Years pass by and the charm of Durga Puja remains the same. The feel of welcoming Maa, the urge to shop till you drop, and that innumerable count of street food, all together keeps you going throughout the four days.
Durga Puja, ah! blissful four days of entertainment, fun, puja, family and friends! As a child Durga Puja meant pushpanjli, rehearsals, khichudi, family gatherings and everything in one pandal. Today, even though activities are same, a dynamic transformation has been witnessed. We are more materialistic today. I am listing down points that clearly elaborate what you come across during Puja. Simultaneously, it explains how things have changed by leaps and bounds:
Mahalaya in 500 versions – Mahalaya is the day that marks the arrival of Maa Durga and it is the same day when Navratri starts in North India. Earlier Mahalaya meant listening to Birendra Krishna Bhadra on radio, he is known for his narration of the end of pitri pakhsha and invoking the goddess. That was it, voice that gave goose bumps that could wake a drug addict from sleep. And then I decide to keep a track on TV only to get flooded with several types of Mahalya programs – a drama on Mahishasur Mardini enacted by some film star, one animated version for kids, another play by some popular TV actor, another cartoon display of Durga. Like that you keeping watching Mahalaya throughout the day. Seeing all this, our real Maa Durga does extra moves as a protest! Read here about Mahalaya
Big budget pandals – 10 Lacs! 20 Lacs! Wait yes! That moment when Durga Puja is identified by money! What theme can we put? which material can we use?, will this money make our puja grand than the one in neighbor? No wonder why, with every year passing by, Maa Durga’s eye seem larger. Probably, next year, the financial executive of Puja committee shall replace Asur, and you know that Maa has lost it. By the way, Maa Durga is putting a little more rouge so that she competes well with fellow Maa Durga in the neighborhood.
Sponsors – 10 hands carrying 10 pamphlets, brochures, and leaflets of different sponsors and Maa Durga trying to gasp
amidst all this. So many sponsors have accumulated that she is still tracking Asur beneath her feet. That was a scenario I made up in my mind for Pujas in near future. I enter a Puja Pandal and I whip off a dozen pamphlets from my face after they were hurled on me. I gasp like Maa Durga too.
Romeos – Love is in the air! Durga Puja is always incomplete without a whiff of small love affair. Tracking the prettiest girl in puja is the aim. Other Puja resolutions include checking that girl who has grown up and I now looking all ‘nice’? That girl who was the-most-chased-after girl and finally got hooked? That girl who had jaw dropping make over and is now turning heads? These are basic guidelines of Romeos. They are busy across four days running and chasing after girls and so does the girls’ brigade. With the four days of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge spectacle, the dudes and the dudettes get back to mundane life of only studies and work. Maa Durga almost pops her eyes out in utter shock at this sight and decides to control her Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Charity begins at home.
Marilyn Monroes – Whether to drape a saree on Ashtami or trying on new Palazzos on Saptami, miniature Monroes are busy fiddling with their fresh bunch of clothes. These Marilyn Monroes have their own set of resolutions as well, just like Romeos do. Will he look at me while I throw flowers on goddess? Is he distributing the food already, ok I will break my fast? Did he see me tripping over? Did he see me doing absurd Dhunuchi dance moves? Am I the hottest girl out here in this puja? OMG! My saree is falling apart, that new guy in the pandal, who is that another chick her? Blah! blah and some more blah! Maa Durga is watching all this, no wonder why the Saree fell apart and the cute guy turned to another female.
Bhog menus – Khichudi is the most famous and mandatory part of Puja bhogs. If you aren’t eating it, you are not a Bong. Jobs boys do – running two and fro, fetching the Khichudi, getting the Papad, getting the Labda and pouring the water. Yes, a little extra Khichudi to that beautiful girl, pretty compulsory job. Oh, the Khichudi had extra salt, don’t you see the heat and sweat, where is it all coming from, hmm? Maa Durga just dropped the bhog at that sight and further refused to eat.
Food, Fashion shows, Selfies and Pandal hopping – In the middle of traffic snarls, Bongs manage to gorge on street food, drape a designer saree and leave no stone unturned in hopping from one Pandal to another. Egg roll, Chicken Biryani and Saree soiling chutney shall do the needful to your recent make over for this Puja. Few women shall make sure they walk unnecessary from drive way to Pandal so as to make sure, you have embedded every intricate design in your mind. Meanwhile, Maa Durga is dangling from ceiling maintaining a balance between her saree, Asur and a selfie stick because the artist gave her selfie theme this time. She is like “Jotto Shob!”
Snob – Snobs are the family friends and relatives you meet once a year, who exchange gifts, touch feet, hug and wish. In the middle of doing so, they scan your clothes, scan your degrees, your phone, your recent job, judge you, mentally make assumptions and make statements. And since it’s a protocol of the society, they will inquire “when is the marriage?” I stand with a poker face in return. Maa Durga quietly pushes her children again like she did earlier. You see, charity begins at home.
Holy matrimony – The couple that gives Anjali together stays together! Sometimes, Cupid strikes the cord and it is all correct. Who said, marriages are made only heaven, sometimes Maa Durga comes down to earth to make it happen. Her Trishul works part time these days. Couples all lovey-dovey and coochy-cooing in Pandals is a sight not to miss. Somewhere, Maa Durga is wiping off her sweat and repairing her twisted Trishul for next year.
Seat chasing Navmi night and the performers – Putting a handkerchief on a chair is a way to claim that it has been owned and that entire family is going to sit on it. You see, one over the other. And it is ok, if an old woman after being refused stands in her poise with no complaints. Navmi night is dedicated to seat chasing for brother, father, mother, sister, would be son-in-law, child who is expected to be born after four years. After the war has been won, you may proceed to watch an Indian Idol finalist up on stage struggling hard to win the audiences’ heart, singing Kishore Kumar from 1960s like ten times, pointing at some aunty, flirting with her and telling her how beautiful she is, rubbing his sweat off, panting and taking chits from audience and aping a rock star. This time, Maa Durga is banging her head against the wall.
Immersing the idol = contributing to the nation – Blowing the conch, doing the insane dance, smearing vermillion on each other faces (known and unknown both), doing the uluk dhwani and adding to the traffic – this is how the Bong brigade is contributing. Coming to immersion, this is a very emotional part of the entire melodramatic puja setup, Visarjan as we call it. Entire population works to ‘hu ha haisha’, and put the idol in the river. Years after years, time after time, idols after idols, and immersions after immersions. Somewhere, Maa Durga is seen taking swimming lessons.
And Maa stands right there, right there in her poise, her eyes and her power getting blurred behind the smoke….She is done with all the whims and fancies of this world, so she decides to switch on to watch Zee Bangla Puja Progarms.
Picture courtesy – Debashish Deb and others. Taken From Google