Saturday, 10 November 2007

Celebrate Good Times!

Just when you get yourself ready to pass a perfectly normal evening watching the daily dose of depressing news on the tele, the world surprises you.

This was during Ganesh Chaturti and celebrations were taken especially seriously in my neighbourhood. I was used to bumping into a painstakingly constructed pandal around every street corner. The loudspeakers, playing a puzzling mix of bhajans and crass regional film songs, no longer woke me up at the ungodly hours of the morning. I made my peace with the Lord and then proceeded to ignore the loud processions outside my door.

Then, if our religious calendar was to be believed, ages after all the Ganeshas should have been safely at the bottom of Sankey Tank, one group of devotees from across the block decide to hold the grand finale of their celebrations. And what a celebration it was!

They started out early that evening—we heard them. When they finished their rounds around the neighbourhood and came back near home, it was well into the night. But they had lost none of their enthusiasm or energy. It was just as alive, colourful, loud and noisy. I suppose a healthy mix of religious fervour, cheap alcohol and a smoke or two of something helped them get along rather well.

The beats of drums announced the arrival of the carnival from the end of the street. The deity’s entourage was a merry band of performers. There were dancers holding aloft huge garish masks that swayed dangerously with their every step. There were stilt walkers with their heads in the trees and the electricity poles, high in more ways than one. They were men in animal costumes, clowns, and dancers. The young boys (who really should have been in bed at that time of the night) seemed to be having the most fun—dancing like that was their only purpose in life.

Entertaining, they were. But from a distance. One ‘cow’ from the group had evidently and completely lost it some blocks away. He insisted on chasing the children all around. The brats were no better, encouraging such behaviour by pulling at his tail and sticking their tongues out at him. And they had to run in my general direction. The look of pure terror that must have crossed my face when the stupid cow came charging at me was probably comparable only to the expression on my neighbour’s 18 month old when the smart-alec cow stuffed its big painted nose in the poor child’s face. Thankfully at twenty, I am still small enough to hide behind Daddy Dearest, which was my vantage viewing point throughout the hullabaloo.

The cows weren’t the worst. A clown for some unfathomable reason took it upon himself to socialise with the good folks of the neighbourhood. When will people learn that people with painted faces and unnatural behaviour are in no way funny?

But I wasn’t the only one cowering in her pyjamas that day. My dog, a supposedly fearsome Mudhol Hound, didn’t know where to hide. She didn’t want to lose her face among all the dogs of our street, who by then were creating a cacophony, but she had sense enough to go to the furthest corner of the compound and bark her head off. Unfortunately for her, two of the Cows, the ones that weren’t scarring little children for life by chasing them all around, had decided to take a break and had parked their behinds gingerly on our back gate. If there’s anything scarier than the face of a painted cow, it’s the derriere of the cow in question. At the sight, my dog stopped dead in her tracks, yelped and bolted the other way before anyone could say ‘moo’.

While they were waiting for the rest of the party to catch up, two of the dancers thought they had just enough time for a quick canoodle in the park right there. A stilt walker however needed more than a little love to keep up his strength. If there was anything more fascinating than watching him tower over the rest, it was watching somebody trying to feed him up there in the tower.

Then the brightly lit idol followed eventually in full grandeur. In its dark shadow followed a frail man pulling the large generator that was supplying the electricity for the evening. Whadya know—it wasn’t divine light after all.

One by one, all the performers moved along. Their audience, glad that God had consented to visit their doorsteps, folded their hands in quick prayer and proceeded to their warm beds to sleep off the entertainment. The last to leave was the photographer and video-guy capturing the whole thing on tape. He had to pull out his extension wire from our house plug point and wind up yards of wire before he was off again!

The night was calm again.

But was it over? Not nearly! At the other end of the road, in the light of the street lamp, a small group of men were getting ready to—believe it or not—set up another Ganesh Pandal!

The good times never stop!


I was so caught up in figuring out why Mir Ranjan Negi would want to have anything to do with Reality Dance shows with as much melodrama as the primetime soaps they've dethroned, that I failed to notice the dangerous effect he was having on my folks. Dad's so inspired by the compliments heaped upon the man week after week despite an evident lack of dancing skills that he now considers it within norms of acceptability to dance in public again.
I knew I shouldn't have let Mum n Dad watch the same stuff on TV as me.
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