The cheer in the air that marks the festival annually is missing this year, and there is reason for this – it is the virus that has reached to every corner of Goa and is showing no signs of reducing.
Ganesh idols will be brought to homes on Saturday morning as the COVID-19 graph rises to above 13,000 cases and deaths are at close to 130. There will be families across the State who will be mourning a loved one who succumbed to the virus or will observe the festival with a member in the COVID hospital or at a COVID care centre. Frontline health care workers will be on duty – many of who would otherwise have taken the day off – to take care of those suffering from the virus. Many others will be working because of the pandemic and will not have the opportunity to be home with the family.
This is certainly not the best manner in which to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, but then this is not a normal time in the entire world. There have already been appeals by the government to tone down the festivities, to reduce the number of celebration days and many of the sarvajanik mandals have decided to keep the festivities down to one and a half days. Even the idol sizes have been reduced. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has also suggested that people postpone the celebrations and said that he has asked his family to celebrate it in February. That’s setting an example, but will there be many who will follow this?
The reason for suggesting to keeping the festivities down to the bare minimum is the fear that there could be a spread of the coronavirus during Chaturthi that will lead to an increase in cases in the week and fortnight following the festival. The virus is a known superspreader – there are already 13,000 plus cases in the State – and it finds crowded places the most suitable to multiply. Chaturthi is when familes meet at home, with many coming from even outside the State. In normal times, there would be special trains run during the period to take people home and then back to the work places.
That is not happening this year, but there will still be people gathering in large numbers, and here is where they have to be extra careful to follow the guidelines on COVID prevention. There are special guidelines from the government and local governing bodies on the celebrations, and there are appeals to adhere to them. This is important because a sudden and massive spike in cases would put tremendous pressure on the existing COVID-19 management and treatment infrastructure. This is best avoided and it is the responsibility of the people to ensure it does not, and all that needs to be done is take a few precautions.
If this year the celebrations are muted, then perhaps next year they can be on a far grander scale. It depends on the people. There are indications that it will be low-key to a certain extent. The people’s marketing mood was dampened, not by the extra amount of rain that the State received, but by the prevailing pandemic. If that is any indication, then we can expect caution this Chaturthi, which will serve to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check. But, Ganesh is also known as the ‘Vighna Harta’ or the remover of obstacles, and there will certainly be innvocations to him this year to remove this obstacle of the coronavirus that has come in the way.