Smiling, dressed in rich fabrics and ornate jewellery, I take the stage, comfortable, as if it were my second home. And who’s to say it isn’t? I accompany onto stage a young girl, Sia, barely five years old, who will perform a spoken word piece; it is the first of many acts lined up for tonight’s cultural entertainment program. Besides numerous emcee roles at school and through other organizations, this is my first time emceeing in my mother tongue, Marathi; I am nervous.
I kneel beside Sia with the microphone so she does not feel intimidated or alone. Starting with a comic salutation, Sia has the entire audience already hooked. A second home for Sia as well? Perhaps. As the audience settles, Sia prepares to continue her performance as I hold the microphone for her.
Waiting for her to go on, I scan the audience. Some faces, I know; others, I’ve never seen in my life. I’ve been part of this cultural organization for years and have likely walked past each and every one of these people before; yet, I know no one. I recognize a face or two. Then, a few more here and there. My father’s face hides behind the tripod and video camera, centre front row, recording Sia and I on stage, right at this very second. My mother is off to the side, near the exit of the theatre, ready to rush backstage if I need her.
Sia is still preparing herself. She is nervous. In her, I see myself when I was about her age. I remember the first time I took the stage. Dancing was a new hobby for me at four years old and it was a community festival gathering, the perfect venue for a debut. I remember seeing too many faces in the crowd that I didn’t know. I remember not wanting to begin. I remember my mother, off to the side of the stage; she waved at me, smiled, and encouraged me to go on. After a last glance at my mother that day, I began my performance; since then, I have gone on to frequent many stages and venues, making stage fright an option no more. The vivid image of my mother in the stage wing still resides with me today.
Suddenly, I snap out of my memories. The audience is still waiting on Sia. I look for my mom, not knowing what to do; she is not in the audience. I take the microphone away from Sia and ask her to glance over at her mother in the wing. Sia sees her mother, waves and smiles as an automatic response. Suddenly, Sia is washed over with a confidence I can see clearly in her twinkling eyes. I smile and hold the microphone out to her again. She begins. The performance is formidable. As the audience breaks into applause, I am as relieved as Sia; the first performance of the evening is always the icebreaker. I stand and walk a delighted Sia off stage. I see my mother now also in the wing. Same smile, same look in her eyes. I smile back. I am fuelled once again, and as master of ceremonies, I am prepared to make the night memorable.