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Inclusive mandal in Vadodara illustrates the true spirit of Navratri

The 10-day Navratri festival is something many people look forward to. It's a community affair where everyone gets a chance to dress up, dance and play together and feast on amazing food. Taking this spirit of brotherhood one step further is the Khelo Kehaliya Garba Mahotsav in Vadodara with the message of inclusion.

With barely weeks to go before the 10-day Navratri festival kicks off, the excitement is building up for Hans Aslot. "Hans loves to dress up in traditional clothes and dance", says mother Rita Aslot with a smile. "He is great at the typical dodhiya dance and has won many prizes for best costume."

28-year-old Hans, who has Down syndrome, works at his brother-in-law's paper bag manufacturing factory and does not miss a single day of the festival. A social person, Hans loves to mingle and dance with everyone else. At the Khelo Khelaiya Garba Mahotsav in Vadodara, he gets a chance to do that. The festivities here are open to everyone, with and without disability. That does not usually happen as many mandals have separate timings earmarked for people with disabilities.

The idea came to the organizer Sandhya Trivedi three years ago.

For the last three years now, we have been inviting people with disabilities along with everyone else. I felt it was high time we decided to show society that it is possible to include everyone and not make them play separately from the others, which is how it happens usually. And we make the festivities attractive with lots of gifts for best dance, costume, games, etc. - Sandhya Trivedi, Organiser, Khelo Khelaiya Garba Mahotsav

Manju Kaushal loves the idea and goes regularly with her family. She has a younger son who is non-verbal and says the inclusive mandal is a great way to bring people together and spread awareness.

"We have a large circle of families with children with disabilities and we typically tend to get excluded from such events. This really bothered me as they are also a part of society and have the right to mingle with others", says Manju. For the last three years, her children get to dance and play with others. "We get season passes like others and if there's a family that cannot afford it, we all pitch in and help out".

The mandal is open to children of all disability types like Down syndrome, slow learners, autism, etc. There are some quiet areas set aside for children with sensory needs.

Haresh Virji Swati's sons Kunal and Niral are also regulars. "My sons, who are 34 and 26 years old, are slow learners. They love to go to Khelo Khelaiya as they get to dance with everyone, including non-disabled people. The mandal involves them in all the activities so they feel involved and included".

Involve and include. Words that truly symbolise the spirit of Indian festivals.

If you would like to be a part of the Khelo Khelaiya Garba Mhaotsav, contact Manju Kaushal at +91 97243 02049.

Also Read: Gorgeous Ghagras in Comfortable Fabrics for Kids with Autism

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