Saturday, April 18, 2009

Circle of Life

Last evening was a trip down nostalgia lane. About twenty years ago, I said goodbye to my own college campus in India and since then never had the opportunity to attend any college function. However, the Circle of Life is such it leads you back sometimes to moments that you have long forgotten. Now that my oldest daughter is a teenager who dances to Indian classical and Bollywood songs, we are revisiting some of those situations that we once experienced, this time around as amused parents.

So it was an interesting evening yesterday, as we attended a cultural function at the University of Houston, organized by the UH graduate Indian students’ organization. The function was held at the beautiful Cullen performance hall, CPH as students call it. As yet, this has been one of the nicest venues that my daughter has performed at. The CPH auditorium was impressive and I was surprised at the large number of Indian college students at the University of Houston. My husband noted that comparatively very few Indians had been students when he had gone to graduate school at the University of Florida.

Being among this Indian college crowd, here in Houston, for a short while, was an energizing experience. It was almost like we were back in India and only the presence of the American security personnel around reminded us otherwise. I could not help reminiscing about my own college days and functions. Everything seemed familiar, the expressions on the young college students faces, their enthusiasm, their energy and vitality, their accent, their silly jokes, the Bollywood songs and tunes that occasionally the audience would chime in with. Life changes and yet it remains the same in so many ways.

The audience seemed like any other college crowd in India, in fact not even that different from the college crowd I knew years ago. With a typical Desi college crowd, which behaved quite well overall, there was the usual howling, whistling, noisy expressions of approval or disapproval depending on what was happening on stage. It takes a bit of courage, I think, to host a college function, so I thought the two young comperes for the evening, Saumitra and Roshiny, did a nice job of keeping things together in a light-hearted manner.

The programs presented by the UH college students were quite entertaining. There was the usual mix of singers and dancers and even a funny version of a Ram-Leela. We liked the ‘hum dum suniyo re’ dance. The audience seemed to enjoy the semi-classical dance that the six girls including my daughter performed, on behalf of Pratham @ UH – a non-profit organization. The audience was quiet during their performance, clapping to the beat when the Taal song played and cheering the youngest performers of the evening, in a nice way; none of the hooting or whistling for our young teens, fortunately.

My daughter was rather intimidated at first, walking into a college campus for the first time in her life. She and her friends stuck together, feeling rather uncomfortable about being stared at, all dressed up as they were in their dance finery. But they enjoyed the evening and in typical American style did a little hooting on their own when they really liked something on stage, while I laughed sitting behind them. When they got a little too loud, I had to step in and ask them to tone it down a bit but it was with a smile on my face. (By the way, it took me a couple of years in this country to realize that this is one difference between Indian and American culture; that Indians hoot as a sign of disapproval whereas American children seem to hoot as a sign of approval or enjoyment.)

So to all you young college students, enjoy those few college years and make them really memorable. Well, hopefully without being foolish or ending up with any destructive life-time bad habits. (Sorry, that’s the mom in me.) And talking of the Circle of Life reminds me of the Elton John song in the Lion King movie, from where this phrase came and stayed in my mind.

The lyrics of the song are to some extent, quite representative of life, I feel, and they read;

From the day we arrive on the planet

And blinking, step into the sun

There's more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

There's far too much to take in here

More to find than can ever be found

But the sun rolling high

Through the sapphire sky

Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life”

~Mrs. Ansu Abraham

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