by Amitava Sen
He was standing there outside the Puja hall wearing a pained look, like he has been left on the wayside by the world and ignored. I knew the man well, not intimately but well enough over three decades. I have seen him in most of the Pujas since 1976. Part of his misery was the October chill in which he was made to wait. I empathized and asked him what’s going on. It appeared that he could not produce the computer print-out confirming his registration which he claimed to have made on line. Later, one of the officials relented and finally produced his entry badge. It all ended well, so I thought.
But the man remained nonplussed. I asked him not to take it too hard. Doesn’t he realize that he is passé and he is irrelevant now? The Puja officials are quite within their rights. His mistake was to expect a 1976 style congenial familiarity. Too bad that the changing of the guards has passed him by, un-noticed, again his mistake.
Puja brochure published on the occasion correctly points out that Durga Puja is more of a social event. True, but which society? Society this man has known has been taken over by new net connected relationship; it’s a new social order. If you cannot meld, better get out of the way, remove yourself from the scene; it will roll over you, no matter how much it hurts.
The gentleman conceded my point and admitted that suddenly he realized that he did not know the majority of the crowd. Most were strangers to him. One of his nieces, who worked with computer all day, had booked him an entry pass on line. A lot of his friends and mine as well are not blessed with a computer savvy niece and they missed out. Our turned-down friends are sadly wrong if they assume that thirty-two years of loyalty will get them an entry to their supposedly familial affair. You do not have to be very smart to calculate the arithmetic of it; three days’ meals , for husband, wife and two children under twelve and an opportunity to Bhangra- Break dance to the tune of your favorite band, all for hundred and change, a definite bargain; who could pass it by? So, the tickets went fast. Our friends have been a day late if not a dollar short. Next year at the end of summer and beginning of autumn, check the internet on an hourly basis or make friends with internet folks, if you want to avoid the heart break of missing out on the un-nerving new age heavy metal screaming of the band, I earnestly advised the gentleman.
It’s a different age and players are different. The days of Puja as a service to the community and cultural program by the members of the club and an occasional artist or two from Calcutta are over, now it is a strange pop rock band on Friday, a sa-re-ga-ma artist on Saturday and a touch of Bollywood on Sunday. It is also a matter of getting featured in Annada Bazaar Patrika, making your parents proud and neighbor jealous back home.
I can see a point here; in this global era, thinking in terms of only a conventional community is thinking backward. Society and community as we have known it, is probably dead for us here. Better be prepared for a Kobi-Joyonti-Dhamaka in the summer and a globalized Hangama in New Year’s Eve, but do not expect the comfort of familiarity.
At the end I advised my friend; yes, by the end of the day we were in friendly terms, not to lose his heart, go with the flow, stay hip and most of all behave well with the new-era crowd; you may even some day be rewarded with a cameo appearance on the stage handing over computer generated appreciation certificates. And do not forget to bundle up to stay warm in the October chill.