India is a faithful nation. Sorry a nation full of faiths and majority being the Hindus.
Today what I am about to share with all of you might upset or surprise some of my friends since they have already tagged me as a “Bhakt ,”.Though all of this hardly bothers me. I know what I am and choose to follow the principles that I can relate to. Not bound to be answerable to ANYONE!
Coming back to the main story…..after spending about ten long and fruitful years in Delhi I had just shifted to Mumbai- a city which I never really had any liking for. However it was the other way round for my wife. She was completely thrilled at the prospect of leaving Delhi and calling herself a ‘Mumbaikar’.
The main reason for my dislike towards this city was its stark resemblance to my home town, Kolkata. Narrow crowded roads, algae coated houses and the world famous humidity were some of the common factors that made me think twice about my decision of relocating...... “par kya karein paapi pet ka sawaal tha na!”.
The levels of humidity in Mumbai is such that one doesn’t need to buy salt as one can get just get some by wiping his/her face. One very important aspect about Mumbai was that I found this city to be more religious than any other city in India perhaps. Ganpati festival being the biggest one in that region. Just like Diwali is the festival of lights, I found the Ganpati festival to be one of sounds undoubtedly.
During the festival season ( I wonder when it wasn’t?) we could hardly listen to our TV on high volume even with the closed glass windows of my 13th floor apartment, forget having a conversation. Dholak, starred as the main culprit in this unreal movie of festivities. The rhythm I must admit was really energetic, until it would squeeze out all your levels of energy to perform your daily chores without getting a migraine.
I did also witness people playing dholak on the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar . I really wondered whether the parents of the father of the Indian Constitution were as happy and thrilled as these fanatics were after so many years of his death.
Have you ever been to Hutatma Chowk in Mumbai? There is a statute which commemorates the police brutality. I have observed people never entering that enclosure with their shoes on and they follow this very religiously. Have you ever been to a Ganpati pandal/ mandap in Mumbai? They will make you leave your shoes outside the entry gate which you have to collect after leaving through the exit gate ( you cannot imagine the route you have to take to get back to the entry gate…by the way!). The same ritual is applicable even for a road side mandap. Let me share a quick tip for your visit to the Mumbai Ganpati festival. If you ever decide to visit the very famous ‘Lalbagcha Raja’ do leave your shoes at home because the entry and exit gates are more than half a kilometer apart.
Coming back to an interesting anecdote. That was my first Ganpati festival in Mumbai. My photo editor and other colleagues had warned me against clicking any photos of the scattered remains of the immersed Ganpati idols on the beaches. The locals never wanted to see the reality of their religiousness printed all over the newspapers. They could go to any extent and even resort to violence if they caught you photographing such thing that is how the warning went.
On the grand Ganpati immersion day, I went to the Girgaon chowpatti. You could hardly see the beach sand amid the densely crowded population. People were almost everywhere, on the road, beach and the hip deep water of the sea too . That was a life time experience. In spite of being a Kolkata lad, I had never been to Babughat to see the Durga puja immersion but, had the fortune to witness this.
If I merely say that it was a huge gathering, I might end up saying very little. One by one the idols were coming through the road and been dragged through the beach to the water. It’s a very dangerous affair to even come in between them. They actually take the idol deep into the sea before immersing. On the other side the smaller idols were being taken on a plastic float to the middle of the sea for immersion.
On the one hand some were rejoicing and dancing to the typical Ganapati tune whereas on the other hand some were crying while bidding adieu to their favourite lord after 10days of worship.
There are several days chalked out for the immersion in the 11 day festival. A few immersions happen on the fifth while some on the seventh . So on the eleventh day or the grand day the beach is already full of submerged idols scattered everywhere. Once you cross the sandy part of the beach you will land up on those idols. If you go a little deep in to the sea that scenario becomes a little more dangerous. The 95% idols in Mumbai are made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) and once that goes under the water it becomes very slippery. In the knee deep water if you land on those half melted structures you could injure your leg severely or you might have a bad fall. Even after being a semi religious person (as I perceive myself to be) I could not bear standing on the broken idols of the lord Ganesha whom we had worshipped with so much of respect.Thousands of people were found standing on those half melted idols without any apprehension whatsoever.
You could see the broken hands or the head of the lord Ganapati lying scattered all over for the so called faithful devotees to step on without any remorse.
As a photojournalist I always wanted to take those photos and did so a couple of times without looking through the camera. But I could not find a single publication in Maharashtra who had the courage to publish those photos.
Faith is good, but only till a certain extent. If you end up standing on the idol of the lord whom you worshipped for the last ten days then that kind of faith is questionable to me. If I wish to click this reality to draw the attention of the concerned authorities to clean the beach in order to avoid any untoward situation, how am I at fault?
During the puja days they worshipped the idols following all kinds of rituals and once it was immersed they switched over their respect to the unknown. Even the lord is unaware out of what kind of faith they can step over the idol but not allow the outer world to witness this anomaly.
Every time I stepped on such an idol I touched my head to say sorry to the lord (a typical way to pray in short).
I am thankful to my parents for not raising me as a faithful individual. I take full pride in being ‘faith-half-full’.
Photo & Text : ARIJIT SEN
Edited by : RAJASHREE SEN