Ganesha’s Mask


In our story, Ganesha’s Mask, A group of children put up a skit for Ganesh Chaturthi but run into some trouble along the way. But never fear. Everything is resolved with some creative problem-solving and some spontaneous mischief! We hope you enjoy the story as much as we did!

Ganesha’s Mask

It felt like the whole world had descended on our colony. Ganesh Chaturthi was only a few days away and it seems every family had guests over. How else could I explain the crowds in our society? I go to the shops, I go to the park, I go to the bus stop…it seemed like the population explosion happened right here because I couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into people or waiting in long lines. I heard a pounding and I turned to look. People were hard at work setting up the stage, bang in the middle of our playground. That’s where our society’s Ganpati statue will be placed. Decorations were coming up here and there. I know that in three days, I’ll find the flowers and streamers wherever I turn to look.

A sea of people waited for the autorickshaw to pass. I tagged along in the tail end and crossed the street with them.

“Ayyy, Maha! Where’s the bag with your shopping?”

“Did you find it?”

“Arre, no re! She is not bringing anything! What happened?”

My head swung from kid to kid as my friends bombarded me with questions.

“No! Only one shop had an elephant mask, and that was too expensive- 300 rupees. All the other shops were sold out!” I felt dejected to bring them the sad news. Gasps echoed around me.

“300 Rupees!”

“OH! We’ll need it for three days. That’s 900 rupees, almost a 1000.”

We looked at each other blankly. Nine hundred rupees was a princely sum. None of us had that much money. We wouldn’t have that much even if we combined the money from all our piggy banks. Besides, there was no way our parents would let us spend all that money on a mask!

“Does that mean I won’t be Ganpati after all?” a trembling voice broke into our thoughts.

My kid sister stood with her eyes fixed on me. Half my size, she made up for it with her fierce nature. Okay, so she was going to make an unlikely Ganpati with her slender arms and legs. But there was a good reason for selecting her to play the elephant-headed God. She was the smallest and lightest kid in the group, and Sameer, who was to be Ganesha’s mouse, could carry her on his back.

All the kids in our society were going to perform on stage for Ganesh Chaturthi. Some were dancing, others singing. We were acting a skit—the story of Ganesha and the moon. My mother, a teacher, helped us organize and prepare our lines. Leena Aunty, an artist, guided us as we designed the background. Old sarees, safety pins, chart paper, and paint did the trick. Wwe made everything ourselves. But Ganesha and the mouse needed masks. Ritu and Vinay walked up and down the streets near our flats, looking for the masks. The shopkeepers had never seen one before. So, we spread the net a little wider. Mothers and fathers asked at the shops near their schools, factories, and offices. No luck there, either.

What were we going to do? Anjana didi came to our rescue. She played teeny tiny parts in TV dramas – a vegetable seller, the woman who picked up things the heroine dropped in a scene, or the nurse who rushed to the patient’s room in an emergency. She was famous  in our compound. No matter how small her roles were, she always greeted us with a smile and gave us a Five Star or Gems.

“Why don’t you go to Kalba Devi and look for a mask? That’s where the cinema people go for their costumes. You’ll find a mask for Ganesha and his mouse over there, for sure.”

Kalba Devi! It was like going to another state, a good two hours from our house. You had to take a bus, a train, and another bus again to get there. But it was all for a good cause. My father promised to go with me. Once our shopping was done, he would bring me home and then go to work. He’d take a couple of hours from work of course. His manager will give him permission once he knows it is for Ganpati.

But I came back empty-handed. Shyam kicked a stone in frustration. Ritu shook her head. Vinay, Sameer and Shan made faces. Sujju put her hands on her hips.

“Arre, Kuch karo na! Do something. Give him a gray saree or dupatta. Make him a mouse, na!” She was like that – full of ideas. We brightened up. “Ya, let’s not give up, yaar. Chalo, let us get a gray saree and see what we can do,” Ritu’s voice rose in excitement.

“Oy, I’m not wearing any saree beree, okay?” Sameer protested.

“Arre, relax, bhai! We won’t make you wear a saree with pallu and all. We’ll just wrap you in one.” I said reassuringly.

“Wrap me in a saree? Am I a present or what?” His voice rose higher.

But the idea had taken root in us. We went from house to house, looking through our mums’ old sarees in the almerahs. Any plain gray saree would do. It didn’t turn out to be that simple.

We couldn’t agree on the gray. “This is too dark.”

“That is too light.”

“Hey, why a gray saree with sequins?”

 In the middle of the din, Sameer kept shouting, “Yaar, I am not wearing a saree.” Unable to agree on the saree, we grabbed three and knocked on Anjana didi’s door.

Sameer WAS wearing the saree when she was done, but it was not like a saree, if you know what I mean. It was a cross between a saree, a blanket, a table cloth, and a tent, and he could easily walk on his fours. Sameer seemed okay with that.

“Paint his face gray. Cut some big round ears for his face and stick them with cello tape. He doesn’t have to look like a mouse. Everyone will know he’s a mouse. That’s what matters. It’ll be like abstract art. We do this all the time in the cine field,” Didi put our doubts to rest. Oh, if this is what actors and actresses did, who are we to question it? We’ll follow the same tactics.

But Ganesha’s mask was a whole other story. We drew his face with elephant ears and all, on a chart paper. Ritu carefully cut out the eyes, measuring Sujju’s face. But the paper trunk…it looked so saaad! Couldn’t we come up with a better idea?

It was time for dinner. Not wanting to get into trouble with our parents, the 7 of us said goodnight. We’ll find a solution somehow-maybe even in our dreams.

It was easier than that, actually. When my mother stopped laughing at our adventures, she went back to the kitchen. Forty-five minutes later, I heard my name and peeked in there. There was a smell I couldn’t identify. It was good but not sweet or anything. Something cooking on the coal stove behind her.

“Bring the mask, girls,” she said.

Puzzled, we laid the mask on the floor. My mother carried a beige brown log that curved…Wait! That wasn’t a log!

“Ma, what is that?” Sujju reached for it. Ma swatted her hand away.

“Be careful, it’s hot. I made a trunk for your Ganesha mask. But you must be gentle with it.” It was a perfect trunk, for it fit the mask just right.

“We’ll let it cool tonight. Tomorrow, get some Fevicol. The ad says you can stick anything with it. It should work for this, too.”

Sujju had the biggest grin as she went to bed.

At last, it was the first night of the skit. Everyone said their lines perfectly, Sujju arrived on the stage riding on Sameer’s back. The crowd clapped for little Ganesha. The moon waxed and waned. And, just as we bowed to the audience, a  toddler ran onto the stage to get blessings from Ganesha.

Ganesha, or rather, my sister, rose to the occasion. She blessed him by saying, “Ayushman Bhava,” something she’d seen people do on TV. The crowd cheered, and cries of Ganpati Bappa Moria rang out loud. One by one, all the kids in the colony formed a line to get little Ganesha’s blessing. Sujju dutifully put the Chapathi atta trunk on each head and said pleasant words. But then, she got carried away with it and swung her trunk this way and that. Pachak…Ganesha stood with his nose in his hand. Oh-oh! Fevicol could stick it, yes, but couldn’t give it movement.

The crowd roared with laughter. We rushed to Sujju. But she was not one to worry. Here she was, playing the role of a lifetime, the whole society watching her every move and all the kids coming to her for blessings. Out came her left hand. For the rest of the evening, Sujju held her trunk to her face with her left hand and blessed everyone who came up with her right.

Now, whenever I ready my house for Ganesh Chaturthi, I always picture Sujju with her Ganesha’s trunk!

May you have a wonderful, fun-filled celebration on this Ganesh Chaturthi so that you can make your happy memories. Ganpati Bappa Moria.

Click here for more on Ganesh Chaturthi:

Ganesh Chaturthi

The Festive Season: Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesha’s Mask

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