It's Carnival time in Ahmedabad! Yesterday with much fanfare the Kankaria Carnival was inaugurated!!!.
Carnivals do bring people together. There is plenty of merriment, song and dance. Society literally 'lets go' as they embrace each other, accepting all; discriminating none. Carnivals are indeed great levellers as cultures, traditions and peoples mingle and blend.
The question however, which needs to be asked is, "Why suddenly a carnival in Ahmedabad?" One can easily give several reasons: This city is in need of a public space for entertainment, fun and frolic; above all the kids need an event like this to go to. All good reasons for which there can be no debate.
But is it truly all carnival in this city? We need to scratch the underbelly a bit to see what the grim reality is all about. There are still thousands of our citizens who sleep on pavements; a huge, grossly under-paid labour force involved in construction work building this 'mega-city'; rampant child labour; and a vast majority of the Muslims of the city confined to ghettos. It is no secret that a Muslim cannot easily buy a house or own a shop in the western up-market part of the city.
The word carnival is perhaps a misnomer. Its roots are in the Greek or Latin carne meaning "meat or flesh". A carnival normally refers to those days, Sunday to Tuesday, just before the Christians begin their season of Lent (forty days of prayer, abstinence and even fasting). During these three days of carnival, people literally go on a binge enjoying themselves eating, drinking and making merry to fullest. The festivities once over, people are expected to get into a somber mood. Carnivals are most associated with Brazil and other parts of Latin America and several countries of South Europe. In India too, in places like Goa, huge carnival parades and other festivities occur before Lent. So carnival in its essence is basically a western and a pagan festival.
The right wing elements of our society today, have taken upon themselves the 'responsibility' to decide what we eat, how we dress, where we live, whom we marry and which religion we should believe in. How then, do they approve a carnival that is alien to the 'culture of Gujarat?' Have they undergone a 'conversion' or are they wearing a mask?
A carnival is neither a passport nor a visa. Gimmicks can be seen through. The desperation to re-invent oneself must not be a façade but a genuine desire to ensure that every single citizen is protected with the rights and freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
Perhaps we need a genuine celebration in this city. A celebration wherein Justice, Equality, Love, Joy and Peace flourish in every section of society. A good beginning would be to restore the jali of the Siddi Sayad mosque to its unique and undisputed symbol of our city – the Tree of Life ,signifying Unity in Diversity.
So let the celebration begin today!
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