Monday February 19, 2018
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Bar dancers staring at extinction

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By Arka Mondal

It might be Rosy, Pinky or Susie. It does not matter. No one gives the real name in the first encounter. You ask her for her number. If she gives a number, it is false. If she mentions the place where she lives, usually it is a lie.

One comes across a neon-lit hoarding along an array of shops, a small door, usually wooden and carved, with some innocuous or sometimes suggestive title board declaring the name of a restaurant as a decoy. Tune your ears, and you can hear the soft thump of Hindi film music in the distance. Taxis or private cabs halt at the gate, men get off and hurriedly enter through the narrow door lest being seen by someone familiar.

A man attired in a dinner jacket and a bow tie smiles and signals you into a large dimly lit room. Lights of various hues flood the hall with their rhythmical motions, creating an ambiance where one needs time to adapt to the queer luminosity. Cigarette smoke adds to the mystery.

There is an elevated round empty stage strategically placed in a way so that it can be viewed from all angles of the hall. The decibel increases and with no formal announcements, the shrill sound of famous Bollywood dance number begins and ushers in young girls clad in glittering outfits known as ‘bar dancers’.

The dancing girls and women are clad in traditional ghagra cholis and navel-revealing skirts, low-cut blouses and colorful and glittering accessories. The show begins as they ravishingly lure customers to shower cash on them. The dance moves are pathetic as very few of them know how to shake a leg, for they just shake their hips and bodies to the thumping sound of the music and pretend to ‘dance’.

The more they try to make it better, the more pathetic it gets. After all, they won’t get an award for their moves but showing flesh and enticing the customers would give them a livelihood. Their dance moves have no meanings or rhythm, rather they are gestures that provoke man’s fantasy and the latter throws in currency notes till his carnal desires go a notch up.

They wear a heavy make-up, but it is debatable whether their make-up is to lure customers or to conceal an untold tragic story. They are treated as if born to flatter rich patrons and bow to their whims for livelihood.

The beginning and the end

India is a culture enriched nation which has seen the evolution of many dance forms. India has been a male-dominated, patriarchal society, right from the times when the kings and queens ruled the country; a large number of female folks would entertain the males with their dance moves.

However, in modern times classical performers are counted among artistic aristocrats but

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things were quite different in yester years. Being married and performing in public or in front of men were entirely mutually exclusive social roles for women. India’s professional female performers could not marry as they were not considered ‘respectable’. Despite many kings and courtesans admiring and adulating the patronage-based traditional performers for their art, skill and performance, their communities were of low social status.

The early 19th century witnessed the dancing girls of India losing their patronage. This can be attributed to the fact that Victorian morality and purity campaigns in British India dealt a virulent blow on them. Branded as prostitutes, they lost the meager dignity they possessed.

Consequently, the British and Indian patrons started boycotting their performances. At the same time, courts were being diluted by British rule, and the courtesans, dancing girls and other court performers too gradually lost patronage. Courtesans and the dancing girls started to enter into new forms of livelihood, particularly, the cinema.

However, before long they were hugely stigmatized and substituted by the crème de la crème, ‘respectable’ women belonging to high society who had the pedigree of the culture. But, classical performing arts were being re-invented as bourgeois, concert arts, away from courtly patronage. The traditional, hereditary performers known as the dancing girls were, hwoever, blatantly excluded from this new world.

With new independent India, princely courts were abolished, and large numbers of courtesans and female court performers abruptly lost their livelihood. Subdued with stigma and inability to enter into the respectable world of classical arts, these women had no option but to indulge in increasingly illicit, sexualized forms of performing arts that existed beneath the radar of the re-constructed official ‘Indian Culture’. Many had to take up prostitution, including in some cases entire communities.

Strange but true, bar-girls in India to some extent emerge out from the same non-marrying lineages of the dancing girls and courtesans. Despite courtesans being portrayed as a romanticized figment of India’s feudal past, they are not considered to be a part of India’s present. In fact, purity campaigns and social cleansing reforms in the new Indian society created an entire realm of illicit performing arts and vast economies of sex work instead of saving the girls from indignity and exploitation or saving the nation from the social evil of prostitution.

Bollywood and Bars

The romance between Bollywood movies and dance bars are very much evident in plenty of movies. While dance bars are usually the favorite haunts of villains in cinema, in real life dance bars are places haunted by Bollywood songs.

The relationship between the two is a curiously tangled one. ‘Babli Badmaash Hai‘  an item number from Shootout At Wadala portrays bar girl Priyanka Chopra as ‘Babli Badmaash’ who dons skimpy clothes while strategically positioned finger guns aim to up her oomph factor.

The success of Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Chandni Bar’ invigorated Bollywood’s interest in dance bars. ‘Man Saat Samandar Dol Gaya‘ from the film which is set in a dance bar manages to be both peppy and soulful. Preity Zinta singing ‘Deewani Deewani‘ in ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’ not only set the silver screen on fire, but the film portrayed a bar girl’s yearnings to be like other normal respectable woman.

The movie ‘Maximum’ boasted of superstars like Naseeruddin Shah, Sonu Sood, Neha Dhupia, and Vinay Pathak in pivotal roles, but it was Hazel who stole the thunder with the bar based item number ‘Aa Ante Amalapuram‘. There are numerous other films where dancing bars have been actively used for the symbolic representation of hamlets or the places where heroes take refuge after being emotionally beaten.

Whatever might be the case it’s the bar girls that come to the rescue. In the modern era, it is the bar but in earlier days we saw Shah Rukh Khan going to the Madhuri Dixit to get solace.

Of late there have been police drives across cities in India to eradicate the bar dancing culture. However, it must be realized that they too are a product of the so-called ‘respectable’ society we live in. Verily, we are not in a position to judge whether it is ‘majboori’ or a way of making fast bucks that have led the girls to take up such a profession.

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Is The observance of Valentine’s day a Commination For The Indian Culture?

India has always been at the centre for world cultures, religions and traditions but we now see a visible decline in the indigenous culture due to this marketing campaign of western festivals and culture

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Exchanging gifts on Valentine's day has created this materialistic view of love on this day. Wikimedia Commons
Exchanging gifts on Valentine's day has created this materialistic view of love on this day. Wikimedia Commons
  • Valentine’s Day is said to be a day for expressing affection for your loved ones
  • Many people can be seen looking out for unique Valentine Day ideas to please their partner
  • Valentine Day is marked to honour the martyrdom or honouring of Saint Valentine who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius-II

One can spot excited lovebirds everywhere as the week of love starts. Shops like Hallmarks and Archie’s are brooding with love tokens. The essence of ‘love is in the air’ can be felt very easily. The Valentine’s Day is said to be a day for expressing affection for your loved ones. The day falls each year on 14th February and holds a great significance for the people worldwide. Things like cupid hearts, roses, chocolates, and red heart-shaped balloons can be seen in every florist and gift shop. Many people can be seen looking out for unique Valentine Day ideas to please their partner.

In India, along with all these romantic accessories and lovebirds, an uproar by political parties is also created every year. The party people go to different restaurants and places where the day is supposed to celebrate to wipe out Valentine’s Day decorations. These political parties also demand that this day this day not be celebrated, as it is not a part of Indian culture. Like every year, this time also the RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Hindu Mahasabha with the plan to ruin all that the lovebirds might have planned ahead. The couples which are been held on by such ‘social moral-police’ forcibly marrying them by accusing of expressing love in public or even on social networking sites. To counter the aggression of such groups, Chhattisgarh made it official that 14th February will now be celebrated as ‘parents worship day.’ Such is the plight of democracy in our country.

 

Also Read: 20 best valentine’s day gift ideas for him & her

Valentine’s Day History

Majority of people in India do not even know about Valentine’s Day origin and what exactly does it stand for. If we see historically then Valentine’s Day has really got nothing to do with individual love. It is marked to honour the martyrdom or honouring of Saint Valentine who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius-II. Therefore, 14th February is also known as the St. Valentine’s Day. There are many other stories associated with it but in the end, the day is associated with the tradition of courtly love which was an act of chivalry of Knights for their ladies.

Valentine Day is marked to honour the martyrdom or honouring of Saint Valentine who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius-II. Wikimedia Commons
Valentine Day is marked to honour the martyrdom or honouring of Saint Valentine who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius-II. Wikimedia Commons

Valentine’s Day Meaning

The Valentine day is well accompanied by Chocolate day, Hug day, Rose day, Slap day, Kick day, Breakup day etc. etc. So, now the lovers celebrate a Valentine week. If we see in the Indian context then it holds no sense of celebrating a day that too when its history has nothing to do with our society. It is understood if Indians who are Christians are celebrating it as it can be considered their festival.

The question arises, what is so wrong with celebrating Valentine’s day or expressing love in public?

If we look at the general celebration of any festival in India then, almost all the Indian festivals are celebrated in a very traditional manner and none is complete if done without worshipping God. Such festivals involve family but not just couples. Like Diwali is celebrated in a very convenient way in India. We pay obeisance to God, greet our friends and families, light diyas and burst cracker. But some people on the other hand drink and gamble on this auspicious day. Is it allowed by Indian culture?

India has always been at the centre for world cultures, religions and traditions but we now see a visible decline in the indigenous culture due to this marketing campaign of western festivals and culture. Such practices make people think it is trendy to celebrate them. One has to celebrate Valentine Day because the event has been marketed in such a way that it looks special and cool for the young generation.

Also Read: Modern methods, ‘print your love’: Valentines day

Complications Involved

Basically, what matter’s is the way in which festivals are celebrated rather than their name and origin? The day in India is more likely driven by fashion and less by emotions.

Like many other cultures and festivals, Indian culture might absorb Valentine’s Day. Fundamentally, celebrating love is not harmful in itself but forgetting what love stands for and trampling the local culture and traditions as it does not resonate with the definition of globalization is certainly harmful.

The Valentine day is marked in such a way that youngsters are made to believe that they have to shower their partner with expensive gifts to keep the relationship going even when they are just students and the gift would come from their pocket money savings.

Indian festivals like Karwachauth and Rakshabandhan are being considered as a part of "patriarchy and oppression" by the western world. Wikimedia Commons
Indian festivals like Karwachauth and Rakshabandhan are being considered as a part of “patriarchy and oppression” by the western world. Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, why should there be just one special day to express your love for your loved one? This should be expressed on daily basis for relationships to go with bliss. Exchanging gifts on Valentine’s day has created this materialistic view of love on this day. Some people have started expecting benefits from this extraordinary show of love on a single day. It is extremely absurd when people start comparing how their previous date was so much better with the gifts they have received. The very idea of judging the love and affection on a materialistic platform has become a menace to the society.

The problem in India is that the society is undergoing a transformation and there are many bad elements in the society that take full advantage of such days. For some, love means only physical pleasure and nothing more than this. If this notion holds true then it is true that not only Valentine but any such festival is against Indian culture. Nothing seems wrong with celebrating Valentine ’s Day if the day is celebrated with good and spirit of the festival and we spend time with our loved ones.

Also Read: Origins of Valentine’s Day: rooted in violence and blood

On the other hand, Indian festivals like Karwachauth and Rakshabandhan are being considered as a part of “patriarchy and oppression” by the western world which has been a part and parcel of India for generations.

If someone celebrates Valentine day to realize that they are a global citizen then the aura of subconsciousness is really gone wrong. In some cases, the conversion to other religion is also seen at the behest of such festivals.

Conclusion

Emotions like love have a very deep meaning in India and most Indians try for a lasting relation who will lead to marriage and a stable life. Thus celebrating a day where you express your love for your better half is never a big deal. There are the different set of arguments for either liking or disliking this day but that doesn’t mean it gives the right to extremists to forcibly marry off couples seen expressing love in public or social networking sites. However, we should be wary of unwanted practices just for the sake of attention and let things that ruin our culture happen. But at the same time, we should also not start moral policing at everything around.

Nothing seems wrong with celebrating Valentine ’s Day if the day is celebrated with good and spirit of the festival and we spend time with our loved ones. Wikimedia Commons
Nothing seems wrong with celebrating Valentine ’s Day if the day is celebrated with good and spirit of the festival and we spend time with our loved ones. Wikimedia Commons

There are many other foreign festivals that are now celebrated in India such as New year, Halloween, St. Patrick’s day, Mother’s days, Father’s day and so on though with less vigour. It is a common conception that foreign festivals attract more people as the way of celebrating these is just like a party and it is very attractive.

Valentine Day has become an occasion of global celebrations due to various reasons. Even the cultures and communities like India that have otherwise no links to Valentine Day have also adopted it. India has a glorious tradition, a leader in spirituality and diverse culture. Now a day, celebrating Valentine Day is considered a marker of modernity. It’s up to an individual how he/she takes the spirit of love and adhere to the very idea of compassion.