After three years in Catholic/ cosmopolitan Bandra, it was wonderful to be in Shivaji Park during the Ganapathy Celebrations. We didn’t visit any of the pandals, but when every store in the market seems to be selling colourful festival related paraphernalia, and everywhere you look you see hoards of people moving around in their festive best, it is hard not to get caught up in all the excitement.
Till we’d moved to that flat overlooking Dadar Chowpathy, I had only seen the Ganapathy visarjan on TV and in movies. I had never imagined I would ever have a ringside view of the third most popular spot for visarjans in Mumbai. I stayed awake all night watching people wading far into the sea with the idols. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life.
The next morning, reality made me weep – the beach was strewn with the faded and broken remains of the previous night’s visarjan. Ganapathy heads looking desperately for bodies they have long lost. Pieces of trunk, still glittering pink in the morning sun. Broken portions of well rounded torsos. Pieces of dhotis, garlands and mukuts sharing space with the early morning faeces.
I am not surprised newspapers never publish photographs of the day after – people would make public bonfires of the publication, burn effigies of the editor and stone the office building.
Anybody with an iota of imagination can imagine what must be happening to the idols after immersion when they are brought back to shore by the tide. I am sure no true lover of Ganapathy would want that to happen to their favourite deity.
Every year, newspapers cautiously publish reports of how the population of aquatic life has gone down in the ponds where visarjans take place. At the start of summer, when water bodies start drying out, people take photographs of disemboweled idols languishing at the bottom of ponds and lakes – Plaster of Paris idols look beautiful, but they just do not dissolve.
Ecosensitive citizens speak of going back to clay idols. You read about organizations that make idols out of paper machie. There was talk of implementing a bill to make it mandatory to buy only biodegradable idols.
But, do you know how difficult it is to locate a idol not made of PoP? I searched every store, stall, and pushcart in the market next to Andheri station and found not one idol that was eco-friendly. You find PoP idols coloured to resemble terracotta ones, but a genuine clay idol is not a rarity – it just doesn’t exist.
The kids wanted a big idol for Ganapathy, and I could not disappoint. But the size makes it impossible for me to do what I normally do with idols – place them under one of my potted plants in lieu of a visarjan. I do not want my idol to face the indignity of being smashed to pieces in the sea and have marine effluents giving them additional coats of colour. After a ceremonial dunking, perhaps I will just place it under one of the trees in the compound and hope that people give it the deference it deserves.