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Your neighbourhood bash just got bigger

Bandra might host the biggest suburban festival. Yet, its counterparts in Chembur, Vashi and Mulund aren't doing a bad job. Does it mean that local patriotism has emerged as the new-age mantra for the busybody Mumbaikar? Surekha S looks at this refreshing take at community bonding in the locality

Bandraites never had it so good. This year, the ongoing Celebrate Bandra festival, which is underway till November 27, is noticeably larger in scale. It's not just Bandra, suburbs like Mulund, Chembur and Vashi are also joining in the party, with scaled-down versions, mostly organised by Citizen's Welfare Associations.


Residents of Bandra participate in the parade at the Celebrate Bandra
Festival held in 2007

Given Mumbai's cosmopolitan nature, bonding and interacting with citizens from one's suburb is fast emerging as a common platform, a sponge to share, discuss, solve and in general, salute the neighbourhood, keeping alive the bonhomie all along.


Asif Ali Beg performing at the opening ceremony of Celebrate Bandra
Festival 2011


The Bandra example
The Celebrate Bandra festival is in its fifth edition this year. The two-week festival is bigger in scale and participation. With different events lined up every day, the festival is drawing in a very large audience across age groups and passions.


Bandraites watch a theatre performance at a park

"The festival not just brings people together but helps showcase the talents of people," says Neale Murray, Festival Director, Celebrate Bandra festival. He was one of the core members who organsied the inaugural Celebrate Bandra festival in 2003.

"We created the festival because we wanted to give back to our area what we got from it. The most important part of the festival is that the funds generated from the festival goes into worthy projects in Bandra like rainwater harvesting and so on," he adds.

Bandra resident Nandita Patel feels that such festivals help build a sense of community and togetherness. Patel, who was born and bred in Bandra, has been running a non-profit organisation called Thinking Mumbai: The foundation for building community through arts and literature. She holds talks at the Carter Road promenade, where there are open public discussions on the different issues concerning Bandra.

"We have held talks on the architecture, literature, films and theatre of Bandra. Though these discussions are primarily in English, it is attended by numerous people across cross sections of society, some of whom are not comfortable with the language. We encourage them to speak in the language of their choice.

The aim is to bring together individuals from diverse fields and interests," adds Patel, who believes that the response generated has always been positive and encouraging. "Our discussions imbibe a sense of togetherness -- the enthusiasm is contagious as audiences areĀ  drawn in almost immediately," she adds.

Suburban Joyride
Suprada Phaterpekar, who organised the first ever Chembur Festival in January this year, feels that such festivals play a key role for the community at large. "Tomorrow, if there is a problem in the region, people will come together easily to sort it out," says Suprada, who is also the secretary of the Chembur Citizen's Welfare Association.
The Chembur festival, which was organised in January this year got a heartwarming response, she says. An interior designer by profession, Suprada decided to organise the festival to bring the youngsters of the area together. "There are events specific to Gujaratis or South Indians but nothing that brings them together at a common platform. Besides Chembur boasts of plenty of talent that needed to be showcased to the suburb and beyond. I also wanted to put Chembur on the map as a prominent suburb of Mumbai."

Though Navi Mumbai does not have a festival specific to their area, they host events and sports tournaments that with the aim of bringing people together. The Navi Mumbai Citizen's Welfare Association organises yoga, laughter, tennis and badminton sessions regularly for residents of Navi Mumbai. Festivals are another occasion when suburbanites organise events to bond and celebrate.

Jayavant Nikam, a member of tNavi Mumbai Citizen's Welfare Association and a tennis coach in the area, feels that initiatives including sports events organised for the area's citizens help immensely. "Though the aim was mainly to promote sports, it also instills a sense of community. Residents of different parts of Navi Mumbai come together to be part of our tournaments. We have one tournament lined up very soon," says Nikam. So, the next time you hear of a festival being planned in your locality, don't just walk past. Drop by, participate or sign up to join in the revelry. Community matters, after all.

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