On Saturday I got a glimpse of how schools are slowly getting westernized. In the good old times (I have already started talking as if I am ancient), school annual functions used to be a cultural fiesta with performances that included genres like classical, folk and western. My niece Maahi is an adorable three year old kid who is a pre-nursery student at an elite (and expensive) Gurgaon school. The school celebrated its annual function on Saturday at the Sirifort Auditorium. To start with, when we got the invites for the function the venue surprised me a little. I mean, the last time I was at Sirifort it was to see Anoushka Shankar live in concert playing some compositions of Pandit Ravishankar on her sitar. Sirifort is one of the best and largest auditoriums in Delhi and a school is using it for its annual function!! Maybe I really am ancient and it happens like that these days but my school had its own auditorium and grounds for such events.
Anyway, Maahi came home on Friday with three pages of instructions for parents on how to dress their wards for the function. She got a pretty but awfully flimsy and see-through dress from the school. The pages instructed the parents to make her wear white high-neck sweater inside the dress, to wash her hair on the day and to keep her hair loose. Maahi got immense attention from us on that day. Her mom (my sister, Dido) and my Mom constantly checked whether Maahi had matching beads for her hair, matching gogos, what makeup should she wear etc etc. Maahi's waist length wavy hair (we are very proud of her hair) were washed and kept loose since morning. I was her makeup woman, Dido was the hairdresser and my Mom looked after her wardrobe whilst Maahi's Dad drove us all to the venue.
Isn't she adorable with that loud stage makeup? :-)
We reached the venue before time, handed over Maahi to her classteacher (as instructed) and went inside the audi to take our seats. There were customary speeches and then the function began with a semi-classical Symphony performed by 120 students and the only Hindustani program of the evening. The kids were awesome in the Symphony performance, it was obvious that they had been practising for months to do some justice to those compositions. Thus, the evening began fabulously and then immediately lost steam.
Each class performed a dance number and we cheered enthusiastically because the kids were adorable, even with their slips and flaws. They were excited at being on stage, happy at being dressed up, and were no less than superstars for us. However, the selection of songs by teachers was somewhat disappointing. Little kids danced on those disney songs and nursery rhymes and the senior kids on Micheal Jackson numbers. There was not even a single Indian dance, no Punjabi, no Rajasthani, no Bollywood, no Classical. The evening climaxed with a musical 'Fiddler on the Roof' and by the end of the evening we had a feeling that we are probably in the US or UK because the program had no Indian touch to it. Ironically the evening's program was called Symphony Raaga on the invites, which is a very Indian name. I wonder what our kids are learning in such institutions. They would never know what it is like to do the Bhangra or the Garba or any Indian dance form for that matter. They would all know how to Tango or how to move seductively on Salsa music, which is all very good, but isn't that education incomplete? Is it because these schools consider the Indian dance forms to be beneath their attention, I wonder.