Oh come, all ye faithful
This is how we do it.
We wake up early even when it’s a holiday. We bathe and get dressed in festive finery. We get our children to do it too, whether they bloody well like it or not. The Lord’s on his way and we’ll be damned if we don’t give it all we’ve got.
We then crane our necks through windows and doors to catch a sight of the procession. It comprises of a few dozen people playing Nashik dhols, a few tashas and nagaraas and assorted cymbals (that last word looks so lost and lonely there among the native ones – but trust me, the only thing these cymbals and those used in any other culture have in common is that they create a ringing kinda sound). The actual idol is carried carefully by the chosen one, whose arms will pain inexhorably for the next few hours. In terms of sound, it’s like having your eardrums being used as er, drums. But the beat is so infectious, any true-blue Maharashtrian will experience a strange impulse to seize a lejhim and burst into dance. But not just yet.
Now comes the time to, for the lack of a better word, install the effigy of the Lord in it’s designated space. This space is where all hell and creativity break loose. Every kind of art style from art-deco to the downright expressionistic is used to decorate the Lord’s personal space till lo and behold, the makhar comes into being. Everything from glitter and sequins to sea-shells, flowers and thermocol are ingeniously used to bring about a variety of sociopolitical themes and current affairs. The Lord sits surrounded by such ideological cornucopia and smiles benignly from under the trunk, the tusks and about half a kilo to twenty-five kilos of Dadar flower-market’s best. Well, at least, we’ll pretend that’s true.
And then, we’ll queue outside his court – our coconuts, betel-nuts, flowers and incense in hand, our wishes and our faith in place. We’ll wait for hours, to have just a minute in his presence. And in that one minute, we’ll thank, we’ll complain, we’ll pray, we’ll ask. And above all, we’ll hope that he’s listening.
We won’t bother if this isn’t ‘our’ festival. We won’t care if this isn’t our God. We’ll help make the prasad and line up to get it later. We’ll help with the arrangements – for the loudspeaker, for the bhajan tapes, for the variety entertainment programmes. We won’t know who the hell this Lokmanya Tilak chap was, and how he’s got anything to do with this. But we’ll organise the truck on the day of the immersion and we’ll dance unabashedly in the procession, lejhim in hand and gulaal in hair, shouting “Ganpati Bappa Morya” till our throats run dry.
Did God create man? Or did man create God? Did the Great Creator say let there be humanity? Or did primitive humans call into being with their collective faith, the Supreme Being?
We’re not bothered by such theological debates. For the next ten days, we’re all believers.