Young people hanging out and having fun all night long – unsupervised and alone – results in many love stories, childish romances, one-night stands and reckless sexual encounters. Media reports from Gujarat claim rise in number of abortions after Navaratri. During the festive season, pharmacists stock up on contraception, hotel rooms are let out by the hour and dance venues have condoms vending machines.
A couple of years ago, pharmacists in Gujarati cities claimed rise in the sale of emergency contraception pills. In fact, NGOs and youth organisations target Navaratri venues to create awareness about HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and similar issues.
Twenty-year-old Shashank Desai has been to some Navaratri parties. “Well I can’t deny what you say. Such things do happen. After dancing boys and girls check into hotels and do stuff,” he says. But Shashank is quick to go on a defensive: “However that doesn’t give people the right to make fun of Gujarat or Navaratri.”
Over years Gujarat and Navaratri celebrations have got bad press. But 24-year-old Sneha Trivedi thinks it shouldn't be seen as a big deal, “If young boys and girls meet, it's obvious that things will happen. It is natural. Attraction is natural,” says the student at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.
A freelance photographer, Sneha says that Navaratri isn't an exception. “Such things happen during Ganpati festival in Mumbai, Durga Puja in West Bengal and even in night clubs. It is not like Navaratri is a sex racket, as the media portrays it. Also, such things happen in some specific areas but there are tons of small community-type garba and dandiya nights, where something like this is unheard of,” Sneha says.
Forty eight-year-old Hasmukhbhai Mehta says there may be an element of truth to reports of unsafe sex but rushes to say that Navaratri is when love happens. He met his wife of 20 years, Jinal, at a Navaratri celebration and ever since has been advocating the “possibility of finding love at Navaratri” to his children.
“It was a magical night. I saw Jinal and liked her instantly. I told my sister-in-law, who somehow managed an introduction and arranged the marriage too.”
The tradition of falling in love during Navaratri still continues. Gaurang Patel, 26, editor with a TV channel, met his fiancé Sejal Panchal during the festivities.
Friend, boyfriend, fiancé
“I saw Sejal on the first night of the festival and it was love. I found a friend to introduce us. After that, I was there every night, chatting her up and showing her dance moves. After Navaratri we stayed in touch and soon we were dating,” says Gaurang, who is now married to Sejal.
“My friends would always joke about how one could possibly meet someone at the dandiyas but I never imagined it would happen to me,” says Gaurang. He adds, “I met Sejal as a stranger at a Navaratri function and after that I have danced every Navaratri with her as a friend, boyfriend, fiancé and soon will take her as a wife. It is definitely my favourite festival.”
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