Navratri specially was very eventful because the festival went on for nine nights. And also during that time we were given permissions to go out at the night with friends. We used to dress up in our best, and gather at one central location. We used to cycle around the town, from one place to another, trying to check out which was the place which had the best music and the best people and then we also sparingly use the money that we used to get on samosas and tea. Seeing all the older guys who used to get their girls on the scooter (bikes were a rarity scooter was the most common), I so much wanted to grow up fast and get to earning something as soon as possible. Generally in those days, garba used to go on till 4am in the morning, and then we used to cycle back home, and sleepily attend the school next day or bunk. Even teachers did not used to say anything during those nine days, and as such I hardly remember a instance when I had test during that time.
What is very unique about Navaratri and garba kind of dance is that unlike other forms of dance, which are performed, by individuals or a small group of people, garba/dandia is like performed by thousands at the same time. And still there is not much of chaos, because the beats are fairly simple and as long as you clap at the right time, and move about in the circle you are fine. I remember that there used to two or three such big grounds where there used to be 10-20 such concentric circles, and if you were to lose your friends, somewhere, it was nearly impossible to find. So we used to keep a pre-defined place, that if we were to miss each other we would go back and wait at that place.
The last time when I attended such a grand Navratri festival was when i was in 12th. Also during that Navaratri I had a heart break. There used to be this girl in my class whom I had a huge crush on. And during that Navaratri, I spoted her with one guy. Well till earlier years of navrathri she used to come with her girl friends, and it was a thrill to go and talk to her for sometime or even get a chance to dance with her. But this time around she had come with this guy, I did not know anything about the guy, except for the thing that he possessed a scooter.
After that year, I went to college and after that have never got the chance to attend this festival in my hometown, so sometime I very much wish to do that again. But as I hear from friends, things have changed now, hometown is not like a small town any more, Most of open spaces have given places to malls and other buildings, instead of free entry now there are passes, there are more strict rules now and all the celebrations have to end by midnight, Cycles have disappeared, and most of the teenagers are so burdened with exams that they cant think of staying awake late at night for Navatri.
Sometimes I keep wondering, if all the community festivals are disappearing, and giving way to more private and restricted celebration. But then day before yesterday I went to this quiet little gujarati assocation, where they had organized a small garba. There were about 200 odd people there, aunties, uncles, girls, guys, kids. After a long time I danced and danced, talking with unknown people, exploring new dance steps and trying to recollect all the old dance variations that we used to try, hearing to all those old gujarati tunes, till 3 am in the morning. Well ofcourse it was not as grand, but something that I would remember for a long time to come.
If you have never been to any garba/dandia celebration, do try it out. It is unique as compared to any other dance form, and you dont need to know dance and all, it is fairly simple and once you are inside the circle you would move automatically.