Chapter 1:The Beginning
It would have been just another day for me if I was in Delhi or Chennai but I was in Pune, cultural capital of Maharashtra and to skip Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations would have been a sin.So after a lull morning, I decided to put on my traveling shoes and head towards Dagdusheth mandir.One of the most revered Ganesha shrine at Pune and the one which was bombed most recently.
I stepped out to explore the city. I walked steadily to my destination. It was drizzling at a lousy rate, but the exuberance everywhere outweighed it. The entire city was draped in Ganesha celebration .Kids and women dressed in traditional clothes, men wore white ganpati caps .Speakers shrieked praises to lord at high decibels. Every nook and corner of the city installed Ganesha altars. Swarm of devotees engrossed in singing and dancing to the Dhol beats.
“Moriyaa moriyaa moriyaa ho..bappaa moriyaa….” .And then some more -“Moriyaa moriyaa moriyaa ho..bappaa moriyaa….” Continues and fades….
The atmosphere was euphoric.
Chapter 2:The journey
I am yet to figure out whether it was just a marketing gimmick or a message that God is one.
More I walked towards my destination, density of flesh and bones grew larger and larger.Reminded me of Chandini chowk at delhi and Mamblam at Chennai.No doubt we are steadfastly moving to become most populous human species in the world.
Closeby,A Ganesha altar was being carried to its destination, surrounding it were few men and women,dressed in white with saffron bands dancing their heart out with the dhol beats. The beats were loud and strong. A dark moustached man with intense look started raising a long double triangular saffron flag. With every inch advance of flag,drum and dhol beats flared up. Louder and stronger.
“Dham dham dham dhoo. Dhamm dhamm dhammm dhoo”
Louder and stronger! Louder and stronger!
“Dhammmm dhaammm dhammm dhammmm dhammmmm”
It was a war cry. As if the great Shivaji with a blood red tilak on his forehead was preparing to walk out for a war. As if he was unleashing his lions for the battle. Adrenaline rushed, with an imaginary sword at my hand, I felt like a warrior. The Maratha warrior.
Chapter 3: The Darshan
The warrior inside me braved the crowd and moved towards my destination. I could see the tech savvy souls clicking Ganesha pictures before their eyes could capture it.
“Moriyaa moriyaa moriyaa ho..bappaa moriyaa….”
Slowly and effortlessly, with the crowd I moved towards the idol.A 12 x 8 feet, larger than life elephant god’s idol placed in huge altar dressed opulently with silk and gold. Yellow light illuminating from all directions creating a halo effect. Mouse,modaks and muse at his feet. Calm yet powerful look on the face.
Before I could make a wish or offer a prayer, I was thrown out of the epicentre.
Chapter 4: The WTF!
I was greeted by smells of vadapavs,lassi and modaks.But it was intriguing to find another crowd of men,gathered at a single shop.
Ganpati Lottery store (Maharshtra government authorised)
It looked like Indian version of casino. People with meagre wages and high gambling instincts gathered to play Matka.A table with images named Gaay,geend,surya etc etc.people placed their 10rs bets on the object.Lucky one stole the show.
There were lottery tickets as well. A guy with burdened look on his face said to sky
“ganpati bappa,iss baar lottery laga dena”.
Then to the vendor
“Teen 20-20 ke tickets de re..Do Maharshtra ke aur ek Sikkim ka”
After he finished his ritual, I went to him asked: - “Bhia isme kabhi kisi ka lottery lagta bhi hain??
He said:- Aee chicknee tu in sab se duur reh re..ENJOY LIFE! ENJOY!!
And he rushed away on his bajaj scooter with the golden tip.
(Fading voice) “Moriyaa moriyaa moriyaa ho..bappaa moriyaa….”
With some time to spare ,I walked a few steps away and asked a Ganpati cap seller
“Bhia ye shanivar vaada fort aaj khulla hua hain kya??
He replied “Haa.Khulaa hua hain 5 Baje tak.Par kya karoge jaake??
I enquired “kyu bhia..?? Fort dekhunga”
He asked “Tumharee saath mein bandi hain kya??”
I said “Nahi…”
He replied “ To faydaa nahi hain, baaki couples ko bhi disturb karoge aur unhe dekhkar khud bhi disturb hoge”.
Tu kaha se hain?? Teri awaaz se Pune ka nahi lagta,isliye tujhe advice diya,nahi to main Marathi logo ko nahi deta.
I said, “Main delhi se hu”
God, gambling, racism, aggression and lovemaking co-existed in hundred meters of radius.
Chapter 5: The Enlightenment
As I walked away, I came across an old building with a runty single room house at the ground floor with tattered walls, rain water gushing inside .It was jam packed with a steel almirah , a single bed ,a stove and a newly bought clay Ganesha idol.
They were praying exuberantly with vigor. The house had as less space as a mouse hole , a small girl even stood outside the house to pray. Still they looked happy and satisfied.
It rained heavily. Shell shocked, perplexed, I was there for a long time. What has God given to them? Why are they still believers? Why do they spend a chunk of their earnings in prayers?
Sometimes god is neither found in the holiest shrines, nor he is found in richest households. he is sometimes found within the hearts of humble unattached souls.
He is found in the form of hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
When you possess nothing, he is a possession.
When nobody cares about your existence, he is a belief that at least your creator is bothered.
He is found in the form of a friend, with whom you can share your deepest troubles.
He is found in the form of love that unites you with your loved ones.
He is also found in the form of forgiveness for the wrongdoings that the world has done unto you and in the form of repentance for your mistakes.
He is also found in the form of gratitude, for whatever little you possess.
I thanked Ganesha idol in the small house and moved on !