A new normal welcome for Bappa

Updated: 24 August, 2020 08:20 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

The eerie silence that's taken over the city during its favourite festival owing to the dreaded virus is a hot topic of discussion for our two sutradhars

Fiona Fernandez"Am I hearing sounds in my head all over again, thanks to this endless locked-in life? Or were you actually humming strains from Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel?" Sir PM's already masked face revealed only his eyes, and they looked positively wide-eyed when he and his dear friend Lady Flora took a water break during their night walk. In these times, the frequency of their strolls had come down drastically.

"You have sharp ears, dear Pheroze!" exclaimed Lady Flora, surprised at her friend's musical knowledge and hearing abilities. "I never knew you had such exquisite, diverse taste in music," she grinned. Until then, Lady Flora had only heard him hail the greats of Western Classical music, from Beethoven to Brahms and Mozart. "Not at all, my lady; I try to keep up with all kinds of genres. Just because I am a Parsi, it doesn't mean that I cannot go beyond symphonies and European composers; music by BB King, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman interests me as well," he replied. Lady Flora spotted a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

"Any reason why you were singing that particular song by one of my favourite duos?" enquired Sir PM. "Pheroze, the choice of song was my tribute to the mood in the city despite it being in the middle of its biggest festival…it's shocking to see this totally different avatar. The silence is almost eerie, don't you think so?" replied Lady Flora. From her vantage point, she hadn't heard a single loudspeaker blast music, nor had she spotted a truck or van with the idol surrounded by hordes of boisterous junta. In all her years of existences on the famed junction, this time was a first.

"Oh yes, it has been an unusually quiet year. Else, from where I stand, I would be privy to countless trucks with eardrum-shattering sounds, not the kind of music that would make Lord Ganesha smile. Not to forget the clouds of vermilion that would blind me for some amount of time after these vehicles had passed by from all directions. Honestly, I am revelling in the calm," Sir PM said, reminding his friend of the high-end ear plugs he had to secure last year to avoid further damage to battered eardrums.

"I agree, Pheroze. Today, I heard a few tourists discuss this topic near my pedestal, of how this year's festivities are so refreshingly different; the build-up, including having to decorate the home and prepare festive fare, and how it was actually turning out to be a warm, homely affair. Everyone in the family came together in a huddle, and chipped in with a helping hand. So, they felt that it brought them closer," shared Lady Flora. "The sanctity around this closer-knit affair makes so much more sense for this festival that had become a far cry over the years, from the idea of being a community gathering when Lokmanya Tilak had initiated it," Sir PM shared with Lady Flora.

By now, the duo had reached one of Fort's largest mandals. And as expected, it was a complete opposite of scenes from previous years. "Gosh! Pheroze, it doesn't feel like we are in Bombay" sighed Lady Flora. She went for a closer look of the idol of Ganesha while Sir PM decided to check out if the nearby pyaau was in good condition since the last time it had been vandalised. Thankfully, the lockdown put an end to such acts of destruction.

In a short while, Lady Flora returned for their last leg of the walk, towards Mulji Jetha Fountain. She seemed upbeat. "Lady, you are looking very pleased; what happened at the mandal?" asked Sir PM. "You wouldn't believe, Pheroze, but I think Ganesha shared a message with me when I went to pay my respects. I swear I heard him whisper, "Please tell Bombaywallahs to continue this kind of worship, minus Bollywood music, blaring loudspeakers, and wastage of money. I'd be happier if my worshippers put that money to help those affected by this pandemic." Isn't that such a wonderfully apt message in these times?" she checked with her friend.

"Absolutely. I'd be happy if things continued in this peaceful manner, and not an endless tamasha. I hope Bombay listens to their favourite deity because Ganesha always knows best," Sir PM smiled.

mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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First Published: 24 August, 2020 08:02 IST

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