Preserving nature, culture: Youth’s motto behind eco-friendly Ganpati idol

"I grew up seeing my father, who took the decorations to new heights. Now I have tried to take it forward," says the artist.

Staff ReporterUpdated: Sunday, October 16, 2022, 09:09 AM IST
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Mann Rele | PIC: SALMAN ANSARI

The Free Press Journal congratulates Mann Rele, the 20-year-old Girgaon resident who won the ‘Choice Award’ for his ecofriendly Ganpati idol. The final year Bachelor of Mass Media student was honoured on Friday night at a function jointly organised by this newspaper, its sister publication Navshakti and the BMC.In conversation with Rele, we asked what encouraged him for eco-friendly celebrationand turned itinto a reality.

How did you think of competing for the ‘Choice Award’?

As we came to know that the competition propagates the idea of ecofriendly celebration, we decided to participate so that people know about our nature-friendly decorations; and they in turn get encouraged to follow in the footsteps.

What was your theme for the award-winning idol?

We crafted a festival scene depicting the tradition and culture of Girgaon. We tried to show the buildings, the chawl culture, St. Theresa’s Church, people standing in balconies and talking, Gudi Padwa celebrations, women wearing feta (turban) and riding motorcycles in shadu. The special feature were the cut-outs of sarvajanik idols being pulled into a trolley. Some prominent idols like Lalbaugcha Raja pass through the area.

When did you start planning for the grand theme?

Planning started between March and April but the actual work started two months prior to Ganeshotsav. The theme was my idea but my whole family helped. I thought we should show the chawl culture which is diminishing now. My grandfather started the festival on a small scale. Back then, it was not a detailed decoration. I grew up seeing my father, who took the decorations to new heights. Now I have tried to take it forward.

When was the first time you thought of having eco-friendly celebrations?

This was the 59th year of celebrations. Our idols have always been ecofriendly. It was only in the lastfive years that we completely shifted to ecofriendly decorations. The change was meant to bring harmony with nature. Also, such decorations are good for preserving natural resources for future generations. Now and even earlier, our decoration items were never discarded after the festival ended. We give it to those who need it. This year, we showed our decoration to St. Theresa’s Church. It took the church building’s cut-out. Similarly, the other part will go to the Byculla Museum so that people can see our area’s culture.

To what extent does the cost factor play a role?

Eco-friendly decorations are expensive. Sunboard is more expensive than thermocol. It is three to four times more expensive. We collect money for the entire year. Each one from our family contributes. We buy our idol from Jitekar Wadi, which is historically the second place to welcome Lord Ganesh after Lokmanya Tilak started the festival.

Is this the first time you participated in a competition?

No, we participated in the ‘Choice Award’ last year, too. We were in the first 21 runner-ups. Also, we have won recognition with the Lokmanya Samman Award,Mumbai Samachar Award and Saamananewspaper office had called me for giving the prize. Do you think public authorities are doing enough for propagating eco-friendly celebrations? I think it’s sufficient when it comes to motivation as they give certificates to people even if they aren’t winners. The government is promoting paper idols against those sculpted from plaster of paris. Still, the authorities can do more when it comes to recognising artisans who make eco-friendly idols

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