BENGALURU: Dussehra has generally been a festival that brings with it cheerful spirits.
As a child, it meant new clothes and winter holidays. As a teenager, it meant pandal-hopping and eating street food like diabetes is a myth. In later years, it has been a few days of vacation, accompanied by turbulent drinking.
Amidst the festivities, if there was any aspect that I was uncomfortable with, it was the dancing of the Garba. As a comedian, I am sometimes asked to perform standup comedy during Navratri events. Of course, the instructions are very clear about Clean Comedy – no jokes about religion, politics, sex – and that robs me of half my jokes. However, even when I manage to string together a Navaratri performance, I find myself rushing out of the event as soon as I’m done.
To better understand the context, dear reader, you need a bit of a background about me. I was born with two eyes, one nose, and two left feet. I have firmly believed that dancing is like ice-carving – great to watch, but terrible if attempted. Back in school, I was always shoved into the dance performances as I had no real skill. A few of my relationships required me to dance at pubs, and I found my confidence slipping with every track the DJ changed.
It doesn’t help that Indian DJs are hell-bent on not playing popular Bollywood tracks. And since I don’t have the reference of how Hrithik Roshan danced to a song, I’m at my wit’s end when it comes to dancing. Which is why the prospect of a Garba is the only dampener during the week-long Dussehra celebrations.
But the Goddess works in mysterious ways. I got invited to a party and found myself surrounded by a dandiya-ready crowd. All the fears that had been neatly arranged in the attic of my mind came crashing down on my head. I wasn’t just going to embarrass myself spectacularly – there was more at stake. We live in the age of instant documentation, and I would end up looking like an astronaut amidst graceful flamingoes on social media. For a non-dancer, even the costumes designed for Garba are scary. Yellow, red and orange colours that shine and glitter, there is no space for a chameleon to run and hide!
I had the sticks in my hand and was already part of a circle. There was no time to back out. With the two sticks in my hand and my heart in my mouth, I took the plunge. Seconds creaked along slowly and melted into minutes. Gradually, I found myself enjoying the process.
Firstly, the lack of alcohol worked in my favour. Instead of losing inhibitions, I found I could focus better on the rhythm of the songs (‘They all have the same rhythm’ – an unimpressed dancer friend of mine would reveal later). I found that the entire process of Garba could be divided into neat, little mini-tasks. One had to spin around (or do whatever one could think of in the intervals) before clashing one’s sticks into the sticks of the other person. There was no pressure to actually perform any steps; people were just doing it for fun. Within a few minutes, I found myself immersed in the dance.
If you have never been a dancer, I advise you to give Dandiya a shot. Garba is my new favourite dance-form, and on the day Lord Rama defeated Ravana, I vanquished my inner demons of dancing. The only pity, I have to wait another year to display my new-found dancing skills!
The author is a writer and comedian.