A peacock seems to love the evening namaaz (the Muslim prayer) in a village of Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. It dances in the courtyard of the mosque throughout the evening prayer. So the locals call it the 'jannat ka parinda'(the bird from heaven). It spreads its wings and dances in gay abandon as if paying obeisance to the Almighty. For the past two years, heera (as the villagers lovingly call him), has reportedly not missed the namaaz even once , come rain, hail or sunshine.
I recall a similar incident in IIT Kanpur, which used to abound in peacocks and blue bulls, till the late 90s (I hope the former are still there). It used to be a common sight for the residents, (and an enrapturing one for visitors) to see peacocks perched majestically atop the houses, as if posing for photographs. Their shrill piercing cries would rend the air and break the eerie silence of the studious IIT atmosphere. Come monsoons, and their dance of joy all over the place would be any nature lover's treat.
It is said that the rainy season triggers the exuberance of the bird (perhaps this is their mating season) and it uses all the cupidity at its command to woo his lady love.. But one particular specimen was a regular visitor to our garden, especially during the summer vacations when my daughter would be there to feed him tiny titbits. It would deftly peck at the inviting bread pieces held in her hands. But before this, it would do the impossible. In the scorching heat of May and June it would spread its feathers and dance as if in a trance. Then accept graciously the offerings of crumbs and stride away. This would be a wondrous daily ritual as long as my daughter stayed in the house. It was a unique treat for the eyes—a peacock dancing not under the umbrella of clouds but in the scorching heat of the sun. Surely it was enticing her to give her food—a novel method of survival.
While for some of us dancing may be an expression of pure joy or gay abandon, and a way of praying, for others it is a way of pleasing the powers that be, in the hope of receiving some largesse. In the animal/bird kingdom it may be a mating ritual to attract the opposite sex, or simply to survive in this big bad world by enticing the tormentor.
Reality shows on television have given an altogether different meaning to this genre of performing arts. Young and old, rich and poor, all want to dance their way to huge prize monies, simply by imitating the dances of the silver screen, in most cases. Money is making the world literally go, rather spin, around, and all of us seem to be dancing to the tune of it.
But in our frenzy, let us not forget the sheer ecstasy of this form of expression of our emotions—be they of grief, joy, or devotion. Like the the whirling worship dance of the Sufi dervishes called Sema, through which the dancer aims to reach the source of all perfection, by abandoning one's personal desires, focusing on God and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, as a symbolic imitation of the planets orbiting the sun. Let us not wait for the storms in our life to pass, but let us learn instead to enjoy dancing in the rain.
Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: [email protected], website: www.citizen-news.org)
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