Garba and Dandiya - things that describe a true-blood Gujarathi. After jalebi and fafda of course!
My best friend Nikita is getting married this weekend, and she had organized a Garba yesterday instead of the traditional Sangeet. I was there for around 3 hours, dancing most of the time. But in that span of time, I got to know almost all of the 40-50 people assembled there.
For those of my friends who do not know what Garba is, here is a brief history.
It felt like a whole new way of learning about human beings and their behaviour. The evening started with catching up with old friends. The traditional Gujarathi songs felt good and few of us could resist hitting the dance floor. The good part of Garba is that it is a traditional dance form which has evolved over the years with the incorporation of more liberal and complicated moves. Yet the age-old form of clapping to the tune and moving in a circle is still as relevant. So even Uncles and Aunts who were on the other side of 40 could participate as easily as we did.
They say the best way to participate in Garba is to get on the dance floor as early as possible. The enthusiasm is infectious, and soon people start following your moves. So we took the lead and started off. Easy steps at first. It felt like a warm up. There was plenty of space here, unlike during Navratri, when space is at a premium and everyone jostles each other for a little more room. Soon Nikita's relatives joined in and we were dancing like a big, happy family. I love the free-style dance at a Punjabified wedding, but the Garba, with its disciplined layout, has a charm of its own.
After an hour or so, we switched over to Dandiya. Its an extension of the Garba, only with the addition of foot-long sticks in both hands. Dandiya is generally played in pairs, people keep moving and pairs keep changing after every set of 5 beats. It was an eye-opener for me. Each person had a unique style. And the way they played said a lot about their attitude. Some were shy or reticent, some were enthusiastic, they exuded a warmth with their smiles. Some were outright arrogant. Some were patient, some were not. I realized even 4 year olds knew how to play the Dandiya, (and I need to revise the steps each time I start playing). It was as rudimentary to them as learning the alphabets.
After 2 rounds, I knew almost everyone there. Atleast, I knew what their nature was. I still have a few more encounters till the wedding to know them better. The way you dance for an hour says all about you that even a week of conversation would not reveal. Its not surprising that Navratri is so popular for scouting prospective soulmates :) Gals are you listening?