Goodbye, our friends. Goodbye, our parents.

One by one, we came down the stage.

The photo of me at the beginning inspired me to write this piece. It brought back so many memories and especially, how I learned to act my part well in the play.

When the people from the audience went for the buffet, and I was hopping around, they commented, "This girl acted very well." Others agreed, "Yes, her performance was superb."

I owed my success to the new teacher whose constructive criticism on every rehearsal day taught me a good lesson. I acted in many more plays later in my school life. But I learned to have fun with them, enjoy, play my roles, and soar.

© 2022 Rosina S Khan