For the 10 days that the Lalbaugcha Raja lords over the city, Yusuf Kapasi, 64, sits in a building near the Lalbaug pandal segregating currency notes donated by devotees.
Kapasi, who runs a spice shop in the Lalbaug market, is the only Muslim on the Welfare Committee of the Lalbaug Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal. "I have grown up in Lalbaug and the Ganesh festival is part of my family's ethos," said Kapasi, a Dawoodi Bohra. "In our family, Eid is just a family affair but when the Raja arrives, even work takes a backseat," said Kapasi, whose son attends to the spice shop in his absence.
Like Kapasi, who has been segregating the dollars, pounds and dirhams from the rupee currency notes for almost two decades, 19 other volunteers and 20 bankers sit through nine-hour shifts to count and catalogue the donations at the city's richest sarvajanik Ganesh mandal.
Till Sunday evening, the donations added up to Rs1.5 crore, the highest collection over three days in the mandal's history.
Earlier, the donations were counted at the end of the 10-day festivities. However, several currency notes were damaged due to dampness and weight of the donations in kind, following which the daily counting system was introduced in 2008.
"We set up the Welfare Centre, where we separate notes from gold and silver, and letters," said Rajendra Lanjwal, mandal treasurer.
Young volunteers carry the bulky donation boxes to the Welfare Centre at night when the crowds thin.
"It is exhausting to segregate the currency from the letters and wedding cards deposited in the donation box by the devotees," said Hitesh Mehta, 52, a volunteer. The letters with devotees' wish lists are kept aside immediately.
For the volunteers, devotion draws them to the honorary service. "The money is used to develop education and health care facilities. Six months ago, the Lalbaug Mandal set up a dialysis centre and a library to help the underprivileged," said Kapasi.