Day 1: As I enter the premises, I see a beautiful pandal with Bappa sitting in it comfortably. I am mesmerised by the image, few dupattas and beautiful colours of India have changed the entire look of the room. I am confused, is this the same hall in UK, where I have come so often or am I in India ? I see the hard-work that has gone in decorating the hall, the pandal and the efforts taken to create mini India, right here in UK. I touch the bricks to make sure I am mistaken in believing they are actual bricks. The Singhasan and the temple look so fantastic, so surreal. The crowd soon starts filling the hall, in all colours from India. Kids running around, ladies giggling and gents catching up. Just then the Aarti and Bhajans start, and the entire atmosphere is divine. Once again, I pinch myself to wake myself up from the dream. The dream that I am back home in India enjoying my favourite Ganapati-Utsav. Suddenly I see all kids gathered in one corner of the room. What are they doing? My curiosity takes me to that corner to find them playing in clay, trying to create their own little friend, Ganesha.
Then comes the time when hungry kids drag their parents to the prasad hall, while few others gather in the hall again to do the closing aarti.
The hot Dosa which was served in prasad that day was definitely worth the wait. And then we all return home to look forward to the next day. Day 2 of the festival was fun filled, little feet dancing and little minds making memories, memories that will last forever in spite of being miles away from my motherland.
From Mantra recitation to dances to yoga, these talented kids never fail to surprise us. And what is this that I see here... the energy created by these little ones is so strong that it drags everyone in the room to get
active and participate with them. And once again we pay our gratitude to Bappa and thank him for a wonderful day and seek his blessings with the closing Aarti before proceeding for the Marathi prasad. On this day, we enjoyed the Mumbai favourite vada-pav, jalebi , samosa and Pav-Bhaji. What a treat it has been in last 2 days. Day 3: And then comes the final day. The day when Bappa will bid us good-bye but not without showering his blessings upon us. I hear the dhols, really? I am really hearing the music of dhol, here in UK. Oh ,I can't believe how much I was missing this music. The sounds of it made my feet tap and get ready to dance. I get conscious for second about dancing on street on the music but then my mind is taken over by my love for the dhol and I dance my heart out, after ages. Amongst the crowd I see someone else also enjoying the music and learning the steps. Who is he? I am told he is the MP of Woking, Mr. Jonathan Lord.
And my heart fills with pride. The pride of being able to celebrate my festival, here in UK , in this style would not have been possible without the hardwork and dedication and devotion of people who are surrounding me.
Amidst the dance and masti, we once again do the final aarti of Bappa created in clay beautifully and say our goodbyes. All that I can hear is "Ganapathi Bappa moraya, agele baras tu jaldi aa".
As Bappa takes Samadhi in the lake, taking all our troubles with him and I see the clay melt down, I am reminded of what I have heard since childhood.
Mitti se bana hai, Sab mitti mein mil jayega,
Na Kuch le kar aaya tha na Kuch le kar jayega.
(You are made of earth, and will become part of earth one day,
You didn't bring anything to this world, nor would you take back something away)