THE Ganpati festival: Colourful India

The festival of Ganpati is not just part of my dna because I live in maximum city but also an integral part of my growing years as a child. The city that never sleeps saw us kids become decisive, become an unbreakable group of friends, saw us become a great team ready to enhance each others strengths and play down weaknesses, saw us play like a team over the years with ever growing aspirations to increase our collections for the next years Ganpati so that we could bring an even larger idol than before.

In the first year ever of beginning this tradition of bringing Lord Ganesha into our building we went about collecting any and every donation that came our way -rupees 20 or 10 and occasional 50/- to collect enough funds from all the apartment owners in our building. Over the next few years even the neighboring buildings had started contributing seeing our intent, enthusiasm and success. We would put money together so that we could get a Ganesh Idol for our building and for the next 11 days it would be a non stop party for us. We would be dealing with cash all along and no ways did ever a single rupee get embezzled. That was the sincerity with which we’d deploy all our resources. Over the years our collections multiplied big time and we’d carry forward our balance to start the next year with enough funds. What pride and joy!

We would anticipate this festival in advance by months- all excited and equally nervous about the things we would do differently that year. And come the day of bringing home Ganpati Bappa we would all hire a large truck (sponsored by Dad initially) put on the band bajaa and slowly inch our way into the market area to buy the sweetest idol available on sale for ourselves within our collections. That day was special because Ganpatiji was arriving home. This was even bigger than Diwali for us. Emotionally speaking.

The next 11 days would roll seamlessly forward, merging night into day and day into night. We’d have collected enough funds to have a variety of different entertainment shows on every single night over the next 11 nights. We would be screening movies and have hundreds of people (including passer bys who would stop dead in their tracks and spend the next 3 hours watching the movie!), we were never allowed to go out of the home past 10pm (our bedtime) so we’d sneak to our balcony and watch the entire movie from upstairs. Wide awake, hating the fact we were not downstairs, agog at the crowd turnout and so proud that we had put it together with our own ideas, dreams and money

For prashad every night, the parents of us kids would do special prashad every day and that saw the owners of the building bonding. Which apartment was contributing prashad today tomo etc - some adults who had fought amongst themselves also would put aside their differences to be pleasant to each other during this time. This festival truly brought our building folks and neighbors closer.
Event management also included dandiya night, musical chairs, rangoli competition, singing, dumb charades, housie and such where the idea was to keep ourselves entertained. Very unconsciously we kept everybody else in the bargain entertained too:)

As a result our building Ganpati would have the largest public draw too. And this was never done by design- it was always our own imaginations leading us to do things we as kids enjoyed- turns out adults too enjoyed the same things :)- so we were the runaway success team of our locality

These 11 days would zip by so quickly that when the immersion day would arrive, we all hated that day. We’d have tears in our eyes seeing our sweety Ganeshji being immersed in the water, we’d cry all the way back in the truck watching other revelers with giant Ganpatis - yet to perform their immersions – looking so very happy. We would be morose, not utter a single word right thru the journey back home.

Once we got back to our building we’d all go to our respective homes and our parents would try to draw us into conversation or be extra nice to us knowing we were feeling sad, and anything done or said could trigger our tears again. We were not hungry or thirsty no more, we would simply slink into our rooms, pick up our respective story books to read and try and drown out reality to slip into the dream world of the past 11 days. Faintly in the background we would hear the music coming from the streets constantly reminding us of the many more Ganeshjis that were heading towards the beaches and the sea and that would crash our little hearts even deeper.

This festival is and can never be about caste, color or religion it is about bonding, purity and belief.