We were reluctant participants in an event hosted by the S. Asian Association.
Music farted out of the world’s worst speaker system, women in gaudy saris and old-fashioned jewelry sat around with plates laden with samosas like rodents bathed in red chutney and the overpowering smell of cumin and cloves wafted thickly across the room from an impressive buffet of seven oily curries, in the exact virulent shade of orange. Dessert would pop up later, to keep people from leaving early — Indians never left before they had their fill of dessert and masala chai.
My husband was deeply engrossed in conversation about — good grief — an oil spill in Bhopal, India, back in 1984! I sighed deeply. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come. Surrounding yourself with desis did not make me miss my family, my life in India, any less. This felt staged. Like a pantomime for overgrown children.
I looked at the women. They looked away. I was not dressed for the occasion. Still nursing my second child, I couldn’t fit into any of my boluses and chose to wear a loose tunic and tights — evidently a terrible faux pas. I would have to while time elsewhere.
I drifted towards the hug of men in the back of the room.
Noise from both Bhangra music and “action” in the center of the floor had them cheering maniacally.
I waded in, curious, recoiling inwardly at the stench of so many men, so many armpits.
A middle-aged gentleman… wait…wasn’t that Vin Anand (MS Kanpur Institute of Technology, Ph.D. Stanford University, MTS AT&T) shaking his booty like a duck in distress in the middle of the floor? Thank goodness that wasn’t my husband out there, making a fool of himself. He looked so ridiculous. It was humiliating. It was gross. I extricated myself from the group and signaled to my husband, “let’s get out of here”.
“So, what do you think?”
My husband asked, on the drive home.
“Ugh!” I said.
That was twenty-three years ago. Vin Anand passed away last week.
I revisited that moment when I first saw Vin grind and roll. Something clicked inside me.
He was… his dancing was … quite magical!
Vin was out there diving joyfully into the moment. And all those who cheered him on, those aging men with bursitis and diabetes, liver spots and bloating bellies and the best years of their work-lives behind them (or so they were daily made to believe) understood the fragility of life. Understood it must be lived. There was just one fool that day, in that boisterous crowd twenty-three years ago. And it was not Vin.
And, oh! In time I did get used to those S. Asian functions. Now, when I look into the eyes of the upholstered women, they smile and fold me in their circle.
And I am grateful.