“Do you know how to dance?,” said Cristina Chen, journalist friend from Taiwan.
We had a long boring session early in the day (chip design and innovation, whatever that means) and I felt it we all needed some kind of catharsis. “I don’t know but let’s see,” I answered as I took her to the narrow passage that passes for a dance floor.
It was just nine pm, but Luna, a bar in the middle of Xintiandi, a haven for lost souls in search of distraction, was teeming with humanity. It seemed the whole world was there: Asians, Americans, Europeans of all colors, genders, and sizes, drinking, talking, laughing, flirting, and some passionately caressing each other. It was a perfect picture for debauchery giving me a sense of irony. In Mao’s China, these activities were labeled “bourgeois decadent lifestyle” deserving years of hard labor in the countryside among the scrawny peasants. We were in Deng Xiaoping’s China (“to get rich is glorious!”) and we—Cristina, Sidharta (economics editor of The Times of India), and me—were curious to find how rapid economic growth is transforming the soul of China.
Luna featured a Pinoy rock band called Friction and—surprise! surprise!—they played “Anak” for starters and the crowd responded with great enthusiasm. As the band shifted to faster beats, people (mostly Caucasian guys with Chinese girls) rose to their feet to dance—or I thought I saw them dancing.
Cristina is a serious lady—PhD in economics and journalism from Columbia University who ate regional financial markets for breakfast—but her face lit up like a Roman candle as we tread our way to the dance floor. As she sprung into action, I felt the music through my senses and to my horror hit a plate of peanuts and glasses of drinks, sending broken shards of glass all over the floor. I turned my back and saw a surprised Chinese guy with a petite European girl with high boots and skimpy black skirts. I clasp my hand like a Thai monk and bowed in heartfelt apology while the bar staff rushed to clean up the mess. The coupled smiled back and raised double thumbs as if to tell me “no problem.” I turned to Cristina and got back to into action as Friction started playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Possessed by the rhythm, we danced, we stomped our feet, we wriggled—shamelessly—until two in the morning. Sidharta occasionally joined us but most of the time, he preferred an intimate fellowship with loads of Tsingtao beer while watching the inebriated multitude writhed like damned souls in hell.
Long live Deng’s China!