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No hove, hove this time, too !

| Updated: August 27, 2021 10:20

World’s Longest Dance Festival Limps To Halt.

In the second of Vibes of India’s 3-part series, Natasha Baxi and Parita Pandya write about continuing Covid scare among Garba organisers across Gujarat:

The dreaded corona virus brought the world’s longest dance festival, Garba, to a grinding halt in its first avatar in 2020. People literally haggled with the government, mostly in vain, to let them organise and play garba without the usual razzmatazz. The nine-day festival sustains an entire economy of sorts that was completely derailed and everyone waited for the pandemic to fade out. 

Cut to August 2021. When the Covid-19 curve appears flattened to a great extent and when everything – from schools to offices to markets – has almost opened up, the world seems to be returning to normal. But few wish to risk organising the Garba, forget playing it. If their earnings are hit, be it, but none wants to see a third wave – all have watched deaths and near-deaths from close quarters.

Ask Gandhinagar’s garba organiser and president of Thanganaat (translated as passion or vigour) Group Rohit Nayani, Hemant Shah of United Way in Vadodara, Shanku’s Entertainment, Ahmedabad, Sargam Club, Rajkot. They have a common theme – no garba this time. 

Hemant Shah of Vadodara sums up almost every organiser’s concern when he says, “It would be difficult to hold garba in the view of the pandemic; health and safety of everyone is our priority.” A spokesperson of Shanku’s Entertainment in Ahmedabad speaks like an expert when he says, “We aren’t completely free from the risk of Covid. So, mostly no garba this year.”

Similarly, Gunbhai Delawala of Sargam Club, which organizes nearly decade-old Sargam Gopi Ras and Kanaiyanand Rasotsav of Rajkot, says the safety and health of the people is of paramount importance. And so says Surendrasinh Vala, the organizer of the famous Sahiyar group. “The second wave was extremely dangerous, a large number of people have lost their families. We don’t want to see it again.”

Arvind Vegda

Speaking to VoI, famous Bhai Bhai Singer Arvind Vegda, for whom the Navratri festival almost fills up his coffer for the year, puts the entire issue in perspective. He says, “I appreciate the opinion of experts in not holding garba this year too. Though large events with thousands of enthusiasts are not possible, small-scale garbas could be allowed in residential societies.” Vegda also puts a rider, saying, “Here too, societies with 100% or at least 80% of residents fully vaccinated should be permitted.”

As for artists like him, he feels the government should provide some financial assistance to small artists in such a critical situation “or corporate groups can come forward to put up big screens or sound system in big settlements and show live program so that people get some entertainment from a distance.” He also said the corporates could invite musical troops to perform, under strict Covid SOPs. 

VoI checked with several garba classes to find a sharp fall in the number of participants, while some classes diversified to Zumba, aerobics and other dance forms. Kamal Prajapati, who runs Krishna Production house in Navsari, who runs garba classes along with Zumba and aerobics for over five years, says footfall of garba enthusiasts at his classes has fallen by 25%, if not more. However, he adds the enthusiasm for garba has not waned. The concept of ‘Before Navratri’ has gained traction, especially in South Gujarat, where people play Garba wearing non-traditional clothes in the run up to Navratris. “So, Before Navratri will happen for sure,” he says.   

Maha Arti at GCF, Gandhinagar

And the number of youngsters to learn Garba at Silver Dance Academy in Ahmedabad has sharply fallen from some 200-odd to just about half a dozen now. And those who come, says its owner, “do so for fitness and shed a few kilos.” 

Deepak Patel, who runs Dev Group Dandiya classes in Rajkot, has a similar story. He has not started garba classes at all this year, though he may consider opening it a month before Navratri if the situation is conducive. “But there may be sheri garba, if the situation permits,” he says. And Vicky More, an event planner from Feel Dance Academy, Vadodara says, “We will not have full-fledged Garba classes this year and we have shifted focus from Garba classes to Zumba and aerobics.”

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