The Ganpati festival lasts ten days and honors the elephant god, Ganesh, who is especially celebrated in the state where I am living. Yesterday was the last day, and a group of us went out to see the festivities in the center of the city. Drum groups proceed through the crowds with parade floats in between. Half the residents of Pune were out of their houses, on the crowded streets that were entirely closed off to vehicles today. Every vendor that could be out selling something was out selling it: corn, ice cream, jewelry, balloons and all kinds of festival decorations. Fighting to stay with the group (that stood out quite obviously from the crowd), we pushed through throngs of hundreds of people jumping and dancing to the drums and the loud EDM music blasting. Yells of “Ganpati bappa! Morya!” broke out every few minutes and the hundreds of people dancing through 90 degree heat left a strong scent in the air. Members of our group got tapped on the shoulder every few seconds, “M’am, one selfie please” and had phones constantly on us. I must have been in at least a hundred strangers’ selfies today.
Enjoying the festival crowds and parties is for those with male privilege- boys and men with bright colored powder on their faces who yell "hi!" and "one selfie please!" and take my photo as I pass by. I am not my own here and I generally oblige, but can't help but wonder if those photos will appear online with claims that I am their girlfriend. Privacy and individual space are not Indian priorities and the city has too many people for that to work anyway.
The city is the most trashed and fragrant it's been since I arrived, with litter and confetti lining every street. I crossed several barricades to get to school on the morning and got lost on the familiar route- all the city streets look different than normal. They have donned festival attire, dressed overnight by the handiwork of men on wooden poles.
We were told festival celebrations would go through the night and until 7am the next morning. I woke this morning to loud speakers still blasting, continual firecrackers and streets blocked off for parades. It's currently 2pm and they still are out with their music and dances.
Indians, expats and foreigners alike describe India as an experience of sensory overload- many glaring sounds and smells and bright colors and difficult sights. This festival was the epitome of all things you think when you think India. It is loud and wild and chaotic, but it is not exclusive. It is a party for everyone who chooses to join, it is a beautiful array of unified culture and society, dancing and playing through the night until their ears are deaf and they can dance no more.
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.