Have you ever been through traffic jams caused by loud processions taking up more than half of the road and pounding music in your ears till you're sure you've gone completely deaf? I have, on several occasions, and I've cursed the tradition, the people who follow it, and the law enforcement officials for allowing it! That's why, when I was offered a chance to be part of a visarjan procession here, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to know how people enjoy themselves with abandon when they're causing so much of noise pollution and traffic nuisance.
What can I say? The rhythm gets to you! For about an hour I stood around awkwardly taking photographs because I didn't know anybody. I walked back and forth along the procession as it slowly made it's way towards the Chowpatty. Dhol and zhanza were the instruments of choice and what a rhythm they beat up! Poor things though, some of the percussionists were spraying themselves with Deep Heat while others were wearing gloves and bandages around their palms and arms. Nevertheless, they kept everybody thoroughly entertained and seeing people dance gave them more enthusiasm.
After about an hour of standing around and staring, I stood near the dhol tasha players and I actually started enjoying myself. The noise was deafening and I could hear my heart pounding, but instead of getting angry, I just felt like dancing! I guess the reason it's terrible when you're riding is, you get distracted from controlling your vehicle and that can be quite scary. We had a line of volunteers who held a rope up, barricading us from stepping out of half the road space. Although cars and bikes did face trouble, I don't think anybody was stuck for more than a minute. Although the sound of firecrackers added to the frenzy created by the dhol, I wish we hadn't burst them. That is really scary to people driving on the road.
Finally, I asked one of the zhanza players to lend me his pair of zhanzas and I clanked them till my arms hurt. I found a group of girls around my age, and started dancing with them. Amidst all that, free food was being distributed. I had a mango ice cream, wada pav and sugarcane juice. As time progressed, I think we needed better energy boosters (hint hint). The best part was seeing small kids sitting up on the truck which was carrying the Ganesh murtis. A few kids were making groups and dancing amongst us too. Everybody from aunties to kids of all ages were thoroughly enjoying themselves. I felt out of place because I didn't know anybody, but gradually I realized that many people were dancing alone and I lost my inhibitions.
I didn't go all the way to the Chowpatty because it gets too crowded there. Nevertheless, I got a taste of what it's like to be a part of a procession and why so many people take part in it. Do I approve of it? Only if it's done in a responsible manner with no fireworks and a few volunteers actively involved in controlling the space that the procession takes up on road. And of course, it should happen only once a year!