Ever since childhood, I have been fond of God even though I am not particularly religious.
As a child, my favorite Goddess was Saraswati. Fasting for the Saraswati Puja every year used to be very exciting. It hardly had a religious connotation. I would get to wear a sari, have yummy narkel kul and topa kul (perhaps called Jujube fruit in English), and use doat- kolom to write the Saraswati mantra on coconut leaf. The best thing about Saraswati puja was that by 8 am the puja would be completed and so the fasting ended too! We could have as much kul as we wanted along with sweets galore. And yes, we were not supposed to study on Saraswati Puja...one more reason why that day was extra-special :). Goddess Saraswati has a veena (multi-string instrument) in her hand. Since I love music, I was automatically her fan.
Next, I was mesmerized by Jesus Christ. This may be the impact of spending too many years in a missionary school and college. But there is a certain aura about Christ that appeals to me all the time. Besides, churches and chapels have a calming effect which I enjoy. In my teens, I would buy pictures of Christ, as I would buy of Sachin Tendulkar and Salman Khan. I loved wearing a cross round my neck too. Jesus is symbolic of true love, peace, and compassion.
Thirdly, of course Loknath Baba. I learned about him from my father when I was in Class IV, I think. In Class VII, during my P.T class, one day, my sports shoes were not washed. I had completely forgotten to clean them the night before. In the morning, all I could do was paint some chalk on the unruly pair. It was almost like applying face powder on a black shoe. Our teachers were extremely strict when it came to snow-white sports shoes. I was very scared. When my teacher came for inspection, we were all standing in a row in ‘attention’ position. The girl standing next to me had dirty shoes and was sent for detention. I had kept my eyes shut and was constantly praying to Loknath Baba to save me J. And yes, it was a miracle! The teacher did not notice my unwashed shoes! She moved on to the end of the line and caught two more girls. Ever since that day, Loknath Baba is a family member. He didn’t come to my rescue during my Maths exams though! He asked me to help myself :p.
I don’t know how and when Ganesha happened. It certainly has a Mumbai connection. In Kolkata, in our puja room, my mother has several Ganesha idols. My favorite is a pristine white Ganpati. Mom usually drapes a green or golden silk scarf around him. He looks simple, yet gorgeous. He used to be pampered the most during Poila Boishakh (Bengali New Year) celebrations at home.
After shifting to Mumbai, I witnessed a lot more celebrations around Ganeshji compared to Kolkata. Today being the final Ganpati visarjan day (Immersion ceremony), I thought of writing this post. My fondness for Ganesha has grown a lot after I moved to Mumbai. Ganesha has an endearing personality and is more like a friend than God. He always seems so content with himself, perhaps that is the trait I admire the most. In my ex-office, there is a very elegant and cute little Ganpati that brightens our workplace. For years, I loved offering flowers to that Ganpati every morning. Simple things bring such unprecedented joy! After I left IBM, I miss that. But I know my friend Ganesha will always be by my side.
Happy Ganpati to everyone!