It was Ganesh Chaturthi… the festival that I most look forward to every year. Sadly it was a watered-down version this year due to COVID-19. We never went to the market to make the usual purchases like sugarcane, plantain leafs, flowers, variety of fruits, etc. In fact, we never even bought the customary clay Ganesh idol home, instead had to make-do with the idol we already had at home. Neither did we invite anyone home, nor did we visit others homes. We did not make the trip to Ulsoor Lake to immerse the idol, obviously since there was nothing to immerse. I had never seen such a scaled down and dull version of the festival all my life. I hope we can compensate for this in the coming year.
We however did what best we could to keep up the festive spirits. We decorated the puja room with lights, artificial flowers and other such paraphernalia. My wife prepared some good food. Kheer, Kadubu, Vada and Sundal [Chickpeas] were the star attractions. After the puja, we savoured a heavy lunch. Thankfully, this aspect of the festival was left unaltered.
As humans we may forget many events in life, but I find it intriguing as to how certain events and instances remain etched in our memories forever and ever. One such event is my grandpa telling me that it will rain on every Ganesh Chaturthi. He had told me this when I was still a kid and in school. I wanted to prove him wrong and started observing every Ganesh Chaturthi from thereon. However, during my grandfather’s lifetime, I could not prove him wrong. I never experienced a single Ganesh Chaturthi during which the rain Gods did not smile upon us. There always was a drizzle or a huge downpour or thunderstorms or all of it and more. After my grandfather’s demise, I continued to lookout for his prophecy every year. And every single year, it did come true… surprisingly true. I now know that this festival occurs during the monsoons and hence it should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, this memory from my childhood comes back vividly and so every Ganesh Chaturthi, I look forward to the rains.
This year throughout the day of the festival, I walked up to balcony in my house many times, to take a look at the sky. It was unusually hot and sunny and sultry. Until evening, there was absolutely no rain or even signs of an impending downpour. This year has seen many disappointments driven by COVID and so I resigned myself to think that my grandfather’s prophecy will finally fail. Towards seven in the evening, my worst fears came true. My elder daughter walked up to me and mockingly asked “So papa, why did it not rain today? I remember you telling me some story about your grandfather”. I had told my story to her many years ago and looks like she has been waiting to prove my story wrong. Today was her day. She mocked and irritated me so much that I had to ask her to stop talking about it.
An hour later, I walked out to my balcony again and started looking at the skies again. There was absolutely nothing. There was just a gentle breeze though and the few trees lining the lane were swaying gently. I was thinking to myself that this could be the year after all. The year during which a cherished childhood memory and anticipation of mine finally comes undone. I am not sure why, but I was a tad disappointed that it did not rain. At least this could have come true on a day when the festivities were not actually what they were meant to be. As I was lost in these thoughts of mine, I did not realize that the breeze had picked up, the trees were oscillating like a pendulum now and the smell in air had also changed. I consoled myself that perhaps it was raining in some part of the world at this time and hence it is still OK. What started as an exercise to prove my grandfather wrong, had now become a sort of fixation to me, which I was finding difficult to give up.
The wind chimes in my neighbour’s house had started getting louder. And that is when I noticed that there was a distinct smell of dampness in the air. As much as I tried, I could not supress the anticipation and hope of rain. And that is when I noticed the first droplet of rain falling from the skies. It had been many years since I had actually held my hand out to feel the rain. Now, I could not help this. I held my hand out and yes, I could feel the droplets hitting my hand. A slight drizzle had started and my joy saw no bounds. What ensued for the next three hours was nothing short of a miracle for me. It was not just a brief drizzle, but it was a heavy downpour backed up by thunder and a wee bit of lightening. I just stood there relishing the rain with a big smile on my face. I felt like a kid whose wish had come true. I briefly walked into my house searching for my daughter. She had cleverly locked herself in her room. She pretended to be busy with her studies. However I forced her to open the door and let herself out to see the rains. She finally exclaimed out of frustration “OK OK… let us see again next year”.
Yes, that was true. We will watch out for this again in the coming year. I in particular, will be watching out for this as always. Watching out to see if my Grandpa’s tales will hold good yet again, even after three decades!