Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Tonight was the last night of the Lai Haraoba at Lai Awangba. Ima insists we go. Priti and she did the whole routine – praying up on the temple and all while I videotaped. The shaman priestesses were all men ion drag and not very prepossessing I must say. Drag has little to do with beauty.

Of course, Lai Awangba being my father’s neighborhood deity, we got a lot of strangers walking up to us an introducing themselves. One sees why Khurai is seen as somewhat cut from the same cloth – nothing of that level of community participation could have been seen in the more hip localities. Men, young and old, took knives in hand as they, along with the finely attired womenfolk, traced the body of the Python King.

What took the cake was the drag-king performance of Saphabee. A group of neighborhood women lip-synched (is that one of the drag genes?) both dialogue and song. Resplendent in male costumes, and moustaches bristling with virility, they were super. As there is no flat-chested drag queen, all drag kings seem to have luxurious facial hair. One wore glasses and had to be pushed around by the others. It was pure theater, pure art, with none of the unnecessary add-ons and the pure joy of performance. Where else but in a place of worship? We left exhilarated.

Rather, I had to be dragged away from the four drag-priestesses starting the final ritual with branches and fire. So all the men were women and all the women men to the great Lai Awangba.

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