Being Safe in India (part 2)

Being Safe in India (part 2)

Ever since I arrived to India, people keep asking me about the safety of women/dancers here. A while back I wrote about work-related safety issues. This time I am looking at more general aspects.

Let’s start with the grossest threat – the food! Indian food is notorious for causing troubles, and there is a selection of different forms of food poisoning to choose from 😉 On a more serious note, it can get as bad as needing an IV. The good news is, you will learn which foods to avoid (like salads at the weddings), how to cope with when it happens to you (hint: Immodium, Norflox and peppermint oil), and even how to work throughout the whole thing (not while being hooked to an IV though 😉 ).

It is world wide knowledge that most accidents happen at home, and in India it seems to be true. Especially when it comes to bathrooms. I’ve lived in a flat where switching on the light in the bathroom was always a bit of a roulette – you never knew if you would get an electric shock or not. In another apartment I witnessed how the heater tank exploded – it was extremely lucky that no-one was in the bathroom at the same time.

But the biggest threat lies in the drivers. We spend a lot of time in cars – sometimes the drive to a show can be up to 8 hours. And the drivers are terribly overworked. Once, a driver fell asleep behind the wheel while we were driving through a tunnel. Another time we had to take a roadside break in the middle of the night, so that the driver could have a little nap to recuperate. We’ve also had problems with drunk people sitting behind the wheel. Often I choose not to sleep in the car during our drive back from the show just to keep an eye on the driver… it is better to be dead tired than dead.

I know that when I am asked about the safety here people actually want to know about the everyday life. Judging from what is published in the foreign and also Indian media, India is definitely not a safe place for a woman. However, my experience has not been bad… I live in a decent neighbourhood, travel in the “women only” cart on the metro, and don’t hang out too much after dark. I avoid talking to strangers (or actually, turning any attention to them at all), and when I have to take a taxi, I ask my boss to book it for me, to make sure it is a reliable company, and he has the contact of the driver. So far I can say that India has been treating me properly in that sense!

Bellydancers are boring!

Bellydancers are boring!

To be honest, this post is not about bellydancers at all, I just lured you here with a provocative title 😉 . Because even though the market for bellydance is enormous here in India, it is only a small part of the entertainment industry. And that industry is unlike in any other country. Let me give you a few examples of acts that are currently popular here, and which are mostly staffed by foreigners.

Leela dancing Martini at Zerxura restaurant, New Delhi.

Leela dancing Martini at Zerzura restaurant, New Delhi.

A Girl in the Martini Glass

Imagine an oversized martini glass filled with water. And now imagine a girl dancing in it. And even though it might seem silly at first, it is really a very tough act: the dancers who ace at martini must be athletic, flexible, not afraid of heights or of getting bruises all over your legs.

Strolling Tables

Sometimes it is jokingly called as working as a doughnut 🙂 Basically it means that the girl wears a doughnut-shaped plastic table around her waist/hips, which is either supported by kind of suspenders or she just holds it with her hands. And, her job is to walk around the event and serve drinks from it.

fountain

Lika as a Lotus Fountain at an event

The Human Fountain

Have you ever seen those human statues in the pedestrian areas of European cities? A human fountain is a bit like that, except that there is water coming out of the hands and headdress of the girl. Usually placed near the entrance of a wedding venue it provides a lot of fun for kids – they keep staring and wondering if the fountain will move or not.

International Band

This seems to be the most recent and increasingly popular addition to the entertainment scene. There’s a group of beautiful girls in flowing white dresses on stage. Each one of them has an instrument – a violin, a saxophone etc., and you can hear music playing. However, the girls are only imitating playing their instruments, and all the music is coming from a CD.

Like I said, these are just a few examples of the colourful entertainment indurstry in India. There is a number of different acts and costumes, and there is constant innovation going on. And the crazier it is, the better!

Zumba!

This past weekend, I spent two days at the Zumba Basic 1 Instructor training, and now I am an official Zumba® instructor!

I love the essence of Zumba®. Even though it is crazy fun, it is really a very systematized format – you can fit the basics into an Excel-table 😀 And, in addition to fitness, it can give you some very special coordination drills: just try to layer a 7-count arm combination over a 6-count step pattern!

Our instructor, Sucheta Pal, was a ball of fire, really. She was enthusiastic and full of energy. And when she told us a story of how she quit a “grown-up” job to dance, I knew we had something in common. And when she discussed her concerns for the integrity of Zumba®, I felt like I could tell the same story about oriental dance.

What I loved most about Sucheta’s training were the very practical teaching tips, starting from how one should enter the class to how to take care of newcomers without making them feel too self-conscious. I mean, in a standardized format you can learn steps and choreographies from almost anyone, but this kind of knowledge comes from years of practice.

As an oriental dancer, I was pleasantly surprised how much emphasis is put on musicality. We learned to identify the main rhythms, and even made graphs to break down songs. And I really enjoyed the exercise where Sucheta divided us into groups, assigned each group a part of a song and a movement, and then played the music so that we could recognise and react to it. I never expected that from a fitness training.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I learned new things, got my behind kicked, and made some new contacts in the Indian and Nepalese dance world. And now you will probably start hearing Zumba® news from me! 😉