I landed in Mumbai during the rains. Having lived in Bangalore all my life, I am used to heavy rains. However, rains coupled with dirt, muck, slush and hoards of people was a complete new experience. Regardless of this, one of the things that I really admired about Mumbai was their enthusiasm for celebrating various festivals. The festive season started with Rakshabandhan in August, and went on till Diwali in October or November.
During the monsoons just like the rest of the country, this city also celebrates Janmashthami. However, the highlight of this festival in Mumbai is the breaking of the famous Dahi Handi. The breaking of the dahi handi or the pot of curd hung high up in the air is a big attraction every year in Mumbai. There are competitions arranged each year with prize money of over lakh rupees. Troops train for months before the festival and compete fiercely to break this pot of curd hanging mid air. However, my experience of these competitions is limited to seeing pictures in the newspaper and I have only seen the breaking of the local neighborhood handis. And what an absolutely lovely experience this is!!
We lived at Prabha Devi. Arpita and me. Watching the local people celebrate the festival in this area was a new experience all together. Local societies have groups and they start dancing on the roads the previous night. The whole area is filled with the song “Govinda Aal Re” on Janmashthami with people dancing and celabrating. The first time I saw it, I was surprised at watching people come together and celebrate on the roads. Usually in Bangalore, people just celebrate festivals in their respective houses but here everyone was out on the roads. The music and dance started at nine and went on till twelve midnight at which time the trained troop arranged themselves in the pyramid formation to brake the dahi handi. As August is usually when the monsoons are on in Mumbai, this entire celebration happens in the rains. Arpi and I must have been the only ones wearing jackets and carrying umbrellas to avoid the rain. Everyone else, men, women and children, old and young were openly dancing in the rain with absolutely no inhibitions and having a blast. For two consecutive years, we went to watch the breaking of the Dahi Handi. But we never danced with them. Years of living in Bangalore had made us shy to dance on the roads.J After these two years, we moved houses and I missed out on watching the festival.
Now, sitting in Gurgaon, with no trace of Janmashthami celebrations here, I realized what fun Mumbai was and how much I actually miss the vibrant city.