September 23, 2009

Mumbai : A link to modernity

Move over Gateway, the people of Mumbai have found a new icon to identify themselves with.
The Worli Sea Link .
I know it's been officially named the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, a.k.a the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, but everyone I've heard seems to just call it the Worli Sea Link. Let's leave the longer names for politicians, shall we?

And now, voices are being heard, asking for a change. It's time to put the Gateway of India out to pasture, they say. That symbol of colonial times has to give way to this proud new tribute to modern India.

Seen at night, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link takes on magical proportions. The network of cables spanning out from the tall towers gleam softly like something out of a fantasy. It is a wondrous thing indeed that such fragile-looking strands can actually hold the whole thing up.

So would I support such a sea change in symbolism?
Oh yes! I would... a hundred times over. The Gateway stood for another age, when the strength of India bowed to colonial powers. A stodgy old lady, not quite in touch with anything anymore .
The Worli Sea Link is a symbol of the new, rejuvenated, empowered Mumbai. A thing of beauty as well as engineering skill.

Plus, if I can see if it from almost 25 kms away, across half the length of this city, it damn well deserves to be the symbol of Mumbai!

September 4, 2009

Ganeshotsav : Mumbai's favourite festival

It's the morning after, and Mumbai's all danced out.
Yesterday was 'Anant Chaturdashi', the culmination of the 10-day long festival in honour of Ganesha, the elephant-headed , pot-bellied god. And Mumbai's favourite !
For Ganpati or Vinayaka , as he is also known, is the Remover of Obstacles, the Lord of Wisdom and Prosperity. A very powerful combination indeed.

Idols of Ganesha, made of clay or Plaster of Paris and exquisitely decorated, are installed and worshipped in homes with a lot of pujas and celebration .
Modaks, the favourite of Ganesha (and of everyone with a sweet-tooth), are almost always associated with this festival.
It's not just individual homes, whole localities pool in their resources and instal their Ganesha idol for the whole community. These idols are usually massive, and are installed in temporary structures called mandaps, which are ideally located at junctions and other vantage points.

The community mandaps are truly a sight to marvel at . Each one has a theme and is lavishly decorated.

After 10 days of worship, the idols are taken to a natural water-body, such as a river or sea, for immersion. This is a jubilant procession, filled with music and dancing. Loud, thumping drum-beats and cymbals give dancing feet to even the most lethargic.

They take the idols in the back of cars

or even on carts, but the sentiment and jubilation is the same.

Then there are the community idols... ! Huge, ponderous and awe-inspiring , these are carried on beautifully decorated trucks, accompanied by loud music and hundreds of worshippers dancing as if their feet will never tire!

Crowds of joyful celebrants dance for miles all the way to the immersion site.

Even heavy rain doesn't dim their enthusiasm one little bit! They only seem to dance even more energetically as they shout "pudchya varsha lavkar ya!" (which translates into "come early next year" ) to their beloved Ganpati Bappa.
Ganeshotsav may be celebrated all over India but nowhere with as much fervour as in Mumbai. It is Mumbai's own festival!

Take a look at this collection of photos from Times of India .

September 1, 2009

Onam: Festival of abundance

A profusion of flowers. Wrought into the most intricate of designs. It has to be Onam!

Onam, the festival dearest to a Keralite's heart, draws to its grand culmination tomorrow.
The legend behind it is interesting... a beloved king who is banished from his land, yet granted a boon . To return once every year to check whether his subjects are happy.
And for this annual visit, all of Kerala goes into an over-drive of feasting and family bonding .
Of friends and games and snake-boat races.
Of spruced up, squeaky clean homes, and lavishly decorated yards. For ten days the ladies and girls of the house let their artistic talents flow and the result is the exquisitely beautiful poo-kalam.

'Pookalam' or floral design, is so intrinsically a part of the Onam celebration that it is always a colourful festival. A brilliant splash of happy colour, welcoming every visitor to their home.
Petals, blooms and leaves in intricate designs, declaring the patience and artistry of the girls working on them. And obviously, the fun they've been having, decorating the pookalam together.
Yellow and deep orange marigolds, pure white jasmine, rich purple Gomphrena globosas, red rose petals, hibiscus, lantana ... these are some of the favourite flowers of choice.
Rich, vibrant, colourful, beautiful ... much like the land itself! And the festival it loves the most.

( Photos courtesy : George Joseph of CGH Earth )