It’s just 14 days to go for the Durga Pujas, that time of the year when the Bengali goes ballistic and the normally torporic Kolkata swings into action. Elegant pandals come up beside decrepit roads, the beautiful smiling face of Maa Durga looks down upon us from every nook and corner, and the city goes into its biggest carnival season. It’s a carnivorous season, too, going by the amount of non- vegetarian food consumed during these days; people from other metros fail to understand how non-veg food can be consumed during a Puja, and we Bongs say with a smile- “Well, that’s how it is in this part of the country- you guys will never understand us!”
I can see the pandal coming up near our house- shaped like an alien spaceship. Pandals in all shapes and sizes are coming up in other parts of the city. Each caters to a different “ theme” . I remember the time a few years back, when the “ theme “ for our neighbourhood Puja was Egypt, and the idols ( Durga, Laxmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, Kartik, Mahishashur) were made to resemble the Egyptian gods and goddesses. The priest was baffled as to how to summon “ bhakti” under these circumstances, but ultimately he was quite sporting about it.
The malls and markets are choc a bloc with shopping crowds; the normally lethargic types who couldn’t care less during the rest of the year, swing into action(literally day and night activity!). The festivities are on long before the Pujas start. The festive lights start coming on . And it’s not long before Bongs in other cities and countries start feeling that familiar homeward pang.
I have seen Durga Pujas in Mangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Pune. From the labyrinthine lanes of Old Hyderabad, to the splendour of the Durga Pujas at Chittaranjan Park, Delhi, Durga Puja is one festival that every Bengali truly holds near his /her heart. But in autumnal Calcutta, with the azure blue skies and the flecks of white clouds lining the sky, Durga Puja takes on a distinct flavour altogether.
Durga Puja is the story of triumph of good over evil, of the Mother Goddess taming the demon Mahishasura with her might. Does it hold a message in today’s troubled times that good ultimately triumphs over evil? Probably..who knows! And actually, so to say, who cares? For Bongs, it’s more of a social than a religious festival, with food, fun, frenzy and flirting ..all in good measure, serving up a heady cocktail. Enjoy,and let others enjoy..that is the motto of the Pujas. And that is one motto that all Bongs, no matter which part of the world they might reside in, definitely live up to!
Here’s to a rocking, and rollicking, Durga Puja 2014 !