They throw curious glances at the little mounds of sand with burning incense sticks, at the kids sprinting into the sea along with the idols, at the carts on which the departing idols are offered prayers one last time by eager devotees. They are French.
The fifth day immersions drew moderate crowds at Girgaum Chowpatty, including a group of foreign tourists who were soaking in the colour.
“This is the first time we are seeing the immersion,” 28-year-old Aurelie Rio said. “And as we don’t know Hindi I have no idea what to sing. Somebody told me to repeat Ganpati bappa morya and I have been saying the same thing again and again.”
A young devotee rushed up to her and begged to be photographed alongside, to which she graciously agreed.
Girgaum Chowpatty beach was fully prepared to receive the huge crowds of devotees on the fifth day of visarjan (idol immersion). “There have been about 125 idols so far,” deputy commissioner of police (zone II), Sanjay Mohite, said around 6.30 pm: “There are more people this year than the last. Swine flu is not an issue.”
Sabhya Boxwallah, a 43-year-old marketing executive who works in Ahmedabad does not miss the visarjan if he is in Mumbai. “Don’t think crowds are less this year. It’s the fifth day, that’s why,” Boxwallah said.
But some regulars insisted the crowds were lesser than what they have seen in the past.
“There are hardly any people this year. They hear about some disease and they disappear,” said 52-year-old businessman Sudhakar Shetty, referring to swine flu. “At least now there are more foreigners. If they had come last year they wouldn’t have been able to stand.”
Firdos Variawa (35), a Walkeshwar resident who lives in an apartment with a bird’s-eye view of the beach and gets to see the thronging crowds every year, agreed.