This has been a dream summer. One of those long, lingering, lethargic, snoozy summers without the sword of Damocles hanging over my head. When life seems to carry on at an uninterrupted pace. When regular work takes a backseat. When the stewpots from the backburner finally get attention.
No, before you get me wrong, let me hasten to add that by no means have I been idle. Or slumbering, or snoozing. Or hibernating. It’s just that after many, many years I find myself free of regular examination and other academic duties through the summer. This lull between two academic terms is a welcome break. Some activity carries on – like my duties with the Sahitya Akademi or IAS Centre, but they are non-pressured activities, without a deadline.
So how does one spend the summer? A summer with the daughters having flown the nest, the husband earning bread-butter in a different part of the country, and Raju in a more or less stable (thank heavens for that!) state of health?
Swimming, of course. The pleasures of the pool. Those languid hours spent in the blue waters. Floating on my back, looking at the deep blue of the sky, the scattered clouds and the high-flying eagles. Sometimes, hovering a few feet above the water are dragonflies – but they usually appear after the first monsoon showers.
Sure, there’s nothing like a good swim on a hot summer evening.
What else? Yeh dil maangey more!
Some Game perhaps? But the last time I played badminton I had a tennis elbow that refused to heal for six months. Soperhaps I should think of something else.
Idly, I browse through the newspaper and come across this ad announcing Shiamak Davar’s Summer Funk in Chandigarh. Dance workshop for two weeks. Sets me thinking, it does. But, but, but – do I dare, do I dare?
Two years ago when I had enrolled for a Salsa class I was laid up with a bad knee for a while. Do I risk it again?
With some ho-hem I finally join the group.
“This is the Adult batch,” I am told at the desk.
“Adult? Meaning about my age?” I am relieved.
But, not so fast. They clarify: “Adult means 12 years and above.”
“Thank you very much” is all I can say in response.
Okay, the classes begin.
We are a batch of forty students. I think I am about the oldest. “Partners, partners,” calls Madhura. I get paired with a cute young boy – very shy, very sweet, AND all of twelve years old. He does not look me straight in the face. He fumbles with his steps. I tell him – “Beta, your shoelace is undone. Aap gir jaaogey!” He blushes and ties them up. After a few minutes they are undone again.
We begin and end each class with a prayer. When was the last time I prayed? I don’t remember. But the summer funk makes me God-fearing. I have never prayed so fervently – O God, don’t let my back or knees give way – let me go through the dance class without any problems. I am straight, direct, and honest with god. Sure he should appreciate that!
A few days later I am given another dance partner. This one is a punkish looking lad – he chews gum, has his hair jelled and spikey, wears a gold chain and a look of arrogance. I thaw him out with a compliment on his designer shirt, so he deigns to smile at me every time we are face to face. In one of the classes he and his friend (they could easily be twins) are sent out of class to spit out their gum. Iron Lady Madhura did it, enlightening them on the dangers of choking over chewing gum while exercising.
And then there is an exchange of partners and I find myself briefly paired with a 30-year old IIM graduate. Well, not bad – a 12 year old, then 18, now 30. I seem to be doing pretty well at the dance class. Life seems to be looking good, indeed.
Madhura is thin and fragile. If she had to go out in a strong wind she would surely be blown away. “Like a candle in the wind….” But don’t get taken in by that frail appearance – she is a tyrant if ever there was one!
Everyday we begin with warm-up exercises and a roll-call. The exercises are strenuous. At least for someone my age they are! She shouts – “Come on, all of you all. Stay down. Touch the ground. Bend your knees. Now the piano position. Now flex. And point. Flex and point.” She is merciless. Ankit is only a shade better. When it suits his fancy he comes walking through the rows of human beings doubled up in crunches, pushing them further to more strenuous degrees.
Whoever said dancing was an art easily acquired? These bones are more than half a century old, my dears, I try to reason with those young tyrants. Try, try, I am told. They fail to understand. The creaking bones refuse to cooperate.
By the end of the fourth day I am wearing a corset to keep my back in place and my right knee is encased in a tight knee cap. I am limping. Whatever happened, people ask. Nothing, nothing. Just a twisted knee. How? Did you fall? They ask.
"No, sweetie,” I tell them. “I was dancing.”
The dance class lasts for an hour. But the rhythms do not fade. The songs linger in the memory even after they are heard no more – how Wordsworthian, like the solitary reaper’s song, huh?
The walls of my study are full of 'dance notes' taken during class. I try and practise the steps learnt. the post-its on the walls help me remember. If only I had the music I'd do much better!
This heady feeling,
Intoxicating as wine.
The world so appealing
This summer of 2009.
Thank you Ankit.
Thank you Madhura.