Our Madam Mayor, Shrimati Kishori Pednekar, has the knack of hitting headlines and dominating news — often for the wrong reasons. Well, she did it again, by setting off alarm bells across Mumbai, when she confidently declared, “The third wave is not coming — it is here!” Where is it hiding? Hello! Madam, are you sure? Can you prove it? Or are you being over-cautious and a bit of a damp squib on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi, Maharashtra’s most loved festival?
According to Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the State Covid-19 task force, what we are seeing right now, is ‘The extension of the second wave’s receding tail…” Do we believe him and let out a sigh of relief, or pay attention to Madamji’s grim warning? Dr Joshi also added that the State’s positivity rate has not crossed 5%. This statistic, coming from him, has more credibility, madam. Even though cabinet minister Nitin Raut insists the third wave has already hit Nagpur. But then again, it is better to err on the side of caution, than turn reckless. Ganpati Bappa will understand and endorse the decision taken to cut back on public celebrations and adhere to official guidelines.
Some of the rules regarding immersions are not just sensible and practical, but overdue as well, Covid or no Covid. Restricting the number of devotees bidding farewell to our favourite deity will prevent overcrowding and drowning accidents on our beaches, to say nothing of reducing the chances of getting infected in dense gatherings. Trained volunteers assisting worshippers and taking charge of the immersions, makes perfect sense. Restricting the size of sarvajanik murtis also makes sense, so let’s not quibble for the sake of quibbling. Madam Mayor has coined a slogan — ‘Mera Ghar, Mera Bappa’, urging people to stay home during the festival. She herself will not budge out of her grand mayoral mansion, she claims. In principle, this sounds good, but imagine the plight of families staying put at home instead of celebrating Ganesh Utsav as a community festival. Unavoidable? Perhaps. But it is also a sad comment on our lack of discipline when it comes to collective responsibility. Give citizens an inch and they grab a yard — safety be damned. Look at the daily snapshots of shoppers in markets like Dadar — no masks, no social distancing, no awareness.
Of course, so many of us will miss our much looked forward to darshans at beautifully decorated pandals across the city. I, for one, have been visiting Lalbaugcha Raja for decades, along with my children. It has always been the one annual ritual we don’t miss. Last year presented a zero option scenario, and we’d hoped we’d be able to make our annual trek this year. Just being in the majestic presence of the Raja is enough for devotees — that feeling stays with them for the entire year. Like with all else that has changed, so has Ganesh Utsav. But faith is not daunted by Covid, and the bhakti in the hearts of Bappa’s believers will remain undiminished this year as well — darshan or no darshan.
God forbid, but if a version of the much-feared third wave does hit us, I like to believe the city is far better prepped this time. Even though my heart does go out to over-stressed school kids and their over-worked mothers coping with the torture called ‘home schooling’, I am with the government about its reluctance to open schools in a hurry. Our young ones are truly deprived and frustrated sitting in front of screens, writing exam papers — but what is the alternative? Our kids are not vaccinated. We really don’t know how they could be affected and when. Talk of new, deadly variants is scary enough. It’s best to go the extra mile and postpone the opening of schools rather than deal with the consequences of decisions taken hastily, just for the convenience of parents and their wards. We are in this together — teachers and principals, students and parents — everyone is harrowed. Let us learn from the example of other countries — those that opened up early only to shut again. I’m sure that would be far more distressing and disorienting to students in the long run.
I am looking forward to celebrating Ganesh Utsav, despite the restrictions. We can still enjoy our modaks and have them! So, let’s not dampen our spirits as Ganeshji arrives to bless us all. Greet him with love and enthusiasm, respect Covid-19 protocols during the 10-day celebrations without feeling bogged down. We can perform beautiful aartis at home and lustily chant ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya… pudhchhya varshi lavkar ya…” The precious gift of life we enjoy and often take for granted, must be cherished at all times. Madam Mayor, we hope you are hopelessly off the mark about the third wave and will be forced to eat your words while we gorge on ukadiche modak. Happy Ganesh Utsav, readers.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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