The one message that stood out in the volley of WhatsApp during the #MumbaiRains was about the Lal Baug cha Raja mandap being empty for the first time in history. At the time of crisis, people realise what is really important. No matter what the history of the Sarvajanik Ganesha celebrations in Maharashtra, it is high time we call this annual ritual exactly what is: a colossal waste.
Creative memes with titles like Floodnavis and costs of Shivaji statues (erected by BMC instead of drainage management) will float all around WhatsApp. Five days later, the same people will pollute every goddamn water body in the area with Ganesha idols and the millions of rupees worth of plaster of Paris pandals will be torn down and again disposed off in land fills? Remember no God or religion or political leader ever decreed that we need a million pandals in every nook and cranny of Mumbai. Or that we need to celebrate it by polluting the very city we live in!
Why in God’s name are we playing Justin Bieber and item songs on these pandal loudspeakers? Why are little kids in society Ganpatis gyrating to Bollywood hits with double meaning lyrics and their educated parents egging them on to perform better? Why has the state declared a 5-day holiday in schools instead of the one-day celebration that it used to be? Why do people take pride in causing traffic jams? Why do we need to show our devotion by queueing up outside these pandals for hours? Why does the city with the Siddivinayak temples need any more pandals?
Why can’t all societies encourage kids to make clay Ganesha’s with seeds and immerse them in pots in their own house? Why can’t the thousands of pandals dotting the streets of Parel and Dadar and Sion (the worst affected in the floods) adopt cancer families from Tata Memorial Hospital? No, it is not possible to change things overnight, but is it possible to stop donating to this waste and put that money to good use?