Happy Days!

Someone I know observed that it’s the build-up to the Durga Puja which is more exciting than the actual Puja. The actual Puja days pass so quickly, that often one can’t account for the four days. But then, this is no time to do boring stuff like accounting. This is the time to have fun, meet friends and family, eat food, and be happy. At least for four days of the year, all Bengalis are happy! Even after the end of Puja (Dashami or Dusshera), we go and visit relatives with mandatory sweets. This year though, our extended family made a change to this tradition and arranged a potluck instead. Needless to say, that was awesome fun; and healthy too :-)

Talking about change: A few environment friendly changes to Puja have been implemented in recent times. The tradition of releasing Nilkantha bird has been practically stopped since it is now a endangered specie. The idols (during Bisarjan – marking the end of celebrations) are immersed in the water, but immediately taken off to prevent pollution. These are welcome steps which will also spread awareness about environment.

I was in Kolkata during Pujas this time after a few years, and I had a hell of a time! Subho Bijoya / Happy Dusshera.

This is how we do it

The countdown begins way ahead of the actual event. Buying new cloths, new shoes, comparing the number of new dresses, etc. The Pandals start getting built at least a month ago; in some cases, more. Then the actual Puja days come. Millions of people, dressed in their new dress, will come out and see the Pujas. They will walk from one Pandal to another, watch the idol, say their quick prayers, appreciate the decoration, and walk to the next Pandal. In between there will be a few food and drinks break. The Pandals are so crowded that there are mile long queues to enter! It is impossible to get a table at any half decent restaurant without waiting As the night progresses, there will be a sizeable number of people limping because of blisters from new shoes. Its impossible to cover the whole city in one day, so people plan their circuits: yesterday, if it was South Kolkata, today it will be North Kolkata. Even at midnight, there will be hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.

I was one of them. I used to do circuits of Pandals with friends. I never used to eat food at home during Pujas. I used to come back home at five a.m. Then I was away from Kolkata for the last eight years, and avoided coming to Kolkata during the Pujas. A vacation during Puja would leave me more tired after the vacation than before. This time, I am in Kolkata. It’s time for me to celebrate Durga Puja, the good old style.

Slight problem though: most of the friends are not in Kolkata, I can’t eat so much anymore, and I can’t stand the crowd. But as the saying goes, “If there is will, there is a way”. So I went out with a close friend and his wife, avoided the busiest Pujas, never went inside any Pandal, and ate in 3500 calorie moderation. We also saw a Bangalore based band – Aurko, perform live. Met a few friends and acquaintances.

One thing which is common to every acquaintance I meet is the conversation pattern. After the usual “Hi, hello” and “How are you? It’s been a long time!” comes, “Have you tied the knot?”, “Why don’t you get married?”, with plenty of advice to follow. A friend of mine even asked for my photograph! Sometimes I wish I could just lie and say that I am married with a kid or two, and my wife couldn’t come with me because she is expecting another child soon. I think that would make people happy.

Anyway, let people be happy in whatever makes them happy. This is no time to complain about things - It’s happy time! Come to think of it, this is no time to write blog posts - got to get ready - my Mamaji will be here any moment now and we will all go out Pandal hopping. Happy Durga Puja everyone.


With me, since school, you've been
through the thick and also the thin

You stuck to me like lovers should
When I was beat, or feeling good

Other friends, at least a few
suggested that I tell you, adieu

But I always, ignored them
keeping us together, in one frame

Alas, the devil in me grew
finally, today, I murdered you

Maybe in future I'll miss you, even be sad
but so far, so good; doesn't feel bad

For now, Goodbye; Adios, my friend
It's time to move on, it's not the end.

Good things

... that has happened to me after coming to Kolkata:

  • I don't have to shave everyday. It might seem strange that I put it at the top of the list, but from 5/6 days shaving each week to 5/6 days of not-shaving: bliss, absolute bliss!
  • Had some delectable food. I guess this one was obvious.
  • I met a few friends from school after a decade! Thanks to Orkut! It is SO good to remember good old days!
  • I am reading books voraciously. Rediscovering the joys of reading Pujobarshikis (Special edition of Magazines released just before Durga Pujas).
  • I am discovering old roads and lanes of Kolkata during my daily evening walks.
Hope there are more to come in the coming days.