This year’s Ganesh festival was, for me, a backdrop to more prominent events. It was like the history in most historical fiction – not affecting the story much and, as you and the author both know, more of a gimmick than an essential story element. My niece was in hospital – that was a part of why I didn’t pay attention to it – but mostly, it didn’t loom large in my consciousness because it has, I think, become too prolific to be considered.
In the absence of a television habit, the Ganesh festival has, most years, helped me keep up with what music the youth of the nation is currently listening to. By ‘youth’ I don’t mean young people, but the kind of people who, if they were in the US or the UK, would be, as Dylan Moran put it, hunkering S-shapes in hoodies and large goggles and who, here in India, mainly spend their time going to gyms and striking homoerotic poses for each other.
It was during a Ganesh festival that I finally found out about Himmesh, the sensation of the year. Listening closely to his sound, I tried to trace his influences and found that, apart from Opera and classical strings, he has, cunningly and subtly, and quite possibly permanently, bound Indian film music with American and British club. His music essentially attempts to rid the mind of the listener of that niggling trifle – the lyrics. He combines the experimental aspect of the club sound with the current listener sensibilities prevalent in India into a form where the lyrics technically exist, but manage not to mean a thing. Also, his minimalist tendencies manage to bring all his songs together under one tune and one singer.
But, over the ten days of this year’s festival, Himmesh relinquished his hold on the populace, and most of what I heard in the last few days are remixes of old Marathi nursery rhymes. Which was odd, but nice.
The final night of the festival has always seemed somewhat odd to me, and this final night, returning home, I realised what it was. In the dark, I saw policemen, and buses plying, and traffic jams the kind of which one expects at 10.30 in the morning. The night was, in fact, a grotesque facsimile of the day – there is a solemn faux-anarchy in the way everything looks like it has been slapped together awkwardly, but still manages to proceed from one moment to the next without undue hassle. The roads are full with vehicles, except these are stationary, and on purpose at that. There are more pedestrians than vehicles, and the vehicles themselves are parked all over the road – the point being that those walking have the right of way. Most of the by-roads are empty except for stray clumps of people in private processions, shouting even though they are the only ones listening. In contrast to that, the major roads are packed, and people are having a ball, eating, drinking, dancing and pushing each other around to form crowds. There is an air of desperation and purpose here, as if something momentous is happening and all the accepted laws of behaviour have been suspended, but I wonder if tomorrow they won’t be slightly embarrassed at tonight having happened – like someone living as if they will die the next day but reaching the next day and finding out that they haven’t.
I think my discomfort with this is (apart from my distinct lack of religion) based in my thinking that it is no fun to go out and make merry all night when you’re allowed to. The rest of the year, coming back at three in the morning means not looking suspicious and staying far away from police patrol cars. And, of course, being alone in the enterprise. It just seems boring when everyone is doing it.
Coming back home was a refreshing return to normality. I arrived at my building to find the parking lot deserted, the gate closed and the watchman missing, pending recovery. After honking for a bit, I got down from my bike to open the gate and, like I have done twice before, I had entered and closed the gate before I realised that my bike was outside the gate, still running. It restored my faith in humanity, I tell you.
Current Music: The Stranglers – ‘Golden Brown’