They were Science Group girls. Maths, Physics, Chemistry,Botany and Zoology/Computer Science. They lived up to their Science Group girl stereotype: serious, two long braids, spectacles and the ominous signs of love handles. They were called Gajalakshmi and Shanmugapriya. Their rivals were the fairer, prettier, slimmer girls of Arts and Commerce. Girls they sneered at for their supposed lack of brains but secretly worshipped because of their flawless skin, pert breasts and streaked ponytails.
On the first day of the academic year, their HOD had scanned the class with an expectant air before shaking her head in despair.
“You had better do tamizh folk dance for the talent show. We have costumes and props from last year.”
The class had sighed collectively. Why did they even have to compete? There was no way they would or could ever win. The Arts and Commerce types did garbhas and lavanis. They were light and nimble. They remembered their steps and to smile an to mouth the lyrics. All at the same time. They had professional choreographers and hair and make up artists. Their costumes came from Bombay. Bombay.
Two years ago, Science Group had tried a Gujarati Folk Dance. It had been unbearable to watch. They had been laughed off the stage. Gajapriyas and Selvis did not make for convincing Gopikas.
So every year they perform the same dance. The costumes were the same sungudi saris and their was a bag of twisted, plastic mallipoo that was untangled every year before the day of the talent show.
They stood in the wings. Nervous. Waiting for the opening beats. Sweating without having danced a step. Defeated without having tried.