Rajesh Vora’s family and friends call him a gifted dancer. But, his enthusiasm to dance at garba and dandiya gatherings during Navratri was marred by mocking from fellow revellers. Vora, who is hearing impaired, could not match steps with them.
With two of his friends, Nirmal Gadhia and Vinod Mehta, also hearing impaired, Vora began a one-day celebration with 20 people in a hall near their housing complex, with music from string and wind instruments, food, games and gifts. This was in 1992.
Today, more than two decades later, what Vora’s Navratri Navyuvak Mandal for the Deaf organises has become an annual carnival for the community. Participants come in from across the state, and from Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai.
This year, an NRI from US, Vivek Desai, also flew in. “Every Gujarati looks forward to Navratri, but I was never a part of the festivities. This opportunity had to be grabbed,” Desai told HT through an interpreter.
This year’s event was celebrated in Borivli on Dussehra. “It is purely out of convenience, as everyone is off work. We celebrate during the day to bring down the cost,” said spokesperson Bhumika Akolkar, a Dahisar resident.
The 220-odd deaf and mute revellers – web designers, students, bankers, homemakers– grooved to blaring DJ music. “We feel the vibration of the drums and match our steps to it. Our dance is really uninhibited,” said Chhaya Wani. Her hearing impaired son, Tushar Wani, is the association’s secretary.
The association has tried to keep the budget modest and the event low-key, but windfall donations from some clubs and NGOs have helped up the scale of celebrations.