Saturday, September 29, 2012

Samik's Diary - Sharodiya Durgotsav

The deity of goddess Durga standing tall with those fascinating eyes, the scent of flowers, burning ghee & incense sticks, dhak-beats, people dressed in their best clothes, delightful dishes, pandal hopping with family and friends, hot khichuri bhog, brilliantly decorated lights – indeed these are some of the memories that keep coming back every year around this time - Saptami, Ashtami, Nabami, Dashami - Four days of the year, when Durga Ma pays us a visit. To me, Durga Puja is that ocaasion when we forget all pain & sorrow and are at our happiest best. In spite of the sad feeling during visarjan, we chant out loudly “ Bolo Durga Mai ki – Jay..Asche bochor aabar hobey !” We spend the rest of the year in hope & patiently await the advent of Pujas. To begin with, my affinity towards Durga Puja as a festival doubled up, when I realised during my early days that this was a time of the year when I got my annual quota of new clothes from my parents and close relatives, a custom which to this date is quite common amongst Bengali friends and families. Rewinding back to those days, Puja shopping was an event in itself as families like ours would save up all year to indulge on giving its members and the household in general, a yearly makeover. As October drew near, there was a sense of newness and merriment. One could sense an imminent sign of the Pujas being round the corner. Those days, with the absence of shopping malls in Kolkata, puja shopping was restricted to Gariahat, Ballygunge AC Market, Treasure Island or Vardaan Market. It was hilarious to be a mute spectator & watch those bargain fights between the customer and the shopkeepers where both parties were hell-bent on not surrendering even an inch which used to be an intense encounter. It was nothing less than a live bargaining tutorial & I credit my bargaining skills to those very days. Initial Puja Parikramas or pandal hopping started with my family. I had a great childhood with my siblings & cousins. We were a gang of seven. Even though there was a difference in age, the fun factor never deserted us. Nearly every year on Ashtami night, the Biswas clan would leave the Ballygunge residence on a hired taxi for the most awaited ride of the year. During Durga Pujas, the nights of Kolkata have an uniqueness of their own. Almost the whole city is out on the roads. The houses are decorated with electric lights & make the roads look beautifully illuminated. The plethora of people wouldn’t deter our spirits & we wouldn’t mind queuing up at Mohammed Ali Park, College Square, Maddox Square, MudiAli, Jodhpur Park, Babugan, to name a few. It also meant lots of eating stops in between. The ice golas, rolls, popcorn, chocolates would keep us interested all the way. My later days during my college years & initial corporate days was centered to a very special friend. We would be simply hopping from one pandal to the other, meet up friends & clicking pictures merrily. It was also that time of the year when she would easily cater to all my wishes & demands. I distinctly remember our first night pujo parikrama. We toured the entire city on my bike, watching pandals, clicking pictures, sipping tea & suddenly the world had come alive. It wasn’t until the very early hours of the next day morning, when we reached our respective homes. Although times have changed since then, it was an experience that still brings a smile on my face. The best part about the Puja nights at Kolkata lies in the undying spirit of the people. Even the folks who prefer to stay indoors, are mostly awake till the wee hours of the mornings…Some would have their respective family/friends coming over for a classical adda session, while others would lounge on their balconies or by their windows and spend the night just watching the masses parade past… all in all, indoor or outdoor, the city never sleeps… As I patiently await the next three weeks to pass, I’m overjoyed deep inside at the opportunity of spending this Pujas in Kolkata. This year I shall visit pandals, try out the tasty dishes, click pictures , write my experiences and celebrate Durga Ma’s arrival with joy and enthusiasm.

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