If you ever become an angry, Bengali mum (remind me to do a post on How To Become an Angry Bengali Mum) who holds the Indian culture in high regard, you'll
probably certainly send your daughters to dance classes with strict dance teachers who not only teach you one of the many classical Indian dances, but also frown on you when you wear western outfits to the class.
I was an innocent little girl of 6 when I was first whisked off to Bharatanatyam classes. I was the youngest student in a class of all girls who wore pink salwar-kameez with a matching dupatta, pinned into place. I was too small to understand the significance of any of this in my future (I still am), and also clueless as to why I was woken so early on Sunday mornings to stamp my bare feet on the floor as our guru hollered "taa digi digi thai". My sister got off easy as she was only 4 and could barely eat without dropping almost all the food on the floor.
4 years later, my mum found a Kathak teacher for us (and this time my sister had no way out :-D ) and despite our crying and cribbing, we were enrolled into another Indian-Classical dance class. Things were tougher this time around- the ghungroos were heavier and had to be wound around pink (Why is it always pink!)- knee-pad-like things that were worn not on the knees but above the ankle. I suddenly missed the strap-on ghungroos of Bharatanatyam. The instructor was even stricter, and made us repeat each step till we perfected every expression and intricate-gesture. We could sleep on Sunday mornings but could never catch 40 winks on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons. But this was nothing compared to all the layers of heel-skin that would peel off with all the spinning after each "tig dha dig dig thai". (Why don't they ever let you wear shoes in Indian dances?!) We pleaded & protested, but our mum was adamant. We were Bengali, "cultured" daughters, and it was our duty to know to dance (and sing, and paint, and score cent-percent in Math, and be good debaters, yada... yada...). So, our daddy-dearest came up with an incentive- he'd contribute to our piggy-bank (Yes, we learnt the art of saving early in life. I should've known then that I was cut out for the Banking industry.) the same amount as our dance-fee if we diligently attended the classes. Now, how could we say "no" to that!
This was not all. My mum, who's trained in Bengali classical style of dance, would choreograph dance pieces for us kids in the colony and make us perform at every Indian festival. I could never fathom what pleasure she got out of getting us dressed in white sarees with red border (that made us look VERY fat, by the way, and cost us potential boyfriends...Yes, in Mumbai the dating-scene develops fairly early :-P )
By the time I turned twelve, I had had enough of my mum bossing over me. I put my foot down and declared I was leaving classical-Indian dancing for good. (Now that I've "grown up", I can see what a favour my mum was doing us. But I can't blame my old self for doing what I did.) I dabbled with western-dancing (meaning mostly Bollywood & Hollywood-pop) for a year. That was actually nice. I knew the music. I understood the steps (everyone from Shakira to Shilpa Shetty did the steps we were doing! :-) ). And our dance-costumes were always kickass! Diwali & Christmas parties were the perfect occasions to show off our moves to starry-eyed boys in their teens (and mentally tell ourselves we nailed
them it :-P ).
This was followed by a long hiatus from dancing, owing to exams- 10th & 12th Board and then 4 years of University exams. The Indian education system is quite a social-life killer, and the fact that your parents won't take anything less than stellar scores (Truth be told, I'm not that good. But a little bragging is essential to make this article sound dramatic :-P), really adds to the fear of poor-scores-cuz-i-was-busy-enriching-my-personality.
Cut to the present, and I'm learning Rumba, Cha-cha, Waltz (English & Viennese), Merengue, Rock-n-Roll, International Jive, Salsa & Bachata. Phew. :-D How am I doing all of this? We'll find out in my next post!