(roughly translated as 'Hail The Divine Mother Durga' )
Durga Pujo, as experienced by a Bengali cannot quite be comprehended by anyone who has not experienced or observed it firsthand. It is romantic, it is an affair like none other.The thrill of festivities, the numerous new clothes, the mouth watering bhog, the late night outings, the pandal hopping, all these are just the superficial joys, but this festival means a lot more to a Bengali, the joy and anticipation of it runs in our very being. From the day a child is born into a Bengali family, he learns to anticipate those five special days of the year. It is the kind of anticipation that fills you with happiness and hope, joy and contentment. Five days of fun, enjoyment, new clothes, good food, entertainment programs, the mindblowing sound of dhaak (a kind of drum), the smell of dhoop, the mouth-watering bhog(food distributed to the devotees), hanging around with friends, late nights and a lot lot more. In all my years as a true-blue Bong, this is the festival that has always been awaited with bated breath all year long, and it was all about festivites, and very little of it was religious. Most of our friends and family went about these five days with full gusto and enthusiasm to celebrate. And so it was for me, five of the most awaited and enjoyable days of the year. New clothes saved up all year round to be worn on these days, enough stocked up, so that I can have a couple of change of outfits each of these days. It is not quite describable in words, the emotions, and love associated with this festival. The day the festival got over, the wait would begin for the next one.
Even during my hostel years, I would either manage to wriggle a few days of leave and get home, or make sure I dropped into the local pandals. Just being in the pandal, smelling of dhoop and bhog would make my heart beat harder with joy. Those were five the most important days of the year to me, besides my birthday and way to often they both the things would come together.
However, things don't remain constant. My association with Durga Puja has reduced considerably post my marriage. The first year was the toughest, because the reduced association had to be enforced, it was not one that came naturally. I shed many a copious tears, for the lack of being able to celebrate it the way I always had, that first year, but over the years the disassociation has worked its way into me. My first Pujo after marriage, was in Bombay. I had no idea where the celebrations took place, the DH had to bear the brunt of my frustration. Found out about just one place, a long way from our place, and visited that on just one day of the Pujo. And that one time made me realise, that it would never be the same for me again. Cannot really feel at home in a pujo pandal, if one does not speak full blown Bengali.This was not going to happen for me with the DH. He does not speak Bengali, and I don't expect him to either. We have two languages available to us for communication to us, and that works out just perfectly. It is difficult to visit a place where people see us with strange eyes, being obvious outsiders. This makes us even more conscious and the the whole cycle of events gets worse. So since then, Pujo for me is not longer about festivites, but just about going and paying my respects to the Goddess. Though Durga Pujo still remains special to me, but not in the way it had been to me as a child. In foreign shores, where people of the community are fewer, I am further discouraged to visit and be gawked at for being an outsider, joining in not that easy either, because I have no wish to explain my choice of husband, or why he does not speak Bengali and now more about the BB. So I have reconciled to letting that festival be a small window of happiness now, and hopefully with one sighting of the Goddess in her full glory.
And hence I was fortunate enough to participate in the Ashtami Anjali, as well as attend the Nabami's Aarti in the Pujo this year. With the BB dressed up in the most amazing clothes, these are memories that will remain with me forever. It was wonderful being in Bombay and attending the local Pujo this year. Photography was prohibited the first couple of days, and only allowed on the last day, so I took many mental pictures of the Pujo. Pandal hopping was not an option due to the swine flue scare and the overly protective GP, but attending the one I did, made me happy enough.
Here is wishing everyone a Shubho Bijoyaa (Happy Dussehra).