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Mandira - Dancing Red

I pushed my fingers into my skin, with fear

a million things ran through my head,

all the things that would happen the next day

the thrill, the chase ate my heart inside out

I was terrified of tomorrow & yet impatient for it

the song played in my head, & rehearsal began

my hands gracefully moved across the bed, the legs followed

it hit the bed stump bringing me back to reality

I could almost feel the heart fall out of my chest,

when I thought of the stage, & the audience -

will they cheer for me? or will they wait in silence

I don't think I can ever admit this,

but all I care really want is for mama to enjoy it

she has been the pillow to me every fall, I remember my practices

while I danced from one edge of the room to the other,

she patiently watched inhaling my art, my grace

& if ever I fell short of something, she was there to hold me up

something pierced my palm, and it brought me back to reality

Looking at it I realised, I had pressed so hard the skin broke

I searched for my phone, & saw the time to be four, it was almost dawn

choosing not to sleep, I put on the song, & began to practice

the steps came to me like wings, flying me away from my pain

मदारी-मदारी-मदारी, मदारी मेरा तू

मैं जम्मूरा रे, जम्मूरा, जम्मूरा रे, जम्मूरा

मदारी-मदारी-मदारी, मदारी मेरा तू

मैं जम्मूरा रे, जम्मूरा, जम्मूरा रे, जम्मूरा रे

as the song faded in, the word faded away

if you are a dance, you'd know this moment

when it's just you & the beats, the deep inhale

before your hand gracefully wades into reality

the feet rise gliding through sinuously

for the next two minutes, you are not you

the music has full, & absolute control over you

i dance through red, blue & green,

with a high leap, while my feet rose to touch my back

chest front, i fell into the stage, the head fell low

the moment was defining, & as i fell

the audience rose to award me a standing ovation

now it was my turn to wait, so we did

i sat in the last row watching other perform,

they were all extremely good, the pressure was building

Mumma held my hand, as her legs vibrated with ferocity

she was just as nervous as I was, she shook her legs

& i bit my nails, i climbed the bench to better view the stage

the judges sat a 50m away from me, I still tried to peek

I cursed myself, 'if I were only a few inches taller'

Mumma laughed at that, 'what', I asked in defiance

all participants were called to the stage,

we stood shoulder to shoulder, most of us were in Sarees

wearing red, maroon or some shade of that colour

the theme of the dance was 'red',

the judge settled into the podium,

while the audience stared into her eyes, us -

participants stared into the stage's floor, awaiting destiny

'the winner is wearing red', the judge joked -

a few hearts broke not understanding the humour

the rest of us, held our breath, I dug into my skin

pause; the moment froze, she announced the name

screams, & claps broke out in the auditorium

i turned to my left, hugged her & congratulated her

holding back the tears amidst broken smile

as she runs to the podium, dancing as she did

I slipped away into the green room, i told myself

I locked myself in a cubicle, my palm was red with pain

wiping my tears, with the edge of my saree, i ran home,

now i am shaking, boiling in self pity & grief

the last weeks have been more than just exhausting

i am lost in my terrifying thoughts, mumma left me alone

she knew i would need the space, but at this moment

i am craving for a hug, someone to fill the void

something to shine in this dark mess.

a few weeks later, i was training harder than before

knees bruised, & emotions battered down

my dance held more pain, than it showed,

it expressed every deep cut in me, all the blood stains

the loss had taught me to express,

Looking back, i would have still wanted to win it &

the defeat was difficult to deal with,

but i am a better person for it

i have always been grateful for all things

that i couldn't achieve, all the things i love

it has taught me that i have limits, that i can be the best

& yet, someone somewhere may be better

but that doesn't make me smaller,

it just makes the world a prettier place

a night before the finals, i quaked in my bed

my palms were shredded away by my nails

another sleepless night, filled with bursts of emotions

next morning, i dressed, ate, ran down to the hall

watched them perform, nervous & uncertain

i walked up to the stage, pause, the world faded out


third person narrative;

that night she danced her heart out,

it felt larger than herself, it wasn't a dance

it was a story of defeat, practice and victory

one that bled passion, & felt like a cloud

it revealed the darkness concealed in the music

there was a calmness in her insanity,

you could feel it, you could resonate with it,

you know it was also your story

it barely matters if she won,

but she did, every time since that day


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