My good friend Natasha invited me to a Flamenco festival over the weekend. The venue was a sprawling property built over a canyon tucked away in the midst of the bustle of the SDSU campus. I could never have imagined that such a place existed in the heart of San Diego. Deeply wooded mini-trails laden with the smell of fallen leaves, illuminated in patches by the puddles of sunlight which had managed to filter through the thick foliage. I walked down one of these trails to reach a clearing upon which was set a singularly bohemian scene. Musicians huddled together practicing and learning from the flamenco masters who were invited to perform. Periodic taps of their feet and their eyes rapt in attention at the fluid strumming of those guitars. And music, in gushes of good natured melody. Women getting up and tapping to the flamenco beats as I sat in a shaded corner over a pleasant cold rock and soaked in the very unusual sensation of letting go. Like those sunny winter mornings in Lucknow when I would be laying outside on the lawn with a thin white sheet on my face. The chirping of the birds and the reassuring distant sounds of the daily household chores and I would lift the sheet up a little and look at the garden with lazy eyes - butterflies on the flowers, a squirrel running up the tree and a general sensation of warm cozy lethargy. A deep breath, letting go of the sheet, and with it, just letting go. There was Spanish food being made and drinks being served, a massage center, and classes on flamenco dance and yoga. People who had arrived from different parts of the world speaking different languages and dressed informally in beautiful colorful clothes, women with red flowers in their hair and flowing patterned skirts playing music, dancing, singing, men lounging about with their guitars and drums and glasses of sangria.
And what conversations! Do you have an interesting story to tell beyond your office and your gym and your beaten to death observations? Do you still remember what it was like to be passionate? I sat mesmerized listening to the stories of the people that I met. I had rose tinted glasses and even though I realized that their lives must also have their moments of mundane concerns, the fact that they could be so passionate about something was immensely refreshing. It's a bit like listening to Feynman even though the talents cannot be compared, but still, in that moment when he is talking about physics with a boyish twinkle in his eyes I feel rejuvenated, optimistic and far less cynical. I met singers and musicians and dancers and they would ask me what instrument do I play - a fish on land. The professional performance was in the evening in a little open air amphitheater. Flamenco guitarists jamming to complex turbulent tunes and professional dancers tapping away on the stage - their graceful, womanly and strong presence against the painted backdrop of riffing tunes. I was deeply impressed by the beauty of the spectacle, having never witnessed something like this live and from such close quarters. The dancers shot quick powerful glances and their hands would be leading their bodies in a fluid series of steps, their feet tapping to the beats of the music in the midst of palmas and shouts of olay from the audience. The juxtaposition of their quiet grace and the intense music was breathtaking. I sat in the middle of it all clapping like an excited little kid as the spectacle unfolded in the green and blue and red lights beneath a quiet dark sky with the circular white moon staring from a corner. And I was thinking about that music and that dance and how happy people were and how free, and I was thinking about the world outside that little temporary commune with its deadlines and its ridiculous grind and its little heartbreaks. I was trying to preserve the image of that little island of unmitigated joy, illuminated in its ridiculous colors, as it lay truncated in a vast dark sea infested with tremendous circular waves borne out of their own vicious logic.