Going potty on New Year’s Eve
After watching Sydney bring in the New Year in her own unique and spectacular fashion on our iPad, it was time for the teen and I to herald in the New Year Indian style. We’re staying at the Nahargargh Palace Hotel, a rather flash joint (more about that later) on the
edge of Ranthambhore’s National Park.
We ventured downstairs at 8pm, our nostrils immediately assaulted by the strong smell of smoke.
Several were set up on the lawn before a stage adorned with Indian musicians. And they were armed with drums. The loud banging kind.
Now I’m not going to beat around the bush here, nor bang on about cultural differences, but I don’t like Indian music. I never have, and after a fortnight here, I doubt I ever will. Actually, in fairness, I’ll modify that, I dont mind some of their modern music, it’s the folksinging which injures the ears. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, one I have yet to acquire for chamber orchestras, jazz and heavy metal as well. I do like Motown, disco, Willie Nelson and Barbra Streisand, which probably just says more about my age than anything else, but the persistent wailing and shrieking of an Indian folksinger backed up by enthusiastic drum banging, just doesn’t do it for me. And it doesn’t help when you haven’t got a clue what all the wailing is about.
So the teen and I were a little apprehensive when we pulled up a chair. Almost immediately the boys broke out into song. Almost immediately, the teen reached for some comfort food.
Clearly, after a fortnight here, we’ve heard our fair share of Indian music, but this lot took the biscuit. They took wailing to a new level, screeching with passion and emotion. And one can only imagine what all the hysteria was about. The Indians are an excitable bunch, a casual conversation about the weather can seem to our ears a full force gale of an argument. Were they singing about lost love? Or a favourite goat? Who knew. All the teen and I heard was male voices reaching notes that no man should reach, and drums being banged with increasing intensity.
And then the dancing girls arrived.
One had a pot on her head.
And she danced effortlessly with the pot on her head.
And then she put another pot on her head and danced with two pots on her head.
This is the Bhavai dance, a popular folk dance in Rajasthan which was performed hundreds of years ago with clay pots balanced on the head. These have now been replaced with brass or stainless steel pots. Not much fancy footwork is played out, it’s more of a shuffle backwards and forwards and the odd twirl. Understandable when you’ve got pots on your head.
And just as we were finishing applauding the two-pot dance, along came Helpful Harry, who put another pot on her head.
And then he put a fourth pot on her head…
…and you guessed it, she danced with four pots on her head.
Enter Helpful Harry again to add a fifth…
…and we were treated to The Five-Pot-Dance
Now anyone who knows me well, knows I’m not a great fan of dance. I’d rather have my teeth pulled than go to the ballet, or any show based on dance really. But this potty dance got me thinking. It was intriguing to wonder who in hell thought it up. Was it a bunch of men half a century ago sitting around a log fire who thought, “Hey, I know what we can do to liven things up, let’s get a bunch of women to dance around with pots on their heads”.
Or, was it the women themselves, inspired by their amazing ability to carry whatever is required on their heads?
Maybe, one day, bored between chores they challenged each other to see who could dance with the most pots on their heads.
The more I thought about it, the more absurd the concept seemed. But then I was distracted by this little fella who appeared from out of the blue to do a lap.
Not quite sure why.
Time to move on and we headed to dinner, set up beautifully outside in one of the hotel’s many the courtyards.
We were seated next to a fire…
…with our own personal fire warden ensuring no embers landed on us. Obviously, two western women had no clue and he took his job very seriously.
It was a splendid buffet…
…with very attentive service…
…and the teen was particularly impressed with the array of deserts on offer.
Then all of a sudden her head swivelled to the sound of something hauntingly familiar.
“Oh my gosh! Mum, it’s Justin Bieber!” That apparently was worse than any wailing Indian folksinger. The disco was underway, and it was heaving with Justin Bieber fans.
It was a bit like a school dance really.
The teen’s reaction to my suggestion of a bop was a little less than enthusiastic.
But I could tell she was considering it.
This little fella was considering it too…
This bigger fella needed no encouragement, doing it Gangnam style.
But then we got distracted.
Helpful Harry and the Wailers had returned with their young performer…
…and the dancers. This time without pots on their heads.
It struck midnight and the fireworks went off. Perhaps not as spectacularly as Sydney, but pretty nonetheless.
…and no sign of OH&S.
Meanwhile, Helpful Harry and the Wailers got right into it, stalking the guests and serenading them with their songs.
And everyone loved it
This gentleman was clearly the chief storyteller…
A formidable force evoking passion and frenzy.
It was theatre at its best.
Just a little shrill on the ears.
To all our friends around the world … Happy New Year!