Members of the audience at Garba in Pink
Members of the audience at Garba in Pink

Jiger Patel

AUSTIN TX: “I saved up all my energy for a week to attend Garba in Pink,” said Darshana Pattni while sharing her story of being a breast cancer survivor.

Darshana first discovered she had breast cancer three years ago when she felt a lump and decided to get a mammogram at Baylor Hospital. Her mammogram result discovered she had stage-two breast cancer. “When I found out about cancer, I was completely shocked and went numb from crying.” Darshana shared this pain with her family members, who have been constantly by her side, showing love and support.

Darshana Patel
Darshana Patel

It was then that Hansa Patel, Darshana’s aunt and chairperson of Aastha Charities, decided to bring awareness about breast cancer to women of their Indian community called SurtiLeuva Patidar Samaj of DFW. Their committee agreed to pick one day during the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri to promote awareness regarding breast cancer. During nine days of Navratri men celebrate Navratri by performing a vibrant Garba (folk) dance. During Garba, women and men dress in colorful attire and dance in a rhythmic circular motion. So in 2018, SLPS Aastha Charities started Garba In Pink at the SLPS Community Center in Irving, TX. On this day, the members wear pink during the Garba dance to show their support for all women battling breast cancer. 

Guest speakers are also invited to Garba in Pink to give expert advice on effective ways to catch early detection. One of the best ways to detect breast cancer is to perform self-examinations. If the cancer is detected early, it is more likely to be treated successfully. Furthermore, yearly mammograms can also help find or detect breast cancer, sometimes even before a lump is felt.

Garba in Pink has created a support group for breast cancer survivors providing emotional and information needs for survivors. When Darshana discovered her cancer, she reached out to another survivor Bhavna Patel to be her guide. In turn, this year, after Garba in Pink, three survivors have reached out to Darshana to help guide them through their journey.

The move is to overcome initial weakness, loss of hair, change in color of nails and knuckles, a. “The first lesson I learned after I was diagnosed is how not to feel guilty about prioritizing my health; as a woman, we are used to prioritizing others’ needs, but I tell every survivor don’t feel guilty and prioritize your health,” said Darshna.

“Further, I started praying regularly to Lord Ganesha and reciting prayers, which gave me hope that one day I will conquer this cancer. And in 2019, when I found out I was cancer-free, I went to Lord Ganesha to thank him for giving me strength to believe that I could survive and win against this cancer.” 

At Garba in Pink, all the information is also provided in the attendee’s native language, Gujarati. This year Pinky Patel, and Vaishali, a Gujarati language teacher, got invited to provide breast cancer information in a humorous but informative video. Another initiative created in Garba in Pink this year is to have a check-up buddy; a WhatsApp Group was created, which sends quarterly reminders to women to get their self-exam and mammogram done.

Garba in Pink has also spread throughout the United States and was promoted by LPS of the USA in major cities. This year, some of the towns included were Atlanta (4,000 attendees), Little Rock (500 attendees), Nashville, Chattanooga, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, and Kentucky. In many ways, Garba in Pink would have made the ancient sages of India happy that even after thousands of years, a festival meant to honor the Feminine Divine reminds us that when women decide to fight any evil, there is nothing that can stop them from winning. As Darshana puts it, “We call our fight Pink Power, and we will win with each other’s support.”