Tuesday, October 7, 2008


As the war cry summoning the potbellied god Lord Ganesha, rents the air over the next few weeks, everything potholed Pune city undergoes a 360 degree change…. For example...

The neighborhood corporator who vanished on an overseas jaunt soon after he was elected can be spotted zealously supervising the ‘Ganesh Mandal Mandap’ down to the minutest details. When you corner him and quiz him about the much needed garbage dump and speed breakers, he will arrogantly remind you that this holy work is far more important than doing his job!

Then as the festival draws nearer, the horrifying prospect of spending sleepless nights’ listening to ‘Pappu can’t dance’ terrifies you enough to make a frantic dash to the local activist. But you are in for a nasty surprise!

This fearsome crusader who normally makes life a living hell for any one who even dares to park their chappals outside her building, has suddenly turned into a docile god fearing lamb!

‘Arrey’ she smiles beatifically, ‘Kashala kitkit kartoos tu? Why are you cribbing?It’s all for Ganpati Bappa!’ and proceeds to lecture you on your lack of religious understanding. You try and revive her civic spirit by citing the nasty effects of noise pollution, but she’s under a spell….she sees no reason why you cannot adjust for a few days and enjoy the music. You stumble out shell shocked, bang your nose against an illegal mandap pole and get accosted by a bunch of youths you’ve never seen before. ‘Chalaa, Mandal chi vargani thayCough up your donations buddy’ and the thugs quickly relive you of five hundred and one rupees in the name of the Lord.

Now with your pocket picked to the bone, you head back home to discover that your atheist maid has taken the entire week off as she is in charge of the Ganpati Mandal Utsav in her mother’s neighbourhood!

Fed up, you decide flee the city and land smack in the middle of a traffic jam caused by a 20 foot Ganpati idol traveling trans-city at snails pace…you grip the steering wheel grimly, waiting for the inevitable road rage to unleash its presence. But nothing happens. No fisticuffs, no flying chappals, nothing but serene silence… It is as if Pune city has slipped into some kind of a time warp. Suddenly no one seems to be in a mad rush to bulldoze their way past your car anymore. Not a honk disturbs the procession of the divine idol as it proceeds to throttle traffic and squash any plans of getting anywhere! You are forced to sit back, relax and go with the flow of devotion. Minutes turn into an hour and slowly something inside you changes as you look upon the beautiful idol that gazes down at you. A sense of joy, hope and festivity fills your soul. You are a changed Punekar, no longer bothered about the various pandals and mandals that have sprouted like wild mushrooms all over the city. Nor does their raucous midnight revelry bother you anymore. As for the garbage dump and speed breakers, who needs them anyways, you hear yourself say It can wait for another year. and you speed away to bring home your very own Ganpati Bappa with Mrs. Joshi’s words ringing in your ears, ‘Kashala kitkit kartoos tu, Ganpati Bappa alley Punyala…!!!

(DNA Pune, 'Funny Bone' Column, Sunday, September 7, 2008)