This is the 11th year that the elephant-headed God, the remover of all obstacles, is visiting their home.
“We brought in Lord Ganesha 11 years ago because Arpita (Salman’s little sister) insisted,” says Salma Khan, their mother. “She was very keen and took it upon herself to organise every detail of the festival. As she promised, she has been organising it single-handedly every year since then.”
In this modern Muslim home, a very secular atmosphere exists, as Hinduism, Islam and Christianity co-exist here happily, thanks to the efforts of Marathi-Brahmin Salma Khan (originally Sushila Charak), her husband Salim Khan and his second wife Helen, who is Catholic.
Earlier, when the Khans did not celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at home, Salman, brothers Arbaaz and Sohail and sister Alvira would be taken to their aaji’s (maternal grandmother’s) home in Mahim for the festivities.
“In the evenings, I would dress up the kids and go to my mother’s house so the children could celebrate with our neighbours there,” Salma recollects fondly.
Her daughter Alvira, married to filmmaker Atul Agnihotri, recalls her childhood memories of the festival. “Though it wasn’t celebrated at home, Ganpati was great fun. Salman bhai, Arbaaz bhai, Sohail and I would run down the street to join the Ganpati processions that would halt before our house. We would participate in the aarti dance,” laughs Alvira.
Today, she and her younger sister Arpita have become extremely devoted to Ganesha. They sometimes even walk barefoot to the Siddhivinayak Temple situated in Prabhadevi on Tuesdays.
(From L to R) Alvira, Salman, Salma, Salim and Arpita pose exclusively for HT Café in front of a painting by the actor at their Bandra home
In the one-and-a-half days that Ganesha resides in Galaxy, the religious rules of the festival are strictly adhered to.
Non-vegetarian food and alcohol are banned. Instead, the kitchen turns out delicacies like modak, masale bhaat, puri and aloo bhaji, vatlidal, pitthi and chana usal. “I love cooking and feeding people,” says Salma. “During Ganpati and Eid, I work in the kitchen with the assistance of my cooks.”
Salman, who has taken a two-day break from the shooting of Dabangg 2 in Satara, joins us, looking fresh after a rigorous workout and shower. “I feel blessed to be born and brought up in a house that respects every religion,” says the actor.
“The credit goes to mom, dad and Helen aunty. In Galaxy, God is one, though our paths to reach the almighty are different.”
In fact, all paths to God are open, if you take Salma as an example. Though she adopted Islam after marrying Salim, she did not let go of her faith: “I offer namaaz every day and recite the Quran verses just as I do my pujas and recite the Gayatri Mantra and the Hanuman Chalisa,” she explains. “On Wednesdays, we used to go to the church for Novena prayers as well. Choosing their faith is something we left to the children. However, Salim miya and I have taught them the basics of all the religions.”
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