School assembly was always defined by the watchword for the week. Watchword was typically a theme that was selected by a particular class and for the entire week, the class would have to put up a 5 to 10 minute performance sort of thing based on the theme, so as to inspire everybody. The is could be a skit or a reading of quotes or a song, pretty much anything. Even the choir would pick songs that seemed as relevant as possible to the chosen theme. And since I studied in a convent, it was inevitable that the theme was heavily moral laden.
When I was a young lass in Class 4 B, my class teacher was this wonderful woman called Ms. Hyacinth. (I always wondered why her parents named her after an invasive aquatic weed. Truth be told, I am yet to make sense of it). Nevertheless, she was this petite, short haired and superbly intelligent woman. She was also one of the first people who literally threw me to the sharks to face two of my fears - stage fright and singing in public.
So it was 4 B's turn to do the watchword for the week and we chose the theme "Freedom". Ms. Hyacinth made sure that as many people as possible got to participate. I don't recall auditions for these little performances that we had to put up; whether one had talent or not, it was important that everybody got a chance to participate. Some quoted famous sayings, while others wore kurtas and dhotis with neta caps and reenacted the Indian Freedom Struggle. I sang!
And so arrived one of my finest stage performances. I was made to wear a brown shawl with a yellow beak made of chart paper. I had to move my hands up and down as if imitating the flapping wings of a bird, and walk back and forth on the stage. All this while I belted George Baker's Una Paloma Blanca.
And for some reason today I remembered how I felt that day. As I started singing, my voice quavered. With each new line, my voice grew stronger and I grew more confident. I also distinctively remember trying to remembering to flap my wings every few seconds, so I would successfully pass off as a bird. It was also one of the first tunes I learnt to play on the piano, with melody and chords. To this day, every time I play it, I try to sing along.
Everything about that day was perfect. Almost everything actually. The one thing we got wrong was the colour of the shawl - it should have been white for Una Paloma Blanca means "A White Dove" in Spanish.