June 10, 2011

Sriram Veera on India in the West Indies 2011

A sexist society or harmless fun?

Sriram Veera
Cheerleaders in the Trini Posse stand, Trinidad, June 10 2011
Fun in the sun ... and rain  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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As you walk up the alcohol-washed stairs to the Trini Posse stand, you can smell it, breathe it, hear it and finally see it as you reach the landing. Dance. Music. Sun. Rum. Beer. Sweaty swaying bodies. A fat DJ is expertly controlling the crowd and ramping up the music. Alcohol is on the house. Everywhere you see drunken eyes, screening themselves from the harsh sun, but almost possessed by the party spirit. Soca music. Hip hop. Topped up with that special shake of the posterior, Trini style.

No use beating around the bush here; you can definitely feel a definite sense of raw lust in the air. It’s everywhere. It’s in the eyes of the fans surrounding the scantily-clad cheer girls, it’s in the eyes and hands of intoxicated couples swaying away elsewhere. And yet it’s not seedy. At least it didn’t strike me that way. Perhaps I tell myself that to explain my presence there. It feels like a vibrant open atmosphere.

The rain has stopped play in the second ODI and the covers are on but the sun is beating down hard. It threatens to peel off my skin. I take refuge in iced rum. In West Indies, the drink is light and it’s loaded with ice-cubes. You feel you are licking ice with a bit of alcohol thrown in. I had asked for a double.

The attractive Amanda, a cheer girl, is dancing merrily. She looks around her, a touch shy, and half-shuts her eye-lids as she dances. Constantly, she looks at her fellow dancers and laughs. Men hover around her. The music reaches a crescendo. The girls huddle together and dance.

This is her second match, she says later, at the end of the second game. She is a make-up artist who was approached by a manager to do this jig. Do men trouble her? Does she get conscious? “That is something you have to get accustomed to. I have to be cool. You do have situations. Guys normally try to touch, you know. You have to tell them nicely not to do it. Most understand if you let them know. There is always someone who thinks he can come up to you and pull your hand and what not. But it also can happen when you are walking in the street.”

She hasn’t heard about IPL and its cheerleaders but she says she follows cricket a bit. The directions are clear; every time they play music, she has to just get up and dance. This rain interruption is an exception. The music is always on. So is the sun, though but her sunshields make for a delightful explanation. “You dress very little and drink a lot of booze. You don’t feel the sun.”

I try the latter but it doesn’t work. Don’t worry, I didn’t expose my adipose tissues. The DJ roars out the warnings: “All’yuh people clear the aisles. Else no music.” The music stops for a while and reluctantly people clear. “All’yuh people sitting on the rails, move.” The music stops and people move. He then announces that the umpires have inspected the pitch and cricket will begin soon.

The dancing begins. The swaying, shaking movements begin. "It's a Trini thing, in fact a Caribbean thing," says Amanda. “No one learns it. It's natural. We all know how to dance." Does she go to clubs, considering she dances here so much? "I don't go out that much. I am sure the other girls do."

Time for me to move to the press box. Is this stand, and the happenings there, an unnecessary distraction from the cricket and a sign of a sexist society or is it a harmless fun party atmosphere? I leave it for you to decide.

Sriram Veera is a former staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by modalone on (January 7, 2012, 19:04 GMT)

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Posted by Sangeeta on (June 22, 2011, 0:51 GMT)

I am a bit angry and very disappointed that you a journalist have sought to form an opinion on a topic as sensitive as gender equality in a foreign country based on one experience. I am hoping that it was just a matter of culture shock speaking and that you someday realise that in T&T dancing girls, as with many other things, are not to be defined by external standards. Gender relations are by no means perfect here but females enjoy much freedom and in the end its their choice who are you to judge us? As a female I can assure you that from my view this is not a sexist society, I get to go to school and my identity is not based on my father/brother/husband. I choose to continue past my postgraduate studies and those girls choose their jobs. Just for your information its just a part of our party atmosphere, if anything we are drunk on our freedom!!! That's why we aren't caged in behind wire fencing!!!!

Posted by Sharon on (June 15, 2011, 15:18 GMT)

Not everyone in the Trini posse stand was in a druken stupor. I was with a group of 5 people who enjoyed the atmosphere, the cricket, even if we performed miserably. My group was surrounded by others who were equally enjoying themselves in that cricket-at-the-oval kind of way - a few drinks, loud comments to the players, big cheers at nice cricketing moments, standing at breaks to stretch or take a little dance and just having a relaxed time. Indeed with the rain came a heightened party experience, which I was thankful for- what else to do? And in the Caribbean we have no problem with girating our bottoms - nothing sexist there! But still, I welcome your commentary. I would say that the Digicel Girls (young women), who performed choreographed pieces were far different from the Carib girls (young women) who just seemed somewhat excessive in their behaviour.

Posted by Nick on (June 11, 2011, 19:51 GMT)

As an England fan sitting in the Trini Posse was a high point on our last tour, in the Test and even while taking a beating in the T20. It is unlike anywhere else in the world, or even the Caribbean. It is an infectious party atmosphere, Trinis should and are rightly proud of that. Nowhere do you feel as welcome as a visiting fan as long as you come along with the right attitude, can't wait to go back, long live sweet T&T!

Posted by Gopal on (June 11, 2011, 11:52 GMT)

@OsWood - I agree with you completely.

I still live in a part of world where women smoking is considered bad and men here make a comment on her while smoking away.

Live let live, lethem do what they want. Enjoy the beauty if you dont like it dont look at them. Important point is nobody is forced to do that job in carribean!

Posted by MATHI on (June 11, 2011, 8:30 GMT)

All for fun it seems. After all life is to enjoy and they are doing the right thing....... Very enviable sight too. In India people are not even allowed to take Binoculars, Cell phones, eatables etc..inside the ground, leave alone beer and other alcoholic items . much to learn how to enjoy life..............

Posted by V. Ramsamooj Gosine on (June 11, 2011, 3:40 GMT)

Siriram, what you have written is so true of our society. We have been told we are a happy-go-lucky society with a short memory. We laugh at everything but when people laugh at us,we are disappointed, we feel are not liked. They hate us; they are short-sighted. We quarrel today about it but we do not change the style. It is part of our psyche, our culture. However, your comment is noted. If V S Naipaul had written that, sections of society would want to ambush him and their choicest adjectives would flow. And they would remember his harsh criticism of their behaviour for years to come or whenever they want to buy a book. Then too writers write for posterity knowing fully well that the present generation has ceased to listen a long time ago.

Posted by Al on (June 11, 2011, 3:11 GMT)

Imagine if in your culture everyone is really funny, making jokes all the time... visitors love it. So you take a couple of funny guys and start a comedy show for the tourists. Will that be exploitation of the funny guys ? Not for most.

While dancing in skimpy dresses is not exactly a perfectly similar situation but it's not something that is looked down upon. In the carribean having fun is not a taboo. So getting paid for something you anyway do in your day to day life is not looked down here.

Let's call it a cultural difference and accept that people are different.

Posted by Mohamed on (June 11, 2011, 2:08 GMT)

i think its a harmful.. this takes a cricket life waste.. try to avoid like this pictures...

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