Mud Ganesha, Rasam Water

Yesterday, when Madan said “The mall is Kai’s favourite place in the word”, Kai yelled “No! The farm is my favourite place!” That’s one for the farm :)

I feel I have to “take dhrishti” of the farm…spread my fingers around it, burn red chillies and broomsticks, "buzz the name of God a hundred times”* and pray fervently to Ganesha, who must love the bananas and tamarind and custard apples that so abound, and ask that nothing untoward happen to this blessed land. That no illegal miner cast their eyes on the hill, that no developer comes anywhere near…

But hope has a way of coming around. It’s crazy how some people continue to sparkle, despite the mess of the Commonwealth Games, the anticipated hysteria over the Ayodhya verdict and the general pissing, spitting and corruption that is the state of affairs in India. And this time hope came around in the form of three men, Sumanth, Suresh and Jaishankar, who have started an NGO called VANAMITRA www.vanamitra.org

They specialize in wildlife rescue and awareness and their latest rescue has been of 3 leopard cubs that were handed back to the mother in 4 days flat thanks to aggressive searching by the VANAMITRA team. Totally beats having them stuck a zoo. We’re hoping to start a new series of workshops on wildlife awareness at Infinite Souls, which will be facilitated by VANAMITRA. So anyone who is interested, do get in touch.

But back to Ganesha. Don't you find the toxic painted Ganeshas abhorrent and aren't you shocked at how gigantic the community Ganeshas are growing? Almost as if they wish to challenge the Elephant God himself.

“Mine is bigger than yours.”

“See how great a Hindu I am, I have such a big one and it’s neon pink!”

“Mine is soooo big and I will make soooo much noise with my terrible PA system and faux-Hindu-Ganesha-disco-bhajans that you will be forced to either slash your wrists from despair or convert thanks to visual and auditory oppression.”


I long for the peace of a silent church or dargah.

Mooshika Vahana, Modaka hastha...

For Ganesh Chathurthi this year, Zui and Kai along with their grandfather made their very own Ganesha and Gowri. Nagamma collected some clay that they squished and messed around with. With mud up till their elbows and pleased as punch, they finally displayed 2 Ganeshas and a Gowri. Aala was the Master of Ceremonies. She got Nagaraj to decorate a space beneath the big Banyan tree. He made it beautiful and elephant-friendly with bunches of fresh tamarind leaves, hanging custard apples, young banana stems. Then we made kadabus on turmeric leaves and thus was spent our day.

Chamara karuna
Vilambitha sutra...

In the evening, we climbed up the hill to immerse Gowri and Ganesha in a rock pool. There we had a crisis, because the pool was a perfect biome, with tree-frog spawn, ferns, algae and tiny water plants, and Zui couldn’t bear to destroy this. And she was right, however ok the clay Ganesha and Gowri were, the accompanying kumkuma/haldi and karpura would definitely mess with this delicate pool.

Man, how do people live with zero carbon footprint? I'm so in awe.


All my attempts come to nought. In fact I should call this piece “Confessions of a Failed (but not lapsed) Green Activist”. By the time we came to the electricals, we couldn't afford the high price of solar lighting. My togri crop routinely get attacked, despite the chilli powder/neem oil spray. The peacocks love our no-pesticide tomatoes. Prudence still shits in the bedroom. My rainwater harvesting methods...hmmm...let's just say, they leave a lot to be desired.

On the expert advice of gardener Narasimha (who, one Christmas, spilt red enamel paint all over the hall making it more blood bath than Noel) I set about with pipes and buckets and filters to collect water off our really ancient roof with dried leaves strewn all over. End result: water the colour of rasam, redolent of rotting eucalyptus. It would be funny if it were not for my tragic attempts to explain the colour and odour to visitors who are shocked when they look in the commode or open a tap.

But we plod on. Let's see what happens to our cow shed/chicken coop efforts. Lord Ganesha, please be on our side. You did mess with our banana field after all.

...Vaamana roopa
Maheshwara Puthra
Sri Vigna Vinayaka
Paadha Namasthe

* Night of the Scorpion
I remember the night my mother was stung by a scorpion.
Ten hours of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison - flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.
The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.
With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made
his poison moved in Mother's blood, they said.
May he sit still, they said.
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world
against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh
of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites
to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.
My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.
- Nissim Ezekiel