As political uncertainty and price-hikes sweep India, this week I’d like to focus on what’s really important; Ganesh Chaturthi. I was going to write about something else (Chhota Bheem: Ten signs your child is addicted and may be snorting DVDs of it while you’re not looking) but then I realised that if I am to stay pop-culturally relevant, I must talk about Ganesh Chaturthi. It’s easy to tell when Ganesh Chaturthi arrives. Giant mandaps come up in your neighbourhood overnight, staff mysteriously calls in sick (‘Sir I have fever. For ten days.’) and most importantly, every single show on TV shoehorns in a plotline about Ganesha solving the entire family’s problems.
I love Ganesh Chaturthi. Actually, let me rephrase. I love lord Ganesha. He is, in my opinion, the coolest God we’ve ever had (sorry Shiva). He loves to eat, he has an elephant’s head, and he once broke off a tusk and threw it at the moon because it laughed at him. Anybody who is able to solve cosmological problems through amateur dentistry gets my vote. The next time your dentist tries to overcharge you, ask him if he’s ever been able to do that. If he says “no”, pay him one-tenth and leave in a huff.
We have several gods (one for every two Indians alive) in the Indian pantheon, but none of them have legends and stories as cool as Ganesha’s. My favourite Ganesha legend is the one in which he won his wife. His parents, who everyone knows are Aalok Nath and Reema Laagoo, told him and his brother that whoever circles the world three times first would win the hand of a beautiful bride. His brother (Monish Behl) set off on the task, dutifully circling the entire globe. Ganesha was smarter; he stayed home, finished watching all five seasons of Breaking Bad, and then walked around his parents thrice, claiming that they were his world. With this unique method, Lord Ganesha impressed his parents, won the maiden’s hand, and invented lateral-thinking and an IIM entrance-interview question, proving to everyone that he was Chuck Norris before Chuck Norris was Chuck Norris.
I love Ganesha because of all the gods in the Indian pantheon, he’s the only one whose intelligence is tempered by a wicked sense of humour. I have respected several gods over the ages, and I take away nothing from their wisdom, but with no offence to them, Lord Ganesha is the only one I’d consider adding on Facebook. In a typically over-reactive flash of bad Indian parenting, his own father cut his head off and replaced it with an elephant’s head, but Lord Ganesha just turned it into an advantage, and here we are today, celebrating him in a way nobody celebrates the gods with normal human heads.
I love Ganesha, but I wish I could say the same about his followers. Them, I’m not such a huge fan of. He is the remover of obstacles. The only obstacle his followers remove is the post-10 pm loudspeaker ban. His followers hire a truck the size of a house to immerse an idol the size of my fist. Not once do they pause to consider the irony of doing that for a god who, despite his prodigious size, happily chooses to ride a mouse. Ganesha is a patron of the sciences and the arts. The closest thing to art some of his followers have seen is Himesh Reshamiya’s last album. This is why they play it at 1,100 decibels all day at the pandals where they (ostensibly) celebrate him.
My point is simply this. You can love a god, any god, but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate the nonsense his followers propagate in his name. And if they ever suggest to you that mocking them is tantamount to mocking the god himself, tell them that given that they worship the god of intelligence, it’d be good of them to get some.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi