A Rare Ten out of Ten
Over the Northern Hemisphere winters Sri Chinmoy and a number of his fortunate students spend a month or two in warmer parts of the planet.
On these evenings together we often act in spiritual plays, some serious, some light-hearted and humorous, but these have not always been a high-point in my vacations. When I perform my tiny parts I forget lines, flounder in an ocean of anxiety and discover a total incapacity for acting that borders on imbecility. All this of course is good for us because our egos are crushed and we learn humility – especially when night after night ones own idiocy is highlighted further by the contrasting brilliance and competence of so many of one's brother and sister disciples.
I like the Irish comedian Hal Roach's story about somebody who spent weeks rehearsing his part in a play, which consisted of two simple words – 'is it?' For days this actor went around practicing his lines – 'is it? is it? is it? IS it?' to perfection, honing these two all important words into a compelling and dramatic tour de force. Alas on opening night, under the pressure of real public performance, he came out instead with 'IT IS!'
But enough self-flagellation. One glorious success though was a play I once did with an accomplished actor-friend – lots of dialogue, rehearsals, real acting, and somehow I got through it word perfectly. What made the play a personal triumph though was the fact that my wife Subarata and several of her friends were seated front row, huge play-destroying grins on their faces, and I had to grapple desperately with the effect this had of luring me into laughter. Worse, when I glanced at Sri Chinmoy, searching for soulfulness and resolve, he was grinning hugely too, unabashedly in complicity with the girls and enjoying my plight and the unusual spectacle of me in a play with my meticulous friend.
Somehow grace descended and we pulled it off. But I can still remember Guru's delighted and mischievous smile in this conspiracy of mirth which he and certain members shared and I can quietly appreciate myself and my ten out of ten for thespian fortitude.