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How Bhangra Ruined My Life, Part 2 of 3 February 27, 2009

Posted by sikhsubculture in Bhangra.

Real Life Stories

After tryouts, the winners were announced on the team website and as expected, I was chosen (along with Preeti!). I knew I didn’t get the spot fairly, but I felt oddly proud of myself, as if I had accomplished this task on my own. Shortly after the winners were announced, I got an email from Binni requesting my schedule so he could put our workouts/practices together. It seemed a little intense, but I sent it to him anyway.

The first practice was two days later in the same room; I wore jeans and a t-shirt. That was a mistake. When I got into the room, I felt like the kid who is the only person wearing a costume at a Halloween party or the person wearing a polo shirt at a wedding. Everyone else had work out gear on, water bottles and towels. Binni was decked out in UnderArmour from head to toe. I even thought he had an UnderArmour Keski on, but I couldn’t get a close enough look. “Ok, everyone here are the schedules for this semester” Binni said, as he passed out pieces of paper to everyone. Practice was 4 times a week and 6 times a week during a competition. That was more than some of my classes. On top of that, we had “optional” workout time in the mornings three times a week. I felt like I was part of a Big East basketball team or at least a DIII football team. I was a little uneasy as I folded up the schedule and put it in my pocket, but then Preeti came in and I remembered why I stuck with it.

The next few weeks were intense to say the least. Morning work-outs, evening practices, going over old bhangra film and listening to new tracks at night. Nevertheless, the team became my crew and we did everything together. Anytime I had a question about something, needed something done, or just wanted to hang out, the team was there for me…no questions asked. They were great mentors for me too, especially Binni. This was actually his seventh year in undergrad, so he had a lot of experience. He didn’t fail all of his classes or anything, but he wanted to stretch out his experience as it allowed him to spend quality time with the team. It would be remiss if I didn’t say it was a bit odd, but he did know a lot about the school and had really created a world class dance group. Everyone assured me that he was also serious about school and had even had six different majors. He must be smart I thought, six majors is a lot. However, the best part of the joining the team for me was getting to know Preeti.

I didn’t have to do much to get Preeti’s attention, she did most of the work for me. After the second week of practice she asked me if I wanted to grab dinner. Dinner was nice, we mostly talked about how cool it was to be on the team, but I could tell there was some chemistry there. From then on we would hang out after and sometimes before the bhangra practices. Eventually, she started holding my hand and stuff and I figured we were together. She was my first real girlfriend, unless you consider AOL instant messenger a form of human contact, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Our first competition of the year was a few days away and we needed extra practice. I put on my lungi on and made my way to the auditorium. As I ran through the main campus, I saw the Bicycling Team biking down the main road. I remember laughing to myself at how funny they looked in their tight spandex shorts and thinking that I was glad I never joined them. After practice, I opened up my writing seminar book and started to read. I fell asleep before I could get too far – two-a-day practices wipe you out.

Getting off the bus for the first competition, I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered what the crowd would be like. Uncles and Aunties with video cameras? Crazy college students? Maybe just a bunch of FOBs? However, my fears were quelled when I entered the performance hall. Everywhere I looked there were frenzied fans, mostly college age, running around gossiping and trying to get a glimpse of the performers before they went backstage for good. I felt like I was at an NFL game and I was on the team. People had banners with people’s names on them, team t-shirts and some girls even adorned their faces with face paint. I wanted to soak it all in, but we were one of the first acts, so I hurried backstage to get dressed and waited behind the curtain for the MC to call our name.

As soon as the music started and the lights went up, I felt a huge boost of adrenaline rush through my veins. Before I knew it I was dancing in front of everyone and we were almost through the act. This is amazing, I thought, I wanted to stay out there and dance all night. “Boom!” our act was over, I couldn’t believe it. What a rush! The crowd, the music, the dhol and the lights. Now I know why Binni never wanted to graduate I thought to myself. How could anyone give this up? I watched the rest of the show from the balcony of the auditorium, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was still on a high from our performance. I kept playing it in my head over and over again. All I wanted to do was go back up there and do it again. I felt like I was addicted to drugs or something, it was such a rush! The night wasn’t over though, we still had the afterparty.

After the show, in the calm before the storm, all of the teams mingled in the changing rooms. Many of the Sikhs from the other teams were eager to meet the new Sikh who was on the circuit. I got to meet some really cool people from around the country and had some very interesting conversations. I learned that there were a lot more Binni’s out there: defenders of the bhangra faith so to speak. Most of the conversations went something like this:

“Hey, good job tonight man, your guys were awesome” another performer said to me as we changed out of our outfits

“You too man. Props for coming all the way down here from Toronto too”

“Ya, no big deal, it was a fun trip”

“So what do you study back in Toronto?”

“Well, I play the dhol mostly, but I also get involved with stunts sometimes. I’m working my way up you know?”

“Haha, no, I mean what do you do outside of this team”

“Oh, gotcha. Ya, we do some gigs at weddings, birthdays, festivals and stuff.”

After I changed, our team met up at the hotel to change and then head to the after party. The hotel, however, was a party in itself. Hundreds of desi twenty something’s in adjacent rooms. Shiny/tight shirts, gelled up hair (and dhari’s), matching Pughs, and spikey hair was rampant. Half the people there knew each other so there was a constant chatter in the hallways. There was also the typical cluster of guys huddled into a room drinking, trying to keep the aurora of discreteness by using pocket Listerine strips, but not enough to be completely out of view. There was energy in the air… or maybe that was just hormones.

When we got to the afterparty, I saw a huge line of desi’s eagerly waiting to get into the building. I started moving to the back of the line, but Binni hinted to follow him and after a quick chat with the bouncer, we were in. Before we could even move a few feet, a small crowd swarmed us. All eyes on us, everyone wanting a piece of the action. This must be what it’s like to be Kanye rolling into the club, I thought. After hanging out in the front for a few minutes, soaking up the attention, I entered the dance floor. The DJ played a ton of bhangra and I basically did my routine over and over again… I didn’t know too many other moves. The dance floor was packed, but you could tell who the ballers were: the top performer from the respective teams, the alums who were just there to party and the random people were too old to have been on a team. It didn’t matter to me though, people knew who I was now. To make a long story short, the night was awesome. I met a ton of new people, the music was great and Preeti and I grew a little closer.

We arrived back on campus late Sunday night. I couldn’t believe that I had ever doubted joining the bhangra team. I thought it was the greatest thing that had happened to me, but little did I know that it would ruin my life. All I could think about that night was the next competition: the sights, the sounds, the smells and yes, the after party.

… Stay tuned to SSC and find out How Bhangra Ruined My Life, Part 3 of 3



1. deepika - March 6, 2009

this sounds earily familiar to some people i know

2. pritpal singh - March 6, 2009

very funny yar

3. Set - February 28, 2009

I think the next post has to include something along the lines of “As soon as I got back to the dorm, I logged onto PunjabOnline.com to see the comments…”

4. LP - February 27, 2009

good one! I can’t wait for Part III…

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