Ganesha Habba

Long before Facebook, Tumblr and blogs. Long before Netscape Navigator and IE, there were Usenet groups and harried students trying to finish up their theses. I used to frequent alt.culture.karnataka (ACK) and this was my contribution to the “Bangalore: A Nostalgic Perspective” thread. I had posted this in June 1994.  These were my recollections of how we used to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in the late Seventies.  I have added translations for Kannada words that I have used in the article.

A real trip down memory lane these postings on ACK. Remember the Ganesha habbas? “Associations” on every road with exotic names?  On my particular street, Central Street, in Kumara Park West, we had the “Twinkling Star Association”, “Golden Students Association” and the “Red Sun Association”. The last mentioned owed its name to my friend who owned the garage in which the idol would be installed. He had apparently watched a movie by the name “Red Sun” and no amount of cajoling would make him agree to another name! “Golden Students” then merged with “Red Sun” to form the “Golden Sun Association”.

The days preceding the habba (festival) would start off with collecting money. Armed with hundis (collection boxes) and receipt books, we would start our rounds. “Yenu aunty..last time neevu hatthu rupai kotidiri”. (What aunty, you had donated Rs 10 last time). English would always creep in. Reactions were almost always favorable. Caste, religion and community never seemed to matter.

The day prior to the festival itself would be very busy.  The garage had to be cleaned, decorated and the idol had to be purchased. The more the “collection”, the larger the idol! Of course, there was the “gunpowder”.  At least that’s what we used to call the prasadam (food offering that is consecrated and consumed) which would have to be packed into paper packets, not more than 2 tablespoons and then stapled. There would be the occasional “bumper” packet which would have 4 tablespoons! It was mighty hard to resist eating the prasadam.

The day itself would be marked with a lot of fervor.  A puja (religious ceremony) in the morning followed by the aarthi (ceremonial fire that is part of the ritual).  Of course, there would be lots of great food.  Deepu’s mother made some awesome Rasayana, prepared with bananas, honey, ghee, coconut and jaggery. My mom used to make some awesome Panchakadai and  Raghu’s granny used to contribute Sundal. Slurp! the list goes on! Then the news would percolate in that the Kumara Park Students Association, the big boys had arranged for an “ Aarkestra” (orchestra). P.B. Srinivas, Tomato Somu (the good ole 70’s) were expected in the evening.  A struggle would ensue, everybody would want to go. A couple of guys would reluctantly stay back after being bribed with some prasadam and the promise that they could go to Sankey Tank on the day the idol was being immersed.

The immersion was another story. The tempo could accommodate only so few. The braver ones would cycle down to Sankey tank. Cries of “Ganesha bandha, kai kadubu thinda, chikka kerele bidda, dodda kereli edda”,  (Ganesha arrived, ate the coconut and prasadam.  He was immersed in a small tank but arose in the large one) would rent the air when the idol itself was immersed. A feeling of gloom would set in, back to school again. The bubble would burst. Of course, there would be the inevitable post-mortem, “Next timu bega collection shuru madu beku. Bommbatage madu beku” (The next time we should start our collection earlier and celebrate on a grander scale).

Now when I look back, I realize how naive we were. When kids came up to me in the last few years and asked for money, my initial reaction was to refuse. “God knows what they would do with it” I would think. But then I would remember myself, a small kid, filled with enthusiasm. Probably motivated more by the anticipation of fun than religious sentiments but still innocent to the ways of the world.  I would reach into my pocket, scrounge around for money and find a folded 5 rupee note.
“Yennu uncle, neevu last time hathu rupaii kotidiri!” (What uncle, last time you gave us ten rupees!)

The illustration accompanying this article is by my wife.  She had sketched this in 1995 before we had met.  It is a coincidence that I had written this article roughly around the same time.

4 thoughts on “Ganesha Habba

  1. Wow. What a nostalgic memory of Ganesha. Yes. We lived thru all those good times. Collecting money for the associations in our road . The fatter and bigger you looked, more the number of receipt books thrust on you to collect money. Finally on the day of Ganesha Chaturthi, The Pooja of the street ganesha, then slowly slipping away from the gang to relish some modakas salted and sweet ones at home followed by an Orchestra rattling out hits of Dr Raj, Vishnuvardhan and finally the immersion. As fate would have it I am blessed to live opposite the Ulsoor Lake and I get to see hundreds of Ganesha’s taken in procession for the visarjan to the beats of Appadi Podu , Ippadi Podu or an occasional Dum Maro Dum. Nothing religious about it in our own Swalpa Adjust Maadi style. Wow I just love the festivities or is it that Age is finally catching up with me. Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to one and all.

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