Navratri symbolises the victory of good over evil and how else to celebrate it, without dance, music and loads of fun. The legend behind the celebration is; Goddess Druga’s victory over Demon Mahishasura. Winner always writes the history. The winner differentiates and decides the good bad and the evil for the rest of us, who are just bystanders. To ponder, what would have happened if Mahishasura won the battle – there still would be loads of music, fun and dance. Gujaratis knows it all.
The recipe for making a Gujarati (Gujju) is so simple. Take any person, ask them to wear colourful dresses, teach them to dance Garba – Dandia, and inject 200ml of money mindedness in their brain. You have a Gujarati(Gujju) ready and finally keep a bag full of Gujarati sweets and some Dhokla near them, to make the picture complete. What I meant is – the difference that made the Gujarati community, the most successful in India and the rest of the world, they preferred to call their own, lies only in culture and attitude.
Though born in South India, I am someone who have lived in Gujarat for nearly three years. I have lived and worked in loads of other places too, like Bangalore, Coimbatore, Madras, Katpadi, Kerala and Singapore. Today, I call, Melbourne – the most livable city in the world, my home town. But Gujarat specifically Ahmedabad still remains the most loved place in my whole life. I still could not define what makes that place so special. The careless, aloof exterior coupled with high level of efficiency they display on whatever they undertake makes Gujjus one of the most successful people in India. No wonder, Mahatma Gandhi to Vallabhai Patel to Freddie Mercury to Jamshedji Tata hailed from there.
It was just a coincidence, in my crisp 20’s , I arrived in Ahmedabad, by Navjeevan express during the Navratri Period. On those days Navjeevan express was supposed to take two and a half days to reach Ahmedabad from Kerala as per schedule. Thanks to the Indian railways, as usual it took 3.5 days to reach there. In my home state Kerala, infamous for ‘staring men’, women never dared to venture outside their homes alone after the night fall. I was surprised to see young girls and women dancing in the streets to the tunes of Garba music for the whole night. It was altogether a different world. It was full of colour, happiness, fun and music. People were nice and friendly. I took Gujarat in my stride or the other way around. The beauty of Gujarat is in its people. Soon I was warned by my Gujarati friend, “Gujaratis are nice people, as long as you don’t lend them money”. An advice I kept in my heart forever. Probably that is the reason, I still find Gujaratis nice.
I joined for work the next day and found every single day people offering me loads of sweets and other eatables in the morning. “That is really nice, now I can skip my breakfast”, I said to myself, without realising that, this will last only during the Navratri period.
The teenage boys at the society I lived, accepted me as one of their own and showed me the dance steps. The nights became colourful, the Gujarati way of life, I loved it, preached and lived it. Half the residents of the Society were Sikhs, but they all joined the celebrations as one family. But good things won’t last long. One of my roommates, a bachelor from Kerala, too short for his weight – has fallen in love with a Sikh girl in the same society. We code named her “Binjapa” – a sort of anagram for Punjabi. He wanted to marry her, and the girl, with a shy face, making circles in the sand with her toes, told the bold lover, “ask for my parents’ permission”. The young fool, did just that. For those who know the Indian society of the 90’s, the rest of the story can be found in Hindi movies.
But that did not dilute my love for Gujarat. Australia has a thriving Gujarati community. To get to know the wonderful culture of Gujarat – the best way is to attend Gujarati functions and celebrations in Australia. This is the time, in all capital cities of Australia, Gujarati Celebrations of Navratri takes place. The great personalities like Devang Patel, Atul Purohit, Hemant Chauhan, Indu Patel and Kirtidan Gadhvi will grace the occasion with their musical talents. If they are willing to accept you, be one of them.
The Photos in this article are from Devang Patel Garba Dandiya in Melbourne organised by Satya Times – A Gujarati Newspaper in Melbourne. Our special thanks to Mr Bharat Shah.