If there ever was an award for ‘Citizens of The World Who Party The Hardest’ I believe the Punjabis’ would win, hands down.
This may be merely my opinion, but I am pretty sure if you were with me at the many parties I’ve been to recently, you would think so too. This much I’ve learnt – it is not about the location, the clothes or the food. It is all about dance. Yes, it’s all about Bhangra.
From the moment I step into the house, the scent of anticipation hangs in the air. My initial reaction was of dread – my Malaysian Malayalee, non-dancing family practices didn’t equip me with a sense of rhythm, especially not for Balle Balle! Petrified, I turned to my cousin Priya for support. Her reaction? If you can’t beat them, join them!
Initially, I took her advice lightly. Instead, I turned all my energy into resisting every invitation, nudge and push. I remained in my seat, my feet firmly planted on the ground, with polite excuses of “I can’t dance, really, you go ahead, please.”
I was determined I would never be on the dance floor. I was happy to just sit and watch them dance, albeit with a twinge of envy. How swift and easy they made it look!
There goes my friend Rachna, who hardly takes a breath as she dances, from one song to the other. Her sister, who, at the tender age of five has already mastered the art of Banghra, joins in. At the corner of the room a group of men have gathered, their passion for the music clearly evident through the systematic and energetic ‘hands up in the air’ routine.
All together, they have completed the picture perfect Punjabi party for me. Just when I thought I had things covered, that I was safe, I felt my hands being grabbed – by Mik, my cousin’s husband. Without warning, he picks me up and lifts me up high. I hear an outburst of approval as my world takes a spin.
As reality sets in, I am brought down to earth again. Something changes inside. The music begins to fill up my senses. Something has changed inside of me. I take a pointer from the older aunties, as they dance to the lush, pulsating music in perfect harmony. I too find my hands up in the air, in sync with the loud and lively beats of Bhangra.
Emotions run on a high as the song reaches its climax. The room is a flurry of activity as everyone burns the dance floor, each in their own unique way – including me! I find myself being swept by the music. As I clap my hands in tune to the beats, I realise that I have caught the Balle Balle bug! Whether it’s a family party after work or Balle Balle on Sunday, the secret to flawless Bhangra dancing is – passion. Feel the music, follow your leads and if all else fails, just clap your hands!
*Written in March 2005 in Melbourne, Australia when the writer had the opportunity to immerse herself in the company of many Punjabis’.