Thursday, January 1, 2009

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." -Thoreau

Halima, Joel, the Jennings along with their crowd and I step onto the 14th floor at the Dhaka Regency Hotel. It appears to be the world’s worst party and for the first couple of hours, it actually is. As music pulses through the room, men with apathetic expressions stare at the empty dance floor, brilliant with whirling lights.

“Rich Bengali men,” fumes Joel. “Can’t stand them. On the way in I saw one making a fist to beat a rickshaw waller.”

In reality maybe it’s the 5:1 male to cute single female ratio that actually annoys Joel.

A nasty man with a cigarette poking out of a corner of his mouth offers to buy me a drink, and I decide smiling and pretending to be interested in his job is worth a free tequila shot.

Later the party warms up as the dance floor fills up with gyrating Banglas- each boogieing to the beat of his own mental drummer. My group dances in a circle and I bounce along energetically to the Asian pop. Unaccountably I’m proud of myself for recognizing the popular songs that regularly blare from shops and cars on the street.

Dancing’s the only reason I come to these things.

“Want to learn how to Hindi dance?” Asks a man in our group whose name I’m 50% sure starts with an “M”. After a slight nod from me he takes me aside and shows me a slow, rhythmic set of foot steps-the tension is all in the hand movements.

A tipsy man next to us suddenly drops to the floor and break dances.

Joel's dancing is endearing, limited to fist bobbing until Halima lectures him on proper dance rules. There must be feet movement or weight shifting.

Fast forward hours. In the elevator away from the clouds of cigarette smoke Beth complains that the drinks were expensive and you even had to pay for the water.

“Not uh, I didn’t pay for the water,” I counter.

“It was 200 taka, so obviously they like you.” She gazes at me steadily.

“Didn’t you have men buying you drinks, too?” wonders Joel.

“You just have to smile at them,” I say to Beth helpfully, then realize I sound like a flirt and shut my mouth.

“You wear glasses. You wear your hair in a bun. You are the Upper School librarian. You are a secondary English teacher,” mentally I remind myself.

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