If you thought Ganesh Chaturti was a big deal for Mumbaiwallahs, think again. While Goa cannot match Mumbai in the sheer scale and size of the idols and celebrations, this little state certainly takes the festival a lot more seriously than Maharashtra.
Chovoth in Goa is like Diwali in Mumbai. It is a BIG deal. Shops and restaurants close down for 5-11 days as employees go home (often out-of-state) for the holidays. Offices have a skeletal staff, even buses stay off the road on the first day. Families converge on their villages or the homes where their deities are traditionally kept.
On immersion nights, the idols are taken out in procession to the nearby creeks or river. There, among fireworks and aratis at the edge of the water, everybody’s favourite elephant-God is bid adieu until next year.
I have such good memories of Chaturti. From the aratis, to the excitement of seeing those enormous idols in pandals along the way, to the throngs on the 11th day (the biggest day for Mumbai’s celebrations), it is a time for much excitement and celebration.
Goa does all this, too. Only the noise levels are startling, to put it midly.
Goa has this peculiar ‘culture’ of adding ginormous loudspeakers to every public celebration. Whether it is Carnival, the Queen’s Baton relay or Chaturti, every procession is accompanied by trucks carrying indescribably huge loudspeakers blaring music as they trundle past with excruciating slowness.
You may wonder what the big deal is, but when the windows of your house shake with the sound, it is time to worry (and be annoyed). I find this display of wealth (for lack of a better term) very insensitive and extremely intrusive. No civilised society should subject their citizens to these levels of noise. It is unacceptable.
Carnival is actually the worst of it all. As the parade moves slowly down the streets, the poor dancers all tired and hungry in their shimmering outfits, bystanders are blasted with sound and Goa’s idea of ‘entertainment’. Why can’t we get a little more creative? Is a little more quiet such a horrible notion?
As far as immersions go, whatever happened to pleasant processions with people singing along the way, cymbals clashing, feet moving with unison?
Last year, I actually heard a truck play Bollywood music as they took Lord Ganesha to the Panjim ferry. So much for piety.
This year, we’re not waiting around to be voluntarily assaulted by noise. We left at Carnival. We were taken by surprise by the Queen’s Baton Relay (which was a-w-f-u-l and such a bloody waste of public money) and suffered. We’re fleeing the immersion nights,though.
Last night, we packed up little M and all his things and took him to a quiet(er) place to sleep. In the distance, fireworks lit up the Betim skyline well past midnight, even through the rain. M jumped occasionally at the sudden noise, but being spared the loudspeakers, he slept a little better.
He is lucky. What about other children? Or is noise an issue not worth worrying about?