Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Nagin Dance

Dancing is like breathing to me. It exhilarates me. It energizes me. I never need a reason to dance. I've never felt the need for a teacher to show me how to. Just like breathing, I can do it. I may look like a total buffoon doing it, but I don't care. I dance with abandonment- in private, in public, on dance floors and in Holi parties. But my favourite place to dance is at an Indian wedding. The dhols and dholaks (drums) demand dance. My two favourite moves are Nagin (snake) dance and the Bhangra (Punjabi folk dance) followed closely by Amitabh Bachchan style thumkas!

What's Nagin dance? Here's a video that shows all the moves one can spot at an Indian wedding, starting with -- you got it-- Nagin Dance at number 1. Enjoy:)
What I'm about to tell you about Indian weddings is purely based on my memories. This is how things were back in the 70s and 80s and 90s. It's changed a lot now. 

Weddings were a chaotic cacophony of organic, home spun music on dholaks, chattering cousins, grumbling grandmas, copious cups of tea being made and served, lip-smacking food being prepared in large quantities by maharaj jis (chefs one hires to cope with feeding the extended family and their cousins, neighbours. etc.) who, it was implied, would eat at the shaadi wala ghar (wedding house) for five days at least- three before the big day, on the big day and at least breakfast on the day after the big day.

Riotous weddings of my childhood memories rested on the following four pillars:
1. Dancing
2. Food
3. Clothes or shopping for clothes, and
4. The obligatory and almost always unintentional upsetting of important relatives, who then expressed their unhappiness by either walking out (with lots of drama) or sulk loudly in (no, not in a corner) the most visible part of the mandap (platform where the bride and groom sit). Uncannily, this sulking face will haunt you for as long as you have your wedding album because the sulker makes it his moral duty to photo bomb almost ALL of the family shots taken on the day he/she decided to throw a hissy fit.

Trust me, even today, you may manage to have a quieter wedding with less dancing or simple food or moderately priced clothes, but you can NOT have an Indian wedding where you don't upset at least one member of your family. At least one upset uncle or aunt is mandatory . We've had entire families staging a walk out on something as simple as menu choices. Say, for example, if chicken tikka happens to be on display and a vegan uncle turns up at the wrong time. We are an emotional bunch and food gets us all wound up.

Back to my favourite part; dancing, which was and still is my favourite pillar, followed by shopping and food.

Only when I sat down to write today, did I wonder about the origin of Nagin dance. The other dances you saw in the video are a mishmash of folk dances like the Bhangra and the Garba (Gujarati folk dance) and now of course, hip hop. Nagin dance, I reckon, slithered into our weddings from Indian cinema. If you know more about its origin, please share. It's always accompanied by 'been' music. That's the flute a snake charmer plays.

Wikipedia suggests that the first Indian film that used been music and Nagin dance was:
Nagin (1954).  
I'll have to rely on Wikipedia as I'm pressed for time to do more research.
The following video is the real deal. This is what most dancers try to emulate at weddings or on dance floors. 
The drunk uncles are hilarious to watch, and apologies if you are one of them.
I probably look like a tipsy auntyji myself when I have my hands up in the air-- cobra style,
 but I still feel nineteen when I'm dancing. 
And that's all that matters.
I like to move it...move it...come on, join me...shake a leg:)

I'm certainly looking forward to switching off for a day. Have a fun Sunday.
See you on Monday. 

11 comments:

  1. Oh my, Indian weddings sound like most American weddings I've been too. I attended my niece's wedding and the groom ended up in a big fight with her mom. Crazy stuff happens at weddings!

    In the USA people love doing the "Chicken Dance" at weddings.

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    1. I'm familiar with the chicken dance. It's very popular in the UK, too. It's great fun after a few glasses of wine;)

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  2. Lovely blog! Really enjoyed a lot!

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    1. Thanks Manu. Did you shake it...shake it?

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  3. I think all weddings must have the upset relative. No fun without them.

    Liz A. from
    Laws of Gravity

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    1. You are right Liz:) Where's the fun in weddings without the drama?

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  4. Oh, you take me 11 years back where exactly the same drama unfolded while I was busy getting married, blissfully unaware of an aunt staging a very public walkout from the venue just because her young son was asked to move to another chair so that an elderly uncle could sit!!! I am not into dancing, but you're right, no Indian wedding is complete without a Nagin Dance��

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    1. How's the aunt now? Hope, she has forgiven the people involved;)

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    2. Of course she was appeased and the day was saved:-)

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    3. Of course she was appeased and the day was saved:-)

      Delete
  5. Oh, you take me 11 years back where exactly the same drama unfolded while I was busy getting married, blissfully unaware of an aunt staging a very public walkout from the venue just because her young son was asked to move to another chair so that an elderly uncle could sit!!! I am not into dancing, but you're right, no Indian wedding is complete without a Nagin Dance��

    ReplyDelete

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