Here’s wishing everyone a very happy Navratri. Just as on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s Irish, during Navratri, we are all Gujju. For while it is celebrated in many parts of the country, no one does Navratri with as much panache as the Gujaratis. I recall wheedling out passes to some of the more well-appointed Navratri mandals months in advance. None of my more graceful friends ever invited me to pick up the dandiyas and dance a round. They all knew that I’d end up giving them broken knuckles and upset the pirouetting rhythms that are the mainstay of the raas. For me, Navratri was always a spectator sport. And who can blame me for standing on the sidelines taking in the sounds of Phalguni Pathak and the sights of all those graceful women in their bandhini and gurjari finery!
While traditionalists lament the garbi giving way to disco dandiya and, more recently, to Bollywood-style bump-and-grind, the fact remains that Navratri is one the most popular festivals among young people precisely for those reasons. Here in the West, I have known of some really interesting developments on the dandiya front. Fusion seems to be the name of the game here. Of course, like with most of our traditional festivals, we are at risk of reducing Navratri to a frolic, food and finery event. To be fair though, it was also all that to our pious ancestors. I’m sure that our festivals were their chance for some revelry at the end of hard periods of poverty-imposed austerity.
We may not be as poor as the peasants of yesteryear