Ganesh Utsav (The Festival of Ganesha), has arrived and like every year it is one of the most festive times in the year for Maharashtrians. For some it lasts 5 days and for a majority for 10-11 days as per the Marathi Calendar. Apart from getting the idol at home and worshipping it, the biggest attraction of this wonderful festival is the ‘Sarvajanik (Public) Ganeshotsav.’

The advantage of living in a huge colony is that we get to celebrate the ‘Sarvajanik (Public) Ganeshotsav’. Every year Ganeshotsav was a huge celebration for us kids. First of all, the huge idol of Lord Ganesha that would be kept in our community hall. The lovely decorations and yes but of course the Aarti (Holy Prayer) and the Prasad. We would hurry up our dinners to be in time for the Aarti. Then roam around in the colony to be back at the hall for the programs to begin at 9.00.

We were a trio of girls who merged with the other groups of kids across various age-groups. We got together to perform at the competitions held in the colony, our first tryst with glory on stage 🙂 Among us three, A always swept most of the sports awards and the creative awards in the flower decoration, drawing and rangoli category. S and I were envious of her as we were complete duds in these fields, but we used to beam with joy and pride when she won. She was tremendously enthusiastic about these events. S & I on the other hand were absolutely lazy. Our mothers tried hard but gave up on us!

The programs were a joy for us. However boring they turned out to be, it was the only time in the year when we got to hang around till 12.00-1.00 in the night without our parents blasting us. As kids in school it was a huge privilege we got, else it was the usual, ‘7 Chya Aat Gharat’ (Home before the clock strikes 7.00.) Getting up early the next day to go to school was one ordeal, but somehow we seemed to sail through it during that period.

Our gang would sit in the last row away from our mothers and we were a riot when it came to commenting on the performances. More than the programs I think we enjoyed that part more. We would get to hear some colony gossip and it was nothing but cheap thrills, as we would forget about it the very next moment.

The events had it all, fancy dress competition, dances, skits that were never so funny, poetry recitals, housie and what not. It was one hell of a get together, where moms fought over whose kid deserved the prize better, young girls fought over dance costumes, recordings went haywire, orchestras sang out of tune, mikes never worked during plays making us miss most of the dialogues(which was good for us;-) cause then we scripted our own lines for the same), it was one big chaotic world.

It was fun, it was innocent and the people enjoyed it in the right spirits. There was no competition or professionalism and it was purely for the spirit of coming together and enjoying as one big family. We all liked it that way despite the chaos, the disco-ordination, the bickering, the confusion, the friendly banter. And we looked forward to the same old things year after year not wanting it to change.

The Visarjan (Immersion) was the most depressing part. Seeing the Ganesh idol being taken away for immersion evoked a huge wave of sadness among us. The pleasant face that we saw for all the 5 days, would just not be there for another 360 days, the thought was really depressing. I dunno what it was, but those 5 days used to be the most pleasant days in the colony. Even the Navaratri time did not come close to it. We all would dance, and offer our final good-bye to Lord Ganesha. We would try hard to smile so that he leaves us with our smiling images in his mind. As he left, it seemed that he kept assuring us that he will be back bigger and happier the next year, so start preparing for him right away.

I’m back to my colony this year after marriage. A and S are not around this time too. I did not go down for the program for the last two years as none of us were around. We had got busy in our jobs, careers and studies. Most of my friends and families I was close to, have shifted to other places and we still miss our dear colony a lot.

As I’m meeting my colony friends and families, I’m getting the feeling that somehow it’s not the same as it used to be when we were kids. Kids are fighting over who gets to dance on what nos., the choreographers (who are girls residing in the colony and not professional ones) are charging fees for choreographing dance nos. for kids aged 5-10. Directors for plays are charging fees, and there are skirmishes between the younger generation and the colony committee over organizing issues. It’s becoming too professional, and people are not enjoying the right spirit and the moment of the whole occasion. It’s just becoming another event for them.
Just another event.

As I walk down to take blessings from Ganesha this year in my colony, all the memories come flashing into my mind. I’m in my 7th Std, eating hurriedly, mom shouting for eating so fast. I’m practically gulping down my food. Run down to call S, then we run down to call A, who is waiting for us.

She in her usual tone says, ‘Minu lower your voice I’m coming’.
I retort, ‘A you live on the 3rd floor how will you hear me if I don’t shout’.
S puts in her two wise cents, ‘Minu trust me your normal pitch is good enough for that’.
Both of them go on pulling my leg again, we finish the Aarti and literally grasp the Prasad, go for our rounds in colony till the programs begin and are back to the hall in time. Waiting for the fun to start, waiting for it to be the same every year.

I wish to see the same every year, I wonder why things change? I know A and S are wondering the same too…