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A reunion with the past, and with Bappa

Members of the Shashtri Nagar mandal in Goregaon (W) with some of those who returned to celebrate (in maroon scarves). — PHOTO: VIJAY BATE

Members of the Shashtri Nagar mandal in Goregaon (W) with some of those who returned to celebrate (in maroon scarves). — PHOTO: VIJAY BATE  

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Goregaon mandal reaches out to past residents for Golden Jubilee festivities

The Ganesh festival in its modern form isn’t a new one; there are mandals in the State with more than a century behind them. So Goregaon’s Shastri Nagar Sarvajanik Shree Ganeshotsav Mandal’s golden jubilee celebration isn’t particularly remarkable for its age alone. What is worth noting is the way they have chosen to celebrate the milestone.

This year, the organising team decided they would try and reach everyone who had ever stayed there over the last 49 years and invite them to come celebrate the festival with the 1,200 families who currently reside in the 21 housing societies inside the complex. Bombay is a complex city, and people move on and out, seeking neighbourhoods more to their preference, proximity to their jobs or their children’s schools or colleges and so on. Many would have moved out of the city altogether and even out of the country. So, just getting in touch with the colony’s former residents was a rather large task.

Pradeep Gawde, who is currently president of the mandal, and has been a resident right through the organisation’s history — he was eight years old when the first celebration was organised — told The Hindu that the team visited each building, trying to get information about past residents, then a huge number of emails and phone calls. The current residents got into the spirit of it, and used their personal networks to reach out to past neighbours as well.

And, finally, all the efforts bore fruit, with at least 40 families (so far) having come in to join the festivities. Many of them have moved to other areas of the metropolis, so it wasn’t that much of a journey for them to come and bask in nostalgia.

Mr. Gawde said all the visitors and their families were being hosted by the current residents. “We are not celebrating the festival alone,” he said, “we are celebrating closeness and bonding.”

The mandal decided to triple the budget this year, setting aside Rs. 18 lakh for the festivities. (It’s worth noting that back in 1980, the mandal’s balance sheet was Rs. 3,000.) Some of the funds have gone in to buy mementos for the visitors: miniature Ganapati idols and specially-made shawls were presented to them.

They are also mindful of security, and have allotted money for around-the-clock security and CCTV surveillance. Even so, the organisation likes to see itself as a responsible one, using the proceeds each year on philanthropic work. Mr. Gawde said, “We have asked people not to get flowers but instead get notebooks and pencils which will be donated to poor students in the vicinity. We have also lined up three medical camps for the benefit of the residents and local citizens.”

And the visitors are all very happy to be back, if only briefly.

“It is a special feeling to be here. The whole nostalgia comes out. I was very happy to meet the people who have come,” said Anil Punjabi who moved out in 1985 and now resides in Malad East.

Some came in from the Gulf. Prakash Rajappan, who left Shastri Nagar in 1998, and now lives in Qatar, has come with his wife and son. Prashad Shetty, who moved out in 2006, has flown in from Dubai with his wife and daughter. Shraddha Patankar, now Mrs. Gawankar, who left in 1998, has come from Dubai. Alvin Fernandez, who moved out in 1988, is due to arrive from Dubai.

Yogesh Wadke, whose late father was the main organiser in the initial years, does not live there now. “As a child I saw this area as a cluster of four-storied MHADA flats where government employees stayed on rent,” he says. “Now high-rises have come up in redevelopment. But the bonding we shared still remains the same... Though many people have moved out in past years, and our colony has changed beyond recognition, the spirit of the boys [who organise the celebration] has remained the same, very high. Ganapati is the only thread that binds us together even today.”

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 4:08:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/A-reunion-with-the-past-and-with-Bappa/article14628908.ece

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