65/100. Yes, have not been posting for a while. But have been pacting away as usual. Rather, have been pacting away and quite unusually, at that.

Ever since I proved myself to be a dedicated pacter, people have been asking me about the pact almost everywhere I go. But the most surreal of these was from my salsa family.

Imagine this. Bailando playing and my partner for that dance asking me why I was stuck at saree number 37 while leading me into a tricky travelling turn! Or another salsa friend asking me to figure out a way to make a salsa and saree story work, however difficult it seemed.

This was something I had been thinking about as well. Dance has always been, and remains, an abiding passion. So much so that the last sentence has been the last sentence on my résumé for the last 20 years! Though I have been nurtured in the Indian dance tradition, I have always been fascinated by Latin rhythms and Latin dance forms. My relationship with salsa started way back in Houston in 2003. But I allowed family commitments, injuries and the not-very-plain and not-so-simple business of living to get in the way. It stayed a dalliance – two months of dancing followed by a two-year break, then five weeks of class followed by a three-year gap. You get the pattern. Till June of 2014 when a dear, dear friend who also happens to run a dance academy got me back into learning salsa. And this time, I was determined to stick it out. One and a half years on, I am still at it.

Salsa has been therapy, it has meant new connections and it has also meant a rediscovery of myself. Given the sassy sensuousness of the form and the ideas that most people have about it, my dancing the salsa has also meant being labelled a certain way. I have heard opinions about how the ‘salsa bit’ doesn’t really gel with the ‘other’ Sukanya – the nature-loving bookworm of an always-harried single mom.

Now, I couldn’t let such an opinion go, unaddressed, could I? So, of course it had to do it through the pact. The question was – how?

A salsa social seemed the best bet. Salsa is a social dance form – learnt as much through dancing with different partners in a social setting as in a proper dance studio. Attending socials and dancing with as many different partners from different dance schools is an essential part of learning the form. The etiquette is that we never say no when someone asks us for a dance, unless we are really out of breath or if we are really uncomfortable with that person.

What makes this work is a very strict protocol that ensures that the social space stays clean and free of sleazy vibes and people as social dancing is rooted in dancing with virtual strangers. Those who break this code of honour are dealt with swiftly and effectively – they are blacklisted in the salsa community citywide and often, countrywide as well.

Kolkata now has three salsa social nights every week – organised by three different dance schools. Themes and dress codes make it more fun and pull in new faces. As a result, the community is growing every day and it’s a good time for all of us, touch wood.

With the Pujos approaching, I thought of going for the last social before Pujo in a saree. I did have qualms about the appropriateness of this since socials are primarily about dancing. But with the festive fever in the air, even our Latin night theme took on a Pujo hue and it was okay to go traditional.

Since I had to attend a work meeting right before the social, my saree had to fit that bill as well. So, a black Italian crepe with a border and pallu in a very traditional Mughal jaal print in shades of orange, rust and tan it was. Since I did not want a flying pallu to cause accidents on the dance floor, I wore a tan, slim belt from Benetton – taking off from the ornate, jewelled belts that are such an integral part of our classical dance costumes.

And so I salsaed. In a saree. I turned and I twirled and I travelled. And no, I didn’t trip even once. Maybe my dance partners had to ‘dance down’ a bit that evening. But I heard no complaints. 😊

So, here I am. The ‘saree Sukanya’ and the ‘salsa Sukanya’ all in one. Once again, through the pact, I could express my feelings regarding some things I feel strongly about. That the saree Sukanya and the salsa Sukanya can and are the same person. That if I am ‘this’, it does not mean I can’t be ‘that’. And that there isn’t much we cannot do in a saree. Whether it’s walking down a familiar, oft-trodden road or twirling down a new one. 😊

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