Bengalis the world over are known for their passion for Durga Pujo. The goddess is not just the embodiment of Shakti to them, but the daughter, who comes home once a year to her natal place along with her children for five days of bliss. And that is how the Goddess is perceived -- A loving daughter, a doting mother and the harbinger of happiness.
That is what most Bengali children and others who have grown up in Bengal amidst the festive fervour called Durga Puja have experienced throughout their lives. To them, Durga Puja is not just a festival, but rather a carnivalesque atmosphere that pervades for five days, transforming the city into an art installation that leave people spellbound. Durga Puja, to them, is an emotion.
So while, life often forces people to move out and seek distance shores, come autumn, their heart longs to be back.
This correspondent interacted with some of those, now probashi (non-residential) Bengalis and found out what do they do during the five days of puja.
Raina Kshetry, a well-known blogger from Kolkata, might not be a Bengali by birth, but her heart is still set in Kolkata during the pujas, Having now shifted to Bangalore, she says, “Bangalore in a way has become a second Kolkata after Delhi. And while it's comfortable having Bengalis all around you, nothing can take away the essence of good ol' Kolkata.” She goes on to add, “What I'll be missing this Pujo away from home would be the late night pandal hopping, the architectural grandeur of the pandals, getting up early on Ashtami for Anjali and of course the 5 day holiday.”
But she is not perturbed, Kshetry adds, “What I'll be doing however is explore the Bangali hoyi choyee at the Bengali Association in Bangalore, feast in every Bengali restaurant possible, dress up and post my look book online like all other enthusiastic women back home.”
Ask Management Consultant Vedabrata Basu, how does he spend the five days of Pujo, away from home at Bangalore, he eloquently and quite cheekily puts in, “I wake up at 5:00 am with every intention of finally listening to Birendra Kishore Bhadra; but then you remember that it’s a working day and that piety won’t make travelling to Whitefield easier -you go back to sleep.”
However, he does add that he exclaims loudly to anyone in office that he did in fact listen to Birendra Kishore Bhadra (on YouTube, no less) even though he didn’t and that it’s a tragedy that he can’t go back home for the Pujos.
He further adds, “Pointedly order non-vegetarian dishes and then poke fun at your non-Bengali friends, who are vegetarian due to Navratri; extoll the virtues of being a Bengali and indulge in over-the-top descriptions of the Pujos back home. Furthermore, get a haircut, shave (twice) and pour gel on your hair and eat, without mercy, shame or remorse.”
Old music restorer from Delhi, Moloy Ghosh goes on to share his plans for the five days of puja. He says, that the things that he does are probably what other probashi Bengalis do as well.
“I am sure these 5 things are a must for every prabashi Bong,” he says, before adding. “Start off by eating to hearts content (especially non veg dishes that become very tough to procure during the Nab Ratri period). Then one has to sing and dance during the five days and one just cannot forget Pandal hopping as there are many good pujas happening in Delhi NCR along with having some delicious bhog!”
Ghosh is a dedicated pandal hopper and loves to listen to the cultural programs during the days of the Puja.
And while these non-residential Bengalis-at -heart share their views on how every Bengali out there would love to spend their pujas, we share a few more reactions from India and around the world as well.
Upasana Bhattacharya, Dallas Texas: For me, the five days of puja would include wearing traditional, giving anjali, being vegetarian for at least a day, acknowledging bijoya and being in a festive mood throughout.
Anirban Mukherjee, PR Professional, Mumbai: Anjali on Ashtami is a must, wherever I am, I make it a point to find the nearby Bengali association and the pujo and then I have the bhoger khichudi and listen to dhaak. Visiting a different restaurant everyday is a must along with whole night add with family and friends.
Yashodeep Sengupta, copy writer, IT Firm Chennai: Visiting the nearest Durga Pujo pandal is a must and eating the sumptuous bhog on offer. One has to watch the latest Bengali movie (pujo release) playing in the city (Yeti Obhijaan for me this year), and keep track of Calcutta parar pujo on social media and of course, miss our homes and miss Calcutta.
Sayantika Boral Banerji, Los Angeles, California: We do miss the five days of festivity here, but the fact that puja is round the corner, despite us being in any corner of the world means, shopping, eating a lot, late night conversations with friends and atleast visit one place where they are organising a durga puja since outside Bengal not all places have loads of pandals.
Rahul Mallik, Gurgaon: Durga Puja for me, wherever I may be, would include donating for the puja festivities, go pandal hpopping in either CR park or within gurgaon; eat blog/serve bhog/do social service and squeeze in a vacation, because we Bengalis love to travel as well!
Anumita Chakraborty, PR professional, Bangalore: Durga puja in Kolkata holds a special significance. Every part of the city is decked like a bride and in my knowledge no other place in the world holds a similar charm as of Durga puja. Being away from it makes me crave for it more. Staying away from Kolkata on Durga pujo makes few things mandatory are surely done every day. There has to be luchi for breakfast. One has to flaunt the saree and seek out and play dhak wherever one can get the chance.
So, come what may, take a Bengali out of his native place during Durga Pujo, but you cannot take Durga Pujo out of the Bengali....