Ganesh Chaturthi always brings about memories of people — like this cook who would sing one song after the final Aarti on day 2. The song was “Dekh tere sansar ki haalat”. always sang it with so much grace and devotion. just one song. forever missed.
some people come over; growing frail by the passing year, shoulders stooped now, strong voices that led aartis, now just about mumble along, some mix up our names. however the twinkle in the eyes remains; what is still strong is the faith in the lord and the love for all of us
lunch on day 1 always starts at around 4 — if we have 10 people at home as is the case now — or when we would have 100 odd. its like some weird case of mass muscle memory.
then there were the decorations: we would start with very lofty ambitions, then as the night went by, adjust to harsh reality of our abilities. the mad rush to get the lights working — somehow we would get them started just before the idol was installed.
there was this one year when the bhatji turned up at 11:00 a.m. — caught us unawares. we got the idol home in record time just before noon as mandated by maushi.
there is this very brief moment just after the final Aarti — just before the priest starts “saangni” — all the noise stills for that one moment -a sombre pause. then the saangni begins — students appearing for important exams or kids of marriageable age are brought forward; thanks are given, gratitude at having honoured us with his presence are proffered and then the bhajans start all over again. One of our close friends had made the “saangni” into an art form — you can almost see the lords ears curl a bit and can actually feel him bend down.
For me the most brilliant rituals are right at the end — when the last prayers are said, “laayas” offered and we are good to go. A small packet of puffed rice, some change, a candle and a veeda is kept next to the idol. My maushi would explain — the rice is in case he feels hungry on the way home, the veeda -a mouth freshener, the candle in case it gets too dark in the ocean and the change is for the boatman who would take him across the ocean on the other side. She would say that all the Ganapati idols meet at one point for the crossing. Imagine -everyone meeting at a point, exchanging food, paan / supari, comparing notes of the fun time they had and waiting for the boatman. When she narrates this, my maushi always has this child like innocence around her.
She can always see them as she prepares for next year.