Another Durga puja, in exile.

12 Oct

Read it on my TOI blog : Freeze Frame

Yesterday, on Mahalaya, almost all the Bengalis all over Facebook changed their profile pictures. Maa Durga is looking upon us from most of the DPs of Bengalis on Twitter too. Food blogs, especially those that boast of authentic ‘Bangali‘ food, are dishing out Pujor Bhuri-bhoj invitations. Bengali bloggers from all across the globe have suddenly started laying parochial claim to being the most knowledgeable about Durga Pujo and Durga Pujo in Kolkata. (I have too. I have also posted a rather sentimental post on my days of Durga Puja in exile, in the Rajdhani). Photo bloggers from Kolkata are chronicling the making of Devi, frame by frame, stroke by stroke, at Kumortuli. The virtual world is a buzzing bee hive, impatient to welcome the Mother Goddess with her brood to our humble world.

Picture courtsey :

In the real world, here in the suburbia of Maximum City, the mornings have become pleasant and nippy. The sun is sharp, the days are humid and the nights are cool. The azure blue sky with listless cottony clouds, as is expected during this time of the year – in early autumn or Sharat for us Bengalis – is mostly hidden behind a haze of dust and the morning breeze is heavy with smog. “It is better to imagine the better part of Sharat”, is what I tell myself, here in exile. After all, one cannot expect everything to be like it is back home, back in Kolkata. I thus take flights of fancy, imagine the molten, golden sun, the light, nippy breeze, the fluffy white clouds and write picturesque status updates and tweets, in celebration of Sharat. Otherwise, everything is as it is; every morning the little girl wears her pigtails and pinafore and starts out with her backpack to school. The bee keeps shuttling between cities and is planning a meeting over the next weekend (yes, right in the middle of Durga Puja! I know, thank you for reminding me); and I continue to shuttle between piles of books, unfinished homework, the little girl’s impending class tests, shopping for the festival and writing sentimental  blog-posts and status updates on twitter. Shuttling between the real world and the virtual world, I sign in to feel the festivity in the air, smell the heady incense of the dhuno, watch the swaying kaash phool, listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s mesmerizing voice and watch the Devi’s idol slowly take form out of a delicate framework of straw, bamboo and clay into the omniscient, omnipotent deity, Dashabhuja Trinayanee Durga. And then I sign out and run to pay the bills, read, write, eat, fight, complain and pray.

Newspaper supplements in the meanwhile are trying to prepare their readers for the festive season, the Navaratri celebrations that start from today. Gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds are carefully strewn all over the centre folds – skillfully cut, polished and set in gold, silver, platinum and rhodium; new tips on how to brighten up the house and the self; what to wear, where to eat and what to shop for. The malls are witnessing brisk business, as the followers of Amba Ma flock there to shop. Even our condominium has decided to stage a Ramlila performance for Dussehra besides a grand plan to burn the effigy of the evil Ravana.

The suburb’s Bengali Welfare Association has already ensured that one of its committee members has paid us a visit to renew our membership before asking for this year’s donation for the Puja that is organised in the neighbourhood park. A replica of the famed Bishnupur temple, famous for its exquisite terracota exterior, stands tall, in its final stages of completion. Bijoli grill has already opened its restaurant in the neighbourhood, ahead of the festivities, to capture the soul and wallet of this neighbourhood’s food-loving Bengali. And the newspaper-wallah has already delivered my copies of the Puja-barshikis.I have done my share of preparations as well – the house has gone through a major spring cleaning exercise, there are fresh flowers in the corners, the new bed linens and table covers, the brass and silver-wear wear their newly coat of polish gracefully, new ingredients have been added to the grocery list in anticipation of the festival menu and new curtains flutter on our windows. Our home is ready for the Devi too, as are my Facebook and my Twitter profiles, with new Durga DPs and Durga Puja status updates.

Despite all this, why am I still slightly distracted? What is this yearning that continues to plague me? Why do I still look skywards, and look for that hint of azure in the sky over Maximum City? Why, even after staying away from Kolkata for over a dozen years, do I still yearn to return to Kolkata for the five days of the Durga Puja? Is it just because I know that I am away, in exile, and cannot return, even this year?

Image courtsey :


Posted by on October 12, 2010 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “Another Durga puja, in exile.

  1. ricercar

    October 12, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    i haven’t been in calcutta for pujo in ages. this year i am not even sure i will be able to go the closest pujo to me – in glasgow. feels weird going alone and i cant get hold of anyone to come with.

  2. Sudeep Pal

    October 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Hey-This is a great post. I have lived in New Delhi for the first 17 years of my live and am well aware of all the Durga Puja activities in NDL. Nights during the Puja days were spent at various Puja mandaps in various government colonies and CR Park watching live ‘Jatra’ shows, ‘Bangla Natak’ and of course the good old Uttam / Suchitra B/W films. In those days (seventies and early eighties) exposure to Bong films was very restricted and people waited the whole year for the Pujas to satisfy their hunger. For ‘bhashan’ all Puja committees used to line up at New Delhi kali bari and then proceed in one single line to the banks of the Yamuna. Pride of place was reserved for the Kashmere Gate organisers who used to bring their idol on a ‘bullock cart’ ! I do not know whether the Puja’s in Delhi are still celebrated like this (I have not attended a single Pujo in Delhi in the last 3 decades), but what I had experienced led me to believe that the bongs pf Delhi organised the best ‘Probashi’ pujo in all of India.
    I have stayed in Kolkata for the better part of my life and the Pujo activities in Kolkata center around the ‘Para’, ‘apartment’ or the ‘Society’ Pujo. The biggest activity in such Pujo’s is generally the religious fervour, the great home cooked food for lunch on 4 days, the afternoon ‘adda’ sessions, catching up with relatives and freinds,local level entertainment in form of music and drama and pandal hopping. However it is must to visit all the big budget pandals like -Muhammed Ali Park, College Square, Bagbazar Sarbojanin, Chaltabagan Lohapati, Lebutala Park, Ahiritola, Kumartuli, Park Circus Sarbojanin, Ekdalia Evergree, Mudiali Club, Singhi Park and many more depending on choice and habit. The thing to note is the pandal construction and artwork, the myriad images created by the electrical lighting and the idol itself. For these 3 things alone Kolkata Pujo will reign supreme as these remain unparalled anywhere and I do not see anyone surpassing this level of art.
    Nowadays I live in Navi Mumbai, where there is a huge migrant Bong population and within a matter of few years there has been surge in the number of Puja’s organised. The activity revolves aroumd the pujas in the morning, the free ‘bhog’ for all in the afternoons and the entertainment in the evenings -which today mostly comprises of Bollywood type song and dance shows, the inevitable Bangla band from Kolkata singing so called ‘jibon mukhi’ songs and the other inevitable- exponents of Rabindra Sangeet. The organisers can do better than this and invite ‘Jatra Mondols’ from Bengal( which would be interesting for the children), Baul exponents and generally provide greater variety. The pandal hopping is generally restricted to Santa Cruz (with a hope to catch Rani or Kajol live), RK Mission-Khar, Lokhandawala, Powai and so on. But somehow , compared to New Delhi and Kolkata, the Mumbai pujas are somewhat lacklustre and like all fellow Bongs I wish I was back in Kolkata at least for the ‘Pujo’ every year.

  3. Conrad Sarlo

    November 9, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I adore this theme. How hard is it to customize? Would you be able to write me an email? I would love to get this theme and use it on some of my blogs. Thank you in advance, Marcella.

  4. Bangla Natok

    December 7, 2010 at 5:41 am

    nice blog. keep up the good work


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