I have a proclivity towards dancing. Dancing is a part of the Mauritian/Hindu culture. I have been raised in a Mauritian Hindu family in Mauritius and music and dancing especially have been an integral part of my childhood, teenage years and now my adulthood.
I remember the first dance I did was for the celebration of music day in primary school when I was 6. I danced the sega (Mauritian dance) to the song “Li tourner”. Throughout the years as a student, I have danced to all types of songs and in many languages too. As a resident of a multicultural island, I have been influenced by English, Mauritian and French songs, but mostly by Indian songs (songs in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil,…). I also used to watch (and I still watch) a lot of Bollywood movies. My parents themselves are old Bollywood movie connoisseurs, to say the least. My father knows all about the Kapoor clan, and other old Hindi cinema actors. He is a fan of old Hindi songs and I think he is the one from whom I got the love for the Hindi film Industry. My mother also knows a lot about Bollywood. Whenever we would watch an old Hindi movie, she would tell me some fun facts about the actors and actresses and I would be amazed at her knowledge about this stuff. It is no wonder that I am like this now. Whenever I go to an Indian restaurant here in China, I like to listen to the songs and watch the music videos playing there, and I am always telling my friends about some trivia about the movies, songs, actors, the making of the songs, rumours and controversies surrounding the songs or movies.
Coming back to my love for dancing, I guess the Hindu culture and Bollywood is full of dancing. We dance for almost all festivals. Many Bollywood movies have songs and dances. I also went to dance classes when I was around 10- 13. I learnt Kuchipudi and Kathak. But then I stopped going to the classes. I still remember some of the basic steps and hand gestures but that’s all. Here in China, there are fewer opportunities for me to demonstrate my passion for dancing but when I do get the opportunity to dance, I dance to the fullest.
Dancing is also that form of expressing myself where I can be myself, where I can be sexy, proud of my feelings, and proud of who I am. Being part of a Mauritian Hindu family, it has been drilled into me, that I should hide my body, and that I should be ashamed of it. I have been lectured since I was a kid that I must not show my arms, legs, or cleavage. I had to dress conservatively and I was always upset that I could not wear clothes that I feel comfortable and good in or that I think are beautiful. I remember once, I wore a kurti, leggings and a chunri to go for a prayer, and my dad told me to change into more “appropriate” clothes because my clothes were too close to my skin. I also remember how my mother never bought clothes that fit me when I was growing up. She would always buy clothes that were one size bigger because wearing clothes that fit will encourage people to look at me and these will be a distraction. I was also taught not to laugh or smile with or at boys lest they find me interesting enough to date me and ruin me.
I feel guilty as I write this, though I know now that I should not, because I have been brainwashed into thinking that I should be ashamed of my thoughts and feelings. That’s why I turn to dancing to feel better about my body. I don’t feel self-conscious about the size or shape of my body when I dance but sometimes I am not confident enough to wear clothes which fit me and which show skin just because of the way I was brought up. But dancing helps me forget the adornment on my body. I forget that I am wearing drab and shapeless clothes when I am dancing. But now, I want to be uninhibited in my sense of dressing, in the way I move my body, in the choices I make.
Finally, I feel liberated. This year has been eye opening and stressful. It has made me do things I never thought I will do, like cutting my hair, changing my wardrobe, and thinking about dying my hair green 😛 I think that cutting my hair has been a way to rebel against my father. My mother knows and understands that I am now an adult and that I can make my own choices. My Dad maybe still expects me to follow the traditions.
Being in China has changed my way of seeing life. I thought that my first year here was an eye opener, but I was wrong, I think the second part of this year has been the most change I have undergone as a human being. My core values have remained the same; I still am respectful and polite towards people but I know now that it is okay to stand for myself, and it is okay to love myself and put myself in front of anyone.
Happy New Year!