AhmedabadUntil last year, Sanket Vyas, a 24-year-old student, would head during Navratras to “party plots”—leased patches of land where disc jockeys would, in the name of garba, play Bollywood songs through the night, to dancing throngs of 500-4,000 people.
In July, however, civic authorities sealed at least 170 party plots because of parking-space irregularities, which has given an unexpected fillip to sheri garba—the traditional garba style that has been losing out to Bollywood dances over the last few years. Vyas, for instance, is dancing this Navratra season to the tunes of garba songs sung by elderly women in various residential societies near his house. “There’s no other option,” Vyas says. “Getting passes (to the few) garbas organized by the party plots is almost impossible.”
As the number of new apartment complexes in Ahmedabad has mushroomed, party plots, usually owned and operated by real estate developers and large landowners, have seen their parking spaces dwindle, but they have nonetheless continued to operate.
“The sealed party plots had not abided by any of the rules prescribed by the civic authorities,” says I.P. Gautam, municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad. “They did not even take the approval of the building plans from us. The matter is under judicial process, and we will simply abide by the judgement of the court.”
The owners of various party plots moved the Gujarat high court once the sealing began. On Monday, the court ruled that the plots could open only if owners obeyed all the civic rules they were flouting.
Meanwhile, says Deepak Gandhi, general secretary of the garba organizing committee of Sachin Towers, an apartment complex in Ahmedabad’s suburbs, there has been “an increase of around 15-20% in garba turnout this year. The youngsters who used to go to party plots on SG Highway have preferred to remain in the society this year”. Only three party plots on the highway held garbas this year, compared with 10 last year.
Typically, the apartment garbas start around 9pm and end around midnight. There is no fee for entry, whereas the garbas at party plots charged Rs.100-500 per entry pass.
Garbas have also sprung up in pols, the heritage structures in Ahmedabad’s walled city. “Many of the residents who sold their houses in our pol and shifted to the western part of the city are coming to our garba this year, as they don’t have many options,” says Dilip Patani, general secretary of the garba organizing committee of Desai Ni Pol. “It has provided us a chance to meet old neighbours.”
Remarkably, the sponsors who have funded garba events in Ahmedabad every year remain optimistic, despite having fewer sponsorship opportunities. Balesh Sharma, chief operating officer of Vodafone Essar Gujarat Ltd, said the mood was upbeat, and his company has increased its budget for garba sponsorship this year.
“We are sponsoring one or two garba venues for all nine nights in 10-12 towns across the state this year,” Sharma says. “Apart from these, we‘re sponsoring garbas organized by societies and smaller clubs like Shahibaug Gymkhana, which organizes garba nights in a big way for a night or two.”
A garba sponsorship may run into lakhs of rupees over nine nights, and sponsors are typically large corporate houses wishing to boost their profile. Telecom firms such as Vodafone, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Uninor, and infrastructure firms such as Dharmdev Infrastructure, B Nanji and Ganesh Housing are among the major sponsors this year.
Sunny Chatwani, director at Dharmadev Infrastructure, says his company has sponsored a number of garba events in residential societies this year. “In recent years, many large societies have come up in the city, with over 200-300 members,” Chatwani says. “These societies...bring us a good opportunity to advertise our corporate profile.”
In fact, Gandhi of Sachin Towers found himself refusing some big sponsorship deals this year, with his requirements already fulfilled. “We have a budget of Rs 2 lakh for nine nights,” he says. “We collected Rs 1.3 lakh from our members, while the rest of the funds came from sponsors.” says Gandhi.
Pepsi and a few local showrooms turned out to be his sponsors this year. “We had to turn down proposals of sponsorship from JK Tyres, Sony Television and Star Plus,” Gandhi says. “We’d got sufficient sponsorship already.”