Navratri report card

Team MiD DAY visited Mumbai's three most popular dandiya venues at Goregaon, Borivli and Ghatkopar to report about the celebrations. This is what we saw

Raaj 2011, Preeti-Pinky Dandiya
Location: Police Hockey Ground, Ghatkopar
Entry fee: Rs 100 per day; Rs 500 for the entire season

It is a must for any dandiya organiser to have great foot taping music to pump up the crowd. This dandiya, along with some lip smacking food, lived up to the expectations. Besides, special attention was paid to security and about 200 personnel were pressed into action in and around the ground to provide a hassle-free event for about 6,000 revellers. The installation of colourful lights added to the atmosphere. While garba started at around 8 pm, groups kept on pouring in till 9 pm. What was commendable was the fact that despite the celebrations, the organisers adhered to the 10 pm deadline, though the parting speeches took some 15 extra minutes.

Even the parking space was ample as nearly 500 cars were parked on the road outside the venue, another 100 were parked at the ground adjacent to the venue.

Commuting woes
Lack of autorickshaws outside the ground acted as a killjoy for the merrymakers. While many waited for long, others preferred to walk to the main road to find an auto. Those who had travelled from the Central suburbs, such as Mulund and Thane, had the hardest time.

Neelima Virkar, a Mulund resident "Though the rickshaws are easily available, I had to wait almost 15 minutes to get one. This happened because people were competing with each other to find one."

Dhiren Mehta, a Vidyavihar resident "I come here every year with my family to celebrate Navratri. It is a great time to take a break from our busy lives and spend some time together."

Vardhaman Ekta Navratri
Location: Ekta grounds, near Kora Kendra, Borivli West
Entry fee: Free

Being a free event, a crowd about 5,000 strong had filled the venue. Be it young or old, people from as far as Virar and Mahim had come to celebrate. Security here was top-notch. Entry points were installed with metal detectors and the crowd was thoroughly frisked. Citing security reasons and to make sure that the in-house food and water counters did brisk business, people were disallowed form carrying water bottles and eatables. Moreover, with three dandiya events being organised in the same area, bikers parked their bikes on the footpaths, resulting in  skirmishes, which were resolved after cops' intervention. A police officer on duty near Kora Kendra said, "We are trying our best to maintain law and order. There are three dandiya events here and at times it becomes hectic. There have been a few people who we caught for rash driving. But so far, there have been no major problems." Being a free event, even the mischief-mongers made their way in and were spotted passing lewd comments at the girls. Apart from this, the event was peaceful. Though the revellers were not seen playing dandiya, the youngsters performed a mixture of garba and other dances.

Commuting woes
After th event, the autorickshaw drivers tried to cash in on the revellers' plight. Refusing to ply by meter to Borivli station, these drivers started demanding Rs 50, which according to meter doesn't exceed Rs 15. With all the three events ending at the same time, the drivers tried to take advantage.

Organiser speaks
"Since ours is a free garba-raas, we took care to make the event incident-free. We want people to come and enjoy themselves. It's all about enjoying the nine nights of the festival," said Jignesh Shah, one of the event organisers.

Naveen Mittal, 53, a resident of Khar who had come for the event said, "My family and I wanted to experience dandiya and so decided to come here. My relatives travel to this venue from across the city. We have our own car so it is okay for us. I will be making a few trips to drop my relatives to the station as the rickshaw drivers are charging exorbitantly."

Radhika Gulati, 43, a resident of Mahim said, "My children wanted to play dandiya so my husband and I have brought them here. The prices are too high at other places and since the children had a holiday on Saturday and Sunday we dropped in. Getting a rickshaw to come here was easy, but now to go back to the station, the rickshaw drivers are refusing to go by meter."

Sankalp, Falguni Pathak
Location: Goregaon Sports Club
Entry fee: Season Passes: Rs 2,500. Weekdays and weekend charges range from Rs 300-500, depending on response and crowd

With 'Garba Queen' Falguni Pathak singing there, it is impossible to imagine that the crowd would give Sankalp a miss. However, this year, the unimaginable happened. Adding to the revellers' sufferings were the traffic jams, especially for those travelling from Central parts of the city. While those who finally managed to get in by 9 pm, had to be content with just an hour's dandiya as the organisers respected the deadline and stopped the music by 10.03 pm. Another commendable aspect was the tight security cover.  While the crowd cooperated, even the VIPs were frisked thoroughly they were let in.

Travel woes
Here too, the revellers had to face an ordeal as rickshaw drivers refused to stop, as they feared traffic jams. Even those travelling via private vehicles faced problems. With parking space far  from the venue, those waiting for their cars blocked the lane to the venue, compounding traffic problems, which resulted in massive delays.

Organiser speaks

Devendra Joshi, one of the organisers, said, "There were no problem in handling the crowd, as our security did a fine job on that. Even the traffic was normal, just like other years. It is but obvious that the traffic would increase, however, we had traffic cops controlling it and it eased up after 11 pm."
Anuj Buddhdev, a collegian, who had visited the venue with his friends, said, "I was waiting for an autorickshaw, but none of them halted. Moreover, most of the drivers had kept the meter half down so that they legally don't have to wait or answer any questions. I had to submit my assignment in the morning and till 10.45 pm I was there. 'When will I reach home?', was the only question ringing in my mind."

Karan Thakkar, a resident of Ghatkopar, who was dressed in a traditional Gujarati outfit, said, "I took about two and half hours to reach the venue from my place and almost the same time to reach home. This happened despite travelling in my own car. I would have enjoyed even more, had I not had the tension of returning home." 

(Compiled by Chetna Yerunkar, Maleeva Rebello and Dazy Verma)
Pics - Atul Kamble / Pradeep Dhivar / Nimesh Dave

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