The speakers started piling up a week in advance and being tested from different angles. I cringed. It meant 9 days of loud music at prime relaxing time. From day one to day eight the same music played out on these speakers….bad garba-style remixes of old bollywood songs. People would collect slowly in drab dresses and dance about in a circle right in the middle of the road…doing the same steps every day. My extreme annoyance at the chaos did not let me understand the fact that these festivals are the only way for the basti folks to relax, enjoy and shake a leg. I waited feverishly each day with cotton in my ears for the music to stop.
On the ninth day, the music started late and went on till the wee hours of the night….the law giving them concession for a day I think. To my surprise, the whole place erupted in colours and excitement. Little kids were prancing around dressed like little fisherwomen, goddess Kali, Durga and even an angel. Girls, guys, men, women….all had come out in their best attire….bright red, pink, orange sequined saris, sequined tops with jeans, colourful kurtas. Surprisingly, none of them looked like they belonged to a basti. I mentally went through my wardrobe and realized that I do not have a single dress to rival even the drabbest one of theirs.
Suddenly the same drab music sounded full of fun and masti. And all danced with gusto….the girls with colourful dupattas (who won the best group award), the guys in t-shirts, neck-tie and a white glove, two eunuchs in jeans, a muslim guy swaying to the tune of ‘Nagin’, a man in a golden coat and a long black wig (he won the best dressed dancer award), a mother with a baby in her arms, a drunken guy who came dressed in leaves, a woman who held her sari up a little and let her hair flow down her right shoulder seductively and the organizers in yellow kurtas and turbans. Towards the end, the circle broke. The music changed to pub numbers and the whole scene turned into a veritable open-air discotheque. The girls’ group jumped with the tune, a guys’ group did hip-hop and b-boing, one of the eunuchs danced around with a group of guys and throwing her hair about….there was a strange underline of sexuality between them….something which I did not want to think about.
Naturally the girl dressed like goddess Durga won the fancy dress competition. I watched them till the time the music stopped and everybody slowly went back home. I have never seen such a harmless (saying so due to my deeply ingrained Delhi sensibilities) and fun community celebration and loved every moment of this show.
But now all I want is a quiet and peaceful place to heal my extremely painful ears.