A celebration of culture that showcased the strength of the community.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
Although I’d heard of the hours of fun and community bonding to be found at a garba and dandiya, and I’d seen the dances in media and popular culture, I’d never attended one in person, so I was excited to be invited to the Raas Garba 2022, held over 16- 17 September at the Montien Riverside Hotel Bangkok. A stalwart of community events, this annual celebration has been hosted by the SMART Group for the last three decades and has had numerous sponsors throughout the years, with Signature Group as the main sponsor this year.
Despite knowing what to expect, nothing could have prepared me for the vibrancy and energy when I walked into the space. Young and old from across the Gujurati and Marwari community (and more) were dressed in their festive best, with many children donning traditional garb from Rajasthan. We had arrived just in time for a jaw-stopping performance by members of the community to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of India’s independence, the women and girls resplendent in white lehengas and everyone in perfect sync and bearing small replicas of the Tricolour flag.
This was, I learned through the night, just one of the many ways that the cultural event brought people together, and helped expose children growing up here to their roots. “When you come here, you see the whole culture of Gujurat and Rajasthan,” Atul Jogani, a representative and member of the board of SMART Group tells me in between the dances. “When you walk in, you feel like you’ve visited the Western part of India. The dresses, the food – we invite amazing chefs who make food from Gujurat for this two-day event.” And it’s true, the sprawling hall was lined with delicious vegetarian fare, from some of the most renowned Indian restaurants in the city.
Watching the dances, it was clear that a lot of thought and practice went into learning the steps for the event, and Atul agrees: “We have teachers from the community, volunteers who have been diligently teaching the kids for months. The kids get dressed up, and they’ve been practicing,” he says proudly. “We want our children to be connected to India, our kids were born here, they often get married here, but the culture stays with them.”
The event also saw numerous dignitaries and VIP guests, including Ashwin Kotnis, the Counsellor to the Embassy of India in Bangkok. “Every time when we do this, the Indian Embassy graces the occasion,” Atul tells me. Another VIP guest was Nikorn Sachdev, who had a few words to say about the event: “This event has been here for 30 years,” he says in awe. “It’s an amazing event that shows that the community is still so close-knit, from young children to their great-grandparents, everyone is having a good time.”
And indeed, as everyone continued to dance the night away, it was clear to see the importance of events like this for the community to celebrate, be entertained, and connect with each other.
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