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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ganpati Bappa Moryaa

14th September 2015

Ganpati Bappa arrives on the 17th of September this year. Five days from today.

There is a flurry of activity at my house. Lists are being drawn, stuff is being ordered and collected. Soon our bags will be packed and we will leave for Udupi .

Udupi is our hometown. It is here that we all congregate each year - immediate family and the extended family, and welcome Ganpati Bappa. For a day.

My first Ganesh Chaturthi experience as Mrs K was quite something. It was all about rituals and more rituals. It was one solemn affair, in stark contrast with the vibrant Ganpati festival of my childhood

During the childhood days, for me, the Ganapati festival meant 7 days of fun.

Home was a self contained 2 room apartment with a common balcony running outside 8 homes. There were no safety doors. Most people left their doors ajar the whole day and we kids were constantly traipsing in and out of our neighbour's homes. Those were happy times when neighbours were as close, or sometimes even more so than family.

One such Maharashtrian family on our floor, the Dalvis , had very nearly adopted me for their own. Mrs Dalvi who was much much older to my amma. I called her Aai, just like her 6 children did. Mr Dalvi was Kaka.

Aai and Kaka would bring home the Ganesha idol each year. "Aamcha 7 divsacha ganpati" they would proudly declare.

The preparations would begin nearly a month in advance. The house would be painted - "white wash" , aai would say. They were pretty unorthrodox in their choice of paints as compared to my father and I loved the various hues of pink and blue colours that would adorn their walls.

A few days ahead of the festival, Aai would prepare chiwda and churmyache laadu to be served to the guests who would visit them. Her sons would make the thermocol ‘Makhar’ at home. Sheets of white thermocol, colourful crepe paper and kite paper would be bought. Their friends chipped in too - drawing the designs on the thermocol sheets and carving them out. Gum paste – ‘dinka’ - would be concocted at home, using wheat flour.

Me and my friends, would hover around to collect the bits of thermocol, which we would then rub together so that the little bits, light in weight, would fly all over the place. At such times when we would be an absolute nuisance, we would be rewarded with a thwack on our backs or with the choicest of 'Shabdavrishti" from aai - . “रांडीचे .चालती हो ”. No one took offence at being reprimanded so. Not even the parents. At every other time except times like these when she was highly flustered and exasperated, she showered me with a lot of love. She was the one I called out to from the window if my mother as much as threatened to raise her hand. “ Aaaaaiiiii…….आम्मा मारते” I would yell out and Aai would drop whatever she was doing and come to my aid. She would take my mother to task - “तुम्ही आई आहात की सावत्र ? “ :-)
The idol at Aai’s place would be brought home the night before Ganesh Chaturthi and it would be covered with a veil till the next morning when it was time for the "pratishthapana pooja". In the evening she would send me home with a message for my mum … " तुझ्या आम्माला सांग पाट आणि scarf द्यायला. गणपती आणायला जायचे आहे. ". She upheld the unspoken rule of the chawl sanskruti (culture) – आमचं ते आमचं , जे तुमचं ते ही आमचं !

My paisley print Kashmiri silk scarf and dad’s paat remained with the Dalvis for one week every year , for each of the 12 years that we were neighbours .

It was nonstop masti for the next 7 days. Lunch was always with Aai. Each evening I would present myself at her place... wearing a nice dress, my hair neatly combed. I was entrusted with a responsibility… that of handing out prasaad to the guests who visited them for Ganesh darshan. “मोठ्यांना पेढा , छोट्यांना फुटाणा”, was the standard instruction. The फुटाणा was a peanut or a bit of cashew which was enveloped with a very generous coat of candied sugar. Only one phutana per child
The highlight of the festival however was the evening arti. On some evenings it would be the extended family who would assemble together. On some evenings, the children’s friends. Another time it would be all of them together. Kaka would wave a silver lamp in a circular motion, offering the arti to Bappa, while the congregation sang artis set to the beats of a dhol, cymbals and rhythmic clapping. Everybody’s favourite arti was the “ येई ओ विठ्ठले माझे माउली ये” When they came to the second line of this arti - निढळा वरती कर, they would stretch the र as long as they could hold their breath. A la Anup Jalota.

The verse would repeat two or three times during that arti and they would sing “ nidhala varati kara…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
As soon as one group would fall out of breath, the others would carry it forward, ..........aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……much to the amusement of all and the displeasure of Kaka.

Fun times they sure were.

The festivities would culminate on the evening of the 7th day as Ganpati bid us farewell. Aai would place a spoon full of dahi sakhar on Ganpati’s outstretched palm …the one which had held a modak for the past 7 days.

Kaka would then lift the idol along with the ‘paat’ and step out of the house. He would then turn around and along with the idol , would face his home. He repeated this thrice..thus ensuring that Bappa would not forget the directions to this home the following year.

Aai’s eyes would moisten as she chanted – Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhcya varshi lavkar yaa !

We moved out of that neighbourhood in 1980.

Aaai passed away in the September of 1986. September 26th.

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