Bengali culture, Durga puja

Musings on Durgapuja 2013

Taken from another Facebook post in 2013:

A day and an hour later, I finally managed to wake up at 5am, and put the YouTube on, just as it used to be Kolkata ko on the radio before, to the Mahishasuramardini. Before, it used to be a wholesome experience, the mesmerising baritone of Birendrakrishna Bhadra and the anticipation of the forthcoming five days that I had had been waiting for since the previous Dashami. But now, listening to the programme fills my mind with a myriad of thoughts and memories; it’s 90 minutes of soul searching.

It took me to the early days of childhood when the only gadget we had in the house was a transistor radio. We would have new batteries in before Mahalaya, and baba got it repaired in case it was broken. He perhaps spent more time in the repairs than the price of the radio itself. But the radio had to be ready for the 4am tune-in on the Mahalaya dawn. Thus dearly missed baba, who I had to share the radio with every Mahalaya, and who’d wake me up just when it was about to start. Listening to the reverberating chants in the early hours of the morning also made me think how despite having my only religious allegiance to late Mr Marx (still!), and being strictly atheist – the next ten days will smudge the borderline between religion and atheism. Although my hands would never raise to a Pronam, I would still be at the Anjali, have choronamrito and shantir jol, put on a tika after shondhi pujo and shidur after debi boron. For me it bears more significance to the fact that it is a time to reunite with all the people – friends and family – whose paths have diverged but during those five days of puja the paths merge together once again; it’s the time to share all the gossip, get silly, stay up all night, eat out – a time to relive the past, or an attempt to turn the time backwards, and none of this calls for a religious piety of the earthen idol. Durgapuja is a part of my Bengali existence as much as Rabindra, Satyajit, Shirshendu, Sunil or East Bengal or Uttam, Soumitra or Anandabajar.

Mahalaya is a bittersweet reminder that pujo is there outside my door, just five days and just 5000 miles away. But I’m glad pujo is here, I can close my eyes and would still feel the beats of dhak, smells of jogno and bhog and would think the words of another great man “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


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