News & Reviews

The New Year Chinese style! Author:Amit Ukil   Posted On:2018-02-27


“Chinaman, Chinaman chow chow chow/ kutta bola bow wow wow…!” These first two lines of a childhood ditty my dad used to dote me with kept drumming in my head as the sound of real drums reverberated in the DI precincts last Friday evening. The Club was celebrating the Chinese New Year and, of the 12 animal signs that are followed, this year is the Year of the Dog!

The celebrations always promise colour and entertainment with athletic zest. This year was no exception, with members of the Fitness Club, Tangra, providing the rhythm and the acts to go with it. According to the lunar calendar, the New Year was actually on February 15, but the festivities heralding the change in time carry on for a week. And so it was that James Liao, the main brain behind the event, and his Fitness troupe unraveled a spectacular show that evening.

First were the drums – a set of three with the lead and bigger drum, or the Thaiku, in the middle. The traditional Chinese drumming session beat out a rhythm, alternating between diminuendos and crescendos that still resonate in the ears of the audience. This was followed by the performance with the Yin Sou Gun, or Shaolin Stick, a weapon that Shaolin monks used for self defence in the Ming Dynasty. The wonderful healing powers of Tai Chi were gracefully demonstrated by the expert practitioners from the Fitness Club. “Tai Chi helps reduce stress and anxiety while increasing flexibility and balance,” explained James. The synchronized movements of the team were a marvel to watch.

The grand finale was the Lion Dance, a highly entertaining and skilful display of a Chinese folklore in which a naughty lion is exiled by the gods to earth, where he creates more havoc, until a good-hearted Buddhist monk manages to tame him. From then, the lion would accompany the monk every new year to all homes, bringing luck, health and prosperity. The beating of drums, a gong and cymbals symbolized the use of loud noise to chase away evil spirits.

 Athletically carried out by Amit Kumar, who was the head of the lion, and Ajay Yadav, who formed the tail, the dance held the audience in thrall. The children squealed in amusement as the lion pranced closer to them with head nodding from side to side and ears pricking up now and then. The parents, who were enjoying the lion’s antics as much as them, scrambling to take pictures. Little Devyansh, all of two-and-a-half, giggled gleefully in his mother’s lap as the lion offered him an orange from its cavernous mouth.

“A lot of practice goes into this, without which both of us cannot synchronise our stepping and jumping with the beats of the drums,” pointed out Amit after the show. Indeed, jumping on to the poles and moving from pole to pole places at different heights needed a dexterity that the duo achieved that evening.

The martial arts display by the team was a treat in itself. Beautiful somersaults, cartwheels, kicks and movements had the audience glued to their seats. “It was an attempt to portray Chinese culture through the various forms of martial arts,” said James later. He was helped in the show by his wife Barbara, the producer and manager, and daughter Isabel, who scripted and coordinated the acts. The programme was ably emceed by Leslie D’Gama and Shaheen Faiyaz. And all the while, delicious traditional Chinese savories like fish dumplings, meat ball soup and pau were available at the counters, a couple of which had been set up at the rear of the lawn.

It was a fitting and exciting way to usher in the new year, Chinese style. At the end of the one-and-a-half-hour show, the members of the audience were greeting each other Gong Hei Fat Choi!  (Happy New Year!)