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Jun 2012
Flavored hukkas are passed around,
Alcohol and paan bring the mehfil alive,
The Ustad ji sits down and flexes his fingers,
He knows he’ll be working all night.

Dha dhin dhin dha, dha dhin dhin dha
Na tin tin ta
Ta dhin dhin dha,
Move the Ustad ji’s fingers on the tabla.

While with a veil on her face,
And feet dipped in and henna-colored,
Lips in cheap red lipstick covered,
She unfalteringly, gracefully enters.

Her steps are matched by the chhan chhan
of the ghungroos tied around her ankles so slender.
Eyes set on her, feast on her youth,
Just right for the taste of all her customers.

Bejeweled hands placed on waist,
She stands at the centre of attention,
She lifts a foot, readies to dance,
And begins the nightly convention.

Skillfully, perfectly, sensuously move
Feet well-trained since childhood days,
Harmonizing with the timbre
That the Ustad ji creates.

Tin tin na dhin na dhin na
On the tabla, experienced fingers beat.
Chhan chhan chhan chhan,
She dances, repeating the rhythm with her feet.

Metal bells strike against one another
And chhan chhan chhan-a chhan she goes,
Making breaths prance and jump,
As she strikes on the ground her heels and toes.

Then suddenly she stops and gasps,
Over disgruntled, impatient groans she tries
to hear the sound that flows in, only to her ears.
Several rooms away, a baby cries.

Naach! A voice booms,
Arey naach! More join in.
A glass of wine is shattered by an irritated one.
But she stands still, clutching her chest, frozen.

One sways up to where she stands,
For the veil covering her face, his hands dive.
He uncovers her, but is blinded by the sight of her beauty
And her tears that fill her kajal-smeared eyes.

She’s shaken back to reality as she looks all around.
Her sparkling pall is off her face.
She sees all those drunk men who’ve paid to watch her dance.
She knows she has to make the sound of the cries fade away.

So she stomps her feet on the ground till it hurts.
Hair flying out of braid, bangles clanging,
Anguish replaces her innocent loveliness,
The music in the air is now shrill,  jarring.

Her steps match with the tabla’s rhythm no more.
But she dances, planting her feet so hard they weep.
She silences every sound with the noise of her ghungroos,
Praying that the night will lull her wailing son to sleep.
hukka- hubble bubble
paan- a food made from a betel leaf folded round pieces of betel nut and spices, that you chew like candy
mehfil- a gathering of people
ustad- a title of respect for someone who is very skillful, especially a musician
ji- used to show respect for someone
tabla- an Indian percussion instrument
henna- flowering plant used to dye the skin
ghungroo- a musical anklet tied to the feet of Indian classical dancers
naach- dance
kajal- kohl
Written by
Ghazal  New Delhi, India
(New Delhi, India)   
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