Social networking doesn’t connect people, festivals do. Wishing friends on festive occasions through messaging apps is not a big deal. Festivals bring people together under one roof. When it comes to celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi festival, no city can compete in vibrancy like Mumbai does. Mumbaikars are applauded for their never say die spirit. Be it any calamity like Monsoon floods, buses strike or political Bandh, the citizens face it bravely. I have closely witnessed the changing phases in celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi right from 1980’s to the 2018’s Instagram age where more emphasize is placed on branding of God Ganesha. God is beyond branding.
Today Ganesh Mandals compete for the best Ganesha Idols with exquisite decoration. I appreciate the competitive energy, but it should be it taken in sporty spirit without getting too much ambitious. Ganesh Chaturthi is festival of devotion, togetherness, happiness and foodie delightfulness.
Back in1980’s, the city’s infrastructure had a very simplistic look. There were no smart phones, gadgets, multiplexes, shopping malls, credit cards or corporate culture. Life was down to earth and so were people. People ran their family within their minimal budget. No matter how debt ridden the 80’s Mumbaikar may be, he used to have separate savings for celebrations of festivals. The bread earner used to eat meal only time and saved his money for his family’s needs. Since I stayed in chawl system and small buildings too, I have closely noticed the enthusiasm of people during eve of Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganesh Idols used to be booked one month in advance. Our building owner used to organize a big event during the Ganesh Chaturthi. After welcoming Bappa in home, prayers were offered along with chanting aarti. What I waited most was the big prasad event when guests were offered puris, modaks, dal, vegetables and sweets. I and my brother used to relish on the prasad like hard core foodies. In the evening, my maternal uncle used to take us to the Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals to view the beautiful Ganesha idols. In those times of 80’s there was no concept like branding. There used to be special events where small stories were shown with help of idols and lighting. As a kid, I was so swept away in the festive spirit of Mumbai.
During the last day of immersion, I couldn’t stand the view of God get immersed in lakes. The moment was too emotional for me. As I grew and understood the cultural concept behind the festival, I was always keen to celebrate the festival with aplomb. Today people are becoming environmental conscious and prefer to bring eco-friendly Ganesha idols. Especially in cities like Pune and Konkan, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are in full swing. Since Mumbai is the business hub, Ganesh Chaturthi festival is more vibrant than any carnivals or festivals held in foreign nations. Even foreign tourists are enthusiastic to enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi festival. The beaches of Mumbai have a philosophical feel to it. During the immersion of Ganesha idols, the beaches itself become a sea of people. The immense crowd, the setting sun, the devotional cries of ‘Bappa Morya’ becomes a venue of emotional farewell.
Such is the charm of this festive occasion. Some things do disappoint me during the events are the partiality done on the common masses during this festive event. Bollywood artists, political personalities and business tycoons are given VIP treatments while commoners have to wait 8 to 10 hours, hungry and thirsty. Why this biased behavior? Isn’t every human being equal in eyes of God? I personally feel that these publicity hungry celebrities, tycoons and political leaders should be made to wait in line along with the commoners compulsory. The Ganesh Chaturthi festival of 1980’s Bombay had its own nostalgic memories. The 1980 was the year where people had time for each other in every occasion. Be it festival or any difficult moment, they stood for each other. I lived that moment of 80’s Mumbai. Today I feel lost in the crowd of corporate class people.
Regardless of changing phases, I still wait for the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations every year.