Dear Ganeshaji, Excuse my forwardness in addressing you so directly, but calling you ‘Shri Ganesha’ seemed too old-fashioned, and ‘Lord Ganesha’ sounded too spiritual.
You are after all our most human God. And without a doubt my favourite. Paintings, portraits, porcelain miniatures, a plaster of Paris version of you, all adorn and bless my home. You exist for me as a totally humble and non-judgemental God. If there was a Mumbai poll on the most loved deity, you’d win trunks down.
So why this open letter to you, your Lordship? Because I need to rant with reverence, if you could give me a brief hearing. In recent times, our celebration of you has become a travesty. There is no fit, Ganeshaji, anymore, between you and how we worship you.
Call me a traditionalist, but some years ago, the 11-day festivities were one continuous colourful party, the city was a stage of pomp and pageantry. You were glorified in the most tasteful, gentleway possible. Man loved his fellow man, and we all adored our elephant god. But with modernity, sadly, has come mayhem.
Don’t know whether you’re watching all this from heaven, but let me paint a sketch of the most recent avatar of the festival. For 11 days in September, our already grid-locked city now comes to a complete standstill. Visarjan day or not, anarchy rules the streets. Truckloads of hooligans, with mass-produced saffron headbands and colour-co-ordinated T-shirts, use the sanctity of the festival to hoot and heckle at women.
The fact is that women are being groped on days that you are being eulogised. Huge speakers, placed in pandals, blare loud Hindi film music, outside hospitals, hutments, housing colonies alike, very often throughout the night. Lord, how do you feel about DJ Aflatoon playing the Lungi dance at ear-shattering decibel levels in your honour? When did Bollywood tracks replace bhajans?
Any form of resistance or complaint is dealt with threats of violence. Devotion has morphed into dadagiri. And, oh yes, when did bhang become the nectar of the gods. One particular pandal in Tardeo got my attention -- there were three giant idols of you and here’s the shocker — one had you playing a guitar, the second, showed you with a laptop. And the third, you were dressed in cricket gear, in the blue India colour no less.
And finally, we need to discuss the environment and water pollution. Followers have been asked to produce bio-degradable idols of you. Think anybody’s followed this request? Lord Ganesha, I mean no disrespect. If you disagree, put my letter away in a filing cabinet somewhere in your giant office in the sky.But if you agree, you know where to find us.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com. The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.