Sunday, 18 September 2011

Dunking Ganesha!

Last week Tom and I visited the famous, most popular Ganpati Mandal, in the centre of the city, Laxmi Road. We left the house at 9pm and biked the 20 minutes to the centre of town. As we got nearer and nearer to Laxmi Road, the more and more people there were around.

The road that led to Laxmi was closed by the police, so we had to drive about a mile away from it and walk back through the crowds of people towards it. The closer we got in, the more people there were! It was crazy, there must've been at least 200,000 people squeezed into the small streets that led up to the Mandal. Practically down every side street, there was another Mandal. I wanted to go and see them all, but the crowd kind of dictated that we kept moving forwards toward the main one.

At every crossroad there were police who were controlling the flow of people with a long length of rope. This meant that as we were stopped, waiting to be let further down the street, more and more people were backing up behind us and as soon as the police lifted the rope, there was a massive surge forwards and I was nearly swept off my feet! It was a bit scary!

After taking about an hour to walk down a street that should normally only take 3 minutes to walk down, we finally reached the Mandal. It was humongous! It wasn’t just some corrugated metal shelter that had been erected for the event, it was a whole building! It looked like it was made of cardboard and was painted and decorated with lights. It was amazing! It even had huge elaborate chandeliers inside and the large Ganesha statue looked so fabulous inside!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop to look at it for very long as the crowd was so huge and we were just sort of getting swept away past it. Tom did manage to get a few pictures of it for me though.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Ganpati Bappa Moriya!

At the moment it is Ganpati Festival which is a festival that celebrates the Hindu God of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune, Ganesha and runs for 10 days from the 1st September. All over the city within people’s homes, are shrines beautifully decorated with lights and flowers dedicated to him. The main focus of the shrine is a special Ganesha statue (traditionally made of clay) that sits in the middle. The statue is treated as a guest of honour for the duration of the festival and it is worshipped daily and offered gifts of delicious food, flowers, sweets and fruits.

All over the city, there are huge themed Mandals that have been erected for the festival. Some of them are amazing, with huge fibreglass figures in them. One near where I work has a massive fire pit in the middle of the floor where, during worship, ghee and curd is thrown into it. There are some specific mandals, where it is claimed that your wishes come true and people travel for mile to, just to worship there. Apparently, a big famous one in Mumbai had a 12 hour queue for people wanting to get up close to it.

Huge Mandal near my work with a fire pit in the middle. The group of people sitting
on the floor are sitting around it.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

New Toy!

So, after leaving me alone in India for two weeks whilst he went back to the UK, Tom returned on Monday. It was brilliant to see him and I really missed him, but I was also very excited he was back because he brought my birthday present with him - a new camera!

It’s a red Pentax K-r and amazing! I love it! I’ve never had a DSLR before and I’m really excited to use it! However it has so many settings and controls, it’s going to take me an age to learn what each one does!

Watch this space for future pictures that I take with it! Hopefully they will be good!

Camera with wicked new camera bag!

Top view.

Front view.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Dahi Handi

On the 22nd August it was Janmashtami , commonly known in Maharashtra as Dahi Handi, which is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of the Hindu God Krishna.

The festival is celebrated with an event where large groups of people, usually young men and boys called Govindas climb up each other to create a human pyramid in order to reach and break the Handi (clay pot) which is full of buttermilk and is hung up high above the ground. There is usually a huge amount of prize money to be won and practically every year someone dies or is seriously hurt when falling from the pyramid.

All over the city, many Handi’s were hung and lots of groups of Govinda’s travelled around as many as they could in order to win lots of money.


I had been invited away for the weekend to a place called Panchgani, which is about 3 hours away from Pune, by a group of people that I know through my volunteer work at DGS. There was Anurag and Sharish, (volunteers for Wake Up Pune), Annie (Susannah’s housemate) Bradley, Liam and Josephine (all students from Canada studying in India and friend’s of Annie), we were later joined by Joe (a previous DGS volunteer who now works for an English volunteer company Development In Action).

On the Saturday, we all met at Swargate bus station and boarded the 5.45pm bus to Mahabaleshwar (Panchgani was on the same route).

The bus ride was long and very bumpy and by the time we arrived at our destination it was 9pm and very dark. The bonus was though that the whole journey only cost us 109 rupees (Less than £2)!

Panchgani is a small typical Indian town with one main road that has shops and a few restaurants on. As we were all starving, we stopped at one of the restaurants and ordered loads of Indian dishes to share. It was actually really delicious food; however, Liam did chip one of his teeth on a lump of glass that he found in his food! Oops!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Mixing with the stars (if you know who he is)

Susannah (friend from Deep Griha Society) had heard that one of her favourite pop stars from the UK -Jay Sean, was going to visit a friend’s charity, Sahara Aalhad, the other side of Pune and she really wanted to go. I was persuaded to come along with her even though I didn’t really know who he was and only vaguely knew one of his songs. As we didn’t really know how to get to the charity, Paul (a volunteer for Wake Up Pune) kindly offered to come with us and show us the way.

‘Sahara Aalhad is a 28 year old organisation whose mission is to empower people facing difficult situations due to substance use and HIV/AIDS. It has implemented a range of strategies to empower people, strengthen communities, to encourage safer behaviours and to aid in the reintegration of people into society. It has 36 projects most of which address substance use and HIV/AIDS and is run almost entirely by former substance users and PLHA.’

Sahara Aalhad is also a beneficiary of ‘Keep a Child Alive’ which is a charity that provides ‘life-saving AIDS treatment, care, nutrition, support services and love to children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India by directly engaging the global public in the fight against AIDS.’