Monday, 18 April 2011

An Elephant Never Forgets

My love/hate relationship with this city was a little more love than hate this week after a series of serendipitious moments which made everything make sense. After a period of random drilling and banging, people not turning up to fix things, 'infestation' and the constant worry of my 12-year-old son watching too much T.V, I suddenly found myself 'over it' and enjoying the bigger picture. It started when he said: (in a rare moment when the telly was off)

"Mum, what is this fat elephant god all about?"

Well, obviously, I knew the bit about Shiva cutting the boy's head off while his mum was in the bath but that's about it. I sometimes feel totally ignorant of the stuff that goes on around us so I made it my business to find out. Flicking through 'Time Out' I came across a piece on 'Beyond Bombay' a tour company who, as luck would have it, were taking bookings for an 'Idol Walk,'  a cultural tour of the lanes of Lalbaug, home of the Raja, the biggest and most revered Ganesh of them all.

So, on a Saturday morning, we found ourselves outside Ganesh Talkies in a part of South Mumbai we'd never visited before. Vaydehi, our guide led us through doorways which looked like nothing from outside but revealed vast spaces filled with hundreds of giant Ganeshas. Each one a masterpiece being airbrushed and bejewelled by artisans in preperation for Ganesh Chaturthi which I now know marks the birthday of Lord Ganesh.

Vaydehi explained how families install idols of their deity in their homes or get together in societies to erect tents in which the gigantic statues are enthroned, later to be immersed. We didn't get to see the Raja as he was hidden behind sheets until the big day. A million and a half people will come to pay their respects every day throughout the festival.

A newsteam covering the tour interviewed my son in a factory filled with these amazing statues and it was with some pride that I watched him give News 9 his interpretation of what this festival was all about. He did not use the words 'fat' or 'elephant' at all and seemed to have the air of someone who knew what he was talking about.

Who was it who said televsion is for appearing on and not watching?

And as I write, my daughter has just walked into the room and performed a fab Bollywood routine she learned at school. This will be their Mumbai legacy not the banging or the insects or the broken drier. This is the stuff my kids will remember.  

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