After I had mentioned for the tenth time how much I longed to be in Pune to be a part of the amazing Ganesh Utsav celebrations, DH asked me what made it so ‘amazing’, mimicking me perfectly. Quite sure I’d convince him, I went on to list some of the things that made it special for me...murtis, modaks and more...
When I was in school, the occasion meant, as you'd guess, HOLIDAYS! The August Unit tests would have just concluded (exactly a month after the July Unit Tests) and the ‘Mid Term Break’ was a welcome change (not so much for the teachers who had to correct our answer sheets I’m sure). So on the last day of school (which was generally a half day...and half day always meant double the joy), we’d happily dot those ‘i’s, cross those‘t’s and hand over the answer sheets. I don’t think anyone bothered to read or revise their answers that day, even though it was something we had been instructed to do. Strangely the number of hands shooting up to ask for extra sheets, while others tried to fill that never-ending main booklet, were very few. The final bell that day signified, not the end of a school day, but the beginning of a happy, much needed break.
The preparations leading to the festival
A few days before the festival, every time I stepped out onto the street, a new ‘pandal’ would have mushroomed. As I passed by, I’d try to sneak a peek and imagine what the final outcome would look like. I enjoyed playing the guessing game before the final reveal. The pandals would be interspersed with numerous shops selling scores of beautifully crafted murtis packed with people trying to select the ‘ideal idol’. Personally I think if you can tell a gentleman by his shoes, you can always tell a Ganapati by his girth. The bigger the belly, the better!
And finally he arrives...with all the bells and whistles...or rather the dhol and tasha..
Even the faintest sounds of the dhol and tasha would have me rushing out, onto our balcony, to catch a glimpse or two of every procession that would pass by our apartment. Although loud noises generally remind me of Cacofonix, this was something quite different. I loved the rhythm, the beat and the energy. Our balcony was a great vantage point. Looking at the colourful processions moving along from up there was like looking into a kaleidoscope. Who doesn’t love one, right?
The daily aartis...and mouth-watering modak at the end of it
Mundane Monday Morning Meetings Make Me Morose. Like a lot of people, most routines irk me and I often desire a break from the monotony. However, I was a big fan of the 8am and 8pm ‘daily aartis’ and a bigger one of the modak that was generally distributed at the end of it. It was quite delightful to see all the people gather together at a nearby pandal as the small hand approached 8. Most of them were strangers, but by the third or fourth day, I was able to recognise them and some even seemed familiar. I enjoyed clapping along as everyone sang the Sukhkarta Dukhharta bhajan. At the end of it, someone would go around giving out the highly anticipated modaks. It was a different flavour each time, much like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
The midnight marathon
Whether it was with family or with friends, it was a lot of fun to go ‘pandal hopping’. Every evening we’d select an area and go from one pandal to another, awestruck by the creativity displayed and the effort put into designing the brilliant light show that we witnessed. Sometimes the marathon continued well past midnight.
Going out with a bang
Of course it was quite hard to say good bye after the tenth day. The only good thing about it was the fact that I could start the countdown to next year’s celebrations. The new twists to the traditional visarjan have really intrigued me. Chocolate Ganapatis immersed in milk and resulting milkshakes given to underprivileged kids is indeed a sweet way to say good bye and one of my favourite trends.
Shortly after, DH smiled and told me I had made my point. Amazing indeed huh? ;)