Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi - the sustainable way

Recently, I discovered how little I know about my own country.

One of the things I love about the UAE's eclectic population is the constant exposure to different types of people and thought processes. Recently, I discovered how little I know about my own country.

Living in Dubai has allowed me to experience the culture of other parts of India. It was the Indian festival of Ganesh Chaturthi last week and we were invited to a celebration of the elephant-headed deity Ganesh. I am not one to turn down an opportunity to sample rich, spicy subcontinental food, and this was a chance, too, to peer through a window into one of the most important and joyful festivals of western Indian tradition.

So off we went, all of a flutter to see the Ganesh idol that was to preside over the celebrations. Our host, a visual artist, hadn't simply bought a statue from a shop, but meticulously sculpted and painted her own Ganesh - and we couldn't wait to see it. All in the spirit of 21st-century political correctness and whatnot, the twist was that the idol was made entirely of recycled materials: bottles, cans, newspapers and other odds and ends.

As we sailed into the party, we were immediately struck by the sheer brightness and colourful vitality about the place. Teenage girls are the same everywhere; we can't resist the urge to dress up and show off. An Indian dress code makes it all the easier to flaunt your most vivid peacock blues, sparkly golds and ostentatious baroque jewels that you would dearly like to strut about in, but haven't the nerve to if you're simply strolling across the street or Mall of the Emirates.

There was, it seemed, an unmentioned competition between the guests of exotic sartorial flamboyance: whether X could carry off the most elaborate hairstyle or if Y could last the whole evening wearing those preposterously heavy earrings before they yanked her earlobes off. There was, too, a fair bit of giggling and looking hopefully over at the kurta-clad guys, who were happy to shuffle their pointy, curly-toed shoes and furtively shoot each other sheepish smiles.

It was quite peaceful to meditatively observe people until I was snapped out of my reverie by a guest, who wanted to know "Didn't I want to ... ?", she gestured at the fabulously creative masterpiece that was the Ganesh idol. I stared at her blankly. She stared back, frowning. It was a few seconds before I realised that I should probably follow the protocol, which was to kneel down, offer a prayer and stop looking silly as the only person who hadn't done so already.

The sound system had, by this point, struck up a hymn, and the feeling of camaraderie was surprisingly calming as the guests clapped to the rhythm. A steel plate with an earthen lamp on it was passed around, marigold petals were showered on the idol and it was finally time for the most exciting bit - a traditional dinner and dessert. Any guilt about the calorie-laden laddoos (sweet, gram flour balls) I chomped through was assuaged by having been part of what, after all, was a sustainable environment initiative.

 

The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National