Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Monsoon mayhem, idol chatter

Been pretty hectic these last couple of weeks, lots of bumpy busrides to far away places. Today's a public holiday as the first day marking Ganesh Chathurti. Lord Ganesh, the jovial, pot-bellied, elephant-headed god of learning, homes, etc etc is invited into homes in statue form. the festival culminates in 11 days when the idols are bathed in rivers.

It's interesting watching all this from the sidelines. Many people are pushing for a return to eco-friendliness (these religions were so close to nature until just a few decades ago) with non-polluting paints and materials for the idols, particularly as they'll be immersed in the highly polluted rivers unless people can bring themselves to substitute a bowl of water for the deed. One newspaper was running a poll as to whether people prefer a slimmed down, keep-fit Ganesh to the traditional image - which could be a problem since thw universe is supposed to reside in his belly, held together by a snake for a belt. Slimmer waistline => more overcrowding?

My great-aunt Ena simply adores Lord Ganesh - you find all kinds of statues around the house and in the Matale Heritage Centre's workshops. She would have loved being here right now - though she did spend a lot of time in India when they were both much younger.

Yesterday evening Pune received half its average rainfall for September - in the space of 3 hours. I was supposed to go see my parents at Le Meridien hotel which is some ways away from JM Road (Jangli Maharaj Road - these guys love to abbreviate everything - MG Road is Mahatma Gandhi Road and RBM Road where the hotel is, is really Raja Bahadur Mill Road!)

I ended up wading most of the way down JM Road - which turned out to be a good thing as I passed card, rickshaws and motorbikes stalled in the water that was waist-high in places. Gangs of youths were feeling under the muddy water for the sewer grates that had got hopelessly clogged with all the rubbish people liberally scatter as they walk. One group had found and opened a grate - but I didn't see any drainage taking place...

Finally flagged a rickshaw down at usurious rates (rain PLUS nightfall?? jackpot!) and made it - but I think many people did not get too far; the whole thing took me at least 2-3 hours for a trip that usually takes 15-20 minutes in traffic.

Thunder in the offing, and the skies are darkening, time to head back to the flat while I still can! Challo!

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