Christmas in India: Part five

After two hours in the sun at Suraburdi Meadows, it’s safe to say I was warmer than I’d ever been on Christmas Day.

In spite of the relentless December heat, the complex where we spent the day was the nicest I’d seen in Nagpur. Nowhere else in India had I seen a place like Suraburdi, with acres of closely mowed, cleanly manicured green grass. As our bus drove in around noon, a beautiful blue lake sprawled out before us. Beyond the main compound, dozens of cottages sat spaced far apart, one in which we would be staying in the hours before our performance.

Christmas dinner was remarkably unremarkable. Other than some chicken biryani for which I was not tempted to take seconds, nothing on my plate resembled anything that would be there for the American version. In fact, nothing about our meal resembled the cozy American version. Instead of gathering around a table in a well-heated home, we sat bunched in a row, our legs dangling over the edge of a makeshift veranda. The enemy wasn’t bitter cold, but searing heat. Unlike our Thanksgiving dinner in Coimbatore, there was nothing emotional about our Christmas Day buffet. The ice cream was good though.

You’d think with our performance so imminent, we’d be harried to practice at the first available opportunity. But India had turned us into professional procrastinators. As we entered our cottage after lunch, it was with four hours and about 1000 square feet to spare. With no supervision, we had no intention of getting to work anytime soon.

We found different ways to enjoy each others company before our instructors arrived. Some of us broke out our Christmas presents, wasting no time in putting them to use. Jakob and I attempted to play (American!) football with one of the many water bottles we’d taken from lunch. Eventually I made my way to the back room with five others and plopped myself in a cozy-looking chair. It was no use resisting the downward pull of my increasingly heavy upper eyelids…

I don’t think I ever fell asleep, although my eyes stayed closed for the better part of an hour. Before four p.m., just a couple hours before show time, I was roused from my half-conscious state.

It was time for our final practice to begin.


I’d been in two plays my senior year of high school, so I knew the atmosphere from the hours before a performance. People pacing, muttering lines under their breath. Makeup being made up. Dance steps being re-stepped. An omnipresent, transparent nervous anxiety as the clock cruelly ticks closer to show time.

Everything was there but the last one as we rehearsed in the cottage together, the imminence of our performance at last upon us. But any tension, if present, was minimal, and the distance between our practice and performance sites was palpable in both distance and time. We had no set to construct, few props to assemble, and Brii was the only one with lines to rehearse. But given the amount of information we’d learned but had yet to commit to memory, I was surprised those final hours weren’t more hectic.

I had two costumes. One was a plain white pajama-kurta with red trim and a triangle-shaped hat that I’d be wearing for the Maharashtran dance. The other was a white dhoti-kurta with a red sash and a white headband for the Bengali dance I’d learned just days before. The pajama-kurta would suffice for the yoga and music portions. I’d wear one kurta over another, and my in-performance costume changes would take seconds. It seemed simple.

Actually, everything we were asked to do seemed simple on its own. It was just when everything came together that everything fell apart.

Our tabla part gave us little trouble, but the copy we’d been promised still hadn’t been given to us. The flutes and drums were still having troubles synchronizing, and our teacher had decided to replace one of Brii’s drums with a porcelain orange sphere, which would change the sound of the drum solo significantly.

And my dances were still a mess – particularly the Bengali dance. Our practice was better than that from the day before, but only marginally. It was lucky I’d be entering the stage behind Jakob and Jordan, as I was far from qualified to lead in this situation. With the three girls still busy applying makeup and jewelry, we rehearsed anyway, but we just couldn’t get our legs, arms and torsos in the right rhythm.

And just like that, it was time to go. With our costumes still in flux, our makeup half-applied, and our dances more demonstrations of disarray than delight, we were rushed out of the cottage and into our cars. My tabla in the trunk and my backpack in hand, we set off for the performance center.

Ready or not, we were coming.



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One Response to “Christmas in India: Part five”

  1. Disha Khandelwal Says:

    Thank you for visiting India Chris!!! Nd i read ur blogs!! 🙂 These are awesome!!!! 🙂 🙂 Please try to visit India Again!! Please!

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