Dahi Handi at Times Square: All-women govindas struggle to raise airfare

Sep 17, 2014, 11:42 IST | Laxman Singh

The 20-member team was handpicked to perform at the Times Square in New York, but have not managed to collect enough money for their air tickets yet

Dahi Handi is a much loved festival in Mumbai, with tens of lakhs being spent every year by mandals across the city in an attempt to put up the best show. So, it’s surprising that a team of female govindas invited to perform at Times Square, New York, are struggling to even raise enough money for their air tickets to the US.

While the govindas have been hard at work practising for the event, it remains to be seen whether the city comes forward to support them as well
While the govindas have been hard at work practising for the event, it remains to be seen whether the city comes forward to support them as well

As an attempt to bring more exposure to the state, and draw more international tourists, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is organising a cultural programme ‘Diwali Celebration at the Times Square in New York’, and the highlight of the event will be a human pyramid formed by 18 female govindas.

In last year’s edition of the event, a men’s Dahi Handi team had performed there, but this is the first time that an all-women dahi handi team will perform at the iconic venue. Considering the event is a great opportunity for the girls to do their state proud, they are disappointed, and slightly surprised, that they have not found any support yet.

The 20-member team (18 govindas and 2 coordinators) was handpicked from Dahi Handi mandals across Mumbai and Thane by the Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti on the MTDC’s behest. While the state tourism authority will sponsor the team’s visa, stay and food, the girls will have to shell out Rs 75,000 for the air tickets.

Geeta Zagade (32), the team coordinator, told mid-day, “We are very excited and hopeful about the event, but nobody has shown any interest in helping us so far. We are going to present Maharashtra’s culture there, and we want to make our city proud, but have not got any response even from Dahi Handi organisers who spend lakhs of money during the festival each year.”

In total, the group needs to raise R10 lakh if they hope to get to New York for their performance. Since they were informed of the cost of travel 15 days before the Dahi Handi festival in August this year, more than a month has passed, but the girls have barely made a dent in the amount they need to collect.

Bala Padalkar, president of the Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti, said, “This is a proud moment for the city and the state, but, unfortunately, nobody has turned up to help make it happen.” With the event scheduled for September 20, they now have just three days left, and are quickly losing all hope.

The Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti approached several politicians for support as well, including MLAs Ram Kadam, Pravin Darekar and Kshitij Thakur, but received no assistance from them either. Independent corporator, Vijay Tandel, however, has been following the issue from the beginning, and even helped in raising Rs 2 lakh for the team.

“Since this programme is important for Mumbai’s pride, I have asked for help from Mayor Snehal Ambekar and BMC Commissioner, Sitaram Kunte. According to the BMC regulations, the municipal commissioner can grant help for these types of activities,” said Tandel, suggesting that the BMC could even garner some positive international publicity through the event.

Perhaps, the girls will finally find some support, as Mayor Snehal Ambekar gave assurances she would do her best, and said, “I will talk to the Commissioner and check if financial help can be provided as early as possible.”

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