As the evening unfolded families from the neighbourhood slowly started moving towards the mandap. One at a time, each family seeked blessings of the elephant god, making their offerings as their favourite Bappa was all set for the journey.
Elsewhere someone was helping decorate the cart, making flower arrangements, helping elderly seek darshan of the Bappa, uploading food for people on the way…. this camaraderie amongst the glitter of decorative lights is what has made Ganesh Festival special since my childhood.
Ganapati vacations were more sought after as we could participate in so many activities – sports, fancy dress, poetry & elocution, attending Ganapati aarti. Volunteering for prasad distribution, managing queue at the mandap, conducting cultural activities. Cherry on the cake was if you win some prizes.
It has unconsciously shaped me as a person – team work, community bonding, skills and interests. Probably the only sales job I have done till date is to sell lottery tickets. Lottery was star attraction of our sarvajanik Ganapati. As a kid, sitting at the counter, convincing people to buy that ticket for Rs. 2/- was excitement of another level. More so when you could sell more tickets than your friends!
I always associated some of the popular devotional songs, traditional renditions in Marathi only with Ganesh festival. In the era of 2-in-ones and cassettes one could hear contributions of stalwarts like Sreedhar Phadke, Arun Date, and Anuradha Paudwal only during the 10 days of Ganapati. Mornings started with Suresh Bhosle’s Omkar Swarupa followed by the aartis…evenings were for listening to Mehendi Chya Panavar and other popular songs.
Over the years celebrating this 10 day feast changed- for good & bad. Came under the influence of other external circumstances as Mumbai started grappling with so many other issues around it. Our personal involvement also changed as life moved on.
But what remains undeterred is the spirit of togetherness that Ganapati Bappa brings along. It brings so many people together, creating special bonds and lifelong friendships. Last five decades, people moved houses, changed cities… the visarjan miravnuk is like an iron that holds them together as they seek Bappa’s blessings for one last time.. Ganapati Bappa Morya!