Ganesh special series: Makarand Deshpande takes us idol shopping in Vile Parle
Passionate stage lover Makarand Deshpande leads us to the suburban murtikar his family has been sourcing Ganesha idols from for three decades, before his nonagenarian father tells us a little less competition would make the festival sweeter
Amidst the larger-than-life revelries that have come to be associated with Ganeshotsav in Mumbai, picturing the festival as a low-key, family affair can be somewhat difficult. But before the local DJ's cacophony drowns out the manjiras and mammoth idols dwarf the home-bound avatars of the elephant god, a warm, egalitarian spirit runs through the bazaars of the city, where both, the homemaker and the celebrity come shopping for festive paraphernalia.
The buzzing market area near Vile Parle East station is no different on the cloudy September afternoon we meet Makarand Deshpande. The veteran theatre artiste has promised to take us to the shop his family has bought their Ganesh idol from, for close to 30 years. "We always buy a 16-inch idol of shaadu maati from here," Deshpande tells us, as he enters the Joglekar Bandhu workshop, lined with countless idols of varying sizes. He mentions his sister-in-law's name to one of the attendants, and out comes an endearing, smiling murti of the lord, all set to make the Deshpande household his home for one and a half days, starting September 13.
Makarand with father Vinayak Deshpande at their Vile Parle residence. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
"Now that Ganesh Chaturthi is on the 13th, I hope people stop calling the number unlucky. There is no 13th floor in my building. How absurd is that!" remarks Deshpande, before moving on to chat with a worker giving final touches to an idol.
The ritual of bringing Ganpati home is a no-frills one. "It's my bhabhi who manages the whole affair. A few of us, including my twin and elder brother, gather here. The best part about this festival is, as we play the manjira on our way home with the lord, people who may not even know us will say 'Ganpati Bappa Morya!'" he shares, adding, "Lokmanya Tilak started this festival with the idea of bringing people together and that still happens. We don't know what we want freedom from today, but the air is filled with warmth, compassion and love. Holding the murti makes you feel so good!"
This familial tradition, however, doesn't date back to just 30 years. "It was started by my great-grandfather in our ancestral home in Dahanu," recalls Deshpande. "So, it could well be true that Ganpati has been coming to our home even before Tilak started the community ritual. But for more clarity on this, you should meet my father. He is 95, but has an elephant's memory," he tells us, as we accompany Deshpande to his residence in the leafy neighbourhood, amidst talk of steamed modaks and why singing the aarti is his favourite ritual.
With proprietor Vidyesh Joglekar
Dad's the word
As Vinayak Deshpande graciously lets us interrupt his lunch, the retired official of Indian Post and Telegraph Department takes us to the days the entire Deshpande family would gather at their Dahanu home. "While Mumbai gets most of its idols from Pen in Raigad, Dahanu had two large workshops of its own. They used to get the shaadu maati from Surat, though," he recalls. About the idol, he says the glow of the face matters, while the attire should be yellow, and the shela (shawl-like wrap), green.
Has the festival changed over the years? "It's got more competitive," says Deshpande senior, and the son adds, "Everything today is used for political purpose. There is a strange Hindu card being played in the undercurrent."
It's time to leave, but not before we ask Deshpande if he plans to take an off for the two days. "One should keep working. My festival cannot deprive someone of their per day [daily wage]," he says. "Rigidity makes you fanatic. If you make up your mind that you are not going to work, and then something comes up, you end up fighting with yourself. Ganesh ji is not known to cause a fight."
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