Ganesh Chaturthi through Anjali’s eyes[This entry wins the joint 1st prize for the creative story writing contest]
Anjali was up early, awoken by the incessant clanging of temple bells. She lay on her mat, staring at the tin roof of the little shanty which was her home. The past ten months had been harrowing for the family. She was too young to fully comprehend the implications of the tragedy that had struck them, but old enough to know that their life had changed forever. Tears silently trickled from the corners of her eyes as she stared into nothingness, remembering that fateful day when a faceless stranger had shattered the normalcy of their middle-class lives. The sound of vessels hitting the floor in the makeshift kitchen, in her tiny home, rudely roused her from her unconscious thoughts. She could hear Ai cursing, as she always did, when stacking vessels on the rickety rack. Baba had promised to fix it someday, but that day would perhaps never come. For he now lay on their only cot, paralyzed and unable to move or talk - a victim of a hit and run accident.
The sound of the bells had now reached a crescendo, and a strong smell of incense wafted through the air. It brought back memories of the festive look her home had worn this time last year. An involuntary smile touched Anjali's lips as she recalled assisting Ai with the rangoli, while Baba strung colourful streamers at the entrance. At her insistence, he had also brought home a string of fairy lights. She recalled strutting around in a new dress, with matching glass bangles – lots of them. And thought of the different prasad Aji had prepared - laddoos and karanji, sheera and of course her favourite coconut-filled ukadiche modaks. She remembered being certain that Ganpati Bappa would find her home to be the loveliest among the homes of all her friends. Most vividly, she remembered that Baba had brought home a Ganesha statue, not a big one, but definitely a beautiful one. He had promised to bring a huge one this year, but destiny had willed something else…
The feeling of despondency at the turn of events was ominous, but life had to go on. The entire day went by uneventful.
It was the sound of the evening aarti and chants of ganpati bappa moriya that once again stirred inexplicable emotions within Anjali. Unable to control her welling tears, she ran out of her home, in search of some peace. She found herself instinctively heading towards the temple. Hundreds of people milled around her, but she strode on, as though driven by a purpose. "…deva ho deva ganpati deva mangalam ganesham...vighna vinashak jan sukh dayak… mangalam…" reverberated in the air as she entered the inner sanctum at the temple. She stood in silence, even as the chants and the singing gained momentum. Devotees brushed past her, carrying their offerings of betel leaves and nuts, fruits, sweets and coconuts, but she simply stood, staring at Vinayka. She felt inadequate; she had nothing but a prayer to offer to the vighna vinashak. She muttered the prayer under her breath, "make baba himself again… please make baba fine…" and suddenly the tears could be held no longer. Overwhelmed by helplessness, she reached out for the modak prasad, and hastily ran towards home.
She hesitated at the doorway, before tiptoeing to where her father slept, the modak still clutched tightly in her fist. "Baba" she heard herself whisper, and the frail man laboriously turned his eyes towards her. She stretched her arm out and opened her fist. "See what I brought for you". The now crumbled modak fell on his arm. She reached down to pick up the crumbs, when she sensed a movement on the bed. Her mouth formed a silent "O" as she watched her father's hand slowly rise and reach for hers.
This is my entry for the contest on Ganesh Chaturthi.