Monthly Archives: August 2012
Top officials of insurance companies have their “fingers crossed” in the hope of landing the biggest accounts at Ganeshotsav. The city’s wealthiest mandal, GSB King’s Circle, has sought a cover of Rs 224 crore while Lalbaugcha Raja has trebled its policy from Rs 14 crore to Rs 45 crore.
The premium amount for such a deal would naturally run into several lakhs, an extremely profitable deal for a cover spanning 15-30 days.
Befitting its status as the wealthiest organizer in the city, the GSB Seva Mandal at King’s Circle has insured its celebration for Rs 224 crore. Senior-most trustee Satish Nayak says, “Last year, we took a cover of Rs 220 crore. This season, the figure has risen owing to the value of goldjewellery that adorns the deity.”
So sought after is the competition for the GSB account that the mandal had floated tenders for insurance companies. Around six of India’s leading firms responded with quotations and the mandal will announce a selection shortly. A senior official of New India Assurance says he is “crossing his fingers and is optimistic that the company will beat the competition”. “Ours may not be the lowest quote but it is the most comprehensive,” he says.
Nayak breaks down the component of the policy. “There is an all-risk cover of Rs 22.11 crore and a standard fire policy of Rs 1 crore. A public liability or third-party insurance of Rs 20 crore is included. The lion’s share of Rs 182 crore has been reserved for personal accident cover for 1,819 people, including volunteers, electricians and other labourers. That works out to roughly Rs 10 lakh per head,” he says. A small club in the playground where the mandal hosts its festivities has also been covered for Rs 35 lakh.
The GSB deity is installed for five days unlike the full 10 days that other sarvajanik mandals celebrate but even in this short span, its earnings outdo the rest. “Our visarjan will take place on September 23. Still, the insurance policy spans a duration of 15 days—from September 12 to 27, until the ornaments are safely deposited in bank,” says Nayak.
Over in Lalbaug, the Lalbaugcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal has trebled its insurance cover from Rs 14 crore to Rs 45 crore. New India Assurance has netted this deal. “We have raised the personal accident cover for every visitor from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 6.25 lakh. The premium for the entire month works out to Rs 10-11 lakh, which is not too high considering we receive lakhs of devotees,” says Lalbaug treasurer Rajendra Lanjwal.
- Mumbai Mandals want squares near pandals to be named after Ganesh (mylordganesha.wordpress.com)
A row of large statues of Ganesha, finely crafted and exuding an air of benevolence, fills one side of the tent that is home to 53-year-old Mularam and his family.
The statues are meant for sale ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi on September 19, but the family got a head start because the work is intricate and time-consuming. As Mularam’s wife Shanthi, 48, cooks lunch, their children, Suresh, 22, Sivani, 20, and 14-year-old twins Savitha and Mukesh provide finishing touches to the plaster of Paris statues. The head of the family is busy casting the mould.
“One sculpture takes at least five days to complete and sells for anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000,” says Suresh. “All of us work together for 10 to 12 hours each day to ensure that our statues are the best,” adds Savitha.
The family pays 3,000 as rent for the accommodation and hires a spray painting machine during peak season to make as many statues as possible. “Our total expenses are more than 10,000 per month so we are barely able to make ends meet,” says Mularam. “During the off-season we make small Krishna idols meant for interior decoration, priced from 100 to 2,000.”
Suresh says the family came to Chennai because there was no way to make a living in Jodhpur. “The desert has neither water nor employment for the poor,” he says. “We are hardy people but few people there appreciated our craft. At least we can make a living in Chennai.”
Mularam says the craft of sculpting was passed down through generations of his family. “It requires a lot of hard work and perseverance,” he says. “I used to work with clay earlier but plaster of Paris is more versatile. I can use the material to etch out even the slightest of details.”
The important thing is to get the texture of the mixture right, Mularam says. “When the plaster starts to form small beads on top of water, I know that the balance is correct,” he says.
Mularam says many customers contact him before Ganesh Chaturthi. “We hope to sell 15 idols this season. People don’t mind paying a little extra for beautiful Ganesha statues,” says Shanthi.
None of the children go to school and the craft does not come under the purview of government support programmes. “Who will pay for food if we leave our work and attend school?” asks Mukesh. “Neither my grandfather nor my father attended school. We are happy here and as long as customers appreciate our craft, we will continue making sculptures.”
- Ganesha idols in the making in Chennai (mylordganesha.com)
Following riot-like situation that gripped the city over a week ago, organisers of Ganpati celebrations are making efforts to ensure security for devotees ahead of Ganesh Chhaturti next month.
According to Girish Walawalkar, secretary of Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvaya Samiti (BSGSS), organisers are in talks with the police and BMC to hold a disaster management workshop for mandal workers on September 6 and 7.
“The climate has been tense over the last few days. We have therefore decided to introduce some security measures through this training, which is open for all mandal workers. While the police will hold training in one of their premises, BMC’s disaster-management team will conduct two workshops at its schools in Worli and Vile Parle,” Walawalkar said.
Mahesh Narvekar, chief officer of the disaster-management unit said, “We will impart first-response training to the mandal workers. This includes fire-fighting, CPR, first-aid, and crowd management among other things.
Last year we had held it in Worli – this year, organisers have requested that we hold a workshop in the suburbs as well.”
Walwalkar said given the recent communal climate, the number of trained volunteers, stationed at every mandal, will be beefed up.
“We are planning to post at least 10 ganasevaks in three shifts throughout the day till night at all mandals. Cameras are most likely to placed at the Ganesha mandal in Chowpatty at least,” Walawalkar added.
With the increasing contamination of water bodies, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has asked artisans to use clay and water-based colours instead of harmful materials and paints to make idols this Ganesh Chaturthi.
“The immersion of idols made of lead-based paint and plaster of Paris pollutes water bodies. This is why we have asked Chennaiites to buy idols made of raw clay and avoid immersing a painted idol in lakes on September 19,” said a senior TNPCB official.
According to the TNPCB estimates, nearly 7,000 idols are immersed in the Greater Chennai region every year. “This drastically increases the total dissolved solids (TDS) and the acid from the paint could damage the ecosystem,” he said.
Studies of water samples sourced from the area where the idols were immersed show a drastic increase in the content of heavy metals such as iron and copper, he said. Srinivasapuram-Pattinapakkam in south Chennai, Kasimedu fishing harbour area in north Chennai and the weigh bridge in Tiruvottiyur are some of the popular places for idol immersion in Chennai.
The board has also stipulated that idols should be taken 500 metres into the sea before being immersed.
M S Karthik Varshan, an idol-maker, said papier mache and gram flour are being used for idol-making this year. “I am using water colours to paint the idols,” said Varshan. According to him, there are nearly 25 varieties of popular models in demand during the season. “The season will begin in 10 days. There are a lot of manufacturers who make 100-200 idols every season,” he said.
- Ganesha idols in the making in Chennai (mylordganesha.com)
S. Saravana Kumar of Rajavalli Shanmugam Arts is a busy man, now that Vinayagar Chathurthi is here
Off the Ukkadam tank, in a dusty by-lane lined with godowns, is a room packed with colourful Ganesha idols. They stand on the floor, hundreds of them, in pink, yellow and green, with beetle eyes and golden necklaces. A few weeks from now, they will be worshipped on a pedestal in a household in Coimbatore, Pollachi or Mettupalayam by doting devotees. But for now, they will have to make do with S. Saravana Kumar, their creator. He sits amongst them, a paint brush in his hands as he speaks:
Every day, after school, I would come here to watch my father make kalimann bommais. He was an expert. I sometimes helped around, doing touch-ups and other simple tasks. I liked being here, liked what I saw and did. After class XII, I joined my father. Our company is called Rajavalli Shanmugam Arts. There are eight people working for us, most of them family members. We make clay and papier-mâché idols.
We work throughout the year. A few days after Vinayagar Chathurthi, we start making kolu bommais. It takes about 20 days to make each bommai. The clay is filled into a mould to give the idol form. It is left to dry for about two weeks, after which we apply a layer of chalk powder and adhesive on it. Once the idol dries, we paint it.
These days, we have to be extra careful when we work, as even a minor mishandling could damage the idol. But this was not the case in the past. We can sense a change in the clay — it is not what it used to be. Our hands tell us that it is polluted. We used to make clay idols four feet tall, but this is impossible now. The clay is not strong enough, and we can go only a little over two feet tall.
Not for my children
This year, the Public Works Department has imposed stringent conditions for taking clay from the tanks. I went through a lot of hassles for a task that was so simple. And I don’t earn much, which is why I employ family. So there is no way I would encourage my children to take after me. It’s a difficult life even now; imagine how it will be in the future.
I’m still doing this for the satisfaction I get when I see gods taking shape in my hands. People pray to my idols, garland them and pay their obeisance to them. I’m thankful to God for giving me this honour. It’s a tricky thing, you know, making clay idols. You need to apply your mind; it’s like meditation. If you let your thoughts stray while at work, the idol will give you away. But Ganesha has always been an exception. He has saved me many times; he never gives away my mistakes.
When I make idols for temples, I leave the task of painting the eyes to the end. Something happens when I paint them — I feel God is looking me in the eye. So I hold a mirror to the idol’s face and paint the eyes using the reflection as a guide.
Some people invite me for immersion functions during Chathurthi. But I do not like to see my idols drown. It makes me sad. I stay away from these events. But, it’s a cycle and I know it’s important that it runs smooth. I tell myself that an idol immersed in Coimbatore might become the raw material for a craftsman in Pollachi. I can put up with a lot of things in life. But if someone looks at my idols and says, “Idhenna, verum kalimann dhane” (this is only clay), I will be shattered. It is so much more.
- Ganesha idols in the making in Chennai (mylordganesha.com)
Breaking the glass ceiling for the first time in its history, the governing body of Ganpati mandals co-opted for six women on the committee. Affiliated mandals are expected to do so as well.
The president of the Bruhanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, Naresh Dahibawkar, said, “This move will bring greater transparency and professionalism to the functioning of the parent body of Ganpati mandals. Reservation for women is working well in the civic body and at the gram panchayat level. We even saw a woman as president of India, so I think it is time we did so too. Our women members are from Dongri, Lalbaug and Parel and these areas have a strong presence on the Ganeshotsav landscape.”
Among the co-opted members is Byculla resident Aruna Jaitpal, a Western Railway employee who incidentally had created a record in her previous posting. She was among the first three women cashiers to be appointed to the railway’s important cash and pay department. “Our job was to collect the cash that came from all parts of the city, count it and then deposit it in the bank. The role entails a lot of responsibility and I think it was my integrity that has helped me secure this prestigious post in the Samanvay Samiti today.”
Jaitpal had worked alongside Dahibawkar in Samanvay Samiti for many years and felt that the formal appointment of women would be a welcome change. “I suggested that not just the governing body, but each Ganpati mandal should appoint at least one woman. I am happy the board thought so too,” Jaitpal said.
For those enthusiasts wanting to take eco-friendly Ganeshotsav from mere coffee table discussions to actually making Ganesh idols, which are ecologically safe, software-professional-turned artist Mandar Marathe is holding workshops to make your own ‘green’ idols.
The three-session workshop is of three hours each over three days. On day 1 and 2, participants would make Ganesh idols. In the third session, they would paint the idol, as agap of at least two weeks is required for the idols to dry.
Aniket Joshi, a standard III student said that he could not make a very good idol last year, and so joined the first batch this year. He said, “My parents have agreed to install my idol this year.” His elder brother Abhishek, of class VIII student, is also at the workshop.
So is 73-year old Wing Commander (retd) Ramesh Jog, for whom the joy of creating with his hands was incomparable. Varsha Joshi, a teacher at Paranjape Nursery School, Kothrud, is also a student of Marathe’s painting classes.
Mandar Marathe, 38, said, “It is important to inculcate the values of preserving our environment in all. These Ganesh idols can be immersed in a bucket at home, as the soil (shadu) dissolves completely in water.” Marathe has been spreading the message of home immersion for over two years.