A crowd of young people, in their best threads, are grinning and sweating as they strut their stuff to blaring amplified music in a jam-packed dance area... 'Toffs' on a Saturday night? No, there's no sticky carpet, it's 8 a.m. (and they're just getting going not just winding down), we're in a park in bright sunlight and not a drop of drink has been taken...yes, really
!! It's a holiday to celebrate the Dalai Lama's birthday and the Secmol staff and
volunteers are having a picnic...but not in my understanding of the term! It doesn't involve heading down to the beach at lunchtime with a bag of sandwiches and a few cold beers. Instead, we arrived at the park by mini bus at 7.30 a.m. & unloaded a phenomenal cargo to lug across a rickety bridge and around the park till we found a suitable spot: a Ladakhi open-sided tent, matresses, rugs, stoves, gas cylinders, boxes of rice, veg and goat meat, barrels of water, cauldron-sized cookpots, a generator, a stereo and an amplifier...but no beer!
The options appeared to be: help prepare food, lie around on a matress, or throw yourself around the 'dance floor' to hideously distorted Ladakhi music. The first 2 choices struck me as winners! So I managed to resist efforts to get me on my feet, explaining that in my culture, dancing with such wild abandon traditionally occurs after 11 pm, in the dark and following copious quantities of alcohol. There was a break around midday for a
mouthwatering spicy feast (the like of which I couldn't prepare in my kitchen
, never mind in a park) but otherwise they danced all day from 8-6. I was struck most of all by how graceful the hip and arm/hand movements of the men : a far cry from the off-rhythm, frozen-hipped shuffle I associate with fellas in boogie mode, back home. It was quite surreal, lying
back on a mattress, belly full of spiced beans and veg, eyes shifting focus from the background of snow capped peaks to the foreground of a variation of a Bollywood dance routine...Ireland feels a long way away!