Our visit to pay homage ( He is the Raja of Rajas, remember) this year, was an unmitigated disaster. The entire experience was unpleasant and awful, making one wonder why chaos rules even though the authorities are well aware of the burgeoning numbers. There are no systems in place, zero crowd control and to make things worse, nobody seems to be in charge! This is a dangerous zone, and I am amazed there have been no casualties so far. I was told over 16 lakh devotees rushed to Lalbaugh on sunday, leading to a complete breakdown of whatever arrangements had been made. I went on a monday afternoon, to discover lakhs of very frustrated people being shoved and pushed around by over zealous 'volunteers', who behaved like the worst bullies on earth. There were infants and young children with hapless parents trying to protect them from falling down and getting trampled in the melee. All those bewildering queues meant nothing at all, as the crowds surged forward aggressively, nearly knocking down the metal detectors. Madness! Once inside, there was no way out. No emergency exits, no exingency plan. Had there been even the smallest crisis ( someone fainting ), there was no way any help could reach the person. People were throwing coconuts at the deity's feet unable to get close enough to hand them over to the priests. These coconuts were lethal - like missiles that could kill an unsuspecting pilgrim. The atmosphere was tense and miserable. Ones thoughts could not possibly turn to God under these stress -inducing circumstances. I wanted to escape.... but how? Once in, people were trapped.Scarey and disturbing. When it should have been uplifting and divine.
I have been keeping my tryst with the Raja for years. The pandemonium this time has given me such a jhatka. This is really not how it should be. There is enough money in the kitty to make better arrangements and get some professionals on board for some serious crowd managemenet. The cops were too over- worked and sleep- deprived to care. The commandos were hanging around looking confused, leaving all arrangements to officious organisers who only seem to get their act together when a Katrina Kaif comes by for a photo-op. Can we not anticipate the numbers and ensure there is some regard to the safety factor? This year, we were also combating Swine Flu, and yet no attempt was made to educate the lakhs entering a narrow lane crammed with mask-less believers, who kept naively repeating, " But Ganpati will protect us." Add to that the on - going security threat, and the entire exercise became a horror story. Tomorrow is the Visarjan day. A friendly cop called this morning to ask whether I wanted to take another shot at saying goodbye to Ganpu at Lalbaugh today. I hastily declined. I'm sure Ganpati had heard my prayers on monday. They were for him! We cannot do this to Mumbai's beloved God. Let us find ways to restore lost dignity so that next year, devotees can enjoy a better and safer access to the Benign One.
Here's the promised feedback to 'Quick Gun Murugun" - it was a letdown, I say!! A few good lines (good, not brilliant!), cannot hold a flimsy script together. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was sincere, loveable and innocent in a poorly written role. The problem with QGM is the timing. Those of us who remember the early MTV promos went to the movie hoping to revisit the madness and originality of the concept. But does a cool concept necessarily travel well across decades and generations? To me, it was a forced and dated attempt at inducing magic into a dead idea.Apart from the hilarious names ( Rice Plate Reddy etc), nothing else made any sense. The one promising dance track right at the beginning, was chopped just as we got to the 'Gimme a thumka' .Worst sin of all - nobody laughed!!