Monday, October 23, 2006

Diwali – Then and Now !

Over the years, the way Diwali is celebrated has changed as I see it. Here are some random notings.

Gone are the days when our ‘wadi’ used to have Diwali festivities. Soon gone will be the days when we would have ‘wadis’ left as they would be replaced by some ‘tower’ but that’s besides the point. When we were small, we used to look forward to Diwali, not only for not having to go to school but also for the wadi festivities. They were so popular that all the cousins and relatives of people staying in the ‘wadi’ used to come and spend time with the wadi relatives and participate. The wadi used to be flood lit and a host of events used to be organized. There would be different sporting events arranged including Badminton, Table Tennis, Cricket, Carom and Volleyball tournaments. A play would be staged with the youngsters participating. The highlight of the festivities was arranging an open-air movie show on the ‘parda’. Thus, a white screen used to be put up and a Hindi movie(in black and white) used to be projected on it. Everyone used to sit on chairs or on ‘satranjis’ laid out on the ground and watch it. Our Parsi colony neighbors also used to come into the wadi to watch or watch it from the other side of the screen. I remember seeing Kishore Kumar’s ‘China Town’ on the parda one of the years.

Unfortunately, for many years now these festivities do not take place as many of the wadi youngsters have migrated to the US or are too busy with their own lives.

Diwali at home also meant putting some ‘uttan’ on the ‘pahli anghol’ day and breaking a ‘karit’, putting up lights, making a ‘kandeel’, putting a rangoli and diyas. Faral – the sweets and savories distributed and eaten during Diwali used to be made at home. So one gorged on chiroti, balu shahi, besan, rava and motichur laddoo, karanji filled with a coconut filling, chakli, shankar pali, chivda, shev, kadboli and anarse all throughout the Diwali week. It also meant going out and buying new clothes for yourself and family. On Bhau Beej, my sisters used to perform and Aarti and I had to give them a gift. This custom was carried out to honour the brothers for taking care of them and protecting them, and pray for their well-being. Today, all this has also changed. The faral is home made but bought from some one who makes it at his/her home and is not eaten with as much fervor. As sisters are not in the country, there is no aarti and no gifts to give. The lights are still put on but the kandeel is bought from the market.

Diwali in the city has changed too. If you took a bus from V.T. thru Girgaum thru Parel to Mahim, you would see many chawls and buildings having similar colored kandeels(lanterns) put up in a row on the long balconies. Today, many of these chawls have been pulled down. In fact our ‘wadi’ too had this uniform code as far as the Diwali lights were concerned. There would be nine ‘zero’ bulbs with a set pattern of colors. Red at one end, then green, then yellow, then orange and white in the middle and the same repeated on the other side. Thus all the flats in the wadi used to have the same kind of Diwali lights put up on their balconies. Today barring a few nobody follows this code. The kandeels too have changed. Unfortunately, more and more people have started buying plastic kandeels which not only are bad for the environment but also look terrible and tacky.

If you go to Marine Drive, the sky is lit up with firecrackers. It seems that the whole of Bombay descends on Marine Drive to either burst the crackers or to see the fireworks display. I remember one year on Diwali day as I was waiting for a 123 BEST bus, I was pleasantly surprised that the 123 was an open-top double decker bus and when it went onto Marine Drive, one could see the firework display right above you. Though, I am sure Marine Drive residents must be having a tough time during Diwali.

Of course, over the years with people becoming more aware of noise and air pollution and the judiciary stepping in, one hears fewer crackers than 15 years ago. This is a welcome sign not only for us but also for the animals – stray dogs, cats, and pets etc that all have a bad time during Diwali. They go through immense trauma because of the crackers and every year the number of road accidents, burn cases and pets that get lost are very high

I wonder what further changes would happen twenty years hence in the way people celebrate Diwali, maybe it would be celebrated on the net only and through blogs ??

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gandhiji and Bombay

The above photograph of Gandhiji was taken on his return to Bombay from South Africa in 1915. Thus, on Gandhi Jayanti day, if one has to remember places that bring out Gandhiji’s association with Bombay, the most important would be Mani Bhavan,now a memorial museum at Laburnum Road, Gamdevi that served as his headquarters from 1917-1934.

Bombay, a city in the forefront of the freedom struggle had attracted Gandhiji often and he used to stay in the city at the residence of Shri Revashanker Jhaveri’s Mani Bhavan. It is a two-storied building, with the ground floor housing a library and the first floor has a picture gallery and an auditorium. On the second floor, you can see the room where Gandhiji worked out of and also various photos, memorabilia and letters. It also has an exhibition on his life called Glimpses of Gandhi, which shows the important events in Gandhiji’s life in a mini-figures format. Mani Bhavan attracts many tourists but I wonder how many Mumbaikars have visited it.

Gandhiji's room at Mani Bhavan

These are some of the activities that Gandhiji carried out in Bombay

# In 1917, he took the first lessons in carding from a carder who used to pass Mani Bhavan every day.
# He learnt spinning here.
# The Satyagraha movement against the Rowlett Act was launched from here in March 1919.
# He took over the writing of two magazines Young India and Nava Jeevan in 1919.
# He lent support to the Khilafat movement from here in 1920.
# He participated in the funeral procession of Bal Gangadhar tilak from Sardar Griha to Chowpatty in 1920. His words " A great among men has fallen" are remembered by all.

# The decision to collect one crore rupees from the Tilak Swaraj Fund was taken and its start made here in 1921.
# He organized the boycott and bonfires of foreign cloth from here on July 31,1921.
# He was arrested from his tent on the terrace of Mani Bhavan on Jan 4, 1932.
# His last stay at Mani Bhavan was on June 17-18 1934.

Various statues Of Gandhiji exist in Mumbai, the most prominent being the one at Mantralaya. As all cities Bombay has an M.G. Road, in fact more than one. The most prominent being the one from Metro to Kala Ghoda. The others are in Goregaon (W) and Ghatkopar. Various organisations like the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal at Nana Chowk spread his teachings and sell books on Gandhiji.

As I was leaving Mani Bhavan, I smiled seeing a banner on the opposite side on the road “Use Gandhigiri, For Peace and Harmomy”. Gandhiji is also being remembered at many of the theatres in Mumbai that are playing the film “ Munnabhai”.

Pujo in Mumbai

The multicultural and multilingual ethos of Mumbai is seen by the various Durga Puja’s organized by the Bengali community in Mumbai and is a worth a visit. In Mumbai, Pujo’s are mostly held at the Tejpal auditorium at Gowalia Tank, Shivaji Park, Lokhandwala in Andheri, Powai, Chembur, Vashi and Patwardhan Baug at Bandra

I have been to the Puja’s at Tejpal, Chembur, Shivaji Park and Bandra. The Puja’s start on the sixth day (Maha-Shashti) and go on till the tenth day (Maha-Dashmi). It symbolizes good winning over evil. The Tejpal Pujo has a beautifully decorated idol with an Arati carried out in the midst of playing of the dhak.They also have a musical programme everyday with jugalbandi, dance drama, bengali songs and a theatrical musical being performed in the evenings. The committee which organises the Bandra Puja organises a Marathi play every year. The Shivaji Park Puja has a bigger idol and has many stalls, which sell Bengali foodstuff (sweets like kheer kodom, payesh, gulab jamun, rossogulla etc), Sarees and handicrafts from Bengal.

I ate the traditional Durga Puja meal (Bhog) at the Bandra Pujo this year and it was wonderful. Hundreds of people stand in a line and volunteers dish out a hearty meal of khichadi, potato and paneer subji, begun bhaja, tomato chutney, payesh and gulab jamun.

The photos here are from the Tejpal and the Bandra Puja. For more information on Durga Puja see here and here.