THE VIKHROLI Cha Raja Ganpati mandal — built by the Kannamwar Nagar 1 Samiti — is known for its celebrations revolving around social issues. This year round, the theme of the celebration is based on an awareness campaign about the potholes across city roads. The organising committee was moved by media reports of Mumbai’s neglected roads and the fatal accident of Prakash Bilhore whose death has been attributed to the pothole- ridden road he was driving on.
“We saw this issue being highlighted continually in the newspapers, and realised that Mumbaikars cannot avail of well-made roads,” says Arun Mayekar, a member of the Samiti, which is now in its 50th year. Every visitor to the mandal is being shown a seven-minute film highlighting the problem through conversations between some characters. The video mentions the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) yearly budget, and how despite the lump sum amount that has been allocated for fixing the problem, the quality of roads are still poor.
It touches upon Dadarao Bilhore, father of the accident victim Prakash Bilhore, who has taken a pledge to fill every pothole in Mumbai, so that others don’t meet the same fate his son did. The mandal around the statue has cut-outs of different charcaters: the politician, the corporator, and the common man.
On one side of the throne hang giant banners, a caricature of a young man lying bleeding on his bike, and statistics of deaths caused by potholes on display. On the other is a collage of images denoting Mumbai city and its busy roads, as well as points of pain caused in the body due to potholes. Even the banners overlooking the path to the mandal address issues like the water crisis, saving the girl child and deforestation.
For the last 40 years, the mandal’s decoration and carpentry have been handled by a resident of Kannamwar Nagar, Abdul Rahman Khan. “Every year, from the time Vikhroli Cha Raja is brought, to the time of immersion, my family is involved in every process. They don’t start work on the mandal until they know my uncle is going to build it,” says his nephew Mukhtar Ahmed.
The mandal is also hosting a programme for children, teaching them how to sculpt Ganesha idols made from eco-friendly material. “We welcome all children. We teach them to sculpt their own idols, and it is put on display after. Every child is given a certificate after,” says Mayekar.
The mandal has been the recipient of many accolades, including the Tata Hospital award in 2011 for its focus on addictive substances. It is also a frequent winner of the local police station’s award, for complying with all rules and regulations. “We wish to focus on these issues for the awareness of the people, the prize is immaterial to us now. This year, all we hope is that the roads are made better. That is our prayer to Bappa,” said Santosh Chandorkar, member of the mandal. The Vikhroli Cha Raja will be immersed at Powai Lake next Thursday.