It was almost a decade that I had kept myself away from the light of festivities during the Puja. I rather enjoyed spending the four days of the festival with my family and extended family at the quiet of home. But Durga Puja in 2010 has been different, perhaps 20 and 10 both are my favorite numbers and lucky for me too! 🙂
This year I decided to get out and explore the Puja pandals, as many as possible. And what I found out is a dazzling Kolkata, all the more beautiful during the Puja days. The atmosphere has changed a lot. People are more mannered, crowd is more manageable, music is somber and tasteful and the designs and décor of puja pandals bear the mark of artistry and excellence with theme–based Pujas, far from the conventional decoration and mikes and sounds systems here and there blaring out cheap peppy songs all through the day in our childhood.
However, ‘puja’ today is not limited to its literal meaning, ‘worship’. It has expanded to include the idol of the goddess, the design and decoration of the pandals and the ambiance to win an award. Some Puja committees dedicated their pujas in the memory of Tagore, the great poet, whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated across the state this year.
I have perceived the prevalence of glitz and glamour in every nook and corner with the complete commercialization of one of the biggest festivals of India and the most coveted one in Bengal.
From sponsored hoarding displaying puja greetings to contests for the best dressed or beauty to awards for the best pujas in the city the reflection of commercialization seen everywhere. What I did not like is that ice creams, drinks and bottles of mineral water were being sold at Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 higher than their MRPs at various stalls given by some of the leading brands. Also the over-enthusiasm regarding theme-orientation has played a spoil sport for some the pujas in Kolkata, especially when it comes to making idol of the goddess.
Well… this is my personal opinion after visiting some of the well-known pujas across the city. There was also that perpetual, tiring and irritating traffic jam due to pandal constructions along the roadside.
Still, with all the negativities and flaws Durga Puja in Kolkata rocked again. Even heavy rain in the afternoons of Maha Saptami and Maha Ashtami couldn’t dampen the spirit of the metropolis, for we have waited for it one l-o-n-g year! Tonight is the last of the Durga Puja – the idol has been carried out of the pandal and ready to be taken to the Ganges for immersion. Bijoya greetings have already started flowing into my message inbox, reminding me that festivity never ends, it just keeps us waiting for another year ahead. Shubho Bijoya!
You know, you plan of one thing and something else turns up. This is what happens to me every time. Destiny always plays this game with me. Anyway, I am still drinking the essence of life, of course … 🙂
When I started blogging I thought to post once a week. But you see, it took so long to come up with another post! It’s that time of the year again … yes, it’s winter… it’s Christmas time compelling me to take another walk down the memory lane.
Christmas is one occasion after the Durga Puja that we (my sister and I) used to wait for eagerly in our childhood days. You’ve got it right! Cakes and pastries being the prime reason it was the time when we enjoyed circus, visited the zoo and the National Museum of Kolkata, rather Calcutta then. The animals and trapeze at the circus and the mysteries wrapped inside the showcases of the museum in the form of Mummies always fascinated me.
To me winter meant a 7-day vacation for celebrating Christmas and New Year by wishing friends with hand-painted greetings cards. It is one of my hobbies. I loved to craft greetings cards for my near and dear ones. Now, as it is obvious, e-card replaces paper cards (you know, that ‘don’t have time’ excuse… actually I became lazier … 😛 ).
Winter in Kolkata has always been pleasant and much desired. It reminds me of wet grasses in fog-wrapped mornings. It was a season when we struggled to get up early in the morning and get ready for school. Had real hard times … guys! 😉
Winter to me then was synonymous to picnic, orange and pickles that my mother never made at home despite all our sincere requests, craving and begging. We were even ready to offer our service, but could never been able to win her faith! 😀 Now I understand she hardly had time to indulge in pickle making after managing all the household chores and her job simultaneously. But my stance was different at that time. Every year we had clash over this issue. However, God has been kind! The supply chain for mango and plum pickles was managed by my aunt, whom we affectionately call Koli Mashi. Every winter, she used to make various sorts of pickles and bestow upon us. Thank you, Koli mashi for quenching our ‘eternal thirst’ for pickles … for so many years! 🙂 She still does it happily.
Winter for me was all about playing badminton. This was one sport I loved to play. We (me and my friends in the neighborhood) used to play badminton after getting back from school or whenever we could find time … in the morning and in the afternoon, until the dusk fell. We played in the park near our house, on the ground in front of our house and even on the wide walkways beside.
It was a beautiful place where we lived … an enclosed area … an estate owned by the Ordnance Factory of India. The high wall stood all around like the Great Wall of China to maintain privacy from the busy main road outside. This wall had caused us so much trouble that we hated it from the heart. First, there were times when we had to sacrifice our brand new shuttle corks just because someone served it hard and it went up … up… and away … over the top, right on the other side of the ‘Great Wall’. It was too high for us to climb and the main gate was far enough. The cork will already be crushed under the wheels or picked up by someone else by the time we could reach there.
Secondly, we lived in a ground floor flat. And that god damned wall barred us from viewing what was happening on the other side while my school mate Shonali (she was blessed to reside in a 2nd floor flat) could watch every thing standing by the window at any given point of time of the day. I envied her so much for this … and innovated ‘reasons’ (read found excuses) to go upstairs at her flat once done with my home works. 🙂
When I was very young and Shonali and her family did not move in the neighborhood there was no chance of getting to 2nd floor (the roof was inaccessible, too – no one was allowed to get on the roof except the maintenance staffs) what we could only see from our window is the top of the Double Decker buses (that graced the streets of Calcutta then). We didn’t have the permission to go outside when mother was not home. I stood by the window waiting patiently only to get a glimpse of a Double Decker! 😛
To me winter meant Pitha, nalen gur-er sondesh and Jaynager-er moya, an assortment of delectable Bengali dessert. Ma prepared different kinds of pitha and kheer that we loved to eat so very much. I remember… Ma used to make pitha in the evening after coming back from work. Baba also helped her in preparing all those traditional Bengali sweets.
Things are different now… Baba is no more. We got busy with our jobs. Ma, though has retired from her office, can’t manage it alone. Winters come and go. No mist and dews … only smog. Sun is not that soft and gentle anymore (environmental pollution, I mean). No sweets, no circus, no visits to the zoo. The chilly breeze from the North brings only memories with it. Those are the days I’ll cherish till my last breath!
The wait is over! … All the speculations, assessments and consolidated efforts of local Puja Committees have finally come to an end for this year with another happy and joyous Durga Puja, one of India’s biggest and most coveted festivals! I was eagerly waiting for the Pujas; bought new clothes, planned a lot with my sisters. And now it’s over … those four days have passed so quickly just like a beautiful dream destined to dissolve in a few moments.
Durga Puja, the celebration of goddess Durga’s home coming, is grand. I don’t know how to describe the grandeur of it in mere words … Puja is all about shopping, wearing new clothes, meeting old friends, eating good food, and enjoying together.
The true essence of Dura Puja is found in West Bengal, India, where the festival is held at large. It is celebrated with utmost zeal and enthusiasm in this part of the world. But the festival of Durga Puja is not the same anymore that we used to see a few decades earlier. The mood might remain the same but what I notice the most is the changing trends of Puja celebration.
Theme based Puja is the latest trend, especially in Kolkata. The entire set up, decoration and the idol of the goddess is built following a specific theme, say folk art. A whole new wave of commercialization is evident with so many awards offered by different organizations for the best Pujas around. Cultural clubs organizing big budget Pujas aim to outshine each other with all the glitz and glamour of decoration.
I appreciate this change. It is because of theme orientation that we could see the exquisite art works of tribal temple located in remote corner of Meghalaya or the Chou art of Purulia, West Bengal right here in the heart of Kolkata. But what I miss is the simplicity and purity of the Puja.
To me, Durga Puja and autumn reflects each other. Crystal blue sky, thin white clouds and waving Kash on the field herald the beginning of the festive season in Bengal. Mother Nature is in full bloom with lush greeneries all around.
Kolkata was a lot greener in my childhood. There were big trees and lawns all around our neighborhood. The change could easily be observed in green foliages, blooming seasonal flowers and occasional drizzles from clear firmament. Greeneries are missing today; pieces of white clouds in the blue sky alone tell us that Puja is on the threshold!
The combination of autumn and Durga Puja makes me feel nostalgic. I remember my childhood days – rising early in the morning only to pick Seuli from the garden in front of our old house. The garden bed turned white with flowers covering the grasses underneath the tree. Every morning my father and I entered the garden and pick flowers until our baskets got completely full with Seulis. This was one of the routine tasks in the mornings during the fall.
Those were some of the best moments I had shared with my father. My father is no more and those golden days will never come back except autumn returning every year with a new beginning for the Pujas and lots of joy and happiness. It reminds me how much I miss my childhood days. And I miss you a lot … Baba!