12 March, 2017: A carnival is spectacular because of ‘inversion of order’ and explicit mockery of ‘the formal’ by breaching it’s sacredness and turning it upside down, rendering it to ‘the zone of informal’ through humor and chaos.
One such event which stands true to this carnivalesque is Chaat Sammellan. When translated Chaat Sammellan comes closer to ‘a gathering of the garrulous’.
Having continued for three decades and above now, Chaat Sammellan has become an established affair thanks to the lively residents of Jhelum. Replacing Holika Dahan, just the night before Holi is played, Chaat Sammellan is eagerly anticipated.
History has it, that Jhelum’s mess, from where Chaat Sammellan first emerged could no longer be held there, due to it’s heavy popularity and huge turnout of crowd. As it became difficult to manage, the residents took a call to shift out this event to Jhelum Lawns.
Till this date, the narrative of Chaat Sammellan runs around a splendid wedding party, every year Jhelum’s bride popularly referred to as ‘Jhel Kumari’ gets married to a groom from Tapti, who arrives riding on a donkey followed by a procession on foot.
Like a good host, the bride’s side cannot just keep their guests waiting so they have what is called a laugh-a-thon under the supervision of ‘Chaat security’ that makes timely eviction of those from stage who get hooted out by the crowd.
Amidst all this, gracing the event is JNU’s most popular alumni, Mamu aka Shahzad Ibrahimi. Unfailingly Mamu tickles everyone’s funny bone, be it his effortless poetry on homeland, recountings of his youth and subsequent life spent in JNU and his unwillingness to depart from his alma mater or on important issues such as freedom of speech.
The heat of the recently concluded state elections in UP, Goa and Punjab could be felt in most of the jokes, while pressures surrounding one’s freedom of speech found a vent too.
Also the unforgotten UPSC aspirants kept cropping up now and then: ‘How does it help one to become a true man, because when one has started with it, one was young and by the time all his attempts for giving the exams got over, one was 36 years old, and that makes one a man, surely!’
The laughter marathon concluded at around two in the night, yes our night life is unique and Chaat Sammellan stands testimony to that.
D. Jennifer is a research scholar at CSSS and works for The Informer. Picture by Mansi Singh, MA student at CPS and works for The Informer.