This year has been the culmination of my growing grouse against the Ganpati Festival.
The growing up years were spent, sitting on our compound wall and whispering prayers to every Ganpati idol that passed by. And 5 off them passed us, every 2 seconds. After an hour of doing this, I was desperate to get off the wall and play our running games, but the rest of my friends felt uneasy, leaving their fervent prayers and turning their backs on all the surplus idols passing by.
Lokmanya Tilak, he of short foresight, turned this festival from a small family affair into a political fiasco, in 1894. I admit it was done in goodness of his Maratha heart, but like everything in India reaches a crescendo, this has gone beyond limits. The Hare Krishna, Isckon sect, the Osho followers, the Shri Shri Ravi Shankar herd, everything has gone beyond proportions and into the political stratosphere.
The welcoming of the Elephant God, with pomp and drama, the invites for darshan, which have become a social gathering and a compulsion, the loud Bollywood music blaring through illegal speakers, out of tune aarti, traffic jams, unnecessary dispersion of wealth, and massive upheaval of our lives. Everything leaves me feeling bleak and angry.
Many years back, my mom who writes dances ballets based on Hindu mythology had created one where the lord refused to come to earth when called for Ganesh Chaturthi. He complained that in the years gone, he was loved for himself. He heard prayers and hymns instead of trashy Bollywood rukus, ate good home made sweets instead of cakes and chocolates and was treated with respect. I find that so very pertinent now.
I know I have just earned the wrath of a lot of friends and my sister, but this festival needs to be saved. Last night I saw the sea in spate, and people trying to immerse the idol. All the idols kept floating back. But once the idol had touched the water, and the devout had carried that little bit of the sea sand on the same platform that previously carried their idol- they left that very same God, to whom they were fervently praying to for days – without a backward glance. The next day the cleaners came in and swept aside all the broken idols along with the garbage and the days poop and pee. The permanent effect was a sea with more toxins, sea life harmed, for a mere few days of utter devotion.
I believe myself to be largely non superstitious. I’ve shed those last ounces I held, when I was faced with this festival once more. I believe in a universal force and see it in God. And my only prayers to the Lord are to keep his feet on the top of my kids’ heads, so that they remain grounded. And use those very same feet in a swift motion, on their backsides if they so need.