Short Stories >> Yugantar >> Birth of Ganesh (GaneshJanam)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Varied people had gathered at Sunita's mother's house. Incense sticks and dhoop were lit in one corner of the room. All the furniture from the room had been removed and dhurries and carpets were spread on the floor. Many women and a few men were seen seated on these. There was a chanting of Jai Ganesh...Shankar...Parvati...Mahadev! Everybody was eyeing the corner of the incense sticks and were bowing down with folded hands. A half-inch Ganesh idol, wrapped in a green-yellow cloth was placed in a silver plate which was kept on a low stool that was covered with a red cloth. There was yellow handkerchief spread before the low stool which was full of coins and currency notes offered by the devotees.
Sunita's mother, clad in a white sari and a tikka on her forehead, sat before the idol, her face glowing with devotion and trust. It appeared as if not just her gaze but her breathe too was fixed on it. An old lady, swaying to the devotional chanting and clapping was shouting,
"The Lord has come into our house
We are fortunate
We are happy..."
A youngster, sitting next to her, quietened her and started singing louder, "My beloved has come home today..."
The clapping and swaying of the devotees stopped abruptly. The magic in this song sung by Jyotika Rai had captured everyone. Sunita's mother's eyes were closed and tears were flowing down her cheeks...
As the song got over, the devotees standing outside the door, rushed inside the house. As Mooli stood up, everybody's gaze fell on her stout and fair body and the diamond shining on her. A voice was heard, "Those who have finished taking Darshan may please move out so that the others can get some space..."
Little Sunita told her friend, "Dalli, this is called Democracy".
Mridula controlled her laughter and told her in the ear, "Mooli aunty's hip moves first, then her leg, and then another..."
Sunita said, "Stop laughing, mother will scold you".
The chanting had stopped as the crowd gathered. Their perfumes had overshadowed the fragrance of the incense sticks. Sunita's mother lighted around eight to ten more incense sticks and began chanting again. A lady among the crowd whose arms were full of shining gold bangles, shifted her fat body towards the stool, extending her arm said, "Please show me too the Ganesh idol so that I can take a Darshan personally".
Somebody told her, "First you please sit down. God does not give Darshan to a standing wooden plank".
As the fat woman plonked down Sunita and Mridula laughed and ran out.
With great respect Sunita's mother brought forward before the fat woman, the piece of coconut wrapped up in a shining Zari (gold lace) cloth. She too moved a little closer. Pointing towards the small twig at the end of the coconut she said, "The trunk of Ganesh that you see now, has grown even today. Yesterday it was smaller. Listen Hira's mother, you had seen it yesterday, isn't it?" She shouted at Hira's mother, sitting at the far end of the room. Hira's mother then moved other women and came closer towards the idol. Keeping a hand on her cheek she said, "Oh Sunita's mother, God himself has come to your house. I bow down to Lord Ganesh! And you still keep asking for a son!"
The woman with shining gold bangles extended her trembling hands and holding the piece of coconut wrapped up in a Zari cloth, kept looking in shock at the idol, then at Sunita's mother and again at Hira's mother. She then said, "Who can know God's plans! Who can know the secrets of the Gods! Oh my God! Oh my God! This is the Infinite kingdom of God!"
Two young girls also slipped forward and took Ganesh in their hands. Sunita's mother started showing then too quite excitedly, "Look, this the trunk and this quarter inch looks like Ganesh's fat stomach. And see these legs..."
One youngster asked, "Why are the two legs joined?"
This was answered by Hira's mother, "Ganesh is still being born. As the idol gradually keeps growing, the legs too will be seen separated".
Another young lady said, "Dadi, if you don't mind, I may say something. To me it appears as a baby- coconut. This one is hardly three quarters of an inch bigger than the usual..."
"This is known as an atheist" shouted an old woman. "If today's youngsters had some faith then why would Ganesh be born here..."
The first youngster pinched the second youngster and said, "Keep quiet Jamni. They will boo boo you".
But the boo boo had already begun on hearing the name Jamni. Sunita's mother turned pale but when she realised that everybody had pounced upon Jamni only then she took a sigh of relief. A lady said, "I saw it yesterday also. Today he has grown double the size..."
Another taunted, "Are you also seeing it as a baby-coconut?"
"No...No. I don't keep such atheist thoughts. This is actually a real Ganesh's birth. A stone idol too is worshipped, and this one is a..."
After this the gossip grew.... This reincarnation...That incarnation...
Hira's mother said, "Hey Jamuna, you spread this idea that it is a baby-coconut, then can you tell us how does it keep growing?"
This was a riddle that even Jamuna couldn't solve. It was obvious from her face that there was some confusion within her. She slowly asked, "Since how many days has this been growing?"
"Oh sister Jamuna, it has been five full days. Above all, He has blessed our home after many conditions...First day I dreamt that Ganesh Maharaj himself is standing over my head, telling me, "You are fasting since yesterday. Now get up and cook something for me. I am hungry". I got up but the idol disappeared. The same dream again on the next day. Then I told him "Why don't you manifest yourself. I am always your slave" Again he disappeared. Ultimately, on the third day he said, "I shall take birth in your house". I pleaded with him," My husband is in heaven. How will you be born at my place?" He laughed and said, "My birth will be very effortless". When I woke up, I realised that I was sweating all over. Lord Ganesh's laughter was ringing in my ears. Suddenly I noticed a coconut. As I broke it into two, I realised that the trunk had appeared from below the coconut. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see this Miracle. I got up, bathed it and wrapped it in a Zari cloth...I only told the neighbourhood that Ganesh is born in my house, but the entire city came to know of it, and that is also His Miracle..."
The whole assembly began chanting praises of the Lord.
But Jamni asked, "You bathe this little baby - coconut every day...? Perhaps this piece of coconut is growing due to the water..."
To say such a thing amidst the chanting of the crowds required tremendous courage and that could be seen from Jamni's sweat on her forehead. All the women began criticizing Jamuna.Her friend took her out. She pressed her hand and said, "One does not say such things at religious gatherings. You are really crazy..."
Jamni also said in a challenging way, "You just watch! They will surely immerse it into the sea. And then you tell me".
The little Sunita heard their talk and repeated word by word to her mother. Pursing her lips, mother said, "She might have to immerse herself in the ocean!"
The crowd dispersed. Sunita's mother spent the entire night tossing and turning. Every now and then she could hear Jamni's words. She told herself, "If Jamni was right then what about all the others? Were they blind?" But inspite of all these arguments her trust was not as strong as during the last five days.
The next morning Sunita shouted, bringing the newspaper to her mother, "Mummy, Ganesh has made us famous. It has appeared in the newspapers also that Ganesh is born in our house and today there will be many people coming for Darshan. Just see how much money will be pouring in today..."
Sunita's mother got up and sat on the white dhurrie. Sunita shook her and said, "Just watch, today there will be journalists who will come and take your pictures. Perhaps even the T.V people...Oh mummy, you are great..."
But the same scene kept circling before mother's eyes -what Jamuna had said while leaving. Now she could actually see the idol as a piece of coconut. When Sunita came and said, "Look down mummy, so many people are coming to our house!" Then her mother was jolted, and she stood up. Today many people had come and gone in her house but none of them noticed any trust or any happiness or tears in her eyes. She kept sitting, with eyes closed, like an unexcited and weak human being.
After seven days, when the idol had not grown even a bit, but on the contrary some soft coconut hair started appearing on it, then Sunita's mother herself started walking towards the sea very early in the morning, hiding the idol in her arms. For a moment a thought came to her that if even today more people came to her house, what will she tell them How will she face them? "Why don't I drown myself..."
But when the waves came lashing and started surrounding her legs then Sunita's mother did not throw herself in but only immersed the idol into the sea...
- Translated by Arun Babani