The media has been pessimistically predicting a lack-lustre Ganeshotsav this year because of the swine-flu scare. My mother-in-law (who keenly follows each and every TV news report directly or remotely connected to Mumbai, or Maharashtra, or Western India, ever since we shifted here) has been frantically calling us up almost daily with swine-flu updates, trying to persuade us not to venture out among the vast crowds teeming with germs, because we might all catch the dreaded disease. Or, of course, in case somehow the germs miss us, there are terrorists lurking in nooks and corners, hoping for some target-practice. Mind it!
My M-I-L is single-handedly responsible for pushing up the TRPs of all news programmes which showcase Mumbai-related “sansani tazaa khabar” (breaking news).
But although many seemed scared of venturing out, there are other people who are welcoming the elephant-headed God of enterprise through their own, surprisingly original ventures.
There is a fairly newly-opened soda pub near our home, you know the kind that sells 50 or so flavours of soda for ten rupees each. Since I never soar beyond the SOUR-5 (imli/kokum/kachchi kairi/kala-khatta/jeera-masala), I cannot vouch for all the flavours, but there is often quite a crowd in front of the shop.
That day, in honour of the festive season, my mother and I took our daughters for a soda-treat (I can almost see my M-I-L becoming all pale and panicky about their health, so please do not tell her this, she is a sweet soul actually). As we were sipping our cold, coloured and contraband sodas (Me-imli, Maa-kokum, Lil cat-orange, Copy kitten- lime-n-lemon), the smiling man serving us said,
“Madam, naya flavour aanewala hai kal, Ganpati ke liye.” (Madam, a new flavour will be introduced tomorrow, in honour of Ganpati).
In answer to our obvious curiosity, he said with a flourish and a proud smile, “Swine-flu flavour.”
My first horrified and sick-making thought was that it would taste of blocked noses and phlegm. But Maa made a better, and closer, guess. “Maybe they will put tulsi (basil) and haldi (turmeric) and other such natural remedies for coughs and colds.”
A panacea for swine-flu-panic at ten rupees? Should sell like hot cakes, or at least like the masks dotting/clotting the cityscape.
Remember the much-publicised 1995 miracle when the Ganesha drank up gallons of milk in front of millions of astonished devotees all over the world? Maybe we need another miracle. Will the Divine Trunk sip a swine-flu soda this time around?
P.S: What with the Vighna-vinashak (God who destroys all obstacles) teaming up with indefatigable human innovativeness, looks like we can beat the H1N1-demon. Till then, enjoy the drumbeats. Have a happy and safe festive season.