All dressed up for an evening of food, dance, and song
A few weeks ago, a colleague shared with us that there was going to be a “Jamboree” in a few weeks. What’s a jamboree? We had the same question at first but soon sorted out that it is a faculty party with dinner, dancing, and performances. Dress for the evening was kurtas for the men and saris for the women. This occasion provided the perfect event for Jenn’s debut in the sari she bought a few weeks ago and I acquired a long kurta in Ahmendabad (on clearance even!) the previous weekend, so we were good to go.
We discovered about 24 hours before the event that we were the guests of honor and in fulfillment of this most auspicious honor, we were asked to give a speech or sing a song… The event took place in the courtyard of the senior school starting at 4:30 pm. The teachers simply stayed on after school and were taken by bus back home when things wrapped up at 8:30 pm.
From what I’ve seen, Indian event organizers have a knack for dressing up a space for special events – banners were hung on the assembly area balcony rails and a small mural was composed at one end of the hall.
Though the program started at 4:30 pm, we were delayed a bit due to some minor challenges wrapping Jenn’s saree. Priya provided her expert guidance but it’s amazing how involved the process seems with all of the wraps, tucks, folds, tugs, and pins. It's truly incredible how much fabric there is in a sari.
My preparations involved putting on a pair of jeans and sliding into my kurta, a process that took all of 15 seconds. It’s not uncommon for things to be easier for the Indian men than the women… Here's how we turned out:
Before getting to the party, a little about the sari. After watching the process Jenn went through as Priya wound her up, I'm amazed that any woman can do this herself. Of course, if you've been doing something most every day for much of your life, it becomes automatic, but to the uninitiated, it seemed like a real Rubik's cube. The sari has some fascinating historical and sociological aspects to it. There are a multitude of styles and patterns in which it is worn and its said that at one time (and maybe to a certain extent even today), one could look a woman's sari and tell by its design and the way it is wrapped which region in India she was from and even which caste she belonged to.
The Keralan style of sari is distinct from others I've seen and is both simple and elegant. Kerala Day occurred a month or so ago and the women on campus wore the local style sari - the gold thread patterns are characteristic of this region.
The event itself was a great time. I gave my little speech and Jenn crooned America The Beautiful as part of a program that included individual singing and dancing performances from many of the teachers.
After the solos and small groups had performed, it was time for everyone to hit the floor for some stick whacking Garba dancing, a type of dance originated and performed passionately in Gujarat and apparently well known in Kerala based on the skills displayed by my colleagues. The dance is suited to large groups and involves not only steps but also coordinated stick tapping patterns between your own two sticks or with the sticks of others.
The kitchen staff served an excellent dinner near the end of the event and everyone departed on the buses (or returned to the hostel) by 8:30 pm. The event was a great time and showcased an Indian cultural attribute that is not as easily found back home. A large number of teachers at the event volunteered to either sing a song or dance as part of the program with little apparent performance anxiety. There seems to be a much higher level of comfort here with public performance. We think that this starts at a young age – last week we went to Elena’s weekly afternoon assembly which had music as the theme. Several teachers performed and then anyone else who wanted to sing was welcome to come up to the microphone. The kids just kept streaming up belting out everything from Mary Had A Little Lamb to lengthy local folksongs. I’m trying to picture my colleagues from any of the schools at which I’ve taught volunteering to perform for everyone and it’s hard to imagine.
It was a enjoyable, memorable evening and a chance to confirm what I had suspected right along - Jenn is as beautiful wrapped in a sari as she is in her American threads.