When the East
Gave birth to the Moon,
Love was the dancer at the feast;
The heavens smiled for joy;
And the Wind strewed the perfumed dust
Of lotus-pollen in the courtyard of the sky.
(Poems from the Sanskrit Translated by John Brough)
Contrary to Lakme, whose name is simply a French variation of Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth and Wisdom, the beauteous Nikiya, who is a dancer at Lakshmi temple, is involved not only in a love triangle, but a lovesquare, to continue geometrical metaphors. Both young ladies are in love with warriors, both seem to lack wisdom, making rash decisions, and neither one is wealthy. That’s it for similarities. Lakme falls in love with a British officer, Papa – High Brahmin vehemently objects, and she kills herself, singing a gorgeous aria while dying.
La Bayadere (the temple dancer) Nikiya falls in love with a victorious warrior Solor, who returns her feelings. However, this High Brahmin is in love with Nikiya and doesn’t want competition. Meanwhile, the Rajah decides that he’d like Solor for a son-in-law. You can’t blame him; he has no sons, and someone has to protect his daughter Gamzatti and his kingdom (rajdom?).
“Got news for you, Sire, – whispers the Brahmin, – that Solor is doing hanky-panky with one of my temple dancers.”
“Young man, hot blood, hanky or panky – no big deal, – sighs the Rajah, – but let’s eliminate the girl.”
“Whhhat do you mean, your Rajesty, eliminate? Like to fire her? She is my best dancer, but fine, I’ll fire her and take her for a wife instead.”
“You should’ve watched The Godfather, Father Brahmin. Oh, never mind, we’ll take care of that.”
So poor Nikiya has to dance at the betrothal party, totally unaware of the bridegroom’s identity. Notice, that Solor meekly obeys his orders. But nosey Gamzatti, who has overheard Dad / Brahmin exchange, summons her to the palace and orders her to give up her love and her lover. We can speculate that Gamzatti, knowing her Papa, is trying to save Nikiya’s life, but the unfortunate bayadera gets mad and draws a dagger on the princess. Rather than calling the guards, Gamzatti takes revenge; at the party, Nikiya is presented with a gorgeous flower arrangement. Thinking that it is from her beloved, she buries her face in the sweet scent and swiftly dies, bitten by a snake secreted among the flowers by a jealous Gamzatti. Since La Bayadere is a ballet, rather than an opera, she doesn’t sing for 20 minutes, while dying, but gracefully dances to her demise.
What about Solor, you may ask? While the wedding preparations are going on, he gets high on opium, hoping to be transported to The Kingdom of Shades, or dead souls, and find his Nikiya. This is the most famous scene from the entire ballet, frequently performed on its own, choreographed originally by the great Marius Petipa (Tchaikovsky’s love interest) in 1877. My husband, though, finds it incredibly boring, just like the 2nd act of Giselle, where the heroine gets to be carried around by her lover for 30 minutes, with nothing else happening. Well, what do you expect – she is dead!
She does move around in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s interpretation, though. But unfortunately, Nikiya is only a shade!
Not to worry; the gods get so angry with the entire royal family, that during the wedding ceremony, they demolish the temple and everyone in it, which includes Solor. Once he arrives in the Kingdom of Shades, he and Nikiya are reunited, and dance together, as brilliantly portrayed by the inimitable Rudolf Nureyev.
Did you get all these plot twists, Beautiful People? It took me years, from college days to retirement age, to figure it out, and only after I learned to make Lotus Root Stir Fry.
As you see, Beautiful People, it is unbelievably easy. You peel a chunk of lotus root, slice it, add some sliced celery, grated carrot and ginger, splash Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and something sweet, whatever your preference (I use Agave nectar), stir fry for a few minutes, and have yourself a delicious exotic meal.
May Love be a dancer at your feast, may you acquire Wisdom, and may you be gifted with Wealth, if you so desire.
- 1 link of lotus root.
- 1 celery stalk.
- 1 medium carrot, grated.
- 2 – 3 cm (1 inch) or more grated ginger.
- Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, agave nectar (honey or maple syrup could be used) to taste.
- Peel and thinly slice lotus root. Soak in iced water, dry.
- Slice celery.
- Grate carrot and ginger.
- Preheat wok or deep pan on High. Mist with oil.
- Stir fry ingredients together. Splash with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and Agave.
- When celery is soft, test lotus slices for doneness. We like them crunchy, but if you prefer a softer feel, add more liquids, and fry some more.
- Serve hot or cold.
About the guest author:
Dolly Aizenman is the brainchild behind Kool Kosher Kitchen (Which her blog and her book are named after).
This charismatic Russian blogger is fond of cooking and writing.
She has a BA in Art and Music Education, MA in English, MS in Education and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.