9Nights

What do you do when you are an AIF Clinton fellow placed in a state where it so happens to celebrate the longest dance festival in the world? Yes! you read it right. The World’s Longest Dance Festival – Navratri.

I know one thing for sure. You can’t miss it – physically, mentally, visibly, audibly and whateverly unless you absolutely have to go somewhere else other than Gujarat and won’t be able to return until the festival is over. That too, you wouldn’t miss it because you won’t leave without someone, in fact, everyone you know telling you,”You’re going to miss Navratri!”. It’s the only thing people talk about when Navratri is just around the corner. It’s like a different season altogether. The Navratri season.

Navratri means nine nights – ‘Nav’ meaning nine and ‘raatri’, nights. During these nine nights and ten days, three forms of goddess are worshiped namely Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Now I can keep writing about Navratri looking at Wikipedia, blogs and the Gujarat tourism website but I think it’s better I cut to the chase. On all the nine days, people dance with mind twisting…more like foot twisting Garba steps wearing ridiculously colorful clothes. And that’s about all I know.

Alyssa with a bearded blend of tradition and trend
Alyssa with a bearded blend of tradition and trend

 

Pretty ignorant you might say, me being an Indian. But hey! I definitely enjoyed being someone who didn’t know much about it but was blown away by the sights and sounds of the festival; to experience it first hand and to get to know more about it from the people themselves rather than reading about it.

 

When Ram and Lakshman made a surprise descent at the Garba ground

 

At a party plot where we got taught more Garba steps and heartily trot
At a party plot where we got taught more Garba steps and heartily trot

 

To share the Navratri experience, my roommate Crysty and I invited and hosted a few fantastic fellow fellows for the festival at our fort of an apartment in Ahmedabad. Although we didn’t get to enjoy much of Navratri together since most of them arrived on the last day of the festival, we did manage to make the most of it. Apart from the festival, we had a great time in Ahmedabad for the rest of the days we were together before they went back to their respective placement locations.

 

"The Fort"
“The Fort”

 

On the last day of Navratri
On the last day of Navratri

 

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Turquoise Villa – I forgot what I ate there but I definitely remember watching a cricket match on TV and explaining cricket.

 

Signing off, please watch the video below made exclusively from videos captured on our mobile phones. Though I admit I did use some stock footage to fill a tiny portion due to lack of good footage. For your viewing pleasure, please watch it at 480p.

 

After working as a producer having researched and documented several visual contents and making short documentaries, Kuljan enrolled in a Master's course in Conflict Analysis and Peace Building at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. The course both inspired and showed him a bridge between international relations and humanitarian development. He focused on International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Protection, which deals with human rights, international law, armed conflicts and refugees.

Kuljan then joined ActionAid India as a volunteer and worked on various campaigns such as 'Beti Zindabad' which aims to make gender equality a lived reality in India, 'Blood Bricks' which highlights and seeks to address the harsh realities of bonded labour. The knowledge hubs in ActionAid India also exposed him to several other issues such as child labour, education, livelihoods etc. Recently, he worked on a campaign called 'People's Vision of the City' with a knowledge activist hub called 'Citizens Rights Collective' (CiRiC). The campaign aims to bring in citizens to plan and design socially just, equitable and environmentally sustainable cities.

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