India celebrates its Republic day every year on the 26th of January, honoring the date on which the constitution of India written by Indians came into place, replacing all the laws of the state that were made by our British rulers. A national holiday that everyone looks forward to, the day is witness to the grand Republic Day parade held every year in the Capital. The annual parade held near Rashtrapathi Bavan in Delhi, has a colorful display of contingents from our military forces, tableau representing the states to dancing school kids from the capital. The is even an air show towards the end. There VIP guest list is very exclusive and includes all our leaders & diplomats from other countries who get the best view of the show. The show is aired on Doordarshan every republic day. Millions of us, fortunate enough to bask in the liberty of a lazy public holiday watch the entire spectacle on our TV sets.
It is a heady feeling, a mix of holiday, patriotism & some free entertainment thrown in. During one such Republic day, there was no power in our area & a bunch of us kids where dead bored waiting for the power to come back. Already grumpy with the tropical heat, the grown-ups shooed us out of the house. Short of trees & fruits to throw rocks at, we had nothing to do till the power came back. Someone suddenly decided to have our own version of the Republic day event. “Brilliant!” We thought. Our bunch of amateur 10 year old event managers decided to make the ever happen. Here are the things that we learned from our experience as event managers:
Embrace chaos & confusion
Smile & pretend that everything is ok. Always. Mostly nothing will go according to plan. There will be a million ideas, a zillion opinions and a trillion problems during the implementation. The more you freak out, the closer you will get to nowhere. Whether it is planning or execution, chaos will be your constant companion during any event.
Plan though nothing will go according to the plan
As ideas started buzzing in from stone throwing contests to hide and seek, we quickly realized that we were turning into an all gas talk, no implementation bunch of event guys. If there is no bully, democracy works pretty well in deciding on the plan. Otherwise, you just go with flow as the the biggest bully decides. After some discussion, we decided on the events which included a bunch of silly, childish games and lunch break. “Ok but what does the winner get?” asked a tiny Indian citizen, much to our dismay.
Find innovative ways to make up for a small budget
Don’t use the word donations until it’s too late. The best way to make up for the lack of budget is to try stuff within a small budget and get that small budget from the audience without making the donation word obvious. After unsuccessful attempts to get money from the grown-ups who shooed us away with more ferocity this time, we felt lost. Then, we decided to go venture capital style and pool in, whatever resources we had. We quickly dispersed and came back with whatever we felt was treasure worthy. The pile we made had bubble gums, stationary like scale, pencil box, stolen calendars, pens, pencils and stickers of WWE champions. We segregated the stuff and mutually decided on what was worth the first prize and the second prize for each of the games.
Pick the most convenient & cheapest location
We were so noisy that we got kicked out of every compound including our own homes. So the only option was to either jump over the empty school compound nearby or the road in front of our homes. We picked the road as we figured, it was public property from where, no one could shoo us off. It felt like a pretty decent ground for running race, skipping on the spot, lemon race & relay. We picked a pebble and drew a line on one side of the road, next to Sona’s house. “This is the starting point.” A gloomy black dog with sleepy eyes resting by the side of the road, who had been watching us all along, put its ears behind and darted off inside Sona’s house. We had claimed our territory for the event. Then, the games began.
Be ready to accommodate extra headcounts
Another lesson for event managers is to go with the flow of the crowd. There will always be some trouble makers and some last minute extra head counts. Out of nowhere, the notorious & mischievous, Jaykuttan entered the scene and he just stood there in the middle of the road, determined to create a scene. He was the youngest of the lot and also the most ill-tempered. Sona tried negotiating with him, “If you let this round be over without bugging anyone, we will take you in for the next round and you could win something”. Still no reaction. “for free?” Reluctantly we let him hang around and bug us for the rest of the day as we wanted to finish the event.
Be sensitive to special needs of participants who hate each other
Soon enough during the next event, the running race, Jaykuttan started fighting with Tomy. “There is more gravel on this side of the road. Why does he get the better side?” As things heated up, we managed to get the most harmless and quiet boy in the group to compromise and take a place in between these two, to avoid any more altercations. As organizers, it is always good to make friends sit together and enemies sit far apart unless you like being a referee.
Anticipate disputes & malfunctions
A good event manager always prepares for contingencies like disputes. After the race, there was a new problem. “My leg was over this line first. No it was me” Since we did n’t have an option to replay, we decided to go for a live replay by running again. During the skipping on the spot event, the loose trousers of one of the kids came off. As mature as we were, we laughed like hyenas till the poor thing started wailing. Terrified of the angry mom, we controlled ourselves. Somebody got a pin to fix the wardrobe malfunction and we never brought up the story up again.
Entrust prize distribution to the most non- controversial figure
Let’s be honest. The prizes will mostly disappoint everyone. The winners will want more. The losers will feel sore. As we arranged the stickers, gum and other worthless crap that we collected, we noticed the general annoyance in the air. The soft spoken Pushpa chechi was passing by. She took tuition classes for some of the kids and was not mean like most grown-ups. We grabbed the chance and asked her to do the honors of distributing our childish prizes. That went well with the crowd. It almost felt like it was a first class event for a brief moment.
Know when to flee & do flee
The more you linger after an event, the more you allow for crap to happen. Now would be a good time for the organizers to flee. The sun was still up and red that evening when the jubilant crowd got tired of jubilation and was clueless about what to do next. “We can all go pluck fruits from Kurien’s compound. He is slow. I climb fast.”, suggested Jaykuttan. “Let’s hike to the police quarters on the hills” said someone else. One of the kids was still not convinced with the results of the running race. Sona & me quickly grabbed the opportunity to say some sweet nothings about the event before leaving the scene.
Everyone followed suit and scrammed home. It felt awesome running back home that day. We had celebrated republic day on our own with no adult supervision and it rocked. As the crimson red sun sank into the horizon, the neighborhood dog yawned and reclaimed his resting post by the side of the road.