The year was 1985. The day before Ganapati festival, i was at my aunt’s place @22 Rajmahal . Settled down to a holiday from school. Ganapati meant going to Girgaum to a relative’s, super Goan vegetarian food, a round of Chowpatty and back home.
That year was different.
On Ganapati day, we were woken up around 5:30 a.m. to the sound of a door bell, incessantly clanging away. My aunt opened the door and lo behold, a small Ganapati idol was at our doorstep. This was way before CCTVs, security guards at every step etc, so we had absolutely no way to check who had left the idol there. After we got over the initial surprise, we got the idol into our home, frantically cleared some space on a table and kept the idol there.
Next step was to book a trunk call to Goa; we had to figure out what to do now. My sister and i were dispatched to pick up my Mom. Once we got back a family conference happened. Got some details over the phone from our folks back in Goa. We did a smallish pooja in the afternoon and did the visarjan on the same day.
Next year onwards, we got more organised. Barring a few years, Ganapati has always been a one and a half day celebration. The preparations would start about a week in advance. The furniture would be taken out and stacked in corridors and a huge design effort would be undertaken for the decorations — the makar and the lighting part. These would usually culminate in a frantic race on the night before; improvisations galore and somehow we would get it done just in time.
In a tribute to Goa, we would have a “Maatoli” put up — basically a wooden frame on the ceiling — all manner of fruits, coconuts, supari would be hung there.
The food, all vegetarian of course, was and is outstanding; my mother and aunts still cook up a storm. The variety of Goan vegetarian food is hugely under-rated — Ganapati is possibly when it just finds its true calling.
The aartis — Mumbai has a very different style of singing from back home. In goa, things are more relaxed (the singing is done sitting down), the instruments varied as are the tunes. Mumbai, we are in a perennial rush. A lot of time was spent deciding on the order and we finally had photocopies made; greatly helped avoid people starting off on different aartis.
The finale just before the visarjan ; a massive effort going on for upwards of 90 minutes — followed by a round of bhajans, garba and over the years songs that my brother had picked up from his Iskcon group. Just after the aarti, i remember the “ghaarana” by our dear friend Raghunath Phadke. Beautifully rendered, we have always believe that the lord would be all ears when he said those prayers.
The visarjan, itself would start with a great dance in our compound right up to a signal close by. Banjo band would belt out the flavour of the season — i remember gyrating to ek do teen and Navin Popat… And the final smallish aarti at Juhu beach — with a round of dance and then the immersion.
Celebrations would be signed off with a bout of non vegetarian food; again another Goan tradition.
Over the years, attendance has dwindled; my siblings and our friends have all moved to different parts of the world. Some relatives in Mumbai do drop in un failingly. Great time to catch up, check on how children are doing and how life is treating all of us.
Here’s to —
Narayan Jhamnani (Nadi) our decorator in chief — how he got those lights to work is an abiding mystery
Vijay Sailor (Bawa) — the drum we got from his place would be returned months later
Suresh and my brother Vijay — for leading us into the frenetic dance routines
I remember fondly the few times Ashish Vidyarthi turned up and sang a few songs.
As also Punit Kaul with his guitar rendering a superb version of “Phoolon ke Dil se” — i forget whose farmaish it was
The cook who would always sing “dekh tere sansaar ki haalat”
Madras no 2 — the make of our idol
The photographs of all the ladies offering “laayaa” just before the idol left — same angle, same photo, year after year
The twinge of regret that would inevitably follow the immersion
My uncle who never ever came to the beach.
My eldest brother Santosh — who would tirelessly hold the aarti while we went about belting song after song
The small little ritual where we keep a small packet of puffed rice, some loose change, a paan and supari and a candle for the lord’s journey home
Our dear friend Deepan, in whose car we have got Ganapati home and also the immersion — almost every single time; these past 35 years
Guru — he would lead the bhajan round with gusto and come up with the most amazing “saangni”
Year 2020 was different.
Year 2021 is different, Guru is no more.