Pujo Madness

I spent the last weekend getting stuck in a nasty traffic snarl, staring soulfully at cars, buses and fellow sufferers, only to land at a place teeming with almost 3/4th of Delhi’s bright, shiny population decked up in their festive gear. Packed with cars, the air resonating with a curious cacophony of excited chatter, impatient horns and beats of the dhaak… Overdressed, over enthused crowds, moving at a hectic pace, eager and hungry to soak in all that the evening had to offer... Just another typical Durga Pujo evening in bustling Chittaranjan Park, the much touted mini Kolkata of Delhi. 

But this what Durga Pujo does to you, it makes you defy logic and let go of your sanity. You drape yourself in your finest saris, walk endlessly in your impossibly high heels and strangely you don’t mind the discomfort, the jostling crowds, the heat and the dust. It is as if you have been seized with this invisible energy. You patiently stand in serpentine queues, get busy checking each other out surreptitiously, no jostling, no pushing, only to catch a glimpse of the superbly crafted pandals and Maa Durga’s protimaa. And then with sweat-streaked backs you make a beeline for the food stalls. Devour platefuls of oily biryani, take a far from delicate bite of that fish chop and happily slurp masala chuski! Ahh… divine.

Even though Durga Pujo is a Hindu festival, religion takes a back seat for these five days. For us it is Eat, Pray and Love with a vengeance but unlike Elizabeth Glibert we don’t need to traverse continents, it happens right next door. The preparations start weeks ahead. Hectic shopping for new clothes, endless practice for cultural programmes and as weeks pass, the air fills with the mild fragrance of shiuli flowers, giving a familiar tug to every Bengali heart. In Delhi, every block, every neighbourhood has its own Pujo. From Shoshti through Doshomi, the community gets together to immerse itself in revelry. Shoshti, the first day of the Pujo starts with Anondo Mela where the bhodromohilas set up food stalls and showcase their cooking skills. Me, I do what am best at…eat. Mornings start with anjoli (prayers), followed by lots of adda, contests (including some really crazy ones) and ends with bhog. In the evenings, the pandal gets transformed into a cultural hotspot. People turn up in their finest silks, to watch and applaud the efforts of local and professional artists. We get to watch our ‘kaku kakimas’ enact plays, see our children give their maiden dance recital misty eyed and also enjoy performances by some of the finest artists from all over the country (Indian Ocean, Euphoria, Bandish, Cactus to name a few). For any Bengali kid, this is where your mom gets to show off her child’s talents. From reciting poetry in an emotion choked voice, to singing Robindro Shongeet, to playing the traumatized heroine in a dance drama (I forget which one, just remember the immensely sad expressions I had to portray) – I have done it all. Three Pujos back, me and my Mashi participated in an Antakshari competition and managed to win, despite our rather slim repertoire of filmy songs and mostly made up lyrics (we put up a convincing act and made it sound like the real thing).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AVUf8uZTp8 For me, the best part is watching the dhakider naach. The dhakis form a circle and start swaying to the rhythmic beats of their dhaak adorned with feathers and gradually reach a crescendo while the crowds watch on mesmerized. There is something very primal about the frenzied beats, it captivates you and fills your heart with elation. And the dhunuchhir naach (a torch filled with fragrant dhuno) that is performed by devotees to invoke the blessing of the Goddess. Only in a Durga Pujo Pandal will you spot so many round faced strikingly beautiful women, their almond shaped eyes shining with excitement, their foreheads dotted with an extra large bindi, shimmering in their beautiful dhaakais, jabbering excitedly.

When it’s time to bid adieu to Maa Durga we cannot but hold back our tears. Thousands turn up at the banks of river Yamuna to give her an emotional farewell. In the evening we all congregate in the now desolate pandaal, hugging each other and touching the feet of our elders to wish them Shubho Bijoya. We have some more mishtee and goodies to drown our sorrows. And wistfully we wait for yet another year of Pujo madness.

Shubho Bijoya to all of you.
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  1. Interesting post. Yeah Bong brain is a bit tuned towards everything cultural so I can understand the plays and recitation. Making up lyrics at the spur of the moment...quite innovative, Purba Aunty. Did you also try Rap? And trying to imagine you doing the role of a tragic heroine.

    PS: Don't you think you used too much of the vowel O? My mouth is looking like a goldfish trying to eat. :)

  2. @Prateek...How about a Rosogollo?
    @Purba...you really created the mood...shed a tear from the nostalgic memories of my school days in Kolkota!

  3. I haven't seen a Real Durga Puja, but THIS was a beautifully detailed description :) (along with ur hidden surprises of humor at unexpected corners)....

    Particularly like your vocabulary in this one- English as well as Bongoli!

  4. PS: Is the woman in the picture YOU by any chance?! If so, Good Job! :P

  5. Prateek...God these 20 somethings and their sense of humour!!

    Weren't you the one who wanted me to teach you Bangla!!

    Nalini...Must have been something. Kolkata pujos are something else, never been to one though.

    Avinash..It's Bangla (insert exasperated sigh)

    Of course not!! Have never done a dhunuchi dance.

  6. Seems you had a real blast..

  7. Thawrolly onjoyed this one!

    This blog post is rare - you've capture the essence of the moment very well! Will you please, please, write a book!?

  8. Harish...Yupp...you only live once!

    Kartikay....Hahah...btw the blog list is on display as requested by you.

    Don't have the energy to chase publishers :(

  9. A truly Bong account of the Pooja. Even here in Faridabad i located 2 Kali Bari mandirs.....Durga Pooja is really picking up in the NCR. may be next year we ll go to CP. Happy Pooja to you.. even though its over now :)

  10. Typical bong post :D enjoyed reading it nontheless...after all in these five days, policemen seldom messes up with bongs :P

    Subho Bijoya to you and your family

  11. wooowww ...dt ws n awesome read ...subho bijoya :-)

  12. 1. Blog list - awesome
    2. The more interesting part is your "Popular Posts" section. That should help in capturing your audience for longer periods - awesome.
    3. Seriously? The ONE excuse that you have for not publishing a book is that you have to run after publishers?! Sorry, this excuse has been rejected. Please try again!

    (P.S. I've been running after my sister to get her to publish too. Same excuse!)

  13. Abha...CP doesn't have a Puja. If you want to catch an authentic Durga Puja, try Kashmiri Gate. It's one of the oldest Pujas of Delhi.

    Tarun...Well, I don't usually try to mess up with the police guys, so I wouldn't know :)

    Vicious...Glad you enjoyed it :))

    Kartikay..Thank you for your expert opinion. Would love more suggestions.

    About the book, I forgot to mention a minor detail. I can't write stories :P

  14. We celebrate it quite differently here at south. Anyway, it was nice to know how you guys celebrate it. I had watched it on television but I always thought most of things they show are exaggerated and made up...now I know that such things do happen.

    Next a post on Diwali, right?

  15. That was a wonderful round-up. Took me right back to the days when as kids we used to go to see Durga Puja in Nagpur -- the mela, the rides, the eats and the drums.

    I had written about the drums and tiger dance and also the Tamil version of the festival while you were away in Uttarnachal...

  16. Nethra...I really do not know. Never planned a post on Durga Puja either. It just happened :)

    Zephyr... Durgo Pujas are not what they used to be, but the essence still remains.
    Read your post and commented.

  17. Purba, Thank you for this! :) In Bangalore, there are a few Pandals set up on this occasion. There must be about 10, max. The biggest one here, is installed on a huge ground.

    Each time we drive across this ground (during the Puja), I only see bright lights! I often wondered what happens behind those lights. Now I know.

    Adding to Kartikays suggestion, I think you should write that book. :) Doesn't have to be a story you know.

  18. CR park is amongst the best dressed pandal during festive season.

  19. Priyanka...Oh... but you should go there with one of your Bong friends. It's an unmatched experience.

    BK... CR Park has around 10 puja pandals and all of them beautifully crafted.

    Arpana...Thank you :))

  20. belated Shubho Bijoya to you and yours!

    that was such a beautiful pujo post!

  21. Naaa it's Shubho Bijoya time till Diwali.

  22. had a lovely puja this year, chiefly courtesy the manager in my office who pissed me off like hell with an income tax return.. would come home, dart straight to Mandap and dance the blues out..

    nice read..



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