Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Bollywood Dreams' - the FoD Annual Charity Ball

My last post painted a dreary picture of our life here in China - but it's most certainly not all gloom and doom over here! I, for one, have a great deal of fun - weekend parties with friends, shopping trips to Shanghai, activities in school, and always, the exotic vacations to look forward to! Just last month, we were at a fabulous soiree - the Friends of Dulwich Annual Charity Ball!

A little background about the Friends of Dulwich - this society has been created mainly to bring Dulwich parents together - if you have a child at Dulwich College Suzhou, you're automatically a member! The goal is to increase parent involvement in the school, and also through various fund raising activities, give back a little to the local community! There is an elected committee - all the members are parents who are serving in a purely voluntary capacity. Volunteers are, of course, always welcome to help out with the myriad activities happening all-year round. The 2 main events organized at the school - the first, International Day and the second, the reason for this post - The Annual Charity Ball!

The word 'Ball' always brings to mind images of glass slippers and elaborate masks, champagne and caviar, waltzing under the stars - all very romantic, true, but definitely something that I would steer far, far away from! Last year, by the time I found out about the Ball, it was too late to get tickets - so we didn't go. Everyone we know went, however - and there was plenty of excitement about getting gowns made, tuxedos being ordered - just listening to all the talk was a bit intimidating, I have to admit I was secretly relieved about not going!!

This year, I knew we would go - so it was with some trepidation that I waited for the announcement - and somehow, just like that, all my fears were gone! The theme was announced - and it was, wait for it - Bollywood!!! Talk of comfort zones, I was smack dab in the middle of mine!!! I knew exactly what I was going to wear, I had the jewellery to match - never before had dressing for a party been that easy!!! What made it better is that I was able to offer some of my non-Indian friends 'costumes' to wear - my sarees, collected over the last dozen years, finally being put to good use! We had a try-a-saree afternoon - for me, a great kick-off to what I knew was going to be a great event!!!

Next in line was Bollywood dancing - we have a very talented lady here in Suzhou, well versed in both Bharatnatyam and Kathak, and she ran a dance workshop intended to familiarize people with Bollywood song and dance. She was also going to put on a number of dance items at the Ball, and was planning to train a few women for that purpose too! I'm certainly no dancer - and by the way, just for the record - being Indian does not necessarily mean that you are an expert on Bollywood dance - or yoga! Anyway, I still showed up at the first session - and I found out that I was actually capable of gracefully moving my hands, or my feet - just not together at the same time!! I'm definitely no dancer!!! 

While most of us were having so much fun, the committee members had their noses to the grindstone - the amount of work that goes into putting on a event like this is unimaginable! I'm sure the logistics were mind boggling - selecting the venue, deciding the entrance fee, printing and selling tickets, food, decorations, entertainment - and these are just the things that are visible!! My friends were part of the decoration team, and I got a chance to see them at work - and their efforts were nothing short of genius! The creativity and ingenuity - ordering ordinary items from taobao, and then transforming them into flashy centerpieces, yards and yards of fabric to be use as chair bows and drapes, tons of flowers and votives, Bollywood posters - gold stickers, glitter, lace, glue guns, and a lot of manpower (or should it be womanpower?!). There was also archways to be made - one for the entrance, one for the photo booth - and this involved sawing and nailing wood, mixing concrete, lot of foam board for the decoration - what a tremendous job!!

The entrance archway

Baby elephant masterpiece - created from wire and flowers!

The decorated and ready ballroom

After all the hard work and anxieties - will there be enough centerpieces, will the archway hold up, to name a few - the Day of the Ball! I had a few anxieties of mine - I certainly had offered to dress my friends, but was I up to the task? Thankfully, the sarees all co-operated, and we were ready to leave by 6pm. The venue was the Hotel Kempinski - not too far from us! I had initially thought I was a bit too blingy, but as we walked into the ballroom, it was obvious that tonight there was no such thing as too much bling!! The photo booth was the first stop after registration - and I was glad to see my Chennai brass lamps add just the right touch of authenticity! Cocktail hour with much oohing and aahing followed - and then finally it was time to find our seats in the beautiful ballroom!!

The 'official' photo!

The dance show that kicked off the evening was amazing - it was quite a revelation to see the performers going all out with all the jhatkas and matkas! Free flowing beer and wine at the table - surprisingly, the wine was terrible, more vinegar than wine! The buffet soon opened - there was a large selection of entrees, both Indian and Western - like the wine, the food was nothing to write home about! They did have quite a few vegetarian options, so at least, it wasn't just salad and dessert! Then of course, there were sponsors to be thanked, and raffle tickets to be drawn, a few party games - and one last dance number, the current favorite - 1,2,3,4, Get on the dance floor! With that everyone was on the dance floor - the DJ was from Shanghai, and he played a lot of our favorite Hindi songs, so we danced the night away!

Going crazy on the dance floor!

What a night! I guess this was my first Ball and I literally had a ball!!! Honestly speaking, I think Ajey and I probably enjoyed it a lot more than some of the other guests - Indian dress, Indian food, Indian dance - this party was tailor made for us!! Now if only they would do this same theme every year....I know, I know - wishful thinking!! Nevertheless, one thing is certain - we'll be back, no matter what the theme!!! Until later, signing off!

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