Today is the start of the annual Ganapati festival, Ganesh Chaturthi, the second biggest festival in India and maybe the biggest in Mumbai. The little parking lot behind my building was turned into a white, yellow and blue tent over the last few days, and sometime last night I was waken up by crowds of neighbors, bringing in a big Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity, singing, dancing, and playing the drums at 3am or so. This festival will last for the next 10 days, and depending on I don’t know what, the Ganeshes will be immersed into the ocean or various lakes after a day and a half, five days, seven days, or, for the grande finale, after ten days.
I can actually see our Ganesh from my bedroom window. Later this morning, I smelled a thick sweet incense, and neighbors, friends and families gathered for a prayer with an often repeating mantra of Ganapati Bappa Morya (I don’t know yet how that translates). At some point, I went out of my apartment and sat down on one of the assembled chairs in the back, trying hard to be invisible. I really wanted to take some pictures, but I thought it might be better if people get used to me being there first.
At first, nobody seemed to want to even notice me, and it was a bit awkward, but then the guy who a few weeks ago very importantly pointed out that one of the parking spots is reserved for the doctor, asked me to have some food. Another guy asked me why I don’t join them for some prayer, and after the ceremony was over, a young woman smilingly passed me some sweets and fruits and just said it’s God’s blessing. So everybody turned out to be quite welcoming, but I still didn’t take any pictures – maybe next time I will ask someone if anybody would mind. Apparently, everyone will assemble here every morning and evening for the next ten days, and I can’t wait to see what will happen.