Sunday, October 7, 2012

Leap of Faith - Ganesh Chaturthi Observation #3

Artist prepares for the festival.

For two weeks, Tim and I roamed the streets behind our school observing the Ganesh statues in progress of being painted, gilded, and readied for the big day—the day Ganesh is brought home. One street, in particular, had aisles of Ganeshes (all sizes, colors, and styles) being prepared for the big day. Tonight, as we revisit our favorite haunts, the Ganeshes are gone.  The aisles are bare. Today, while I was at school, the Ganeshes traveled to communities in large trucks where members of the community pitched in together to welcome home a large Ganesh, or traveled to homes where the welcome is much more intimate.

Tim, Maggie (our lovely new English friend) and I walk down the street between our school and our apartments. We walk towards Maggie’s apartment, following the scraps of red paper from the firecrackers and the bright raspberry colored powder on the road.  Across the street from Maggie’s apartment is a complex of apartments. We can see a tent like structure.  We enter the gate and walk behind the fence. We ask if we can enter the makeshift temple. The men are welcoming. We slip off our shoes and enter. Inside is a large Ganesh.  Around him are offering of fruit—coconut, apples, and bananas.  In the front of the large Ganesh is another Ganesh, much smaller, but decked with a necklace of marigolds. In the front of the stage is an unpeeled banana with many sticks of incense stuck in the banana. After we view the Ganesh, we cause a rush of photography lusting kids once Maggie starts taking pictures. Kids call out “Here I am!” and “ ‘Ello auntie” 

Children love to have their photos taken.

We continue down the road, turn into another neighborhood.

A quieter neighborhood.

We hear loud, but happy, music blaring from speakers.  We are drawn down the side street.  The Ganesh worship is lit up with orange lights. Small children sit on red plastic chairs.We are drawn to this make shift alter because of its simplicity. We take off our shoes and enter.  We see a Ganesh that has offering of fruit, coconut.  An unpeeled banana is lying on its side skewered with incense sticks. The sticks send fragrant smoke up to the heavens. We stand admiring the Ganesh when a man, standing quietly at the side, approaches us. His kindness draws us toward the alter. He has a small brass dish that contains a bright orange powder.  He says some words that I am sure are a prayer.  He touches the powder with his little finger and places a dot on our foreheads. Another person begins to wrap Tim’s wrist with red, green, and white thread as the man murmurs a prayer.  I am sure that it is a blessing. The string is cut and I experience the same ritual.
The man then reaches over to Geneshe’s alter, takes two sweets in his hand.  He offers one to Tim and one to me. Instinctively, I hold out both of my hands. My hands are together, palms up, ready to receive the gift. The man places the sweet candy in my hands. A gift. A request to Ganesh that he brings sweetness to my life. Tim eats the candy. I am jolted back to my western mind.  Is this candy safe to eat?  Will I get sick? What germs might this candy contain? I slip the wish for happiness in my pocket. Later, walking home, my fingers find this little wish for happiness in my pocket.  Will I take a leap of faith?  Will I eat the candy handed to me? I toss the candy on the road towards the curb. I am not ready to take that leap of faith.  I am drawn to new beginnings, I am drawn to kindness and blessings, I was not ready for that leap of faith.

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