Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Dance Room (A tribute to five years of friendship)



It’s an ordinary room with a red linoleum floor and mirrors; lots of them. In an alcove sits a table that’s seen better days. On it sits a stereo system and a dusty computer with tiny speakers. A rusty air conditioner is stuffed into a window frame. Photographs of dancing children frozen in time adorn the boards. Tribal masks and puppets stare at nothing lifelessly.

It’s an ordinary room, just like any sleepy, silent chamber. Until....

...the clock strikes 8. Misty figures appear, spells are chanted and...the Dance Room lives.

It breathes a sigh of music. Its red floor pulses with the stomping of little feet. Like heartbeats in the core of a sentient being.

The creators of this enchantment, the women who wrought this magic are easily mistaken for ordinary people. Do not be fooled by their kohl-lined eyes, big bead necklaces, their silver slippers or their ginormous handbags. They are wizards, not women.

Zesty Reema hula hoops with her children till we’re too dizzy to watch anymore. Feisty Rekha guards the threshold of the room with the eyes of a goddess. Dare anyone enter with their shoes on! This wrath of Rekha keeps the chamber sacred (and dust free!) Together, the zesty and feisty wizards choreograph dancing dreams with flavours deeply Indian and suavely Contemporary.

This is where we meet; those of us who were “marked” by the Stage Fairy at birth. We, who were born to stand beneath the spotlight or pace restlessly behind curtains while our art was subjected to the scrutiny of an audience.

This is where we share our heartbreaks, deaths and disappointments; births, recipes, make-up tips, dreams. We share lunch, bhel puri, coffee and cupboard space. We teach each other Surya Namaskaar. We call each other names and critically appreciate each other’s work.

This is where Anjali’s humorous scripts are first read out. This red linoleum floor is the battlefield upon which she fences with our Costume Tailor, demanding Broadway original quality and receiving Bollywood copies instead. Here, Gita pores over her keyboard, hassled and harassed, swearing she hasn’t the faintest idea when to play interludes for the Tin-Man or was it Toto? We laugh at Manas’ comic one-liners and applaud his genius musicality. Beneath our shrieks, Shahana’s soft voice can be heard, tinkling with cheer.

And through all of this, the pitter-patter of little feet. Up and down, in and out. Children excited, relieved, having the time of their lives.

In a corner of the Dance Room stands a red guitar. It responds feebly to my weak and unskilled fingers. It knows I am not its mistress. Cradled in Aradhna’s arms, the red guitar fills our hours with passionate, soulful music. Her rich and heartwarming songs wash over us and we listen quietly to the waves of melody she weaves.

The day is coming to an end. I lift my voice and sing with her. A perfect blend.

All eyes in the room are closed. Reema rocks back and forth gently. Rekha smiles to herself. The Dance Room sighs deeply. Our work here is done.

The song still on our lips, we bid each other farewell. The bags and slippers vanish. The enchantment fades. All is quiet.

It’s an ordinary room again. Just like any other.

Until the morn.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chasing the Diamond Ring. (Thank you ex-es)

Chasing Harry Winston is the story of three women – girlfriends - turning 30, chasing diamond rings (or the men who would buy one for them.) I could go on ad nauseum about the minor details, but any further description would be a waste of words, time and character space.

Let me hence, hurry to the point.

I’ve been that woman, chasing the diamond ring for the ‘stability’ it signifies. In Indian terms “settle ho gaye.” (Of course, I’d only have admitted to this under hypnosis of the deepest sort.)

But generally, chasing a diamond ring requires strategy or atleast some modification of behaviour. Unlike heroines in New York City, I’m a terrible strategist. Truth is, I have no strategy. My very birth was orchestrated to ensure this. My horoscope is a minefield that most pundits tip toe through and all mother-in-laws run miles from, when they get to see it. Not a good start for relationships in India, eh?

As a person goes, I am blunderingly obvious but in an elegant, gentle way – which is what probably deceived my exes (I’m sure they think they were deceived.) I’m the sort of girl that a lot of prospective mother-in-laws take to quite well (before my horoscope enters the story.) Their comfort with me isn't due to any sterling qualities I hold, but primarily because I’m not a rude or in-your-face person. I’m polite, sensitive, listen well, and smile at frequent intervals, which is why their sons take to me in the first place.

But, as my exes found out – all free spirits don’t walk around with a man’s swagger, purple dyed hair and pierced body parts. One after the other, each of the men I’d fall in love with would eventually choose to de-link his life from mine. Each had his own style. One renounced the world to live on a kibbutz. One slunk away into the night, hoping he was camouflaged by the shadows and I wouldn’t notice. (I mean – for real?) From finding another woman to marry and then informing me of it, to promising to marry me and another woman at the same time (yes, this last one really did happen) - all said and done, I’ve witnessed amazing reasons for being dumped. The elusive diamond ring would prance away under my very nose.

Each time I was of course, very hurt and spent many precious moments cursing myself and my destiny, wallowing in self-pity and certainly not feeling positive towards the specific ex in question.

In Chasing Harry Winston, (and true American chic-lit glory), we are treated to a ‘punch-your-fist-in-the-air’ moment when the girl’s ex comes crawling back to her, begging to be reinstated in her life as her man. (And if not as her man then at least as the doormat upon which she wipes her feet occasionally.) The sparkling seconds in which she now rejects him are every woman’s dream come true.

Unlike the wonderful world of American soppiness, that sort of drama totally skipped my life.
No one came crawling back.
Not even striding back.
Not even a tentative whiff of a knock at the door.

I was heartbroken. Self esteem plummeted like a rocket crashing into a gravity force field. My ex-es moved on quickly with their lives, without paying heed to the bits of my broken heart scattered on the floor. (Yes, I was a drama queen – well, still am one.)

Little did I imagine that at the ripe old age of 30, I’d thank my stars for this extraordinary piece of good fortune. (i.e. the ex-es moving on with their lives; not my theatrical tendencies.)

It’s been a few years since the last ex walked out, and every day that has dawned since, I am grateful to these men. They saw what I did not see – in fact – what I refused to see. That my life with any of them wouldn’t really work out. I was a round peg in their world of squares and in aspiring to be square and squashing myself into a misshapen quadrilateral, I would have ruined two lives, besides bringing heartache to the families. What I needed was a round world, but I clutched desperately and daftly to the illusion of squareness. (Talk about being thick in the head!)

Thank God someone noticed the truth.

So now, when a golden heart smiles at me from across the horizon, I know who to thank for the warmth in my life. My ex-es are my greatest gurus. They’ve walked me through the toughest lessons of life – relationships. I’ve truly realised that every relationship is a reflection of my relationship with myself. These men are the ones who’ve helped me understand myself better than anything else ever could. They revealed to me my “round peg identity” and dispelled my “square” delusions. For this, I will always be grateful.

I have found my diamond ring. It was inside me, all the while. The only ‘stability’ a human can ever know is her own soul and I revel in the new facets of my soul that sparkle forth every day. I’m getting to know my diamond intimately and I love the empowered feel of it.

Therefore, to my ex-es I say - thank you, each one of you for the pivotal role you chose to play in my life. For uncovering my true diamond for me.

From the bottom of my heart, I do wish you well.