Over the last 2 weeks after the project finished, I’ve been visiting my family, in Bilimora and Kani, then back to Mumbai. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in the Ganesh Utsav here. From visiting people’s houses where they keep Ganpati Murtis, to heading out all over town to see all these murtis, each one different from the last, it has been an awesome experience.
Having come back to Mumbai, on Tuesday we went to visit Khetwadi, 14 “gullies” with altogether 28 Ganpati Murtis. However, what moved me was the story of Komal, a girl who lives in Khetwadi who took us around to see the Murtis. She’s a 22 year old girl, who has completed her Bachelors in Microbiology, and wants to do a Masters in Dublin. She has grown up with the Ganesh Utsav, and every year she takes 10 days off from her work etc. in order to serve the murti and the community around her. We had never met her before, but she is a friend of a friend of my cousin and her service is that those who contact her/know her, she takes around using her pass to see the murtis in the local area. As we got to know her, we learnt of her background story, and after seeing the Ganpatis, she invited us to her house, to see her dadi.
As we were walking around and talking, we got to learn about her family story. She had huge ambitions of completing her Masters and moving into her career, however that unfortunately has changed as her dedication and world is currently her dadi, who is very dependent on her. Her dadi is currently bed ridden, suffering from 40% brain damage, heart disease, and has recovered from 3 paralysis attacks. During these 10 days of keeping the murti, she balances feeding, changing and looking after her Dadi, whilst also being an active member in looking after the Ganesh Murti. This means that she gets no sleep either, and having suffered from stomach problems, she has hardly eaten anything these last few days either. The lines for Ganpati begin around 9pm, and continue until 6am, where Komal helps in controlling the crowd and keeping the flow going. After this, she heads home, where it’s time to change. After bathing, it’s then time to feed her dadi, and then she’s straight out into the area where the Ganpati murti is kept. She comes back to feed her dadi for lunch, and then back out to the murti. In the evening, at 5pm, the dinner feed occurs, she puts her dadi to sleep and then she’s then out all night controlling the crowds and queues. This is a simplified version of her daily routine, but throughout the day her dadi is always in her mind, whilst also receiving around 50 calls an hour of people wanting to be taken around the murtis.
The reason her dadi’s become her world is that during college, her dada was also in bad condition, but thinking everything will be fine and work out she continued away from home at college. Unfortunately, things worked out for the worst, and this changed her actions. She felt that she could’ve served her dada a lot more as she was very close to him, and to stop this from happening again, she built a routine based around her dadi. She used to study at a top Science College, but used to leave lectures early or turn up late to go and serve her dadi. The relationship and bond that could be seen between the two is amazing, and it was wonderful we had the opportunity to visit her house. The dependency on Komal was highlighted by the fact that whilst she was in Goa working for 1 month, her dadi suffered a stroke, to which Komal responded in returning home to take care of her. There are 4 of them who live in a 9m2 little house, due to family problems where their Mama has put a partition 1/3 of the way into the house, however they are very happy and content and are enjoying their lives. Komal says she’s currently sacrificed everything for her dadi, however she doesn’t mind as she has all her life to make her career, but at present her dadi is her world and she’s not going to serve her all the time.
Her dedication and her lovely personality will definitely remain a memory for me forever. Even amidst the madness that is the Ganpati festival, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing and different people. She’s even invited us back for the Visarjan on Thursday, and has said we can go around with her and their Ganpati to Girgaon Choupati.
Mirchi & Mine
Mirchi – Spice
Mime – all the waiting staff are all deaf and mute which is why you have to order in a different way here.
Kirtiben recommended a restaurant called Mirchi and Mime in Powai, having never been, but only heard great reviews about. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the manager, who explained the concept and how to order with our waiter Neehal. All menu cards have written on them sign language in order to order the different dishes. Even though we were ordering through this means, something we’ve never attempted before, all our dishes were correct. Along with this, the restaurant had a very calm & quiet atmosphere, compared to the craziness of the roads outside.
Observing the waiters was wonderful, they all talk to each other in sign language, never dropped a dish, like they know where everyone is, and work with great attitude. There was someone’s birthday as well, and they brought out a cake and all together wished the customer a happy birthday, in their own way without any words. This was another awesome experience, and definitely a restaurant I’d recommend visiting if ever in the area.
We were so engrossed in learning the sign language and menu and observing how everything works, that we forgot to take photos, but the experience will definitely remain in my memory.
Whilst in Kani, I had the opportunity to travel to different towns with my masa’s Bhajan mandal, and experience a style called Dyro which I had never heard of before. What was most enlightening was that this group of youngsters, all from the same village ask for a minimum charge just to cover their transport costs and sing for Ganpati Dada and no one else. They get confidence from the reaction of the crowd that attends whilst clapping and dancing, and this reenergises them to sing till 2am or so in the morning. Being a tabla player, the coordination, communication and understanding between the two, even though they had little practice, was unbelievable, they were playing together as if they were one. Definitely one of my best experiences, and having played tabla in the mandal, I have also been asked to come back to experience Navratri with them which will definitely be my next trip to Bharat.
This Ganesh utsav has definitely been an experience for me, and I’d definitely recommend visiting, even if it is just a one off. Having seen 40 different Ganesh murtis in 1 hour in Bilimora (town) puts into context the size of the festival. I’ve met some awesome people, made new friends and it has been brilliant to talk and interact with all these people. My masa also gave me the opportunity to drive his car around, I think I’m ready to drive anywhere in the world, and definitely picked up some new skills whilst scaring my masis. I definitely want to visit Bharat again during festival season, and just join the society in rejoicing and fully diving into the occasion.