In Focus

Colaba Cops Protect Bappa...His Bhakts

By Manu Shrivastava

The mood in Colaba, this Ganeshutsav, is more than upbeat. There's a sense of ecstasy in the air as the festivities this time, with the drums, dancing and delirium, are deafening to say the least. And, for good reason. After all, the zone's residents have suffered two long years of caveats, warnings and lockdowns crippling normalcy particularly during Ganeshutsav that Mumbai's oldest precinct residents are known to celebrate with unbridled fervour.

Image is for representational purpose only
And even as the residents partake in the celebrations with wild abandon, it's the law-enforcers who, after two years of keeping the vulnerable indoors even as they stood guard in public places, have stayed back on the streets, away from festivities of their own, back home.

Colaba Police Inspector (PI) Sanjay Dhonnar has never been home to his village in Bhandardara where his paternal family brings Bappa home during Ganeshutsav. Not even the last year when his wife Kanchan, son Sairaj and daughter Tanishka purchased the Ganesha idol by themselves to bring Bappa at their home in Mumbai for a day and half, for the first time, before a ceremonial immersion in a bucket of water. 

FAMILY: Colaba PI Sanjay Dhonnar with wife Kanchan, son Sairaj and daughter Tanishka
"I know his job demands he stays away for most festivals and occasions such as Ganeshutsav, Diwali, etc.," offers Kanchan. "We would celebrate Ganeshutsav at the sarvajanik mandal in our locality every year till last year when my daughter insisted that it was time we bring Bappa home. I decided to comply only because now my son is old enough to help me with the arrangements, rituals and visarjan," she adds.

So, last year, when for the first time, the Dhonnar family brought home their own Bappa, Sanjay Dhonnar had to keep away on all the important days including Ganesh Chaturthi and the day of visarjan. "Sometimes, my duty ends late in the night by when the train services stop so I have to stay back. At other times, I get assigned double duty and am unable to go home," offers Dhonnar. This year too, he will have to stay back at work to protect the public during the utsav.

Colaba PI Prasad Raut, like every other policeman, is on the streets, manning crowds when deployed in bandobasts during Ganeshutsav. His duty started long before Ganesh Chaturthi and extends after the final visarjan too. Every year, during Ganeshutsav, while he stays back in Mumbai, wife Supriya and son Spandan travel to his village Tambave to be with mother Vijaya and elder brother Amol's family for the celebrations.

TOGETHER: Colaba PI Prasad Raut with wife Supriya and son Spandan
"Work is also worship. I believe I am worshipping the Lord when I am working," says Prasad Raut who, like others across Mumbai and Maharashtra work to maintain law and order during the frenzied Ganeshutsav celebrations.

"For the last 12 years of police service, I have never been home for this festival. My elder brother organises and manages everything in the village and performs all the rituals during the ten days we bring Bappa at our ancestral home till the visarjan in Krishna river," says Raut.

IN SPIRIT: Prasad Raut's son Spandan (in blue) and brother Amol bring Bappa home
In the last ten years of service in the police force, it's not been easy to keep up with the demands of work and Ganeshutsav for Colaba Woman Police Constable (WPC) Sapna Sadaphule who has been bringing Bappa home for eight years now. "It's very difficult to manage everything, but I manage and my family supports me immensely," she says.

IN REVERENCE: Colaba WPC Sapna Sadaphule with husband Ganesh and one-and-half-year-old daughter Niyati
"I just can't take leave for long during Ganeshutsav, so I decided to keep Bappa for a day and half," she says. Supported by husband Ganesh, Sapna manages to scrounge time for her day-and-half-long festivities at home and then, return to the streets to perform her duty during bandobast throughout the remaining days of Ganeshutsav.

DEVOUT: Despite difficulties, Sapna brings Bappa home every year
Cuffe Parade PI Vikas Mhamunkar who has been serving the police force for 32 years has no regrets for being unable to be home for the festival. "So what if we cannot go home or to our villages during Ganeshutsav. The sarvajanik ganpati mandals in our areas are also ours, we seek blessings from Bappa at these," he maintains.

GRATEFUL: Cuffe Parade PI Vikas Mhamunkar with wife Vandana
The Cuffe Parade Police Station houses a modest Ganesh Pandal in a room within its premises. Police personnel take voluntary shifts to man the pandal housing Bappa who has been guarding the police station for years now. This time around, the Ganesha idol is in the form of Lord Krishna and will be immersed on 9 September after ten full days of festivities after being guarded by the Cuffe Parade police themselves.

DILIGENT: Despite hectic schedules, Cuffe Parade Police personnel take turns to guard the pandal
Electric House's Colaba Police Line residents have been celebrating Ganeshutsav for more than 50 years in a stretch. Bank employee Prashant Kale, whose father is attached to the Azad Maidan Traffic Division says, "This is the 55th year for Colaba Police Linecha Vighnaharta and we are proud that we are yet keeping up the tradition."

"The mandal was established in 1967 where Bappa would be brought in one room of the chawl by a woman whose husband served in the police force. It was only in 1987 that the idol was brought out from that room to this open area where the pandal stands today," offers resident Vinay Rane.

PROUD: Residents of Colaba Police Line have been celebrating Ganeshutsav for 55 years now
The mandal members are proud of the bhandara they host for devotees on the tenth day. "People from far and wide come for the bhandara and we serve around 1,000 people on that day," says Rane.

Police Line resident and Sports Management student Prasad Vasaikar helps the organisers during Ganeshutsav says, the enthusiasm among the young is as fervent as, if not more, than the elderly. "We are carrying forward the tradition started decades ago." 

DIVINE: Colaba Police Linecha Vighnaharta in all his grandeur
Vinay Rane, who pitches in with generating donations for the event, agrees. The motley group of youth, all residents, pitch in with their collective might to perform a flurry of daily activities throughout the ten-day festivities.

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