THE CANVASS

 

Do you think it will go off well?”

“O Yes! I’m sure. It’s just going to be great”

“I still can’t believe it. I mean this is going to be a sort revelation to the whole world!”

“Hmmm! Yes. I know.  The whole world is going to watch us. It will be a live telecast and would be watched by millions across the world. But there is one thing…”

“What is bothering you? You sounded quite confident a second back”

“You remember their condition? No rehearsals and they’ll appear only after we go live!”

“So what? You have your questions ready, right?”

 “Yes, I have… some general question on certain accepted religious beliefs and a few other…But what if I forget my questions? I hope I don’t get nervous on meeting them, personally I mean, it is kind of unreal…like something from stories.. Do you understand?And also, I’ve never done a show without going through it at least once. This is like…”

“Like a new breakthrough in the history of live programmes. A truly live programme!! Yes! That’s what it is! Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

I went to my room, wondering if it had been a great idea after all.  This was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I knew that. The whole world is fighting over religion, over God, over who is right and who is wrong. This show would, forever, close the issue, and this world would be once again peaceful. And the best part will be that I will shoot into limelight – one who achieved the impossible. “Impossible”, the word brought me back from my dreams into actual reality. I still had this nagging doubt at the back of mind, though all the while I was trying to reassure myself, would the guests of my show actually show up or would be I quoted by the posterity as the greatest joker of the show business. I felt like a fool mistrusting the one person the entire world trusts blindly, the God! Yes, no prizes for guessing it right, my guest for the show is none other than God. You read it right, GOD.I know, by now you would have burst out laughing. Exactly the feeling I had when I first heard about it. But then, as the truly religious say, For God the Lord, nothing is impossible.

I know all this is very confusing. Let me start from the beginning. No, it is definitely not about Adam and Eve, nor about how the world was formed from the sound of “Om”. Well, these are a part of my questionnaire, meant to be clarified by Him, but what I was trying to convey was this strange dream that I had one night. Before describing my dream, let me tell you something. I am a Hindu, but not a very religious one. Like everyone, I do visit temples, but I accompany my friends to Church, and Gurudwara too. So what I wanted to convey is that I’m not a fanatic nor am I a wise sage or a sanyasi. It is usually the former or the latter who actually are bestowed with visions and disembodied voices. I, for one, have never had any such ethereal experiences, no miracles. So well, I was kind of surprised at how things turned out.

Like every other anchor or TV show host, I too have my ambitions – to be popular. But it seemed my dreams, forever, will remain just dreams. Our channel Bloom – the first all-woman channel – is now on the verge of a complete downfall. A few of us who believed in Women Empowerment came together and started it. We received a lot of appreciation and encouragement, all of which was limited to just words. Beyond that, we hardly had any kind of support. Soon we were fighting the battle of TRP ratings with some of the big-wigs of the industry, and miserably failing!

It was at this juncture that I had this strange dream, one night. I don’t remember too many details, but just the gist of it.

“So you want to be popular, is it?” echoed a voice.

“Yes, I said. Who doesn’t?”

“Well, I am here to help you out. Why don’t you interview me in your programme?”

“Who are you?” asked I, sounding like a foo1.

“People call me God. I’ll bring a friend of mine too, and you can interview both of us”, suggested the voice.

I don’t remember much after that, and when I woke up I told about my dream to my sister, and both of us burst out laughing.

“O! So you don’t believe me, is it?” asked the voice, but this time I was neither sleeping, nor dreaming. I was fully awake. My sister also heard the voice. Our first thought was that this was some prankster at work. A thorough checking proved us wrong.

“So what exactly did you have in mind?”I stammered.

“That show of yours, Canvass, where you discuss issues with two people, I thought I and my friend will come as your guest. I’m sure everyone will want to see me, and so your show, you and the channel will become popular. What do you say?”

“Well…” I said, as I thought about it. It did sound good, but more like a fairy tale. I pinched myself once or twice, you know, just to be sure.

“I can’t decide anything on my own, as you know. I’ll have to discuss with others, and maybe let you know”

All I heard in response was laughter.

When I talked about this to my friends, their response was as expected.

“So, have you reached a decision?” enquired the voice, right in the meeting room, and everyone heard it. They all looked at me in disbelief, as I slowly nodded my head, to tell them that I had not been joking.

“OK then, I and my friend will come tomorrow. But we do not want any rehearsals. It will be a direct take, as you people say”, confirmed the voice.

The others were still in shock, but by now, I was somewhat getting used to this, so I cried out, “Hey! I’ve a few doubts”

“Doubts??”

“Hmmm… well, who is this friend?”

“Ha! Not exactly a friend, it will be the Devil who will accompany me. It will spice up the show, don’t you think?” He chuckled.

There was an audible gasp from everyone sitting there on hearing the word Devil. Even I was a bit taken aback. It all sounded like some scene from a black and white horror movie.

“Tomorrow is too soon” blurted Manjula overcoming the initial shock, “we need time to advertise”

All of us looked at her as though she had gone crazy.

“Yes, that is true. OK, we’ll come on Wednesday, you get four days for arrangements, besides, Wednesday is the auspicious day to start out any new venture”, agreed He.

All of them looked at Manjula and simultaneously shouted the same question – “You are actually going to schedule this show? Are you mad?”

“Ssshhh…” I tried to quieten them all, lest He hears us, forgetting that He is omnipresent and omniscient!

“In a sinking a ship, you can’t be choosy as to how you stay afloat. You grab onto anything that comes your way!” said Manjula calmly. And yes, she was right. We needed something different, which will at once grab the attention of the viewers, to get back on track. Maybe this was indeed our golden opportunity, I thought.

“It is indeed”, boomed the voice, and I blushed as I realised that nothing could be hidden from Him, not even my thoughts.

So it was decided. We started planning the publicity part. The initial unrealistic nature of the whole thing changed, and all of us worked as though this was just another programme.

Hoardings were the very first thing in our list, followed by ads in newspapers, other channels and also in the cyberspace. Though it all sounded simple, putting this into actual practice was a Herculean task, as we had very short time, and we wanted the ads to go public at the earliest.

“I don’t think this is the right approach”, suggested Vaidehi.

“Why?”

“Well, think from the point of view of a common man, do you think he’ll believe all this? And other channels, will definitely try to brand this as cheap publicity stunt.”

“You do have a point” I conceded.

“I think we should not give any publicity”, declared Kritika, her eyes gleaming.

“Then..?”

“We should keep it under wraps, and then leak the information through some third party source onto the cyberspace. These days any news that is unofficially leaked, gains immense publicity… The media will do all the required publicity…”

“And we will keep up a mysterious silence, make no claims, no denials too… it will be too baffling for the public, and they will all tune in…” continued Manjula, catching onto the idea.

We all nodded agreement and smiled.

So that was decided, and followed. The next day saw a lot of hue and cry and repeated discussions and flashing of this very strange rumour of an upcoming interview with God and Devil in the channel Bloom. Everyone was curious and everyone wanted definite answers. But we maintained our silence. The only information that we willingly gave was that we had some important guests for the upcoming episode of Canvass.

Just as Kritika had predicted, the news spread like wildfire, and even caught the eye of international channels.

And so the D-Day finally arrived. Everyone was tensed; this was like the climax scene of a Bollywood movie. We hardly talked to each other, and the ensuing silence made things worse. Among other things, I had a hundred questions running in my mind, but the biggest doubt was whether I’ll be able to convince the audience that this was indeed the God and the Devil. How on earth was I to prove this, I wondered. Millions, who will be watching us on the TV screen, will be bound to believe that it was someone whom we had arranged in the role. I doubted if the people would accept God, as seen on the show, even if He were to perform some miracles. They would naturally attribute them to camera gimmicks. It therefore was now my responsibility to somehow make the viewers accept God and Devil for who they were.

############

“5…4…3…2…1 you are now Live!” mouthed Manjula.

“Welcome to Canvass. The age old dispute of the existence of God, the legendary war between God and Devil, are all these mere myths or is it real? Who or what is God? A lot of questions, and in a few seconds you will get the answers for all these.”I paused.

I had a cramped feeling at the pit of my stomach as I continued “Let us welcome our guests for the day”, and turned, not knowing what to expect.

I saw two smiling ladies, in their early forties, clad in beautiful saree, walk in from both sides. They looked quite normal and so was their entry. I mean there was no mist all around, no halo, no thunder or lightning, nothing to indicate a divine presence! Years of watching serials and movies has somehow conditioned us all to associate these with divinity, so without these it scarcely seemed that our guests were in any way special, let alone celestial.

I sat on the seat assigned to the host of the show, as they both sat on theirs, opposite to me.(They had actually walked to their seats, no floating!!) They both looked equally beautiful, elegant and graceful – it was hard to believe that one of them was actually the Devil! I knew that the lady to my left was the God and the one to the right was the Devil. All along I was referring to God as “He”, because I had heard a male voice, but now it was two ladies who sat in front of me. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a circle of confusions that awaited me throughout the show!!!

“Hello, Welcome to Canvass”, I began, for I was planning on an informal show, just like with every other guest.

“Hi Mythili”, greeted Devil. “Hello Mythili”, smiled God.

Overcoming my awe at actually having seen and exchanged greetings with the 2 most mysterious personalities from time immemorial, I started off my discussion.

“There are many who do not believe in your existence. What would you want to tell them?”

“Well, we have come, and they are seeing us. What more do you want?” asked the Devil.

God simply nodded her head.

“How about the age old enmity between the two of you?”

“Enmity?” asked Devil.

“We fight when opponents are worthy of it,” quipped God, laughing.

Devil rolled her eyes, and said, “The so-called enmity is clearly something made-up by you, humans. We are more like twins, you know, we are almost always together, and depending on you, one of us might appear more appealing, and you unknowingly choose one of us!”

“We humans always imagined the Devil to be someone very ferocious and God to be a very benevolent soul”, I suggested.

“Yes. As you mentioned, that was purely your imagination.”

“Who do you think I am?” asked God to me.

“The God, of course,” I replied.

“Are you sure?” asked the Devil. This got me thinking. Was I wrong? Was I interviewing the wrong people? O My God! Was I making a fool of myself in front of the world?

I looked at them, quite unsure of how to respond.

“Well, I am God, if you think so, or I could be the Devil for you. God and Devil are one and the same like twins; it is how you think, how you feel, and how you act that makes me what I am. Your thoughts make me the God or the Devil.”

Things were becoming confusing, as She continued, “We exist as your thoughts; we are within you, within each one of you”

As she was saying this I saw both the Devil and God, float up, gradually merge into a single entity, and then again split back into their dual self. I was speechless, and it was after a few minutes that I recovered from my wonderment, and realised that I was hosting a live show.  This had happened right in front of me, and I was totally convinced. But I was not sure of my viewers; they would surely have attributed this to camera tricks. So I directed my next question to clear any misgivings they might have.

“What do you mean you exist in our thoughts? So is there no God or Devil?”

“A supreme force exists. It is in that force that you all have infinite faith. And yes, you are right. You pray, seek blessings, and try to ward off evil. But what you forget is that supreme force capable of doing all this is present within you. You can mould it to answer your prayers or harm others, to do help others and earn blessings or think ill of others.”

And then it happened. Something that shook everyone of us, not just those of us who were present in the studio, but every single person who was watching the show.

Once more they merged to become a single entity, and then said,

“To prove that we are within each one of you, keep watching us. You will see yourself”

And yes! It happened! I saw myself standing there – first it was two of me there, and then they fused into one. It was not just me, everyone who was watching Canvass, saw themselves in the TV! It was incredible. I was dumbstruck! And I’m sure everyone was equally baffled. How could this be happening? We were here and there. Each one of us, irrespective of our faith or beliefs, saw our own image. No camera trick could have achieved this. It was truly a miracle, a spectacle that has never ever been witnessed before. And I’m sure everyone out there who was watching this show, was feeling a sense of enlightenment, just as I was.

 It started to drizzle as the realisation crept in that God and Devil are within us. I did not get the time to think how it could drizzle inside the studio, as somebody was wildly shaking me and shouting something.

“Wake up! Wake up”, my mother was shouting. I opened my eyes to see my little sister sprinkling water on me.

I wiped the water off my face with the sleeve of my shirt. I thought of my dream, and the dream within the dream, and smiled with glee. It hardly seemed a dream to me now, it was as though all this had really happened. And even it was just a dream, it had been a lovely one. I had truly enjoyed it.

“Was it just a dream?” I wondered, “or will our channel be really saved?”

“Don’t worry… Everything is going to be alright. This is just the beginning…” reassured the Voice.

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