” Up next is band number 7! Would band number 8 please come backstage now.”
Cheers, light applause and a hall full of people surrounded me as I got up with shaky feet.
The stage seemed a mile away as I walked towards it, the others behind me. Our usually cheery lot was unnaturally quiet, lost in their own thoughts as we headed backstage.
Our first performance. Or as it’s more commonly known – ‘gig’.
We were understandably nervous, our emotions a cocktail of anticipation, excitement and most predominantly, fear.
The band that was to play before us had started and there was no denying that they were good.
As they played, I could just sit there with my fingers clenched, flinching at every cheer from the audience.
Each of us was lost in our own work and our own thoughts. The guitarists tuned their guitars, the drummer tapped his drumsticks on his knees nervously and I hummed the song we were to play under my breath, afraid to sing it too loud for fear of cracking my voice or too softly for fear of singing the wrong note and not realizing it.
I looked at my friend asking him to pluck the note on his guitar string so I could sing in tune. He gave me a look that suggested I had just asked him to eat his guitar.
The drummer still hadn’t stopped tapping his sticks. The otherwise inaudible taps were now as loud as war cries.
I wiped the sweat from my brow.
“We’re up.” Someone murmured.
I looked up in panic and realized that the band on stage had finished and it was our turn. The compére walked onto stage with a stride that suggested she had been catwalking since she was eight.
“After that brilliant performance, we now have band number eight !”
Again the polite applause filled the air as the curtain dropped and we went on stage to set up our equipment. After the quiet of backstage, the stage itself seemed like a fish market. Techies running about helping us with our equipment, a man asking me if I needed a stand for my mic ,the drummer yelling that his bass drum was sliding and needed to be more steady, the organizers yelling into their walkie’s for something or the other.
It was all a blur.
It took about 3 minutes for all the equipment to be properly connected and in place.
Are you ready?” Asked a kid with a microphone dangling from his ear and looking too harrowed to be alive.
I looked at my band members and it dawned on me that it really didn’t matter. In the end, we will all go home. So lets just get it over with.
I nodded. “Yes. We’re ready”.
The compére’s voice boomed around us as the curtains rose.
” And now I give you, Band Number 8 !”
The curtains rose and I saw before me a confused spectacle of lights, smoke and upturned faces.
A sudden adrenaline rush made me yell into the mic – ” Whats’up K-scope!”
For half a second that lasted an aeon, there was silence. Then screams loud enough to shatter glass engulfed me. The lights flashed, the guitars squealed and the drums boomed.
And I smiled. I realized I had been wrong.
I had been home all along.