If you were among the lucky few, Ganesh Chaturthi was a one week extravaganza that involved bunking classes, darshan and anything else boring. This was among the few indulgences that was in HS, and not PS.
It all began a week before the actual day. Each class made a palanquin in which to take Ganesha to the Kulwant Hall, and eventually to the back of the Sai Gita shed. The juniors were to make palanquins, and from tenth standards onwards they made chariots. The chariots were built like Tata Nano - minimum costs and maximum aerodynamics. The basic structure was a rickety trolley. This trolley would on a normal day be used for carrying sambar from the kitchen to the dining hall, but for that one week, these trolleys were coveted like Jaguars.
The rickety trolley would get four rods to serve as pillars and then the creative energies of a few guys would transform the humble trolley into the 'Chariot' for Lord Ganesha. So anyway, without digressing too much from the topic, lets get back to what the fun part about it was.
Every class had a group of guys who did this work. These Intellectuals put in their creative energies into creating a piece of art.
So these few guys were allowed freedoms. The entire week was bliss.
We were allowed to wake up late, bunk Suprabhatam and John's Daily Dose of Mindfuck. We could then have breakfast late. It was a fun, Godlike feeling to see everyone else scamper when the Second Bell rang, and we would be happily taking our breakfast to the terrace. Somehow, the Chitraannam and cocounut chutney seemed even more tasty then.
This went on for a full, blissful week and the trolleys were transformed beyond recognition.
Then it was the day of the Immersion.
Our chariots would be ready in a week and Ganesha statues installed in each of our chariots with Puja and stuff. Each class got a Ganesha. This was one of the only time we really noticed the statues. Have you ever wondered how Ganesha manages to go around on that poor little rat? No wonder its always hungry and munching on that laddoo forever!
Each class would take out their chariots and palaquins (with their Ganeshas in them) and take out a procession to the Mandir. Each class of 60 singing bhajans, banging the hell out of duffs, and talams clanging along with the cacophony. Now imagine, more than twenty such processions going along, shouting, screaming, breaking coconuts, and generally having a ball of a time.
The screams also had a character of their own. While there was the usual 'Ganapati Bappa Moriya, Aadha laddoo choriya', some creative batches like ours came up with some awesome, completely non-tacky versions like 'Ek Do Teen Chaar- Ganesha is our Superstar'. I know. Sad.
The best part was that the chariots were taken around the Kulwant Hall and kept 'linewise'. If we were lucky, the chariots would be on the Ladies side. This was the only time we could go there after attaining puberty (which it was assumed we all attained in Class 8). This would make us guys ecstatic and we would start behaving animatedly - talking loudly (in a 'grave' voice of course), laugh at stupid jokes to draw attention and take pictures that could be only described as, well, bizzare.
After the photographs and the Prasadam, it was time to take Ganesh on his journey back. This was a more relaxed affair, mixed with a blend of nostalgia. It seemed a little weird. I mean, you create this chariot, install a statue, do puja and stuff, and then throw it in the river? It seemed like all of our efforts were going down the drain.
When we reached Sai Gita shed, our Ganeshas were taken out from the chariots and taken inside the shed. I don't know why Sai Gita shed was chosen to immerse Ganesha. May be it was the whole 'elephant head-elephant head same pinch' thingy they had going. Our chariots felt empty and were dragged back into the hostel compound, ready to be stripped of all their glory and reduced to the sad life of a kitchen trolley.
We then took pictures with our chariots - wearing the costumes that we had to the procession - a wide collection of dresses from Satish Babu, our very own Manish Malhotra whose collections covered the gamut from bhangra to 'Band dress'. There was usually a special dinner in store for us.
The Immersion Day did not have study hours and if we were lucky, Prushty sir and his Oriya boys would show us a thrilling Jackie Chan thriller.
The next morning, we wake up listening to Gantasala on the PA system. We go to Suprabhatam, and then back to classes. Thing fell into place. The honeymoon was over.
Makes me wish Ganesh Chaturthi, like Dussehra was also celebrated for 10 days. Come to think of it, Ganesha handles the Education Department among the Gods - a pretty important one for students. He deserves it.
But anyway, on this day, hope you remember those times. Singing songs, pulling your chariot, and celebrating a festival with your friends.
Happy Ganesh Chaturthi !!