Friday, October 19, 2007

Shake a Leg...

Jhalak Dikhla Jaa judge Jeetendra recently said that dancing was about letting go of your inhibitions. Like most art forms, dance is also a very self-centered expression of emotion--joy, excitement, love et al.

Or so I thought till I joined the dandiya crowd. Some dance for joy, no doubt. It's evident in their smiles, in their movements, in their obvious enjoyment of swaying to the music. Some dance with pressed lips and blank faces. Some try really hard and the 1-2-3-4 in their heads obliterates everything else. Some are alive for the moment and let themselves go. Some dance with determination. And some dance as a pure demonstration of technique, as if to show how much better they are at it.

Expressions vary too. Some look you in the eye and smile. Some look at your dandiya stick, ascertaining the exact moment to hit it. Some have a very focused look, like in an exam. Some look through you. Some, especially children/adolescents dancing with adults, look either utterly self-conscious or supremely disdainful. The pros look indifferent, dancing in a vaccuum, indifferent to who, if anyone, is partnering them. And some actually look sulky.

Having known the utter joy of letting yourself be one with the music, I wonder what other motivations they could be for dancing, especially in a setting that is community-based, non-competitive and purely voluntary. Does anyone have any ideas?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ear-plugs anyone?

The first day of Navratri is here. Mumbai is dotted with bright lights and dandia pandals. The orchestras and live DJs are earning a sizable part of their annual incomes. So are chaniya-choli and jewellery sellers. A good time is to be had by the local economy.

Our society has also organized nine nights of garba and dandiya, with a live DJ on the last day. The surprise is that my thrive-in-noise daughter is unwilling to go; unsurprisingly, she's more interested in what the TV's dishing out. Like every year, I'm torn between going to look at the dandiya (I love watching it, though I haven't yet had the courage to try doing it) and staying as far away from the cacophony as possible. I think I'll follow my daughter's example--probably check out Jhalak Dikhla Jaa for some good-quality dancing (I used to be a die-hard Nach Baliye fan, but this season is more about masala melodrama than dance. Plus, Saroj Khan isn't there) and give the headache factory a miss for today.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lead me from temptation

This anniversary brought not one, but two, boxes of Belgian dark chocolate. Shatrujeet, to whom chocolate means nothing, put them in the fridge without a second thought. Kaavya, who lives for chocolate, doesn't like the dark variety with its bitter overtones and strangely flavoured fillings. As for me, with my serious weight problem and equally serious efforts to do something about it, I was afraid to open the fridge.

It didn't help to think about painful old age, blood pressure, diabetes or any of the other fearsome consequences of obesity. The fact that I'd recently lost some weight after iron self-control was hardly a motivator. 'If you did it once, you can do it again,' said a voice, as the rich brown squares beckoned after each meal. I tried to divert myself with a million things, but it was like a tune that plays in the back of your mind. Every thought I had was laced with dark chocolate.

I travelled the tried-and-tested route of each temptation: ignore (Try not to think about it), deny (I don't want it), appeal to goodness (It's full of calories and very unhealthy), warn about consequences (I'll gain weight again and I know how hard it is to lose), and then the brainwash and the false promise (Ok, one small piece isn't going to hurt. I promise to stop after one piece). I felt a force stronger than me leading me to the box, struggling desperately with the covers, till I bit into one piece of the heavenly stuff.

Well, half of one of the boxes is over, generously aided by me. I've tasted all the flavours in that box (cinnamon and coffee were absolutely wonderful) and the weighing-scale shows a rise of one kg. Sigh! There's still one whole box to go, and my generosity seems to have withered in the face of such temptation. I cannot give it away, I cannot throw it, and I definitely cannot eat any more. That's not completely right, I can eat more, but I don't want to. Well, I want to, but I shouldn't. And what one should or should not do is never a very good reason for anything.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Impressed by 'Possession'

It took me more than a month, and a few digressions to less taxing worlds, but I've finally finished reading Possession by A. S. Byatt.

It's not a book to go to for a light read or an adrenalin rush. It isn't 'interesting' or simple, it isn't heart-warming or mind-numbing. But I found that it lingers, like a faint perfume or a half-formed question.

It's a labyrinth from the present (in the book) to the past, it has so many layers and characters and metaphors that one read is simply not enough. It professes to be a romance, which it is, doubly so. It is also a mystery, a satire, a commentary, a history, a cultural study and poetry, with a bit of science, religion and philosophy thrown in.

I read it fairly slowly, which is unusual for me, and I did peek at the last chapter when the suspense got too much, which is pretty usual for me. Though it answered most of the questions it set out to answer, it left several questions in the mind, especially to someone like me, whose idea of Victorian times is confined to Agatha Christie's observation that the Victorian mind is like a 'sink'. There were many references and allusions that I desperately wished to understand better; there was so much poetry that I wanted to interpret better.

My biggest grouse with the book, however, is that the core of the book, the poem about Melusine, is incomplete. When Byatt took so much effort to compose poetry, I wish she had taken a little more effort and finished the tantalisingly beautiful poem.

All in all, a really rich book, if you're prepared to enter its world, for it makes no effort to make the task easier for you. Like all good books, I won't forget this one in a hurry.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tug of War

A small, sturdy boat, bright blue and red, eager to feel the wind and touch the water, impatiently pulled at the strings holding it back.

The boatman sat on the bank, he and his wife had spent many days making this new boat. He wanted to look at its gleaming colours and perfect body one more time. His hands hesitated on the strong rope; he didn't want to take the boat out; he knew she would never be the same again. He could feel her tugging but he didn't want to let go yet.

This was his own boat, the very first he had built for himself. His eyes shone with pride as he looked at her. He looked around the river, his boat seemed to be the most beautiful of them all. His heart felt heavy at the thought of his boat becoming like the others. He thought of the harsh sun and the lashing rain; he saw his proud boat admitting defeat; tears came to his eyes as he saw the wreck she would be reduced to.

He looked down at the boat again. She was bobbing excitedly, tugging at the rope furiously. The gleaming paint caught the sun, making the boat glow with joy. A wind from the water ruffled the boatman's hair. He held the rope tighter; the boat felt like it would break away any moment. He got into the boat and set it free. His heart lifted as he felt the boat moving, one with the water and the wind.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Though the number has many cosmic (and even cosmetic) connotations, this month, it marks the number of years I've been married. Someone asked me what it felt like, whether the seven-year itch was a reality.

I don't know if it's that precise a delineation. I guess you can get the itch anytime, depending on the current relationship and the opportunity or temptation available. I don't even see a sea change in my relationship from this month on. What I do see is the gradual development of an understanding where words become unnecessary; I also see an acceptance, resigned, half-hearted or cheerful, of quirks and habits. I sense a rhythm in life, and I strongly sense my reluctance towards any change that breaks this rhythm.

Discovery seems to have given way to surety; conversations now start midway through thought. Arguments have become fewer and are usually along well-traversed routes: his smoking, my obsession with perfectionism in housekeeping, his busy schedules and utter ignorance of anything to do with the house, my impatience with Kaavya. Learning about each other continues, though the pace has slackened with time and the need for individual growth.

I've begun wondering if marriage is overrated in our society. How important is a stable relationship that you can take for granted? Is it worth the effort that goes into building a relationship, with all its paraphernalia of home and family? Many people of my mother's generation are of the opinion that the basis of marriage is procreation and child-rearing. Some friends remarked that 'spending time with each other' was not what marriage was about; after a certain number of years, they said, spending time alone becomes preferable. And remarks like 'this is not the man I married' or 'we've grown apart' or 'she's changed' are common enough to be almost cliched. So, are we back to the fundamental truth of human beings--to want ties and freedom at the same time?