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An American celebrates Ganpati

Text: Matthew Schneeberger | Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
September 8, 2008
For three days straight, Sameer, who works on our office's maintenance staff, hadn't been himself. His hair, normally well-managed and slicked back, now sprouted in every direction. His usually wide, searching eyes were bloodshot and drooping. And, every so often, when he was supposed to be working, he'd settle into an office chair, feet on the table, and drift away.

"Sameer, what's the problem?" I asked.

"Ganpati festival," he said. "Three days, no sleeping. Full night working."

Though he was clearly exhausted, discussion of the upcoming Ganeshotsav roused him into action and he told me of the larger than life Ganpati idol that had been built in his locality. Sameer was overseer of the project.

While Sameer busily flipped through photos of the 15 foot high statue from different angles, I inwardly began to wonder: What is the big deal about Ganeshotsav? Why does the whole country get swept up in the festivities?

For me, the holiday meant unwelcome traffic jams and aural assaults in the form of firecrackers and drum lines.

But, determined to better understand, I agreed to attend the Wednesday morning procession at Charni Road, with a proper Maharashtrian family. I was to accompany my coworker Sanjay, his wife and their two young boys, who were heading towards town to meet the entire extended family, so that they all could enjoy the celebration together.

Image: The author dancing at the head of the Ganpati procession

Also read: Ganesh Festival 2008
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