Ganapati is Pune’s favourite deity and my inquisitive mind asked, “why?” There were reasons like ‘the Peshwas, Pune’s administrators, worshipped the deity’ to others like, ‘Pune had various temples dedicated to the God and most Ashtavinayakas are located in Pune district or close to it’. However, those answers did not suffice my quest for information. And then, a crazy thought entered my mind; Punekars are so much like their favourite deity! On occasion of Ganeshotsav, here’s a special story (Part I) on the similarities between us Punekars and our beloved Lord Ganesha. Read up on!
We pick prosperity over riches, JUST LIKE HIM!
Punekars are not really known to show-off money. That’s something people from Delhi and Mumbai are known for (yea, yea, stereotypes. Well, whatever!). Nor are we seen chasing money and trying to be rich without thinking of the consequences of our actions.
Go to the busiest shopping destinations of the city, and a Punekar will promptly close shop in the afternoon, to enjoy his siesta or afternoon nap! Puneri shopkeepers will rarely be seen handing out discounts (and Puneri women will never settle unless they get some. It’s an epic battle!). The shopkeepers will seldom resort to deceiving advertising to bring in more customers.
Riches may be lost in a while but prosperity stays with you forever. Punekars focus on the quality of work and are extremely particular about the way things are done. It is such qualities that make our bakarwadis and misals perfect, and it is the reason why various shops and restaurants around the city have been in business for generations!
Prosperity is also about learning, for prosperity brings happiness. Ganesha is known to be a consort of the arts, and although the sitting idol of Ganesha is the most popular, there are various others that depict him dancing, singing and writing.
Lord Ganesha was a scribe to the Vyasa and is said to have written down the Mahabharata as narrated by the sage. It shows his love for poems, for the sacred text is written in a poetic form and narrated likewise. There are also paintings that show Ganesha playing a tanpura, and thus, like most Punekars, Ganesha surely is an art lover (which is why I doubt he really enjoys the sounds of loudspeakers compared to that of the dhol-tasha).
We’re hardcore foodies, JUST LIKE HIM!
Ganesha’s love for modaks is legendary and so is a Punekar’s love for a wide array of Maharashtrian dishes. And, we have a huge appetite, don’t we? Much like our God.
According to a mythological story, Kubera, treasurer of the Gods, went to Mount Kailash to invite Shiva to his city Alakapuri, to show off his wealth. Shiva explained his inability to visit but promised Kubera his son Ganesha would visit in his stead. He also warned Kubera of his son’s appetite, which Kubera casually dismissed.
On the day of the feast, Ganesha arrived and began devouring everything that was put in front of him. Soon, all the food in Alakapuri was over, and Ganesha began eating the decorations too, warning Kubera, “If you do not give me something to eat, I’ll eat you as well.” A frightened Kubera ran to Shiva for help, and was given some roasted rice. Kubera doubted it would satiate the lord’s appetite, to which Shiva replied, “If offered with humility and love, even a handful of roasted rice will suffice.”
Punekars are quite like Ganesha in this aspect. We may embrace biryanis, shawarmas, tandooris, noodles, nachos, quesadillas, bruschettas and other dishes with tongue twisters for names. But, in the end, we love the ‘gharatla jevan’ (homemade food). So it’s no wonder that the best food is always homemade, prepared by our loving mom or grandma.
No matter how spicy, tangy or tasty outside food is, puran poli, waran bhat tup mith limbu, dahi bhat, kadhi khichdi, sabudana khichdi, pithla bhakri, shrikhanda/amrakhanda puri, the various bhaajis (vegetables, not to be mixed with kanda bhaji), pohe (and not poha as most pronounce it) and other homemade dishes remain our favourite. Most of the dishes I just mentioned are also prepared during Ganesh Chaturthi, and offered as naivaidya to the Lord along with his favourite, modaks!
There are other attributes that link us to our God (coming up in Part II), and although Punekars refrain from comparisons, especially with a God, it’s crazy how many similarities we have. Don’t you think?