Friday, September 7, 2012

Memories of my good friend's birthday

  The air in my city  is getting festive. We are just out of the Ramzan festivities and now we are gearing up for the socio cultural and religious Ganesh Utsav.  The huge eco friendly ganesha are being booked by the various associations. The ganesh Utsav committee is involved in gathering the children and elders for its various cultural programs. Money is being collected in hundis for this public funded utsavs. All the Indian cities and villages, I’m sure is gearing to welcome the first god of hindu pantheon,  Ganeshji.  A practicing hindu’s  good  friend and guide. 

Undisputably one of the  friendly gods whom you can mould into a cricketer, chessplayer, soccer player,  drummer, guitarist and into many avatars now even holding an apple product. So flexible that he is now in the form of stuffed toy and even   Mcganesh( imitating McDonald's  Ronaldo's pose).  He needs no palatial temple to house him,and can simply be found around the bend of the road on a raised pedestal, or any traffic island, or under any tree or any of the junction of three roads.He throws no fuss and is very adaptable ,adjusting, a  confidante, a giver and much more.

I too am excited with the festive air for  he is one of my favorite god. My association with him dates back to those times when I was around  6  or 7  years . We then lived in a beautiful place here which was the quintessential Bangalore then. My house was surrounded by beautiful places  which are now brand names like Lalbagh west gate, The famous eat street Sajjan rao circle( featured in TLC and many food  shows like HOMP), the headquarters of the famous ready to eat  MTR (Mavalli tiffin room) and the famous traditional market Gandhi bazaar( again in  TLC).

I grew up here for a few years playing,  listening to and reading stories when things like TV were unheard of. Predominantly most of the stories were mythological and ACK. It was the IBH exhibition at Glass house in Lalbagh  which was just a walk from my house that introduced me to Ganeshji stories, the elephant headed god.  Appa bought me this ACK for just 2rs( now it cost rs 40) there and thus started the association and after reading the book, I was interested in reading ganesha stories and so he gradually became my special friend. Even today, i love to read Ganeshji stories in Tinkle and other books

The hopeless nostalgic person that I am, I fondly recollect the memories of those sepia toned  and simple times, when money was less but happiness was plenty. Choices  were few but  life was contented and uncomplicated, responsibilities were none but footloose and carefree days were abundant.

So one of those memories  is this special friend’s birthday  which  every year like in most homes we celebrated as Pillaiyar( the tamil name for Ganeshji)  chaturthi. We would source all the pooja items from the streets of  Gandhibazaar. Accompanied by appa and amma and my little sis we would shop on the streets of this traditional market nearby home.  

 At home, the wooden stool would be  decorated with small plaintain saplings and decorated with festoons and flowers. We then would install the clay idol of Ganesha(not the colored one) decorate him with beautiful wild flowers, serial lights, a toy umbrella called 'pillaiyar kudai'. The puja was  performed with variety of wild flowers and darbha grass by appa while amma made all the delicacies like kheer, vada.  Neivedyam(bhog) to god was the Kozhakattais(modaks), which amma would give  only when I made 108 thorpukaranams (sit ups). 

In the afternoon around 3.p.m , we would be dressed in our best and I and my friends would set out to see Ganesha’s in different house  in the neighbourhood and ask people "Aunty, ganesha ittidira" (  Meaning "Have you kept Ganesha?" kept in this context meant installed the idol) . People then were not apprehensive to open doors to strangers  and would gladly welcome us. We would then shout ‘Ganapathi ki jai” throw the turmeric coated raw rice(akshata)  taken with us , collect the 'sihi thindis'(sweets)  the various people gave us  and the little gifts like hairband, hair clip, bangles etc. Kannadigas also celebrate Ganapati’s mom the previous day called ‘Gowri habba’ which is essentially a ladies festival like karva chauth  hence gifts like bangles, clips etc. We would head home in content with all the goodies collection. The general idea is to see 108 ganeshas, but the main intention was the goodies. Perhaps, those days this was a form of socializing and knowing your neighbourhood.

We would  also be a participant in the  Ganesh utsav functions in the pandals close home. These  publicly funded  utsavs  served as a reason  to bring the spirit of unity and oneness among the neighbor hood residents. The cultural programs held in the evening served to showcase the talents of children and I too would sing in those ganesh utsavs. The famous song was of course” gajamukhane ganapathiiye ninage vandane…..”. 

 In many localities of Bangalore like Vijayanagar where I later shifted, these Ganesh utsavs in Bangalore would almost extend till  Kannada Rajyothsava  i.e November 1st which is the day Karnataka was formed .

Finally the immersion, there is no concept of immersion in my dad’s side and the ganesha would be kept in the puja room and the same ganesha would be used for 5 years but I would accompany my friend Sandhya’s house idol. Her father would walk with us up to Lalbagh, While she carried the Ganesha in thelittle  basket, I would ring the bell upto Lalbagh kere(lake). At lalbagh kere, there would be many clay figures lowered . some would arrive in customized trucks, some would come in handcarts. Tempos, cycles etc.,  The clay of the idol would get immersed  and form the silt. Now of course, there is a huge noise about pollution, those days we never used much of chemical dyes. 

Much has changed now. The fast emerging metro, the various underpass, flyovers  have gobbled up many landmark places. The lalbagh kere(lake)  has been acquired  or is slowly getting phased out by the metro development,  so is the traditional market of Gandhi bazaar. The junction road of Vanivilas and kanakapura road where I stayed  has become an underpass. Nothing seems to be at ground level now, everything is underground or flying high. Last time i travelled out of the city, my head was held high and eyes were only at the sky. So many buildings touching the sky line. All these have transformed the grounded  Garden city Bangalore to  an elevated world class global city called Bengaluru.  These places exist only in my memories.
Agreed change is inevitable and we have to move on in life. 

But.... but...., after all these one thing remains unchanged. The ganesh Utsav celebrations at Basavanagudi APS grounds and National college grounds . This is the 50th year. Just in case, you happen to be here and are a connoisseur of Good food and music, Be there. Enjoy the 'Aromas of Karnataka' a  food festival treating you to the traditional delicacies and this is also the venue Where you will hear to the greats like Ilayaraja, yesudas, Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu nigam, Shaan, Drums sivamani and Vijay Prakash this year.  And get blessed in one of the Best and oldest Ganesh Utsav pandals. For program schedule click here.

 Meanwhile, we are gearing up for the festivities here in our condominium. Hopefully, my next post will be on an unique temple of Ganesha, infact very very unique.

ETA: Just as i posted this, i hear the song "Give me some sunshine, give me some rain, give me another chance, i want to grow up once again" from 3 idiots.  Aptly defines my mood for this post. 


  1. As usual wonderful narration by you Asha ji....

    though Ganesh Utsav is big festival for many parts of India but at our places I don't see that much enthusiasm in the people here about it...don't know the reason exactly....will try and find out with my friends here.

    BTW thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.

  2. :) semma song and super post...guess..pullayaar is a god even non hindus will like. Elephants in general raise a sense of awe and sweetness about them. Avlo peria size and humble at same time..semma combination. nejamavay godly in appearance. enga veetla kozhakkatta panna first piece enaku thaan epovum :) aana last few timesa me the missing :((

  3. Wow, that's some post - I, supposedly a resident of Bangalore knew nothing of any of this. Now I am intrigued to visit one or two of what you have mentioned.

    By the way, I bow to thee, you who is capable of doing 108 thoppukarnams !!

  4. @ R.Ramesh - thank you :)

    @ Irfanuddin - Oh, did i miss it. In the north they do celebrate ganesh chaturthi but no public utsavs like in mah, kar, AP. Thanks for your nice words :)

    @ Gils - humble animal nijamavay. mothha thattai sapitta adaan...amma appadi oru condition poduva...

    @ Ramesh - those days yes, i had the stamina and energy for 108 thorpukaranams.