Saturday, September 11, 2010

Daji Kaka’s Ganapati



                        Daji kaka was on the morning walk on the street of Pune City. It was a Sunday. The preparations for Ganeshotsav (a festival of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of lord Shiva and the deity of prosperity, celebrated in India and particularly in the state of Maharashtra) were in full swing. He saw a pendal (temporary shelter usually made of timber, to install the Ganesha idol) under construction and that put him on the memory lane.

                        Pune city is traditionally known for its Ganesha festival celebrations. He was just 12 year old when Gandhiji launched Quit India (civil disobedience) Movement in 1942, against the British rulers. The Ganeshostsav in those days used to be different. His father was actively involved in the movement and used to tell Daji that the public celebration of Ganeshotsav was started by Lokmanya Tilak (Indian freedom fighter and social reformer) in 1893 to spread the message of independence from the British colonial rule, among the common people. The ten-day festivities – music, plays, public speeches - in those days were full of fervor for independence.  Today he was 80 years old.

                       He saw some workers were digging the street to fix the wooden pillars. After the festival, these pot holes will be a nuisance for everyone driving or walking on the street. He heard the shrill sound of some movie song being played in front of the pendal site. Even at his age, he was a fan of songs from modern Hindi movies. However he didn’t see any relevance of those songs for the festival. He walked few steps and saw a familiar site. It was a flex-board poster of a local leader, put up by his followers. The poster showed a life size photograph of the leader along with those of his followers, some fifteen in number. Good launching pad! He quipped. Does Ganeshotsav today fulfill the purpose for which it was started by Lokmanya, he asked himself ? The chain of thoughts continued and he reached home.

                     He saw his grandson, Hemant was playing cricket on the street. Removed his footwear and he entered the drawing room. Jayashree, his daughter-in-law came with a glass of water. He took a deep breathe and said Jaya, I think the Ganshotsav has lost the purpose. Jaya new the angry old man, did not say anything. It has become a launching pad for goons in the politics. He saw his grandson keeping his bat in the corner and run in the kitchen after his mother. He went for bath; as his friend Hari said he would visit in the afternoon.

                     After the lunch, he and his son Vinayak were watching TV. Daji saw Hari approaching his house. Retired executive engineer and two years older than him, he was a chronic patient of asthma and high blood pressure. How are you? Harry (that was how Daji would call him). Not well, said Hari. These loudspeakers, dB (sound) levels are so high. My B.P. has shot up. Hemant came out of the kitchen and joined them.

                     Grandpa, why do we sink Ganesha idol in water? I feel so sad. Why can’t we retain it for the next year? That will also save us money. Daji looked towards him. Do you know what the idol is made of ? Plaster of Paris, our teacher told yesterday, Hemant replied. It doesn’t dissolve in water, Hari said. Daji knew, Hari remembers technical details, age notwithstanding. So if we do not sink the idol that will also save us from the huge water pollution. Isn’t it a revolutionary thought? said Daji, as Vinayak and Jayashree watched.

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