Durga Puja ..... In our hearts and minds
The Bengali self within me does not allow me not to think and talk about the Durga Puja while at home we are celebrating the biggest annual festival. This is the time when all Bengalis come together in celebration leaving behind all their differences, well most of it! This year we did not get the taste of the Puja, we thought of going up to Muscat and then we thought of visiting Abu Dhabi but finally decided to sit back ruminating through all the earlier Puja. The only taste of Puja this year was when my brother let us listen live to the “dhaak and kasha” playing in our building for the “shandhya arti” via Yahoo Messenger voice service.
The puja in Agartala used to be the greatest in terms of fun and enjoyment and I cannot imagine having the same fun in any other time of place. Ironically I did not quite enjoy the celebrations in Kolkata to the same extent even though it is the heart of the Bengali land. But it definitely provides immense pleasure to see how vibrant a place can be and how all sections of people can have fun forgetting all their worries.
Delhi which was my next stop used to be quite a different place. For us it was the first time that we realized that the 4 days of Durga Puja could be working days. This is something which is quite unimaginable for a typical Bengali. We used to have a small theatre group of our college friends and we used to go around the city (with prior booking) and perform one act plays with portable sets, stages and equipments which we carried along in our car. I used to be the light man or the prompter and giving hands to all the ancillary works. We could perform only in the outskirts while the stars performed in the downtown. I still remember the massive gathering and celebrations in C R Park areas both the old ones and the new one that started in pocket 40.
After New Delhi, it was Muscat. Muscat had two well structured temples and is the only place in the Middle East to have proper temples. Every few years there used to be a new idol and I was there in one such occurrence while we unpacked the Goddess who came all the way from Kolkata and put her up in the altar. The ladies usually would take care of the worshipping and other rituals during the morning hours. The men folk used to gather after working hours and after few moments of socializing all used to move out to one of the auditoriums reserved for the purpose far away from the temple. It was a big community get together and invariably a “Good food – Good wine” event.
Twice I went to Sohar, a suburban town and a few hours’ drive from Muscat where the Bangladeshi community hosts two Puja. I was touched by the way they received us took us among them in spite of being total stranger and mind you this is in stark contrast to their Indian counterpart (outside India).
We love to sing the song ….
“Mehman jo hamara hota hai
Who jan se pyara hota hai
Zyada nahin lalach humko
Thode mein guzara hota hai”
(The guests who visit our homes are dearer than our lives, we do not ask for a lot and are content with whatever little we have). And they love to practice the same! Since then I only visit their celebrations! Because they are so much like us yet so different. I am not sure how many of you will agree to this?
While I was in Bahrain there used to be two Puja in the same temple, one by the Indian Bengalis and one by the Bangladeshi counterparts.
And then it was Kuwait and again we spent our time with the Bangladeshi community and we enjoyed a lot. Here are a few images of the Puja in Kuwait.
Finally Shobai ke janai Sharod Abhinondan!
Wishes to you all on this festive season!