It was one of the most exciting events that rocked Simla in the mid 70’s. It was held every year for which the students worked very hard indeed. There were posters to be made, decorations had to be in order, prizes for the lucky dip had to be wrapped, raffle tickets for a luck draw had to be sold; the list was endless. There was one stall that had the whole town excited. It was the Hoopla Stall. It was a hoopla with a difference and each year we wondered if it would get scrapped. Getting an approval for this took an arm and a leg’s worth of convincing our Mother Superior.
The approval that otherwise would have been considered sacrilege had once again been given a nod and it was permitting of Floating Beer Bottles, none other than Golden Eagle from the Mohan Meakin Breweries, in a tub at the Hoopla Stall. The nuns very entry to Heaven could have become questionable by this very audacious act. These were the very same strict nuns who did not allow us to run through the wooden corridor as we were considered to be as junglee as the monkeys and langoors who jumped on the tinned roof above. They would not even allow us to walk on the Irish Lawns. They would strictly observe the length of our bulky divided thick cotton skirts before a basketball tournament. They drummed it down in us that chewing gum on The Mall was forbidden and blowing a bubble was like spitting out food that was in the mouth being chewed. Girls have to be seen and not heard, they would say. Lord did you dare to leave the boundary of the school with the pinafore on or were comforted by the very thought that you might be allowed to wear tights under the grey woollen skirt on a snowy day. All in vain for you had to brave A stolen glance through the window when the history class was on had to be nothing less than that of your wedding day insisted Sister John Baptist. Garters on the socks, polished shoes, cursive writing and being declared a crow when your voice was tested for just being a part of the chorus……
And then BEER BOTTLES FLOATING INNOCENTLY in the iron tub …..at the HOOPLA Stall…..
The Fete’ had another stall which housed a gramophone and a mike. Here one could send in a request by dedicating a song to a person and the senders name would be announced. It was pretty much like the Forces Request on AIR. This brave and flirtatious act often paved the way for many a romance, infatuations and crushes, if the answer was a yes. It often decimated for good the courage of the sender by a mere rebuttal. This was one fool proof way of professing ones love by personally saying nothing and yet saying it all, that too publicly with the lyrics of a romantic song. This simple act could also tarnish reputations of the recipient with a ‘Fast Girl ‘ label. Well Well….It was a gamble and romantics are known to take some and then some more.
With bated breath a lot of the girls waited for the annual fete’ that could often seal their fait ….wanting a request to come their way and yet dreading the outcome.
One such request was made and the song was announced. The group was Band On The Run and the song was’ I can tell you how I feel, my heart is like a wheel, let me roll it to you’. All eyes were on the sender and then on to the expected recipient who was a young teacher and there was a hint of a romance between them that had been causing quite a stir for more reasons than one, “psssst…. he was younger than her!!!.
LORD ALMIGHTY, HAIL MARY! …..did we imagine the recipients name, of course we heard it wrong. With her heart pounding louder than the lyrics, the student was gone from her stall in a jiffy and peering over her specks with a terse look, lips quivering and yet keeping a very dignified appearance was the teacher.
Yes that day many of us like the Band were on the run and many a hearts just kept rolling…..
Did the recipient make it the next class…..
She did indeed.