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Shabana Azmi On Ganesh Chaturthi



Shabana Azmi

Ganesh Chaturthi is  a big dead in Shabana  Azmi’s  home.  “My sister-in-law Tanvi brings Ganpati home. It feels terrific because we celebrate Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi with equal  enthusiasm. So we go straight from Biryani to Modak! Such is India’s syncratic culture, which I’m proud to be part of.”

Shabana recalls many Ganesh Chaturthis from her childhood. “As children my brother Baba and I would be taken to Sarvajanik Ganpati mandals in our area in Girgaum. I have extremely warm memories of those visits.I love the mangalmurti aarti. Many of my close friends bring Ganesha home.And we go visiting them.Among the people we visit are Neetu Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Anil Kapoor and his wife Sunita and Manish Malhotra. No other country boasts as many religious festivals as we do. The diversity of religious celebrations is our strength. Abba(father Kaifi Azmi) used to be big on celebrating all festivals.We carry the tradition forward.”

The formidable  Shabana Azmi, a vocal Muslim activist and considered India’s  finest  dramatic actress, says her father the legendary poet Kaifi Azmi inculcated  the  most secular values  in his children Shabana and cinematographer-filmmaker Baba Azmi.  “There was an absence of religious practice  in our house but religious festivals were and continue to be celebrated both in our home and the film industry .Diwali , Holi, Eid . Ganesh Chaturthi are major . Both my sisters-in-law (actresses)  Tanve Azmi and Sulabha Arya are Maharastrian .Ganesh Chaturthi  is  big  in our home.”

Shabana feels the spirit of cultural  and religious  pluralism  is embedded  in India’s DNA.  “India’s greatest strength is her pluralism and her composite culture. My father Urdu poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi instilled a love in the family of our rich cultural heritage which has at its core diversity and exclusiveness. We grew up celebrating Holi , Diwali, Eid , Christmas , Ganesh  Chaturthi  and continue to do so till date.”

Shabana  recalls her exceptionally secular  mother’s love for cultural assimilation  as reflected  in  the home she  kept. “My mother Shaukat Kaifi travelled extensively all over India with the  internationally known theatre  group  Prithvi Theatre , and even the one 200-square  feet   room that we had ( I lived in a commune of the Communist Party called the Red Flag Hall till the age of 9 where 8 families shared one bathroom and one toilet) had curtains from Orissa, kalamkari bedcovers from Hyderabad, cushion covers from Gujarat ,  etc . In my mother’s   final home Janki Kutir there were temple bells , icons from Rome , Allah written in ceramic from Iran .We learned about diversity as a virtue by a process of osmosis.”

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