Ganpati celebrations are tempered with an air of sobriety at Worli Police Camp Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal at Worli’s posh Pochkhanawala Road. The Mandal, located directly behind the Traffic Police headquarters, has deviated from flamboyance, as, “We decided we wanted to honour the 26/11 martyrs this time,” say mandal workers, V Karawde, S Pawar, V Nashte and M Warang.
Worli’s brave heart, Tukaram Ombale takes pride of place in a panel with pictures of Mumbai's heroes Ashok Kamte, V Salaskar, Hemant Karkare besides others. The organisors add, “Every year, Ombale would come in here, to this mandal, from his home just opposite here, for Ganpati. This time, we are waiting for his family, they have not come in as yet.”
That wait could be endless. This time, Ganesh Chaturthi is not a time for celebration but painful memories for Ombale's family. “We have not decided whether we would visit the mandal this time,” says Vaishali Ombale’s daughter. Ombale’s widow Tarabai adds, “I don’t think I would go, it would be unbearable.”
Vaishali reminisces about how; “Our family, papa (Ombale), we four sisters and mom would visit this mandal during Ganesh Chaturthi. I remember Papa would insist on doing all the preparations himself for the Ganpati visit - from making a garland himself, he would not buy the ready made garland, buying the flowers, bringing modaks, everything had to be done by him. We also took along our neighbour's little daughter when we went. In fact, Papa loved kids, he would encourage kids to accompany us on our Ganpati visit.”
Ombale’s wife, adds, “In fact, even at the D B Marg police station, where he was posted, Ombale was enthusiastic about Ganpati celebrations at his workplace where they would bring a Ganpati. During Ganesh visarjan for the DB Marg police station, he would return home with his special, new, white clothes smothered in gulaal,”(red powder).
Every Ganpati visarjan, when Mumbai’s iconic deity, Lalbaugh cha Raja would arrive at Chowpatty, for immersion Ombale would be posted at the venue, “on bandobast duty,” says his family. Ironically, Ajmal Qasab pumped lead into Ombale just a little away from the bandobast spot. Yet, like those ‘morya re’ chants that are eternal, rising above the crash of waves at Chowpatty, this mandal's homage proves the spirit of Tukaram Ombale lives on.