Sunday, September 23, 2007

׀׀‘Ganeshotsav, Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Yeoo Naka’׀׀

Dear Ganesha,
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, and my humble obeisance to you, lord. You have always been my favourite deity with whom I have shared many confidences, and I need to speak my mind about something that has been disturbing me.
I welcome your advent every year, and my mind races back to my childhood, when the Ganesh Chaturthi meant a lot of fun - everybody at home pitching in to sculpt a rough clay idol, scouring the neighbourhod to pluck specified flowers and ‘durva’ grass for the ‘puja’, gorging on home-made ‘modaks’, and finally bidding farewell by immersing the clay idol in a nearby well.
Of late, I feel a strange dread when I contemplate the onset of the Ganeshotsav. First come the extortionists – goons from every kerbside ‘mandal’ donning a religious mantle, and persuading you to part with the moolah for their obscene displays of devotion. Any refusal to sponsor them is followed by thinly-veiled threats, and lots of muscle-flexing. Shopkeepers who don’t toe the line are threatened with disruption of business, and thus the mandals’ kitties swell.
They then use your money to light up vast swathes of the city, a brazen misuse of a scarce resource – electricity.
Last summer, I remember suffering through several hours of load-shedding in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, and my whining about the heat was met with scorn by the locals. They squarely blamed Mumbai and her wasteful ways for their daily power woes, revealing that even farmers could operate their pumps only for brief periods during the day, while Mumbai blazes under a trillion hoardings and a billion ‘mandals’.
Ganesha, people have been complaining that, in recent years, their prayers are not being heard. I know that you are not to blame, it’s your worsening deafness that is the problem. All that exposure to mega-decibel noise can turn an adder deaf, what with colossal speakers belting out remixed ‘aartis’ in discordant voices with no trace of devotion. The plethora of processions follow, with their own mobile bands cloning the Safri Duo, preceded by pelvis-thrusting dancers more suited to a South-American Carnival. To add some bonus decibels, there’s the incessant honking on already narrow roads, further constricted by invasive pandals whose blatant encroachment leaves me speechless. Any residual tatters of your sensitive ear-drums which may have survived this onslaught are vapourised by the unending strings of firecrackers set off at any self-respecting ‘mandal’.
Ganesha, my eyes hurt during the Ganeshotsav – imagine being subject to the not-so-pretty mugs of ‘leaders’ of every hue and colour staring down at you from every street-corner, ‘welcoming’ all Ganesh devotees to their fiefdoms. Such is their megalomania that their images dwarf yours, and very often, you occupy an insignificant corner in these mammoth cut-outs. Talk about playing God!
My dear Lord, did you know that your festival sounds the death knell for millions of fish and other aquatic life in our water bodies? Your idols, made of insoluble Plaster-of-Paris, and painted with toxic colours laden with heavy metals, find their way into every water body, from modest wells to the vast sea. They don’t disintegrate fast, but their toxic paints leach out to choke fish, and piscine holocausts are a regular feature. Your broken idols, mauled and mutilated, litter the riverbeds and ocean floors, forming pernicious reefs over the years. I always thought elephants love water, but little did I know that an adorable elephant-faced God would end up poisoning those very waters!
My omniscient Lord, a friend mentioned in jest that you quietly take a sabbatical during Ganeshotsav, and probably flee to Afghanistan to avoid all the chaos! Jokes apart, for the sake of your hearing and my eyesight, for the sake of the fish and the ponds, for God’s sake, could you please accept my entreaties, and not come too soon next year?