Taken on the way to Panchgani. Nature has a way of giving you perspective.
It’s my first ‘day at work’ after my annual Pune visit. A student asked me this morning about whether I gained new insights. During my first few years of yoga teaching and practice, I could easily quantify what I had learned. Stuff like “headstand”, “an arm balance” and “did some intense core work”. Now it’s more difficult to describe. Maybe because now my focus is not so much on the number of asanas in my kitty. Now I like to work with what I have and refine it further. I like to simmer in known asanas so that I can teach them better – or rather, learn more from the asana.
So if I had to recap my month in Pune I like to think about sum total of all the experiences I had. I remember the rush to finish last minute assignments before leaving. I tried (unsuccessfully) to look for a substitute. My students had to contend with no teacher for a month. But it was an auspicious start.
I arrived in the days leading up to Ganesh Chaturthi, things were as bright and festive as always. Once I registered for my month I created a list of things to remember for all prospective students of RIMYI.
The teachers who have had the most impact on me are those who have encouraged me to trust my thought process. My Yoga Therapy professor did just that. I also wrote about how my practice changed during my Pune visit when a teacher told us to ignore the stretch.
In September I discovered an app called YourQuote and started dabbling in writing again. I also attended the Pune International Literature Festival as a writer for the first time. I checked for my book in the bookstalls, I signed books for many readers. Meet other writers was a dream. My friends came out to watch my session.
In September I hit an all-time high in my blog views. Titled “Why Am I Not Losing Weight?”, this blog resonated with many readers.
We’re getting ready for the festive season here as well. Diwali cleaning, de-cluttering, decorating…all this and much more in October.
A Pune visit is never complete without an Irani chai and wada pav. Go to FC Road for the best.
Faith is abstract. Its manifestation is concrete. Ganesh Chaturthi is a good time to witness faith.
In my friend’s house the festive season has already started. It starts with Ganesh Chaturthi. For the entire 5 days that the Ganesh idol sits in their house, they celebrate. People visit, good food is cooked, everyone laughs.
The house gets a face lift
enthusiastic dusting for every surface
the twinkle of the silver pooja-thali
bright new cushion-covers,
fresh flowers every day
the smell of incense wafting through the rooms.
aarti together in the evenings
From L-R : Parvati & Gauri. These statues have been in the family for generations. These statues along with their saris and jewels are carefully taken out of storage every year. They are dressed in all their finery in an elaborate ceremony. The oil lamps are lit. For the next three days the lamps are kept lit and morning & evening aartis are done without fail.
Ganesh departs to go back to Mount Kailash after 5 days (or 3 or 7). His mother and sister stay on as guests in your house. For three days. They are the harbingers of health, wealth and good luck. People believe it to be a great privilege to host Gauri and Parvati in their house for they bring with them the power to fulfill your innermost desires.
Can we soften and allow powers beyond us to manifest our innermost desires?
Here’s a blog from 2016 when I visited all the famous Ganesh pandals in Pune.
This is my fourth consecutive year coming to study at RIMYI. In previous years I’ve had the luxury to make lists and plan. This time I was caught in a whirlwind. I had to wrap up projects, attend a last minute Vedanta class, plan the quantum of assignments to work on this month, and so on and so forth. I was, of course, also trying to stuff myself with as many idlis and masala dosas as I could. Have to survive for a month after all.
I think all the frenzied activity of the last few days caught up with me last night. While I was finishing my packing I suddenly felt sick and threw up my lunch. My stomach settled down after that but I was in no position to eat and went to bed.
After a quick and simple breakfast of fresh steaming idlis (surprise!) this morning we drove to the airport. A short flight later I alighted in Pune.
Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra is special and I’ve been lucky to witness it for the last 3 years. As I got into the taxi I could hear the processions and feel the excitement in the air. The festivities will continue for the next few days and it’s great to be here this time of year. I couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious start to my month. Here’s to a wonderful month of growth, re-connection, beautiful discoveries and new friendships.
Fourth year in Pune for my trusted pink suitcase too.
Lord Ganesh would probably be the poster boy for Hindu mythology. I’ve rarely met a foreign yogi who hasn’t heard at least one legend about how he got the head of an elephant. I’ve rarely been to an Indian or an Indophile’s house which doesn’t have a picture or a statue of Ganesh-ji. I don’t profess to have more than a rudimentary knowledge of Hinduism and am not in the least iconoclastic. But I also have a beautiful statue of Ganesh in my house. One of my favorite pieces of jewellery is a gold Ganesh pendant that a friend of mine gave me when I was about to embark on an import journey in life (thanks Lakshmi).
I guess it was destiny for me to come to Maharashtra when the most special festival is going on. Ganesh Chaturti here is celebrated like Dusshera in Mysore. The festival has been immortalized in numerous Bollywood songs and last night I had the pleasure of visiting the 5 famous Ganesh mandals here in Pune. These are so famous in fact, that it is rumoured that Bollywood celebrities come all the way here to offer their prayers. Going to the old city and walking through the crowds to make your way to the Ganpatis is no easy feat, and I guess it was destiny once again that I had a group who was kind enough to think of me when they made their plan. Had it not been for Hariharan, Shivangi and Subbu I don’t think I would ever have had the chance to participate in the festivities.
We had a very capable and organized navigator. Hariharan did the groundwork. We had the names of the famous Ganapatis and the walking route printed out. We knew that it was going to be crowded, so we left our bags behind in the car and ventured out on foot. Don’t get too close to the venue to look for parking because you won’t find any. We parked on the other side of the Mula Mutha river and crossed the bridge. The area is cordoned off for vehicles.
Have to go back to this. I’ve heard there is a sound and light show here. Also, it looks very different from how it does in Bajirao Mastani. I will have to go back for a closer look.
The Ganapatis we wanted to visit were:
- Guruji Talim
- Tulsibaugh (we missed this one)
So the Ganapatis, in no particular order are:
The oldest Ganapati.
While here I want to make sure that I have as much vada pav and pav bhaji and other local fare, and in keeping with that we stopped at JumboKing for their famous Wada Pav Burger.
Mario Miranda on the wall.
Fortune tellers, old and new friends, phenomenal yoga teachers and amazing practice sessions…what else will Ganesh-ji bring my way during the rest of my Pune travels and in my life?
I’m a lover of stories (maybe a collector of stories?). The house I’m living in is located on Flight Lt Sudhir Pawar Road. I found out early that Sudhir Pawar was actually related to my landlady. He was her uncle. Once on a sortie, the plane malfunctioned and he crash landed. The government named the road on which he lived after him. Once upon a time there were several bungalows on this road, however now there are only two left, one of which is the one I’m staying in. The compound has 3 bungalows within it, and the grave of a fakir. That piqued my interest.
Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to my landlady’s father who is a retired architect. In his 80s now, he is bedridden but his mind is spry and alert. Deaf since the age of 17, he approached Morarji Desai for permission to travel abroad (in the 50s) to see if there were any doctors who could help him with his hearing. Morarji Desai provided 400 pounds and letters of references to top doctors in Austria to help him out. He set sail. While on a quest to find a cure for his hearing loss, he managed to get a job in London, rented a Viscount’s house, learned lip reading from nuns in Birmingham, travelled all over Europe and finally decided to come home to get married and look after his younger brothers. Still deaf, he decided on a final jaunt to Dubai for work before he came to India to settle down and start his own architecture firm.
So I decided to ask him about the fakir’s grave. “No no he doesn’t walk…he doesn’t go anywhere.”
“What?” I was puzzled.
“Yes, he doesn’t walk anymore. We’ve created a walkway for him and given him a house, so he doesn’t bother us. He stays there only.” So he was talking about the fakir.
The house he’s referring to is right behind the room which I’ve taken. There’s a tree under which the fakir lies. For obvious reasons I choose not to dwell on that right now. However, I will try and get a picture of that house and tree one of these days.
Ganesh Chaturti is a big deal in Maharashtra and today was one of the first holidays (besides Sunday). I realized this only last night and I got so excited when I realized last night that I could actually read all night if I wanted to. That’s exactly what I planned on doing, but stumbled upon ‘The Painted Veil’ on YouTube. I’m having issues putting the book down these days, and I was curious to see how they’ve done the movie.
I could hear ‘Ganpati bappa moriya!‘ as my hosts brought their Ganpati home and I went up later to see what they’ve done. Family members have been visiting all day and festivity is in the air. Tomorrow is the visarjan, where they will take the idol and submerge it the river. Good to be in Maharashtra at this time.