Friday, September 09, 2005


With august, the festival season begins in our country. This is the season of rains, well, the later part of the rainy season. People have a number of excuses to celebrate now. Ganesha festival is in full swing at the moment and with ganesha, there are a lot of things entwined in memory.

Lord ganesha was a favourite in my younger days. I think he's the favourite god of any youngster, with his pot belly, elephant face, his love for sweets and all those stories of his boyish pranks.

We waited for the ganesha festival, why, there wasn't a concrete reason. A week before the festival day, our preparations would begin. I remember standing in the queue in wet, overcast evenings for our 10 litres of kerosene and then sit with mom and sisters upto midnight, watching them prepare sweets and other delicacies over a pan of hot oil, trying hard not to fall asleep, enjoying the energy of that atmosphere.

On the day, mom would give all of us an oil bath and meanwhile Dad would bring the clay idol from the market along with all the items for worship. I would be all excited, preparing the stand on which the lord would be placed on a heap of rice, with two small plantain shoots tied to the legs of the stand, decorated with a variety of flowers and mango leaves, all the dishes and fruits placed before him in big plates. Mom would be still busy in the kitchen while we welcomed the guests-- relatives and friends. Dad would dress up like a priest--bare chested with a white dhoti, hair neatly combed backwards, looking pious. At noon the worship would begin, not an elobarate one but for me then, quite impressive. We would fall at the feet of the lord praying for a variety of things and mom would always tell, 'Ask for sucess in your exams. Ask him for knowledge and wisdom'.

The heavy food in your belly would put you to sleep but on that day, we would set out, a group of 15 children with the mission of having the darshan of 108 ganeshas in different houses, as per the custom. We would go the houses of complete strangers, prostrate before the lord, sit there for a moment, recieve the sacred food offered by those people and then move on. By evening we would be back-- I doubt if we really visited 108 houses.

The lord would be given a farewell in the evening after another round of worship. We would take him in a small but devout procession to the nearby well and an uncle would walk down the steps carefully, immerse the one foot tall idol in the waters thrice and then let go. The lord would return to his source with an assurance of coming back after another year.

I remember going to bed every year with a heavy heart. Ganesha wasn't an idol to be brought from the market every year, worshipped and then immersed in some well. He was a dear friend.

Times have changed so have our perceptions. Now my eight year old nephew gets all excited on these festival days as I used to some 20 years ago. For me this is just another occasion now to take a day off from work, take part in the rituals, have a good food with the family and return to work the next day. That energy, that excitement and belongingness ganesha brought with him--- I don't miss them. There are other things in life now that make me forget these small details. But still I wish i could grasp all those fleeting emotions at least once in an year, feel one with everyone, feel good and involved, feel a lot of things that don't have a name.

Ganesha is a friend. He's more than a friend. I wish I renew my friendship with him.

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