A Ganpati statue is installed during Ganeshotsav in a small shop selling cane baskets run by a woman in Bhendi Bazaar area every year. The shop lines the Raza Jama Masjid, and across the road is a Dawoodi Bohra mausoleum. The celebration in the basket weaver’s 50-square feet shop lining the mosque in the Muslim-dominated locality is an example of harmony that goes back years.
“Earlier, there were 11 cane weaving shops on this lane and each celebrated the Ganpati festival. Now it’s just me,” said Baby Bai Chinchode, who has been celebrating Ganesh chaturthi in the locality for the last 70 years.
She lives in the shop. The members of her family visit her during the festival. She said people also come from the suburbs to see the tiny Ganesh statue.
After the upheaval in 1992, when communal riots struck the city, weavers started moving away. Only two cane shops continued to run.
“We visit her shop whenever she brings the Ganpati. For us, it is not unique to see a Ganpati in the mosque area. We are used to it,” said Asha Sonawane, who runs the other cane shop in the lane. Sonawane installs a Ganpati statue in her house in Lower Parel.
The mosque has a line of shops in its premises, which are rented out. Saifuddin Jawadwala, whose shop is next to Chinchode’s, said, “I have been here since 1971 and every year, she celebrates the festival.
There is an understanding between locals and her.”
Chinchode postpones rituals in the evening whenever locals offer prayers at the mosque. “And when there are no prayers, nobody objects to bhajans or aarti inside her shop. The current Imam knows her well,” said Mohammad Imtiaz Qureshi, who runs a local trust. Chinchode describes how, several years ago, the current Police Commissioner Ahmed Jawed, had visited her shop during the Ganeshotsav. “Several local politicians come here during this time,” she added.
The mattress, cane baskets and a tiny stove in the shop are stacked on one side during Ganesh chaturthi to make space for installing the Ganpati idol. Chinchode’s family members, who live in Lower Parel, visit her shop daily during the festival. “On the last day, we carry a procession to Chowpatty. The lane is filled with people dancing to music,” said Chinchode.