My memories of dancing are very, very far back in my life, and that is saying something, considering I’m only fourteen. When I was about four or five, I used to dance all around the house unabashedly, fully confident in my own skin and unable to resist a good beat. I was a plump kid, so it must have been a funny sight, I imagine. When I was four, I was coerced-no, my parents and grandparents were coerced into enrolling me for a dance programme as part of the annual school celebration-a group dance which was a miniature representation of a Gujarati or Bengali form of dance, as I recall. Our costume was more gaudy than glamorous, the way traditional Indian attire is supposed to be, and we looked ridiculous in my eyes, but my parents and my friends’ parents were cooing over us, despite the fact that since my hair used to be completely cropped short, we couldn’t even attach the hair extensions, and simply put the gaudy veil over my head. Since I was only four and had no self-consciousness whatsoever, I was perfectly okay with this, and happily bounced over to the stage. I didn’t even know the steps and I just followed what everyone else was doing, and it was an absolute disaster, but my young mind didn’t care. Now, as I watch the recording, I cringe during every second of it.
I didn’t even stop dancing due to that performance. In fact, my impromptu performances only kept getting bolder and more frequent, to the delight of all those uncles and aunts and great aunts and great uncles and first cousins and second cousins and whomever else I put on my shows for, whenever they came to visit-I was adorable.
I don’t remember when exactly this anxiety and self-consciousness developed enough to rule my life. It’s not something I’m proud of-the fact that I let it consume me and everything I am apparently capable of but unable to explore. But the reality of the matter is that I don’t dance anymore. I never join my friends when they start shaking their hips and shimmying and pulling stunts, whenever and wherever they please, in that fearless, confident way of theirs that I so often envy. I can’t. It’s as though, every time I want to, I feel this invisible tether, tugging at my limbs and my torso and my mind, reminding me that this is me. I can’t dance. I’m fat and unattractive and dear God, I can’t even hold a decent conversation with a person without stuttering and sweating and wringing my hands. I can’t dance. All the things I know rationally to be untrue come to haunt me in broad daylight, and I no longer want to partake in the spontaneous celebration.
As hard as I might try, it seems impossible to crush my inhibition, and I know that as long as it remains deep-rooted within me, I will definitely not be dancing anywhere anytime soon.