Durga Puja~To the Lost Devi of my Childhood

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Travel Features >> Durga Puja~To the Lost Devi of my Childhood

Durga Puja~To the Lost Devi of my Childhood

October 11, 2012

Too much has been written, filmed and sung about the goddess for me to dare to wax eloquent. She is the unquestioned queen of the Bengalis and I am only a Bengali by default. Kolkata is where I’ve spent most of life but now live somewhere else missing the fervour and the build-up to ‘Pujas’ as they can only be celebrated in this city.

Early this morning, millions and radios and TV sets would have chanted the ‘mahalaya’ in Kolkata, marking the final countdown to the arrival of the goddess Durga to the home of her father. Hundreds of Puja ‘pandals’ would be dressing up to receive her in pomp and style a week from now. Some would be thematically arranged (symbolising the victory of good over evil!) and I shudder to think of how many look-alikes of Osama or miniatures of the World Trade Centre there will be!

I live now in saadi Dilli’s ‘bong homeland’ (Chittaranjan Park), as my friends here call it. Caught up in the hectic pace of the capital city, I forgot to switch on the radio this morning to listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra belting out the shlokas that would awaken the goddess within and without. It would certainly be a holiday today in my ex-hometown. People would be feverishly buying gifts for all and sundry in Gariahat, New Market and Hathibagan to the hypnotic sound of the ‘dhaak’ (drums) in the background. The puja committees of the localities would be knocking on many more doors to ensure ‘chanda’ (donation) collection. “Maybe this time our Devi and pandal will bag the prestigious Asian Paints Sharad Samman Award”, would be on most minds as they organise the celebrations.

From mid October, Kolkata will be on foot – you can’t drive a car in the city for the next five days. Almost 12 million city folk plus the rural populace take to the streets dressed in their newest best to take a peek at the Goddess and gasp at the pyrotechnics. ‘Pandal hopping’ is crazy – there are hundreds of them, some as close as 500 yards! Getting to each one is quite a task as you compete with the jostling throng and wait your turn in the queue. You are a true blue Bong if you’ve managed to get into the Mohammedally Square or Ekdalia to see the Protima.

For reasons of their own, the Bengalis have spread far and wide in India and abroad in their pursuits. No matter what the Bengali diaspora does from Chitto Park to Chicago, this will remain just another endeavour to recreate the Devi magic that grips Kolkata in the four days of the Durga Puja!

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About the Author: Sushmita Dasgupta wrote this piece some years ago when she lived in 'Chitto Park' in Delhi. She has subsequently moved to Kolkata and now lives there with her husband Subhabrata. Sushmita works with Rotary India Foundation and is a senior Project Manager with Saving Little Hearts that facilitates heart surgeries for needy children.

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