Owing to a complex cross cultural upbringing we are giving you where Navaratri, Dusshera, Karva Chauth, Diwali are being celebrated with full pomp and festivity, we took special care this year to give you a feel of ' Durga Puja'. Strange something which has been such a vital part of our young days , me and your father,s, something which we would long forward to the whole year,something which would begin with the whiff of ' Shefali or shewli ' flower in the air, sky a shade bluer and gear up with the beginning of many shopping trips by ma and neighbouring aunts. Many shopping trips didn,t mean they used to shop like we do now, it was like one saree at a time after a lot of shop scanning and the next trip to return it as neighbour aunty has remarked something negative or may be simply raised an eyebrow in disapproval!! I have seen my father,s extreme irritaion but guess that was the fun of Puja shopping and final envious nod by neighbouring aunt and Mashi...the battle was won!!
You of course have seen malls and supermarkets by the time your senses worked, learned to take a trolley and pick up your stuff, have seen your ma shopping, learned to check the price tag as ma does though unable to decipher the meaning. While we were young, when lucky, ma used to take me along for shopping and believe me it was a very boring affair.We would sit in the shop, the salesman would get out sarees, after around a dozen is seen colour, design demanded , price bargained..it was a daunting task to walk out, but the trick was if you walk out and if your bargain was correct salesman would call you back ' Arey boudi.. madam suniye to' .. still you have to pretend to walk out till he gives a call again!! Since my mother emulated our neighbour aunt and it seemed ma always felt she was a master at bargaining and walking out so she followed it when we went for shopping. It never worked as fine and the salesman always did not call back!! If he did.. ma would doubt not only doubt but try to bargain further as she thought he agreed a bit too soon!! 'Perhaps her face.. she makes it so grim.. they give in' she would remark about her neighbour. Shop hunting in the busy alleys of Fancy Bazar Guwahati before the pujas.. was an experience into itself.
After Ma,s saree part , our outfits.. sometimes ill fitting (no trial rooms that time), shyness and awkwardess dominating during teens, white based typical Bengali sarees for oldies, totally white dhoti like cloths for the widows in the family (though things changed gradually..widows were given normal sarees but white had to be dominant), father,s cloth came last and sometimes he went without new cloths..may be to cover up for the expenditure incurred or as he would put it.. ' I don,t need new cloths..' By Mahalaya ( It marks the beginning of Devi Paksha in simple words the Puja season) preparations would gear up..in the Mahalaya day Ma would invariably switch on the radio at wee hours of the morning and Birendra Krishna Bhadra,s unmistakable voice year after year ' Ya Devi Sarva bhuteshu'...and in the early years all would wake up in the morning, the entire neighbourhood, collect ' Shewli' flowers. These subsided gradually with just lame playing of audio cassettes then CD,s and no early morning walks.
Finally Pujas would begin. Shoppings completed, gifts distributed, showed to all and sundry who come home. No parlour hopping that time by Ma or aunts..things were simple. In the Shaptami day Baba would give the first report of the idol in the morning of the Puja in neighbourhood. We collected flowers..those Shewli strewn in the ground..filled our baskets..not an easy task..braving vector bites (thankfully no dengue that time), squatting all the time and then stitched garlands to be put across the photo of Goddess at home..these seem a fairy tale to me as well now!! And yes all those Sharadiya Bangla magazines ( Sharadiya because of Sharat season I guess), we would finish the novels one by one me, Baba, my aunt, grandma later my brother and discuss which was the best. You know one of the most loved writers, creator of ' Kakababu' expired this year and i have read Kakababu from the first Puja magazine i learnt to read. But this is life... some new writings are good, some are average and this year I haven,t read a single one because I could not go to C.R. Park and get the magazines in time. Another young character i was so fond of when kid ' Gogol' also disappeared with the writer,s early demise like happy Puja days.
In the evenings we would go out with parents mainly, sometimes with Bubu (my aunt), pandal hopping and inspite of father,s strong dislike me and ma would go for the carts selling hot chaats!! Ma used to be extremely happy as she was relieved of cooking at least in the evenings though no formal 'eating out' then.In the Ashtami day sometimes we would visit Ram Krishna Mission offer Anjali amidst the huge crowd, stand in queue for Khichuri served as prasad. When a bit older i started visiting with friends, neigbouring didis and there was a different aspect to Puja.. getting dressed in your best and longing for attention...i understood that gradually as i noticed them getting all attention from boys and they laughing it off with pride..there was envy for the pretty girls and extreme consciousness and gawkiness in the teenage days would lead me to stick to parents or friends and never venture out alone.
In the Dashami day when the idol was immersed i also went behind the truck with my neighbouring aunt ( four years older to me) and her father when we were kids and saw boys dancing in Mithun Chakraborty style and i remember she also trying some moves with slogans like ' Asche bachar abar hobe!!' Evenings were reserved for offering ' pranams' to elders, tying the sacred thread around wrist and then gorge on coconut ladoos , nimkis, sweets.. gradually less home made stuff and more outside stuff.
A void used to be there after Puja was over, though holidays continued but the climax was over.. While we grew, up me and brother, some years we used the holidays to go out for a trip with parents and sometimes got the chance to watch the Kolkata Pujas or Delhi Pujas, sometimes we missed it altogether but now..since my brother moved out of Guwahati , coming home is a must for the Pujas and me.. after you have come is a diligent pandal hopper though before you in Delhi i longed for the cultural programmes and the big names who performed but with you i want to feel the ' Durga Puja', both your father and i.. just like bygone days brushing us with a breeze, to show you a part of us we left back home in a different time, balloons, toy pistols what not...we got them only in Puja time and my neighbouring aunt i talk about ( tutu pishi) , she preserved her cherished balloon beneath the lid of a drum containing rice ( earlier we used to have drums or tins containing rice and we used to have rice thrice a day) so that it survives a longer time and believe me it did to my surprise and she would open everyday and show me her blue balloon!!
Last year in Barapani i was not able to show you Durga Puja, this time we took you around Delhi and though we thought it was more for you guess it was more for us..to find a bit of lost days again, a bit of togetherness in this tight paced life..
Leaving you with some pics.
During childhood we used to have idol counts to boast of to friends and peers so just an idol count for you
|Elite Puja of GK II.. Pandal is all empty before 11.. good for clicking pics|
|Olympic rings at Matri mandir Safdarjung Enclave|
|Dont miss the huge vessels of delicious prasad..:)|