And I would have to take the road on this day…. Mumbai’s twin obsessions – Ganeshji and cricket (okay, that’s national mania) spiral their noisy, raucous ways into my senses. The roads are alive and a heady hysteria of celebration. Like an oil colour with neon under-tints that someone smudged before it was completely dry. Colours blurring into lights, sounds echoing into one another, it is all one royal, spectacularly messy picture. What picture? A panorama – a constantly shifting, moving scene.
Lalbaghcha raja looks on benevolently as devotees lined up for 15 hours break into dance right in the middle of traffic, celebrating a victorious match. The fire-crackers all stocked up for tomorrow’s grand farewell for the city’s most beloved deity, are being let loose on the streets to cheer the boys in blue. Even ensconced in the safety of a dark car, I suppress a grimace. The noise! The blinding lights! Electricity being spent like nobody can afford it! And traffic grinding to a standstill.
Across the road, three kids are skipping down the road…I mean it, skipping down the road. Where in the vast machinery of this city do you get to see that? Today’s kids are all about X-Box and Beyblades and what not (or perhaps not, I’m too old to keep up with school fads). But these three are skipping down the road and briefly one of them stops and yells throatily,
Hum jeet gaye!!!!!!
to no one in particular. Ah, the magic of childhood, where you can scream out to the heavens and no one thinks it odd!
But up ahead, I can see a man weaving his way through the traffic on foot. And he has this huge smile on his face. In another moment, another traffic jam, I’d think he was one of those poor devils, driven to insanity by the hard grind of life in this city. You see them every once in awhile, clothes a-tatter, hollowed eyes and manic grins. But his smile has a look of pure beatification on it. It is the smile of a man who feels blessed, of one tasting something infinitely sweeter than success or any of the many thrills Mumbai offers. It is the smile of pure, unadulterated joy.
For a brief moment, I stay poised, the glue of skepticism holding me to the brink. I’m not religious! I don’t even like cricket! Think of the money being used while people are committing suicide in the rest of the state! And the other sportspeople who struggle all their lives for a scrap of attention that the nation lavishes on cricketers! There’s nothing glorious about that!!!
But there is something about that man’s smile. My city still remembers how to smile like that! And then smooth, graceful diver turned gleeful kid splashing into water, I fall into the celebratory moment.
Crackers exploding everywhere, a thousand fairy-lights gleaming overhead and another thousand twinkling back at them from the wet patches on the road. The world is one huge riotous celebration of life. Ganapathi bappa moraya!!! And our boys in blue have really, really, really done it!!!!
Lalbaghcha raja and the boys in blue just made my day. And the glow lasts me an entire evening. Two hours later, a well-dressed man outside a club is screaming into his cellphone,
Congrats, man!! We won!
And a fashionably bald man is hugged by a perfect stranger, right before my eyes. Across a hip bar, he starts to swivel his eyes heavenward and then stops short, shrugs with a smile and mouths,
Well, ganapathi bappa moraya and all that…
Strange it is then, that a machine-like, super-efficient, no-nonsense place like Mumbai…when it decides to feel, compels you to care too. So farewell, beloved benevolent elephant-god, bless our trials for another year and give us a reason to celebrate at the end of it. And welcome home, boys in blue, the adulation of a billion Indians awaits you!