The zing thing

The belly dancers, in their flowing costumes, looked out of the world.


During the 1950s, Middle Eastern clubs were opening all over the US and the demand for dancers far exceeded their availability. After a highly exciting tour of the US in 1959, the vivacious twins landed in Calcutta during its short-lived winter, the  time when Calcutta is always at its best. They were to perform at Sherry’s and Maxim, the in-house restaurants of The Great Eastern Hotel. 

Well before the show began, we three friends occupied a table at a vantage point at Sherry’s.

Lazily, we started tackling the fish and chips while sipping the sparkling cider we had ordered. Soon the flood lights lit up the polished wooden dancing floor. The band started playing some specific belly dance music.

The dancers appeared amid resounding clapping. In their colourful, flowing costumes and with complexion having inputs of old ivory and rose petals, they looked ravishing and out of the world.   The long hair fell free on the shoulders,  giving flashes of mild glimmer. The elegance and charm of the performance conjured up heavenly images.

At times they danced all over the floor in rapid whirling motion like waltzers. They made circular motions at shoulders and hips, shimmied at times and rolled the belly muscles with amazing ease  and poise.

To  acknowledge the applause of the audience at the end, they curtsied. With one foot tucked behind the other, they bent their knees, lowered their bodies to show respect and then quickly moved among the diners.

Unexpected as it was, they made a beeline to our table. Of all the diners present, they picked up our own flamboyant  Harbaksh Singh, donning light blue turban and a matching tie. We exchanged sweet nothings and got rewarded with their proximity and the lingering     fragrance they left behind.

That was the scenario half a century back. Today, belly dancing is the new rage in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities to lend zing to the  parties. Lebanese girls and those from the independent satellite states of the former Soviet Union are in great demand for belly dancing in hotels and restaurants.

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