For a Bengali Saptami means that Durga Pujo has begun in full swing. The house has already been given a springcleaning and dons the festive look. Out come the silk bedspreads, the vibrant curtains, radiantly coloured fabrics brighten up every room, out come the urlis adorned with floating candles and rose petals, the diyas light up each corner and reach upto the doorway to dispel all darkness, the doorsteps are graced with beautiful alpana and the henshel (a Bengali kitchen) downs shutters for the period (read the next five days) other than when guests are entertained, as all flock to feast in Ma Durga’s henshel.
There was once a Saptami in the heart of Bong ghetto in C R Park, Delhi, right after the Bee and I had got married, when I spent the day wiping tears while poring over a pile of photographs of loved ones, who by the way were enjoying their Pujo in Kolkata. I remember spending the evening flipping through Bengali channels which telecast Kolkata Pujo Parikrama. When night came, it brought the Bee back from Mumbai and along with him my Pujo smile.
About a decade later yesterday evening was somewhat similar to my first Durga Puja in Delhi. Just that this time I was in the ‘not-so-Bengali’ suburbs of Mumbai, but in a neighbourhood that had made it to headlines in the morning papers for a Durga Puja which was featured more prominently than some celebrity pujas. The darkening sky outside started to fill up with the dhak beats, the air lifted the dhoop and dhuno smell and swirled it upwards, hurling it to stir the uninitiated and the languid, down in the streets neighbours poured out – bustling and rustling in their festive best, the Puja schedule read “Saptami Sandhya Arati at 7:00 p.m”, the little sprite swished around in her puja fineries and I sat in my Puja splendor updating Facebook – a caged moment that inched passed slowly as the Bee sat stuck in traffic somewhere in the middle of Mumbai.
Finally, we did make it to the neighbourhood park where Durga has alighted in her full glory and sits in her shrine, a replication of the Surya Mandir in Konark. Finally our Durga Pujo for this year has begun and Ma Durga‘s henshel, at the neighbourhood park happens to be catered by good old Jalajog from Kolkata where the menu card reads “Kobiraji Cutlet, Biriyani, Kosha Mangsho, Fish Fry“. Happy Pujo!