Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fall Back Positions

I was reading through my Twitter feed tonight in lieu of actually watching the Grammy's. I'm lazy like that - judge as you wish. I read a few responses that went out when Pharell's "Happy" song won a Grammy and in that moment,  I really felt, well, happy for him. It's not that the song itself is so incredible but it provided a soundtrack to what was one of my favourite moments of 2014 for me.

At some point in November, I found myself on a soccer field, flowers in hand and in my hair, surrounded by children, clambering to play and have their photos taken. The sun was waning and the dusk was quickly approaching. A soccer game was in full swing and some of my travelling companions were fully engaged, with the passion worthy of world cup contenders, despite the rough field, rugged goal posts and lopsided teams.

I was chatting,which involved much gesturing and guesswork between Bengali and English, with a group of girls who had danced traditional Indian dances for us before we had walked down to the playing field. They were continuing their displays proudly, showing off hand positions and intricate arm movements that seemed to require double jointed and reversible limbs.  Still in their best dresses and costume jewelry, make up and best hair, the talented performers became girls again as we talked and laughed and played silly hand games along the sidelines, ducking every now and then to avoid wayward soccer balls launched in our direction.

As the light faded and the day came to a close, our group of adults and children, meandered back towards the community centre where we had first met up with them. In the approaching darkness, we met parents coming to pick up their children, greeting them and hearing the pride in their voices as they picked out their child or children from the group. Standing alongside the road, lined with ancient homes and small businesses, people returning from work in the nearby centres, and more than a few small animals...the leader of our group pulled out his phone and turned up the volume on Pharell's song. "Happy" blared among the most incongruous gathering of souls and yet, in those few moments, we all danced. Laughing, singing, waving....eye contact and lip-synching the only language between us...mothers, grandmothers, aging men and small boys barely strong enough to stand....we danced. Teachers, fishermen, labourers and housemaids....we danced. Foreigners, their first time in India intermingling with the descendants of those that had inhabited the land for literally generations beyond their memory....we danced.  My one hand holding the small hand of a little girl who had danced so seriously in her performance, now shimmying and laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath. My other hand, holding the hand of a small boy in his grandmother's arms...his eyes wildly trying to take in what was happening around him, such a flurry of colour and sound and activity....we danced.

Sometimes, in our lives, we need to go back and revisit the moments in which we feel absolutely and incredibly free. There, in what was only a few minutes, with Pharell's song weaving cultures and people and ages together, we danced. I danced. Me. And in that, I was completely untethered and free. It's hard to remember that type of freedom when the tentacles of daily life continued to wind around our ankles and hands and hearts, keeping us tied up in the day to day business that keeps us from being free.  In a life where words like "busy" and "tired" and "multi-tasking" and "overwhelmed" can become part of our everyday self description, we need to redefine ourselves. We need to create the moments that become our fall back positions. So that when we think of ourselves we can include new defining descriptions. Words that come to us when we give in to the invitation to dance with strangers half a world away.

Untethered. Free. Uninhibited. Happy.

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