Disclaimer: All the incidents mentioned are true but the opinions expressed are the author's alone with the honest intention of hurting no one, especially Shiv/Ram/Balram Senas, Puja Oraganizers, Parents and Children.
Scene 1: Many years back growing up in Eastern India, I looked forward to Durga Pujo...The Pandals were a delight and the atmosphere positive and lively. Good food to eat, lots of Rabindra Sangeet, Conch Blowing Competitions, Aarti Competitions (they do it in a special way dancing to drums known as Dhaks). Later there would be plays by the local theatre groups.
You can view Dhunuchi Naach at
Scene 2: As years went by the noise increased thanks to loudspeakers blaring bhajans sung to the tune of popular Bollywood numbers.
As I grew older venturing to see the Moortis and the skills of the craftsmen became a an exercise in life/modesty saving skills...Maa's Darshan came with dollops of butt pinching, squeezing, inappropriate touching experiences.
Scene 3: Newly married, we were the coolest couple in the block. I was still a student at TISS (Hubby still looks like he is in college) and many in the area thought we were a pair living in sin. Having cleared our names and our honor we were asked to judge a dance competition during the Ganapati Festival in Mumbai (Andheri). The competition did not earn us brownie points with the mothers whose children did not win. But I still vividly remember sitting in the Pandal ..with the beginnings of a migraine.. thanks to the ear splitting loud music and a growing embarassment on having to witness pre-pubescent children moving vulgarly to the tunes of Bollywood numbers.
Love the Arti though.
Scene 4: I saw yet another clip last night of a dance competition organized for Ganapati and saw 8-9 year olds gyrating to "I am a Desi Girl.." and other such numbers. I thought the Ganapti Idol in the corner looked a little forlorn or maybe even embarrassed as these young girls...children heaved and twisted to these numbers.
Scene 5: I get invited to a friend's house for Ganapti and she says she is asking all the children invited to prepare a little something on Ganapti..Shloka, story, song...This way the children get to perform and learn at the same time. Our own little cultural program as we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Fun redefined. God Bless Her !
If not for the beginning and the ending scene this would have been a sad story. But maybe it still is for many who think I am nothing more than a party Pooper who is taking away the fun element from these Puja Celebrations by frowning down upon the commercialization and heavy Bollywood influence.
The celebrations at a community level were introduced as a means to encourage a sense of unity...ekta and sangathan. Lokmanya Tilak popularized Ganapati Celebrations in Maharashtra. There should be entertainment undoubtedly. Festivals besides reiterating some good values are also a way to break the monotony of our lives and add some color. But what kind of entertainment do we seek, is an important question we should ask ourselves. Today sab chalta hai in the name of entertainment. An entertainment which is inappropriate does not add any value and in fact can be extremely damaging should be a matter of concern.
This should not be confused as my aversion to dance altogether. Besides the classical art forms I love to dance to music of any kind. But that is also because I have acquired the ability to filter the nonsense in the lyrics. I also know there is a different time and place for different things.
Personally I am worried. How do I bring up children in an environment like this? I do not want a 12 year old behaving like a 20 year old. I do not want them to accept entertainment and popularity as it is seen today. A very challenging task which is all consuming, especially since I see little help coming from any quarter. I can only do my best, hope to be surrounded by like-minded people and......pray.
I am not worried about disapproval and dissent. Zamana badal gaya hai and Vichaar bhi and I choose and prefer to walk the less travelled road. But yes, the road is long and hard.