It is usually the best time of the year to be in Mumbai, under normal circumstances. Forget momentarily about the rafting season, the globular 4-D potholes that threaten to swallow you up alive, and the nasty virus that is still coursing raucously through 2020. August-end and early-September is when the universally loved elephant god Ganapati Bappa arrives in every nook and corner of the city, and the salty, fish-fragrant air is redolent with an all-pervasive enthusiasm. Experiencing Mumbai when it regales with Ganapati Bappa, is an experience of a lifetime.
Ganeshotsav has been my favourite festival for over 20 years (I qualify to utter 'Mee Mumbaikar Aahey' now) since I took roots in Mumbai. There is a beautiful energy, an inexplicable rush of warmth, a sense of sheer submission when the modak-chomping Lord Ganesha arrives in colourful grandeur. Perhaps the ubiquitous chanting of the vandana, the manic and heady pounding of those gigantic drums and the crash cymbals, from shanties to soigné highrises has something to do with girdling the entire mass of humanity together. Of course, the glamorous aartis and poojas conducted in the soaps on the telly have successfully popularised the festival in locations like Lucknow, Jalandhar, Udaipur too.
The magical fervour of Maharashtra's most loved festival of the year will now course rather faintly through Zoom links and other online platforms. (File photo: PTI)
It has been a long ride for Ganapati. From the throbbing Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav powered by freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak for unifying the population, to the present day e-Ganapati pooja. From eco-G to e-G. The magical fervour of Maharashtra's most loved festival of the year will now course rather faintly through Zoom links and other online platforms. Minus the collective cries and boisterous whoops, pounding manjiras and cupping of eco-friendly idols of the deity carefully before performing the sthapana. The first aarti sets the mood for one-and-a-half, five, seven, ten, eleven days of passionate celebrations running through countless moments of singing, dancing, cultural knits, laughter and more. Over the years, Ganesh Chaturthi has virtually chronicled the evolving definition of family togetherness, that today stands sizably yanked apart by the virus scare. I am busy vetting (earlier excited and now emotionally crushed) kids to put up a smile and salute their laddoo-loving tusked god in his all-pervasive avatar even this year, during the family tree's Ganapati celebration. On Zoom.
From streaming the pooja live to cousins staying abroad, to now hopping onto the e-links for effective distancing, it is a sober mood minus the joyous festivities, with understandable diktats floating around on society circulars. We must desist from touching the statue and pooja area, offering or taking prasad, standing together and reciting hymns. I look around, seizing the mood. It is as if the modak has lost its mojo. The mood is sombre, the dull lull in the air is palpable as if enforced languor has seeped into the cells of the bone marrow. The city hasn't really received its glorious punch this year, the streets are bleak, voices are weak. The shlokas sound faint. The 'holiday' from online schooling, for the festival, suddenly holds a zero sense of triumph for the kids, I realise, as I try to cheer up my brood to prop up their mood for the first e-aarti.
Yet as the swirl and twirl of logic, reasoning, calculations, predictions, talks, rumours clash clumsily, Bappa arrives on point, bringing in new learning, teaching us self-character carpentry through resilience, making us discover comfort within chaos. We soldier on, communicate, unlearn and relearn the lessons of humility and happiness, and how to savour the little blessings in life. Ganapati Bappa Morya #GBM trending.
(The author is on Instagram at @ShilpiMadan)