There is a fine line between faith, enthusiasm & noise. Sometimes this line is maintained effectively but most of the times it’s crossed over & over again.
In the current Ganpati fever / festival, this line was non existent. So far the faith is concerned, we as Indians have it, by the Kilo. Thus the roots of this festive enthusiasm can be traced from faith. What about the noise?
Day 1, August 27th 2006:
We usually get the ganpati idol a night before the actual festival begins; this makes it easier to decorate the whole place around the idol. But mostly it is because it’s been a tradition since the past decades or so. On the first day, we all wake up (excluding me) way too early in the morning to prepare for the festivities. I usually wake up an hour after everyone’s up & running. This time, bang at 7 in the morning, the most deafening noise of the whole century emerges from the background, while I am still in bed. The rattling of drum sticks on the plastic surface of the drums along with gongs & bigger drums, coupled with a huge amount of fire crackers. Obviously I know it’s a festival & its time to cheer, but its definitely not the time to rip open your ear drums. I woke up with that bang still getting registered in my consciousness. I tried to figure out in a moment of morning reflex, what the whole noise was about. After acknowledging that it’s the same old time of the year when people choose to believe that they are only ones alive on the earth & their drums should beat the loudest on the street. The source of the sound was from the nearby building where there were plenty of shops selling ganpati idols. Above that shop is a hospital. But hey, who gives a fuck if the patient dies of that noise or even gets bothered by it? Patients have no right getting bothered these days. There is a small broken sign board at the end of the street, which still hangs on the crooked pole, saying, “No Honking Zone”. But it seems they found a clear loophole as they used drums on this sacred occasion.
This goes on till 1030 hrs, as after that the auspicious time to setup the ganpati idol fades away. Never the less the drummers are still practicing innovative tunes & beats on their huge drums to blow their own ears off.
And what’s with the crackers anyway?
Day 2, August 28 2006:
It was the day when the ganpati’s destined to depart after one & a half days decide to leave. To leave is an understatement but we will come back to it later. I venture a trip outside to see what’s happening at the end of the street. There was a huge crowd, which was expected. I went closer to see the ganpati idol; I came dangerously close to one of the super charged drummers. At this point I smelt it. He was high, beyond any human rationality left in his brain. He was drunk, maybe beyond his wildest dreams from the cash he had earned on the day before. Then a bunch of 30 year olds who were carrying these boxes of crackers appeared out of nowhere. I hope they had a long night or either a late morning. With their eyes as red as crimson & their voice as hoarse as a horse, they spoke to each other in different levels of profanities. I suppose when you drink for a whole night there is no difference between ganpati & diwali. The noise continues, the nurses from the hospital smile at the parade of irrational ducks, although the smile was not a sarcastic one but of enjoyment. The patients still don’t have the right to be bothered.
Rest of the days:
Everyday there is someone or the other whose ganpati departs & these drummers get paid for making as much noise as they can. Has this become a competition that your ganpati went with a bigger bang that your neighbor’s?
Day 5, 31 August 2006:
The ganpati at my place decides to depart, not on his own, but because of the age old tradition that the ganpati has followed throughout the Onkar generations. I had registered my disgust a year ago when my parents clearly forgot to get a eco friendly idol when they had brought home a plaster idol with chemical paint. This year, same thing, I showed my disgust again. The other eco friendly idols are made of clay & mud & are painted using water base colors, good enough for the environment after they disintegrate in the water. Our idol, was a truck load of chemical paint sprayed on the plaster mould. It hurts me to say that our idol was successful in polluting the waters of the thane creek, inspite of substitute idols being available. No amount of guilt, charity or attending eco friendly drives can make me feel better about it.
The evening at the shore of the creek. I like to call it “The Organized Pollution Camp”. No amount of logic will ever make me believe the sanctity of this festival after being at that place on this day. I stood there watching our ganpati idol being taken away from the hands of my dad on a small raft made of wood so that they can immerse it away from the shore. A family who followed us also gave away their idol. 25 feet away from us, was this huge dustbin to collect the flowers from the idols or to even throw away the flowers used during the whole festival. The head of the family, dressed in custom made formals & loaded with a thick gold chain, refused to speak in marathi with his 15 year old daughter & 8 year old son & used English instead to make them believe the cause of the action that he was about to do. He pulled out this finest polythene bag I had ever seen stuffed with flowers from the past five days I suppose. Instead of walking a bit to the dump truck, he decides to fling the bag as far as he can into the water. “Excellent”, I said that with a disgusted look on my face staring at him. He glanced at me, smiled & left with his bunch. Education completely failed to uninstall his superstitions & install some logic up his cranium.
The real purpose:
Long long time ago, a wise guy named Bal Gangadhar Tilak, popularly known as Lokmanya Tilak, initiated the festival of ganpati in order to reunite the common marathi man in a just cause. This was a very revolutionary thought considering the stress of the Indian War of Independence. One member of a particular family would have the ganpati idol at his place, then rest of the family & friends would come to visit his place. Apart from the getting-everyone-together motive, Tilak chose religion & faith in order to breed unity among the masses, because he knew very well, nothing sells better than, sex, religion & Shahrukh Khan.
But this isn’t a fucking business, which people have made it now. People have become oblivious of the real purpose of Ganpati & all they want to do is to prove, Who can make the bigger bang, Who has the biggest band, Who has the tallest plaster & chemical paint idol, Who flings the bag full of flowers farthest into the open water, Who, Who the fuck cares about nature & the poor patients anyway?
Ganpati Bappa Morya.