A few weeks before the start of the Navratri’s, one word echoes in the clubs, restaurants & coffee-shops of Gujarat. It’s not ‘garba’ and it’s not ‘ghaghra’, the word we’re talking about is ‘pass’. All the young hipsters, the not-so-young-but-still-cool ladies and the balding-with-a-Beemer gentlemen will be good paying money, trading old favors and pulling rabbits out of hats for the sake of those laminated tickets that allow access to the ‘it’ venues in Vadodara and Ahmedabad – the two biggest garba destinations of the state.
These venues are not the gigantic, stage mounted variety, the ones that get advertised and where the tourists, gawkers and the pass-less flock. These are the small, vibrant gatherings that don’t come with an easy access pass. Here we give you lowdown on these places, but figuring out how to get into them is up to you.
United Way of Vadodara: Even though it is in direct violation of the ‘ big is not best’ rule, this beautiful venue with 30,000 energetic dancers is a spectacle to see. This massive dance ground decorated with lanterns and flowers and with the most pure, haunting music has high entry barriers. Its passes are the toughest to crack (some linked to donations) and they have recently started charging for women to dance – something eve swinging nightclubs don’t dare do.
To get in: Log on to www.unitedwayofbaroda.org and check if passes are available. If not, work the phone.
Fine Arts, Vadodara: When you enter the intimate and very eclectic Fine Arts venue you don’t really see garba as you know it. The ghaghra has been so widely interpreted here that sometimes it doesn’t even know it’s a ghaghra and teen tali is about graceful swaying movements without any tali at all. It’s like they’ve taken garba, shorn it off its trappings and left only the spirit of dance.
To Get In: Enroll.
Kalhar Bungalow & Shahibag Club, Ahmedabad: The young and the restless of Ahmedabad shun the fun-fair vibes of the GMDC grounds and head towards upscale venues like Kalhar Bungalows or Shahibag Clubs, organically grown initiatives that have acquired reputation amongst ‘people in the know’. These quality venues are an amped up local affair with great music and dancers, where extended families and friends catch up without the glitz – almost a hark to the original sheri garba concept where garbas were neighborhood events rather than centralized celebrations.
To get in: Buy a bungalow or befriend a club member.
NID/CEPT, Ahmedabad: Where there is art there is no room for convention. Much like the Fine Arts garba in Vadodara, the people NID and CEPT dance to the tune of their own drummer. Or in this case, to the tune of the mandali from a village whose folk music and dhokli led sounds they prefer over the beats of popular orchestras. Expect interesting people, ingenious décor and fun souvenirs.
To get in: Sneak in on the one night NID for guardians & friends.
Sharan spends her time writing and traveling, and when the stars align she gets paid to do both together. She has authored two Lonely Planet Guides and several features for Lonely Planet Magazine as well been a contributing writer on firstpost.com. She had just finished writing her first novel and blogs on www.antsinherpants.com.