Wednesday 19 May 2010

Pop goes Orissa

Last Thursday I was telephoned at about 10PM by my colleague and now neighbour Mr Padhi to say him and another colleague Santosh were on their way to my house. Rapid dressing took place as I had just had a pre bed shower! It turns out they were coming to invite me to accompany them, their wives and children to a concert which was being held over in Housing Board Colony, the nagar next to ours. It has been an annual event now for the past 5 years and lasts for 4 days and was well attended. All the main road was lit up with lights, a bit like the strings of multicoloured lights that adorn British towns at Christmas time.

When we got there, the organisers were giving out gifts to the folks from the Old Age Persons Home which my NGO runs. The young people who organise the concert had decided to do this and everyone one from the Home had turned out this evening. They were given gifts of a piece of cloth and some food and sweets. Some of the old dears couldn't make it up onto the stage for their presentations, others had to be helped up the makeshift steps, but everyone got something.

Then the music started. I had no idea what to expect, traditional Oriya songs, Hindi Bollywood stuff or what. The modern Orissan pop was a bit of a revelation!. It wasn't so much the singers, or even the music that surprised me: it was the dancers. In a comparatively traditional area of the country, here were young women, in western clothes, jeans, a dress showing legs and even a tee short which almost showed midrift, gyrating away on stage in public, much to the delight of the crowds. Amusingly I wondered if having one thin and one more well built girl dancer in each pair was planned. In the first pair the girl in orange tee short reminded me of someone from a Chinese movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers or the like, some Wu Xia film where the choreographed fight scenes are made possible by complex wire work and the characters movements seem unnaturallly fast and furious. In the second pairing, the girl in the black dress, with what looked like black cycle shorts on underneath presumably for modesty, wouldn't have looked out of place as a waif extra in a Dickensian fim set in her desinger grunge tatters.  Curious.

The audience seem to like it. It was a family audience, of all ages. When we arrived I was amazed to hear someone call my name. I turned round to see Gauri, one of the young girls from my nagar, she's about 10 I should think, beaming all over as she Namasted me from her seat with her friends.  I could imagine her friends all wondering how and being amazed that she knew foreigner auntie by name! I happily made her night and Namasted her back, smiled and waved. It made a nice change from the usual hordes who come and ask me which country I am from, which of course, happended for the rest of the evening, much to the amusement of Rasa and Madri my colleagues wives who shared an Oriyan giggle over this.

An unexpected and fun evening from which I finally got home and made it to bed just before 1AM!

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