06 October 2008

Mosi and family at the garbas

My much better half, my sister and I decided to partake of the spirit of Navratri and went to the garbas over the weekend. For those who need an introduction, it's a Hindu festival. The basic point of it is to dance... going clockwise and then counter-clockwise in concentric circles (or as complete a circle as possible). That part is fun... but we were really there to see which girls showed up... wait... I'm married, I can't do that any more... at least not without losing a few limbs... so we were really there to dance the dandiya. This starts after the garba and involves grabbing a couple of sticks, getting together with a few people and hitting their sticks. Usually in Lusaka it's a 4-beat.. 1-&-2-&-3-&4. The dancers all line up and each person faces somebody. On 1 they hit the stick in the right hand with the opposite person's right hand stick. The off-beat gives them the opportunity to try something fancy like twirling the stick... and then on 2 it's the stick in the other hand that gets the beating... then step back... 3- hit your sticks together... 4 - hit your partner's stick - normally here I try to hit with both sticks. Then move to your left, skip a person... 1- hit the stick. When you get to the end of the line... the off-beat after the 4 involves a 360 degree turn and 1- hit stick.

So hopefully that was crystal clear. There's not much variation in the steps out here but the tempo keeps getting faster and faster... eventually people drop out. Since we were there for some time, I had the chance to observe the various people I partnered with. So here's a list of people you might run into during a dandiya...

1. Why am I here?
These people have an expression on their face that suggests they would rather watch paint dry. And yet... you see them on the dance floor for hours. What gives? Looks like the wires that connect emotions to the face got switched. The ones for boredom and having lots of fun, especially. I didn't know I could find research subjects at a cool religious dance.

2. Sorry... did I hit your stick?
These wonders give you a shy smile when they partner with you... and hit your sticks as if they shouldn't even touch. When they do touch these people give you an apologetic smile and move on to the next apology. Maybe these people all have a good idea of their strength... or they were hit a little too much by #7 - man on a mission.

3. Monkey
These descendents of Hanuman jump around all the time with a big smile on their face. You almost think they're about to steal the sticks from your hand... but it doesn't happen. At least they're better than the super-bored... and they could be handy if you ever need to build a land bridge to Sri Lanka.

4. Man on a mission
These people fix you with an unblinking stare. They mean business. They have bet their friends that their sticks will be the first to break and they smash them into yours like there is no tomorrow. The wife tells me the best way to avoid such is to never make contact with their sticks. After all, you're not winning any money if your stick breaks. The most that will happen is you'll get some sympathy when the splinters enter your hands or feet.

5. Last hurrah
The garbas only come once a year and these people are out there to make the most of it. Leaping back, twirling their sticks in the air, turning full 360s at every off-beat... and keeping it up till the band stops playing. They play like it's the last time they'll ever do it and keep the party going.

6. Who's that other person over there?
These people are always looking around to see who is there, what they're wearing, who they're with... they tend to forget that other people are swinging wooden sticks and their bodies (sometimes ample) around. It's a recipe for bloody fingers and / or noses. These people have amazing tolerance for pain... and continue to look everywhere else but at their partner. Wonder where they got their torture-survival training. Our troops could use some of that.

7. I got my drink and my two-step
OK... I cannot say this enough. It's a 4 step, not a 2 step. I don't care if you're rocking back and drinking, you better be there with your stick on the 4 to hit mine. If you don't know... and can't think on your feet... observe, watch, before you jump in. Do not drink and dandiya, otherwise someone will be tempted to hit you on the head.

8. Not these people... not these either... no not those...
Some people are so scared of commitment that they won't even commit to a dandiya group. They keep moving between groups... and sometimes take other people with them.

Well, we had a great time this year. Kudos to the organisers and Lalji and his musician colleagues. Wish they could play all the time... now... what's for diwali?