Chhaiyya Chhaiyya: The Sacred, The Profane, and the Fun

This post is dedicated to my lovely bhangra peeps. 

In our upcoming performance on Saturday we get to dance to one of my most favorite Bollywood songs: Chhaiyya Chhaiyya.  Not only does it feature Shahrukh Khan, my Bollywood crush (my husband is rather patient about this, considering), it features Shahrukh on a train while the train is moving... which means this is the #1 best hair music video of SRK, bar none.  And that's saying a lot.  Check it out:

This video is awesome, in and above SRK's hair, because (sorry to get a bit nationalist here) only in India and only in Bollywood could something like this be conceived.  Big, big star worth lots of money, on the top of a train, with an entire troupe of backup dancers, also on top of a train, totally going for it while the train is zipping around corners and in and out of tunnels.  Do you think anyone was worrying about worker's comp?  Hell no.

Despite being one of the most popular Bollywood songs ever, it was controversial when it came out.  My memory says the lyrics were based on a devotional poem in Urdu.  This raised eyebrows when moved into this format because a) you're taking a devotional poem and putting it in a rather secular setting and b) because it includes the line "will have Heaven beneath his [their] feet" which was offensive to at least one (unnamed because I can't find them) religious group.  However, the lyrics are beautiful:

He who walks in the Shadow of Love,
Will have Heaven beneath his feet.
Walk in the Shadow of Love,
Let your feet walk upon Paradise.

My love is like a fragrance,
Her words are like Urdu Poetry.
She is my evening, my night, my Universe.
Walk in Heaven, walk in the Shadow of Love.

My love is like a hidden flower,
Whose perfume draws you near.
I will wear her like an amulet,
She shall be obtained as a Miracle is obtained.

My song…my declaration of Faith,
My friend is like a Priest to me.
She walks in the morning dew,
She walks with the Garden of Heaven beneath her feet.

Underneath her feet Heaven moves,
Sometimes through the branches,
Sometimes amidst the leaves,
I search for traces of her in the air.

I am an admirer of her beauty,
Fickle, she flits shamelessly from Sun to Shade,
Changing the color of her radiance,
I am a lover of her color and beauty.

He who walks in the Shadow of Love,
Will have Heaven beneath his feet.
She is my evening, my night, my Universe,
She is my Beloved.

Above is the truest poetic translation I've found (link here).  "Chhaiyya" itself means shadow.   And because I've been feeling a bit like a shadow of my self with all the hours of preparation for this show, I thought I'd explore the importance of the sacred, the profane, and the fun.  (Although I do have to say a beer and a couple of Hindi serials is starting to point me back in the right direction!)

We've been parsing our dancing in hopes of perfection.  And it leaves us all a bit too caught up in the details.  Yes, to say that Heaven is beneath someone's feet is a bit offensive.  And yep, it's also pretty offensive to take a devotional poem and have a rather hot woman shaking her ass with SRK doing his trademark "I'm bobbing my head as she does her little hip move thing."  But this profane interpretation actually speaks to something very real about the poem itself.  We can be serious about our religious interpretation and serious about our artistic interpretation, but what exactly do we stand to gain?  Anything we do in our lives we do with the intention to increase joy and happiness.  Getting caught in the details?  Not so much joy.  Shahrukh Khan shaking his profane self on the top of the train?  Hell of a lot more fun.  Everyone who watches feels his "you gotta watch me because I'm loving this right now" expression.   And they'll pass that feeling of joy on to the next person they meet.

Joy, happiness, and fun is really the point of the religious, and it's really the point of the profane.  Will I be afraid before performing this song on Saturday?  Absolutely- it's always intimidating performing in front of other people.  Can you really have fun and share your joy with others while being afraid?  Nope.  It's hard to spread joy if you look a bit petrified.  So I've developed a game plan:

While dancing to "Chhaiyya Chhaiyya" I will visualize Shahrukh dancing on top of a train.  I will capture the "Damn I'm hot and I know it" smile and the creases around the eyes that say "Oh yes, I'm enjoying myself" and the cocky half tilt of the head that says "This is where it's at."  And based on that visualization I will draw in all the joy, happiness, and "I couldn't possibly be having a better time in my life than stomping around on this train" into myself.  And I'll smile and try not too laugh to hard at the amazing ridiculousness of a life that allows me to do this, with some fabulously like-minded people, and share it with others.

I do realize I'm replacing a legitimate object of visualization with none other than the baadshah himself.  But the real truth lies in balance.  Pursuit balanced with joy.  Intention balanced with happiness.  And visions of Shahrukh Khan while doing bhangra.  On Saturday I know some shade of SRK will be there to remind us that having a damn-good-ass-shaking-time is actually a religious experience.