Every year, as the Nine Nights festival of Navaratri passes me by , I am filled with a deep sense of regret of not being able to do as much Garba, in my youth, as I would have loved to. It was only 20 years later, I realized ,there were so many friends, who would have loved me to join them for Garba. But those days , without phones or Internet, if you lost touch with someone, only DIVINE INTERVENTION could make you meet again.
Unlike running, Garba / Raas is a team event, you need a group to join in. For a teenager, growing up in Baroda, not having a group to go along for Garba during Navaratri could rank as the most distressing experience, it certainly was for me. My predicament was quite unique, having enrolled in a Polytechnic (read boys diploma college) after 10th Std, I had the best of friends life could offer, ( Gaurang, Sajid, Bingo, Farhad, Nikunj) but when it came to Garba, they were mostly hopeless !
Also once you were part of a group, unlike girls, who got free entry to all garba grounds, boys still had another hurdle to cross, they required an expensive "entry pass " to do Garba, at the most visited garba grounds - Aarkee or United Way !! In the meanwhile, my challenges only compounded further, age 19, year 1995, I moved to Ahmedabad , to work for Voltas.
However my elder brother, Santosh, who has a very flamboyant, outgoing personality, had a large group of friends, and he was gracious & kind , to allow me to join them for doing garba. And whatever interesting memories I have of Navaratri are of those few years- 1996-98 !
Those 9 Nights --- Travelling everyday in the evening 5 pm MEMU train from Ahmedabad to Baroda. Reaching home to eat, rest and later get ready. Usually everyone arrived at the Garba ground by 11:00 pm , those days there were no restrictions on the timings and it was not unusual for folks to do Garba till wee hours of the morning, literally till the first light of dawn. After doing Garba till around 4:30 am, Santosh used to drop me directly at the railway station , I used to take the 5 am MEMU train back to Ahmedabad still dressed in my traditional attire. I still vividly remember, how co-passengers used to allow me extra room to sleep, in an otherwise crowded compartment, as it was evident from my attire that I had been doing Garba all night.
In 1999 I relocated to Bangalore and since then could never visit Baroda during Navaratri.
However this blog is not about the past, it is to look forward, with the amount of energy & drive , I have been blessed with, I will certainly do Garba to my Heart's delight , ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS !!
(as they say --- picture abhi baki hey, mere dost)