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Mumbai's youngest Govinda gets his first view from the top

Most people take years to reach the pinnacle in their pursuits, but for the city’s youngest govinda, the view from the top was achieved at the tender age of three. Meet Kushal Redkar, the pint-sized acrobat who wowed crowds across mandals yesterday. Kushal’s stint as a govinda started early last month, when he became part of the Shree Saidham Govinda Pathak (SSGP) in Lalbaug. The tiny tot’s agility and fearlessness made him the cynosure of all eyes at the many mandals visited by the troupe yesterday.

Sharad Pharate, the coach for SSGP, said, “We started practicing from July 3, and Kushal was the only boy who reported on time at 9.30 pm, well before the elder govindas came in. He had shown interest in this from last year itself, and he used to come to practice with his father, and would clamour to be carried to the top. So we decided to include him in our practice sessions this year. An added advantage of having him is that the boy standing on the fifth layer practically had to bear the weight of only one person, as Kushal’s weight is negligible.” MiD DAY captured vignettes of Kushal’s day in the limelight.

9.30 am, Lalbaug
As is customary every year, the team began its day by breaking the handi hung in their building. Out of concern for his safety, Kushal wasn’t allowed to climb atop this pyramid, as the aim was to break the handi. Throughout the day, Kushal was carried on the shoulders of other govindas to the seventh and topmost layer of pyramids wherever instructions were given to only touch the handi, but not break it. This was done to prevent the toddler from sustaining any injuries.

10.30 am, Chinchpokhli
The group started forming the pyramid for Chintamani Ganeshotsav mandal. The formation of the team was standard, with 12 govindas at the base. At one point, Kushal was sitting snugly on the shoulder of one of his team members, when a false move by another member caused the entire pyramid to come tumbling down. Even as the crowd gasped, Kushal landed nicely safe in the hands of members of the crowd. Kushal burst into tears, but calmed down when he caught a reassuring glimpse of his father. In their second shot for the handi, Kushal climbed right to the top and beamed as he waved to the crowd.

12 pm, Mazgaon
After covering two more mandals at Chinchpokhli, the troupe headed towards Dhananjay Bardade’s dahi handi in Byculla, where PWD Minister Chagan Bhujbal had been invited to give away prizes to the participants. Kushal was in luck, as his troupe reached the spot simultaneously with Bhujbal. Yet again, he was carried to the top, and smiled at the crowd, which encouraged him with claps and whistles. The tot received a cash prize of Rs 10,000 and a trophy from the minister himself, as the crowd roared in support when his name was announced.

2 pm, Matunga
From Byculla, the troupe toured various handis dotted along Lalbaug and Parel, earning about Rs 25,000 after breaking low-level handis, which required only five to six layers. Kushal stayed away from harm’s way at these spots, while his father kept his energy levels up with juice. At Sion, he was again carried to the top, sporting green glasses. He lapped up all the attention, smiling happily.

4 pm, Vikhroli
An hour’s journey away in Vikhroli, Kushal wowed the crowds yet again with his skills. By the time the troupe went to lunch before heading towards Thane, the tot was visibly tired and sleepy.

Bundle of joy
Kushal’s parents were childless for almost 12 years of their marriage. After praying for a child at temples across Maharashtra and seeking treatment from noted gynaecologists, Ganesh and Siddhi Redkar were finally blessed with a baby boy in August 2009. Yesterday, Siddhi appeared apprehensive, while Ganesh showed support.

Siddhi, said, “I am very scared and nervous and am praying so that my son gets back home safe and smiling, the way he left home. I wasn’t keen on allowing him at first, but his father convinced me, and I gave in after I saw his practice and dedication. I am proud of him. I have full faith in the boy carrying him to the top, as he is a resident of my building and adores Kushal. I will pray for him and also the well being of all other govindas.”

Ganesh showed no sign of fear, ecstatic that his son was receiving prices from eminent citizens. He said, “I don’t want my son to be a coward while he is growing up. This is the time he will learn to rise and fall. Even though he was born to us after 12 years of marriage, it won’t stop us from encouraging him to play any sport, especially if he wants to. This year he was just standing up and saluting the crowd or blowing kisses to spectators, but by next year I’m sure he will be able to break the handi as well.”

Pot of gold
Shree Saidham Govinda Pathak had raked in over Rs 40,000 by 4.30 pm, having toured almost nine dahi handi spots. The mandal had started practicing from July 3 and gave the safety of their participants first priority. 

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