A Bangladeshi housemaid in Abu Dhabi is excited about her debut dance performance in front of an expected audience of around three thousand people this week.
"I doubt whether it is a reality or a dream," exclaims the 26-year-old Priya Akter who reached Abu Dhabi a few months ago.
She came here with a sole purpose of clearing a huge debt caused by a year-long medical treatment of her little daughter who had sustained serious burns in a fire at home.
"I never imagined that this country would unfold such an unimaginable surprise for me. Dance was my passion since childhood and I used to perform in the school," she said.
"Since I dropped out of grade 11, it was my dream to perform on stage; but there was no such hope left in my life."
Her childhood dream was revived when she danced in front of her compatriot friend, who is also a housemaid. The friend shot a video of her dance on her smart phone and shared it with the housewife she works for who, in turn, sent it to her friend, Jonia Mathew.
Mathew is the founder of Style Diva, a Facebook group for women in the capital with around 12,000 members. She has been organising in Abu Dhabi in the past five years Dandiya event, an Indian dance festival.
She invites and encourages talented female dancers and singers to perform at the annual event.
"Housewives and working women, they come to the event every year, but this year I had this surprise," Mathew says.
"When I saw her [Akter’s] video, I was amazed at her natural talent. I was astonished to know she was a housemaid," she adds. "Her performance reminded me of Nora Fatehi [a famous dancer in Bollywood]."
She discussed the possibility of Akter performing at the event with her co-organiser, Swathi Bhargava, who liked the idea. Their friend, Shweta Sinha, a dancer and choreographer, came forward to mentor Akter.
"I found a rare talent and passion in her," says Sinha.
Akter and the event organisers say her employer, a conservative family in the capital, granted permission for her performance but they did not want to speak to the media for privacy reasons.
The Dandiya event will be held at Khalifa Park on 3rd October from 8 pm to 12 am; Akter will perform with female dancers from two Indian community organisations, Maharashtra Mandal and Odiya Samaj.
Akter says her life has changed since she started practising dance on Fridays. Otherwise, her thoughts were only into saving money to clear her debt and fund the planned surgery of her 4-year-old daughter who is living with her grandparents in Bangladesh.
"This land gives me more hopes. Now I feel more optimistic that everything will go well [clearing debts and funding her daughter’s surgery]," she says. "It is a new life, although I am not in a position to fully comprehend the new reality."
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