Zumba is never just Zumba in India


Mumbai lives for the weekends! And these three months are by far the best in this city that never sleeps – December, Jan, and Feb. So, yesterday being Sunday, I thought, carpe diem!, and made my way to the much-advertised Zumbathon, hosted in the hallowed precincts of the Heritage park in Powai.

The event was apparently hosted by a few NGOs (five) that had come together to support (and also fundraise for) not less than five causes (talk wholesale) and well, it is probably the one-hour dancethon to be conducted by certified Zumba instructors coming from all over this great city is what really attracted people to step onto the greens.

Things were moving along fine – people making their donations for the cause, collecting their passes, stepping onto the patch of grass whereby two large audio speakers stood, along with a motley crowd of NGO members and some Zumba instructors dressed for the action.

Now, Zumba-shumba hai rabba! That’s just all very well, you see. You have a Zumba dancethon, with 40 Zumba instructors, large speakers, and some public, what will happen? People will Zumba! No big deal there, yes. In any case, we are used to dancing on the roads with or without music during all sorts of processions, we can do it any time people! The point is really not that. And therein lies the point.

Well, before any of us could shake a leg, respecting a true-blue Indian custom, we had to stand an invocation. Or, call it a prayer, for at least this one wasn’t about one particular religion, unlike so many ceremonies or functions that we attend across the various sections of the society.

So, a small band of senior citizens, who were also supporting one or more of the causes outlined above (not), sang the popular “Aye maalik tere bande hum…” probably to propitiate the Gods, if not that to help us cleanse our spirits, post which we could all start doing the Zumba. And we did too, yes, ineptly, and quite confusedly. But at least, not without the invocation.

I don’t know what others did but I danced my fury away. Seriously. Be it an educational institution, a business formality, or even a Zumba session where all anyone wants to do is to do some Zumba to not very unsexy lyrics or beats, we have to have an invocation. We must have an invocation! Thou shalt stand an invocation!

At most Indian institutions, this invocation panders to the majority community’s faith – replete with lamp-lighting and all. At some places, a more universal prayer may have replaced the same. But, note that there is no escape from an invocation. Why I’ve given such an elaborate context of Zumba is that it is that much jarring to the senses! Suppose the Gods don’t like Zumba! Suppose they don’t like the way we do it! Suppose we’ve got our devotional bases (ahem!) covered!

Anyway, moving along, overheard after the Zumba dance-thon got over, “yeh auratein aise kadpe pehen kar khule mein naach rahi hain aur log video ley rahe hain, inko sharam nahin aati!” (These women, wearing such clothes, are dancing out there in the open when the event is being recorded on video, aren’t they ashamed!”)- one woman to another.

You see, Zumba is never just Zumba in India.

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