I, along with 33 other officers, was part of the Long Gunnery Staff Course (LGSC) at the School of Artillery, Deolali, in 1976-77. Traditionally, the officers attending the LGSC had to present a drama evening at the end of the course. We got down to planning the event.
Our course senior was Inayat Yusuf and I was the next in order. We both had no talent in dramatics but others were experienced in the field.
There was Arjun Bahadur, a veteran of the Gunner Amateur Dramatic Society; RS Bhutani, a talented singer; and Prem Anand who was experienced in organising fashion shows. It was decided that we would put up a three-act play, a qawwali and a fashion show.
Arjun was to produce, direct and be the lead actor in the play. Bhutani was to organise the qawwali which was to be sung by the ladies of the course. Prem was to organise the fashion show.
After a lot of persuasion we managed to convince 10 women to take part in the qawwali. Those left went into the fashion show.
We started practising a month before the event. Just a few days into it, we realised that the play was going nowhere and Arjun felt that the cast just did not have it in them. Bhutani was like Hitler.
As the women would start singing the qawwali he would shout 'cut'. Then he would give a demonstration and ask for a repeat. A stage came when the women refused to carry on. Inayat and I had to step in.
The only part that seemed okay was the fashion show. With a week to go, the general feeling was that our performance was going to be below par.
We held a review meeting and concluded that at this stage nothing much could be done. The play was lacklustre and we had to depend on the qawwali and the fashion show.
So we decided to do our best and face the caustic comments. Then there was the saving grace. The President of India, who had been ailing, expired and all official entertainment was cancelled for a week.
We were informed that the drama evening had been cancelled. We accepted it gracefully with a silent sigh of relief.
There is a term in boxing 'saved by the bell'. If a boxer is knocked down and the bell signalling the end of the round goes off while he is being counted out, then he gets a chance to recover. Our course too was saved by the bell.