“You have an odd sense of beauty”, Maddy said
“Odd beauty!”, Tanvi burst out laughing. No one had ever used such a strange adjective to describe her. Tanvi was amused.
“Will you be subject of my pictures for this project?” Maddy proposed.
Tanvi hesitated. She was never the model type, the fashionable type, infact she was the careless type who would rather tuck a pen in her hair instead of a fancy pin. She was always scolded by her mom for not keeping in sync with the latest fashion, “Koi nahi karega tumse shaadi”, her mom chided.
Maddy sensed Tanvi’s hesitation,”I can sense that you are a free spirit. You are the perfect careless beauty I was looking for as subject of my theme – Fearless Rajasthan. And, I will pay you handsomely too”.
Tanvi felt good about the proposal and who would deny the offer to get clicked and get paid too. Ofcourse, she needed money.
There was a new dancer on the floor who caught Tanvi’s attention. She was dressed in a black and red ghagra choli complete with mirror work, lots of white bangles reaching uptot eh arm adorned her, and a silver maang tika spread across the forehead. She had layers of pots on her head and was dancing while balancing on a fragile plate. This stunt was followed by dancing on broken glass, picking up a rupee note by turning the body backwards from the waist, and twirling of dress so fast that you could just see the mirrors on her dress shinning and nothing else. This performance was mesmerizing. Tanvi was seeing in rapt attention when the young girl who was dancing came towards her and gently pulled her hand, asking her to dance along. She also requested other guests to join her in the dance. Tanvi followed her steps and danced to the tunes of the Rajasthani folk music. The dancer girl though dusky had sharp features. Her eyes were hiding something. Her heart seemed sad but her face was bright and engaging. There was something enchanting about her.
Tanvi got tired and came back to her table. Maddy told her that this is a Kalbelia dance form and these people are from Kalbelia tribe. The story behind the rise of Kalbelia dancers was both interesting and inspiring. They ordered for another drink while Tanvi was hooked to the story of Gulabo Sapera, the lady behind the Kalbelia dance form.
Gulabo Sapera was the 7th child and she was buried alive after an hour of her birth but thankfully she was rescued by her aunt. She was named Dhanvanti in childhood and later her father nicknamed her Gulabo which became more popular. Kalbelia people are originally snake charmers and nomads. They would beg for food and live a life of poverty. Gulabo was dancing and doing some stunts in Pushkar mela when she was spotted by Himmat Singh and Tripti Pandey (sister of Ila Arun) in Tourism Ministry. They were so impressed by this 13 year old girl who was dancing like there was no bone in her body that they had to showcase her innate talent. It was the time when Rajasthan tourism department had begun packaging the state as a tourist destination with abundance of art, culture and royalty. Gulabo was asked to perform on the centre stage. She was hesitant initially but when she performed, the stage was set on fire and there were oodles of applaud. Gulabo Sapera emerged as a Kalbelia dancer.
Gulabo was the perfect mascot to showcase cultural and musical richness of Rajasthan. There was no looking back for Gulabo. However, back in her tribe she was looked down upon and her family was outcast for allowing their daughter to dance. Gulabo though scared by this resistance but she didn’t give up. She continued climbing up the ladder of fame. In fact, the traditional black and red dress that Kalbelia dancers wear while performing was designed and sewn by Gulabo herself. Soon, Gulabo was travelling all around the world. She was awarded Padma Shri by the President of India for her contribution to the field of art and culture. She is the first woman not only from Kalbelia tribe but from Rajasthan to receive such national felicitation.
Inspired by her success story and with her help girls from Kalbelia tribe are now encouraged to pursue this dance form. Today, no girl child is killed in Kalbelia tribe. They are gradually giving up nomadic lifestyle and settling in one place, sending their kids to school and leading a better life. One woman changed the complete tribe, gave it recognition, uplifted their lifestyle, and saved the girls from getting killed at birth. This is true success!
Free and wild dance form, Kalbelia or snake dance is about the indomitable spirit flying free in the wide open sky. Maddy, picked up his camera and clicked the dancing damsel while ending the thought provoking real story. Your limitation is only set in your mind. Free your mind and soar high!
Read the next post here – Chapter 30 – Chapter 30 – Fantastico Love Story – Fall In Love With Yourself