My hands tremble as I type this – it is strange how emotions churned out through words, can have the most unexpected effects on an unassuming you at times. I am miles away from a place I call home. I am eons of years away it seems from a mad frenzy they call Durga Pujo. A downloaded clip from the internet plays “dhaak” (the same folder stores another snippet to which my day dawned to Mahalaya this year), I light an incense stick (whose pack inscription promises “original dhuno smell”) – I put it off in less than a minute. So much so for creating a perfect Pujo atmosphere, I chide my incense aversive self!
This is not the pujo atmosphere I grew up in. However, strangely the pujo atmosphere now around in Kolkata is just unknown. It should unnerve me, the latter, but strangely it comforts me. The change somewhere soothes me in my grandmother’s voice, that the Durga Pujo I remembered is indeed today just like the fairy tale, as it would appear to my daughter a few decades down the line.
I remember the last time I visited home, I had a heated argument with Baba over the spending that surround the autumn frenzy. I remember we brought up theories of employment generation, capitalism, liberalisation and ultimately it ended the way all arguments ends, with both of us running out of rebuttals and we moving to discuss the fate of the society over a round of drinks. The feeling of angst and irk however doesn’t leave me, even long after I have that conversation, in fact it never leaves me, when it comes to pujos.
The old lady taught me that religion lay in the purity of heart, in the midas touch that could convert even the most frugal offerings invaluable, in those prayers that should come to you naturally and not by merely repeating what the pujari asks you to in front of the deity. Today, however it all appears just a glistening box with nothing inside. The craving to put up a show over-rides the true effects, in my generation and in my opinion.
Why is it today that this season has come to be the true depiction of sham? The girls who adorn sarees during the Ashtami anjali refuse to wear them to office, because it is surprisingly not formal? To my mind, there’s no more formal an attire. than those five and half yards of cloth! Why is it today that the hands that never fold before the deity that is housed in our homes, have special provisions for those 5 days, when being pious is almost like a cult symbol? Why is it that those very minds who shall argue and debate over the fate of the nation, curse governments for the jobs not done and the vote banks that are bought out, never for once refuse to participate in the mad spending that surrounds the affair? Why is it that a father who considers alcohol to be un-pious graciously accepts sponsorships when it comes to pujos and allows his toddler son to read out the brand captions that surround the apartment complex?
How many of us tell our next generation the story behind Durga Pujo in greater depths than merely that it was the win of good over evil? How many of us stop to stare at the wisps of the cotton flowers that still boder a few Kolkata streets or goad our kids to step out on an early autumn dawn to collect shiuli for the pujo, because it has a connect?
I somewhere feel I was brought by in a fairy tale land, by a grandmother whose education was too good to be true. I stand proud to be someone who knows her alcohol and yet knows her exact rituals when it comes to pujos. I stand proud to be someone, who despite of not having any formal education in her own mother tongue (why do you think this piece is in a foreign language!), has been raised by a mother and father who encouraged me to discover my roots. I search today, for parents who take their kids aside and embark on a troupe to visit the best of the pandals around the city, forgetting their own fun and frolic? Those very ones, that have a history that should be passed on and not where spending is maxed by sponsors. Well mine did, and am glad I have a piece of that fairy tale Durga Pujo, tucked in safe in my memory. (In case yours did too or you do the same, take a bow!)
Every year I offer just one prayer to Ma, that you must be bombarded with requests of well being, prosperity, affluence, good health, for me just save one little thing – the power to be a parent like my own (combined!) so that I can save the fairy tales I lived, especially this one that is all about your home coming, Ma.
Hope you had a good one this year! 🙂
P.S: This appeared in print in this year at Kolkata, for one of the leading publications dedicated to Durga Puja 2012