Sleepless in Mumbai…

It’s day one of the 11 day Ganpati festival, celebrating the elephant headed god of good fortune that people seem to love… or as my neighbour very sweetly corrected me this evening it’s day one and a half…


Anyway there’s just 10 more days to go before the raucousness comes to an end…

What the..?

It’s 3 in the morning and I can’t sleep, the wild beating of drums and the screams of “Ganpati Bappa Moriya” soar over the purr of the air-conditioning. What are you people on?

You’d think God was deaf, or will get there soon enough, the way these guys are going at it.

“Hey you! You could let people sleep you know…”

&%@#$^&!!! (unarticulated)

But the truth is I’m a wee bit jealous… envious of the joy with which the crowds dance as they wend their way through the streets. The men do most of the dancing, streaked with gulaal, gyrating their hips and flinging their arms with abandon… the women walking sedately behind, except for the more brazen ones. Enjoyment seems to be a male prerogative… Even the aarti’s are mostly sung by men.

A rather discordant guy in the building next door leads the prayer everyday… bellowing out the first few bars before he is drowned out by the crowd joining in. Thank God! But he’s not quitting… and as soon as the crowd quietens down he launches into a numerical ditty in honour of the god. A one, two buckle my shoe kinda routine in praise of Ganpati…

I hope they’re immersing their idol today. I can’t take another day of that water buffalo bellowing over the microphone… damn his devotion.

But I love the processions. They really get me, when I’m not stuck in traffic. It’s so easy to get swept up by the rhythm, and into the spirit of the moment…that frenzied beating of the drums. They have to be on something other than adrenaline.

A year ago and I was at Juhu, sitting in a dive with friends and watching the crowds descend onto the beach from my comfortable perch. The colour, the happiness, the festivity… it made those awful filmi songs being played by some of the groups bearable. But the filmi music’s dying out slowly, giving way to the bhajan, the more devotional and spiritual songs. Even the dancing has lost its Salmanesque panache and has retreated to the traditional lezim, a beautiful folk dance you rarely get to see anymore except if there’s a recital at Ravindra Natya Mandir… it’s a visual treat.

I’m tempted to get out and on to the street. I can’t see anything from my house on the first floor with no balcony and with all the windows looking on to other buildings… but I drum my feet against the parquet floor softly in tune with the sound of the dholaks and kettle drums. It’s a delicious sound… full of the yumminess of steamed modaks and puran poli and other things Maharashtrian.

So the cats outta the bag. I’m a Ganpati groupie. I love this festival… with all its raucousness, its crazy dancing, all those wolf-whistles and the accompanying traffic snarls. I may even tolerate the number chanting loud-mouth from next door for a few more days… I know I’ll miss it when it’s over. It’s the same deal every year. This is home.


3 thoughts on “Sleepless in Mumbai…

  1. Well my dear, it’s ok to dream of traffic snarls sitting in the room thinking of the city that’s home – I was in a traffic jam and wishing the god’s mouse would come and rescue me 🙂

    • I have lived in this city all my life and traffic snarls are a given. But during Ganpati the police are pretty well organised and you should try and avoid the really crowded immersion routes and beaches. If however you do take the wrong route and end up stuck in traffice why don’t you get out of your car and dance along. I did that once years ago and the ladies were really nice… they thought I was mad but it definitely beats getting bored or waiting for mice… 😉

      • yup! and the guys in the cars buses and bikes behind me will be dancing on my head then! but yes, it would beat waiting behind the wheel taking deep breaths. next time i’ll leave the car home.

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