Montreal-born Tript Pine Sembhi recalls her Canadian childhood, reflects on family life in North America, and explains why BollyX is a “no-brainer.”
Were you familiar with Bollywood music or dance before you learned about BollyX? I grew up in a Punjabi household. Indian music…Bollywood music…Punjabi music was always playing. We had a record player, and I can remember my mom putting on Bollywood music every day, a lot of oldies, and that turned into stuff that we listen to in BollyX now.
So yeah, I was just surrounded by it. My mom used to rent VCRs and JVC players to watch Indian movies. Our whole weekend was watching Bollywood movies and dancing. At that time, you had to rent VCRs because they were too expensive to buy. You could actually go rent a VCR at an Indian store and rent the movies for a weekend.
My aunt and my family—it was my three cousins and me and my two sisters—we would all go over to my aunt’s house, eat a whole bunch of Indian food, and watch Bollywood movies. That was a big part of our childhood.
And then I would pretend to be a Bollywood star when I was younger. I would wear my mom’s sari, her clothes and jewelry, and I would dance. I loved dancing. I used to be part of the festivals for Vaisakhi, which is a big Punjabi holiday. I would do dances and shows, and get involved in all the community programs that they used to do with the part of my school that got involved in the South Asian groups. I was part of the MIT Bhangra group when I got married in Boston. I think I did it for three years. We used to practice all the time and then do the shows at the Hatch Shell for India Day in August, and it was just so much fun. I mean, there’s so much excitement listening to that music. You just have to dance, you have to move. So when I heard about BollyX, I thought “That’s a no-brainer, man. I have to take the class and dance!”
Can you share a bit about your experience as an Indian-American family? I am first-generation Canadian, and my husband is first-generation American. Now I’m an American, too, and we’ve been able to intertwine our Punjabi heritage to some degree with Western culture. They’re very different. I kept the culture when it came to music and food, but we don’t really hold on to a lot of the traditions beyond holidays. Ethnically, we’re Punjabi, but our religion is Sikh and there’s an identity attached to that as well. My husband grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, and he chose to keep his long hair [a Sikh custom]. But it’s more of a way of life for us and the identity doesn’t really have anything to do with religion. As our son gets older, he’ll make that choice, if it’s important to him or not. And it’s okay if it’s not. It’s hard to be one without the other, when you’re born in a different culture, you are different in one way or the other. I have my Punjabi heritage, but my grandparents and my parents were born in India, my sisters were born in India, and I was born in a different country. They’re probably thinking everything is so different, and then I’m out in the world, in a different culture, you know, not just Canadian but French Canadian. For me, it wasn’t a choice of one or the other, it was: How do I make both of them part of me?
How would you describe your experience with BollyX? I love the music and the dancing and everything that goes into it, including the energy of the instructor, which gets everybody going. It’s just fun to be there…you know, you want to be there. I’ve gotten quite a few friends coming to the class. I told anyone I could: “TRY the class, it’s so much fun.” And most have them have continued coming. I’ve also gone to events such as the BollyX happy hour [and choreography-based workshop], which was a lot of fun. I got to meet the co-founders and trainers, and a lot of other instructors and students. I’ve gone to support local BollyX events in my town, and my son was asked to be in a BollyX for Kids photo shoot.
Has BollyX changed your outlook on working out, dancing, or life in general? BollyX got me back into working out because I hadn’t exercised for a while before that, and dancing is something I’ve always loved. I look forward to going to BollyX on the days I go to class, and I did get BollyX on Demand as well. It’s a great way to continue doing BollyX at home and you’re not just waiting for class to see new songs that come out. My son dances with me at home, so that’s always fun. I do like the class setting, because I like the energy you get when you have your teacher and you have other people dancing with you. Class and BollyX on Demand are two different types of vibes and having that access to both is nice.
I also think it’s made a difference in how I feel. Not to say I don’t have my occasional glass of wine or piece of chocolate cake, but I want to go back to class every week, and I want to go for a walk or to the gym and maybe try another class. BollyX has helped me progress into a better lifestyle when it comes to fitness.
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