Last year, it was swine flu. This year, it is malaria. Several members of ‘Govinda’ teams across the city are reeling under the sting of vector-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue.
A fortnight before the festival of Gokulashtami when practice to form pyramids usually peaks, Govinda teams are struggling with a shortage of members.
“We are not in a position to take the risk. If all goes well in the next few days, we will participate otherwise we will have to reduce the levels of human pyramid,” said Kamlesh Bhoir, president of the Young Umerkhadi Govinda Pathak, one of the oldest teams in the city. Bhoir, who is suffering from malaria, said only 125 to 150 members attend practice every day as against 250 to 300 every year.
Gokulashtmiis on September 2.
The festival is celebrated with teams forming human pyramids to try and reach a pot of curd suspended from ropes.
The team that breaks the pot, which is sometimes as high as a seven-storey building, wins money. The prize money exceeds Rs 10 lakh in several cases.
In 2008, the Mazgaon-Tadwadi Ganesh Mandal, the oldest in the city, broke the dahi handi at Thane by forming a nine-layer pyramid.
This year, they are practicing with five or six layers.
Every year, the mandal travels across the city and also to Thane, breaking 12 to 13 pots in the day.
This year, monsoon illnesses have dampened their spirits. Arun Patil, trainer of the Tadwadi team, who is also suffering from malaria, said: “Most of the city’s Govinda teams are suffering from shortage of manpower because their members are suffering from viral fever or malaria. At this stage, we are not confident that we will be able to go as high as nine-layers but we’ll decide in the next few days.”