The biggest birthday party in the history of the world!

Well, maybe not. By some fortuitous coincidence, the 29th of September happened to be the last day of Ganesh Chaturthi, which is the festival’s biggest day of celebration (Ananta Chaturdashi). Thousands and thousands of people flock to Chowpatty beach and other places along the coast of Mumbai to immerse the idols of Ganesha they have been honoring for the last 10 days in celebration of his birth. Basically the entire city closes the shop windows and everyone goes out into the street, dancing and playing music, with trucks and wagons parading the idols through the streets until they make it to the water. A city already churning with movement and noise and color becomes even more chaotic and stimulating. Of course I had to participate!

The 29th of September, today, is my final full day in Mumbai. It’s also my birthday. So it was simple enough to pretend that all the festivities and celebrations were on my behalf; I can’t imagine ever having another birthday like this! I actually fell very ill yesterday, with a fever and all the nasty stuff, and had to go to the hospital this morning (happy birthday to me!). Fortunately it seems to be severe food poisoning; I say fortunately because it was suspected appendicitis. I felt pretty weak today, so I visited some of the areas where the idols were being paraded through so I could meet some new people, but I didn’t make it down to the submersion. I’m still running a fever and generally feeling sick, so I experienced much less of the festival than I had planned. Nonetheless, I met a lot of great people who dragged me to dance with them or offered me some of the food given in tribute to Ganesha during this celebration (which I had to refuse, politely). I even had a family pull me in because they wanted my picture with their shrine (the enclosed light blue shrine with the three men. I’m not including pictures of myself because… food poisoning).

I can’t describe it well in words, so here are some pictures of the day, though they don’t truly capture the joyful chaos of the noises, colors, and smells (and a gratuitous picture of the kittens, per usual).

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