He could feel the tension stiffening his neck muscles, his palms sweating up in spite of the chalk powder that he’d used specifically to avoid this, his heart-beats speedening up, ‘butterflies’ in his stomach, a small weakening of his knees. Anybody who was approximately 100 feet above ground level waiting to leap off an edge would be. Although he’d done this hundreds of times before, this one was special, this was the one moment that he’d been waiting for all his life.
As a kid, he’d watched his father and uncle do this, and then one day his mother decided to do it herself. What’s more, to add to his woes, his sisters also decided to do it alongwith his mother. That fateful Makar Sankranthi day on 2003 would be a day that he would never forget when everybody in his entire family, with the only exception being him, decided to do what at least 3 generations on his father’s side had done, take the “leap of faith”.
He was only 14 yrs old then and probably didn’t quite understand its significance. All that he understood that his life would never be the same again. All his life till then he’d been travelling to all these cities and towns within the country, with his extended family, peddling their wares and exhibiting their talents. At times, they would put on a show in such nondescript places where even regular State Corporation buses would not ply on a regular basis. In spite of all this, the family would camp at these places and exhibit their talents for the measly money that the locals would shell out.
The money would not even suffice to feed the entire family 2 decent meals a day, and despite this they did for the sheer love of the craft and skill. He’d never even seen a school let alone study in one. His only brush with a school was when they passed one on the way to a small town in rural Chhatisgarh. And he’d not even realized it was a school until he was amazed by the 100 odd kids running out of the building, all dressed in various shades of white clothing. It was then that his uncle told him that it was August 15th that day and the kids were at school to participate in the flag-hoisting ceremony.
He was mildly amused by the fact that these kids found his extended family and their caravan interesting. They ran behind the carts picking up the pamphlets that his uncle and dad were throwing out behind the caravan. They were putting on a show that evening and this was their method of advertising.
Clap……he was shuddered out of his reverie by the sound of his dad’s clap. His dad had already leapt and was well in the motion of beckoning him to join in. In spite of all his tribulations and nervousness, he moved to the edge, made a small wave with his hand, tried putting on a smile on his face, and just stepped off the edge into nothingness.
His ‘fall’ was broken by his dad’s hands clasping his own. He could feel his entire body swinging on the trapeze with his dad’s trusty knees holding his own weight and his son’s. Arif was a man now. He had finally performed in front of the audience alongwith his family, just like his father, grandfather and his great-grandfather had done. Arif had finally taken the “leap of faith” himself.