Saffron tees and a sprinkling of Gandhi caps will become visible on the cityscape once again as Ganeshotsav mandals prepare to welcome Lord Ganesha on Chaturthi (Thursday). While the streets resound with cymbals and drumbeats, offices will work with a reduced strength as both whiteand blue-collar workers are staying home or heading to their native villages to worship the first god of the Hindu pantheon.
The average Maharashtrian household hosts the idol for a day and a half. "Given that all attention is concentrated on domestic celebration during the first two days, mandals like ours have deferred community programmes until then," says Vinod Satpute, former president of the Keshavji Naik Ganeshotsav at Girgaum.
A stone's throw from the Arabian Sea, the Cuffe Parade rowhouse owned by Koli leader Damodar Tandel was preparing to welcome its annual house guest on Wednesday. "We abstain from fish for two days until visarjan is complete. Several Kolis fast through Shravan and Ganeshotsav," says Tandel. "At 6.00 am on Thursday, our regular bhatji (priest) will arrive to perform puja, and then we will receive at least 300-400 guests through Friday evening."
Perhaps the distinction of carrying out the first immersion each season belongs to the family-owned laundry, Puthu & Sons, near Gamdevi temple.
"We conduct visarjan on the very night of Chaturthi since the house is so small it can barely accommodate Ganpati. Not a single idol is immersed before ours, even the policemen on duty vouch for that," says Anand Mankatty, whose grandfather, a migrant worker from Karnataka, started this celebration in 1933.
Indeed, the narrow lane leading to Puthu's Akkalvaya Building allows but one person to pass at a time and the small doors make it impossible to host a big idol. The house itself is just one little room and some family members even sleep on the terrace. So the 2-foot Ganesh will arrive at 8.00 am on Thursday and leave for Chowpatty around 2.00 am on Friday. "We conduct all pujas to specification, irrespective of the timeframe. We make such lavish preparations up to one month in advance that you would think ours is a 10-day Ganeshotsav," laughs Anand. An extended family of 50 from Thane and Titwala makes sure to seek darshan this day.
Themes too are no longer the preserve of mandals. While Mumbai and Thane have awaited the metro rail for years, Panchpakhadi resident Sanjay Khare has created a moving model of the elevated railway at his Thane residence within three days. "Our family observes Ganeshotsav celebrations by rotation so my turn has come after four years," says the electrical engineer from VJTI. "I have previously welcomed Lord Ganesh with models of the proposed Skybus as well as India's first indigenous aircraft carrier."
This season, Khare has fashioned a 7ft x 3ft moving track with two elevated stations, even as the railway line runs below.