Editor’s Note: If you are a Bengali, or if you have ever spent your days in Kolkata, you will know what it feels like to be present in the city during Durga Puja. The feel is that of euphoria, joy, family, new friendships. it is a feeling that goes way beyond festivities. And the pull that one feel deep inside the soul every time Durga Puja approaches nearer is indescribable. Our member shama146 shares her story. tell us about your childhood memories about Durga Puja here.
Autumn, my favorite season of the year. When the air becomes slightly chilled in the morning, when our lawns were planted by all winter vegetables, when refrigerated water wasn’t a necessity anymore and last but not the least, Durga Puja.
Those five days of the year, when fun, frolic and festivity was in the air. Those five days seemed to be the epicenter of our existence. Those were the days of late 80’s and early 90’s when social networking had a completely different definition. Durga Puja, as I remembered as a kid had nothing to do with religion. For us kids, it simply meant a celebration of life, an event which mesmerized us with its awe and glory.
Preparations started almost two months before Puja. Collection of money for the event was done by the elders and active members of our locality. After that the pandal makers would be called for the final negotiations. Each area wanted it’s pandal to be the showstopper for that year.
Durga Puja in Bengal starts with ‘Mahalaya’, the invocation. The next few days would be a flurry of activities, the last minute Puja shopping would be reaching it’s frenzied climax. The idol was installed in the pandal few days before ‘Shasti’, the sixth day of the month. Our (kids) joys knew no bounds. Our school had already closed for Puja vacations and much of our time was spent in the pandal. Those weren’t the days of laptops, internet, mobiles and round the clock tuition, so we had ample time for our indulgence.
During shashti and ashtami, we would gorge on bhog which was prepared for the entire community. It was a khichdi, whose taste still lingers on my taste buds. I bet none of the 5 stars chefs can replicate that wonderful aroma and taste. These four days would be a blur. Starting with the morning Anjali, to the programmes, competitions, quiz etc lined up for the evening, our calendar would be completely chock a block. In the midst of this, we kids would fire round after round of ‘cap pistols’, those small explosive strips of red dot. Some who don’t had the privilege of a gun, would rub them on the walls. Those small pleasures seem so much today. This time was also a good opportunity for the teens boys and girls, who otherwise never had enough opportunity to have a good time together. Countless romances blossomed during these soirees. And how can I forget those mouth watering stuffs like phuchka, chat, mughlai paratha, ghughni etc which we devoured like we haven’t eaten for days. But alas, the wonderful time ended so soon. The next few days after Puja was a sheer utter hell. The whole atmosphere seemed so gloomy as our days in paradise were over. The only silver line to the cloud for us kids was Diwali was round the corner.
Those memories of my childhood are still so fresh and crisp. As I was typing these letters I somewhat went back to those areas and lanes where some of my best memories of Durga Puja have taken place. I feel sorry for today’s children for whom social networking only means FACEBOOK.