Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ganpati Bappa

I do not know much history about my religion, though I have read Sikh History books during the school years, am son of very religious parents and to top that have recently read Khushwant Singh’s “History of Sikhs”, both volumes, front page to last page. This was a Hindu festival, Ganesh Chaturathi, hence I would not expect myself to know much about the history, facts and myths of the occasion. For me it was the festival when whole of the Bombay came out on the roads with drums and bands dancing. Everyone carrying their own God, poor man’s small clay god, rich man’s gigantic gold plated metal god and millions of other shapes an sizes, all out on the road undertaking the journey before the man submerged the God in all its glory under the water, turn his back on the God till the next year, when it was again time to sing and dance to the tunes of Ganpati Bappa Morya.

Today I was not on any Bombay road or beach or lake. It was a senior colleague’s home in Australia. The gathering was small, no bands or drums and neither the God was to be submerged in the water. It is a tedious process getting permission from the authorities here for a procession and nearly impossible to submerge a God in the water. They don’t believe that God’s can cure the damage done to the environment by submerging a God in the water. A small gathering was allowed was a surprise in itself.

Ganpati Bappa was decorated with the same zeal and devotion as any on those Bombay roads. The prayers were being sung, occasionally with the helps of booklets. I could catch few words every now and then but mostly I contributed to the music with the clapping. A kid walked back and started playing with the cushions on the sofa next to the wall I was leaning against. Ganpati Bappa was himself a very notorious child (little bit of what I have heard about the history helps every now and then) and I thought why not play with the God in his best avatar, a child. I got myself busy with gathering all the cushions for the child. There were seven in total after cleaning all the chairs around. The kid had a little hesitation believing that I wanted to play with him and so was slightly cautious at the start, but after few of my attempts to help him with whatever he wanted to achieve he involved me in his games happily. I do have a way with kids (within an hour there would be 10 of them running wild around me). He found a ball and we were jumping the ball up and down the stairs of the cushions. Now he wanted to hide under the cushions. He lay very still when I had completely covered him. His little brother was watching all the action on the sofa from his father’s shoulder. He freed himself from his father’s hold, walked close to the sofa, and very carefully removed the cushions starting from the feet to the head, uncovering his hidden brother. He too wanted to hide under the cushions. Their father saw this. End of my game with the Gods.

The prayers were over by this time and it was time to eat the prasad “blessed food”. After having my share of it, which by the way was too little for a very delicious combination of items I was on my way to find little M and play with her. It took a lot of persuasion on my part that I have something for her and only after the chocolate was in her hands did she believe me. Suddenly many kids came into the room and I was playing footrace with them. You have to touch a person’s feet with yours and then that person runs and tries to touch someone else’s. It was fun. The kids were having a blast and I was out of my breath after few minutes. Where do we get this energy when we are young? We are tireless in those carefree years. Slowly the parents started leaving and hence the kids started leaving too. I would be the last one standing if the players only left with the parents and I would be standing there for really long if I waited for mine. I called the game off and the kids amid minor protests ran away to find someone else to play with or find some other game.

Time to leave. Good byes to the hosts, good byes to the kids. While waiting for my company I talked with another little girl who called herself “the angriest tiger” followed with a cute growl and pawing motion of the fingers. She was wearing a bindi but maintained that it was not a bindi but a dot made with her mother’s eyeliner. When addressed as a kid, she protested that she is a child not a kid. According to her and her friend supporting her on the issue a kid is only a child of a goat. I did not argue. My English was always poor.

PS: On the walk back I was told a secret. It is really not the kind of thing which one should keep as a secret. How many things we have in life to be happy about? Still I will honor the pact and will keep it as a secret till it’s no more. I will lose this memory for the time being. Will go finding it later.

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Sukhdev Singh is milking a buffalo when I call him. We are speaking after a long gap. His voice carries the same cheerful energy I remember....