Wah! Wah! Salman Khan haat jodo-ing in front of Ganeshji was a great photo op... and a strong, positive image to send out in these ridiculous times when other Muslim Bollywood types are shouting themselves hoarse about being discriminated against in Mumbai. Mumbai!!!Salman's mother Salma, says a news report, is a Saraswat Brahmin. Okay. So am I. And I don't keep a Ganpati at my home!That the Khans celebrate the festival with so much gusto, sends out the best signal. I mean, let's face it, there must be several people out there who might phone and 'advise' Salman not to be so visible during the aarti, or not to participate as enthusiastically during the visarjan. But it is to Salman's credit that he chooses to follow his heart and ignore such warnings.That's the way it should be for all of us. There was a time in Mumbai when each and every festival got its due and people participated without self consciousness or fear. I was a regular visitor at Bhendi Bazaar during Ramazan. Eating malpuas after feasting on kebabs and biryani with several Muslim friends. It has been years since I went back to my favourite streetside restaurant. But this time, I am determined to do just that.Iftaar at Bhendi Bazaar ranks high on my list as a unique and wonderful Mumbai experience.
My Date with the Lalbaug Chha Raja is also fixed, thanks to an obliging top cop - Javed Ahmed, without whose kind intervention, I'd be stuck for hours in the dhakka bukki that inevitably occurs when there are thousands of over enthusiastic worshippers pushing and shoving to catch a glimpse of the majestic moorti - now in its 75th year. I remember watching its slow and stately progress down a narrow road in Girgaum, well past midnight, and being moved to tears by the sheer fervour of devotees thronging the procession. Some would hold up new born infants for the Lord's blessings, while others would prostrate themselves on the road, uncaring of the dirt.Unlike other Sarvajanik Ganpatis, this one would roll past in dignified silence, minus a clash of symbols or any other noisy accompaniment. Believers would stare.... awestruck and speechless. The journey from Lalbaug to Chowpatty would take 7 or 8 hours. But such was the draw of Lalbaug Chha Raja, that nobody minded the roads being blocked to enable Him to reach the sea.
Then came the Ganpati Raves - also fun. The grooviest Ganpati procession in town featuring dj's and hip Goa groupies grooving to fantastic music near Babulnath Temple. How I love the Trance Gannu. He is just so today! And in tune with changing times. Anybody and everybody is welcome to join in and dance.
Now for Navratri and beyond. Eid is but a few weeks away. How I admire people who can fast. Like Herman Hesse's Siddhartha says simply, " I can think, I can fast, and I can wait..." Profound and beautiful, inspiring and uplifting. I am reminded of my own medocrity each time i recall that line.