New Jersey Durga Puja 2009 : A Review

Durga Protima Kallol of New JerseyFinally the annual Durga Puja celebrations are over. I was mostly present at the Kallol pujo but also paid (no pun intended) short visits at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Anandamandir. Kallol, just like the previous year, had a full house and had to turn away several people. In one of my previous blogs I had requested, rather wished, that Kallol provide a daily ticket for people who would like to come in for a day. However, for whatever reasons, Kallol decided on the contrary and the result was that I had to listen to complaints from several disappointed friends and family.  Well, rules are rules – that’s what I said.

This year I did something which I never did before. I dropped in on Thursday evening – and it was real fun. There was no pressure of showing the badge, no parking tags, no stress about reserving seats with shawls and jackets and no celebrities on stage to pay attention to. While the volunteers were busy setting up the idol and the kids busy rehearsing on the stage, I had a good time chatting with  friends. For once, after a long time, I had the pleasure of pure Pujo adda – completly unadultered fun. I think we should, at least informally, start the festivities from Thursday – just to prolong the enjoyment for few more hours. Continue reading

Goat and the Bengali Intelligentsia

goat The intelligentsia (as defined by Wikipedia) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them.  You can very well attribute this term to the Bengali society who fits this definition quite well.  But what does a timid and herbivorous (although Bengalis think goats to be omnivorous – chhagole ki na khay) mammal like goat got to do with this elite group of people?  The answer to this is well known to all of us – Bengalis love goat meat. Although in other parts of the World, goat milk and milk products (cheese) are also extremely popular, but we the Bengalis don’t care much about the milk.  It is the meat that is most important to us – the ultimate food in any Bengali plate.  Historically, goat meat is the only kind of meat that Bengalis (especially the Hindu Bengalis) ate. Goats were the most popular offerings to Goddess Kali and Durga – and the meat then cooked in a recipe void of any garlic or onions and hence termed as “vegetarian meat”.

Continue reading

Cartoon of the Week 5: Pujo Cartoon


Suggested minumum pieces : 8Durga Puja festival has always been a great source of inspiration to me as a cartoonist. I have drawn several cartoons related to this festival and the way we celebrate it in our adopted homeland. Last week I posted one on the “Chanda” issue. This cartoon (drawn a long time ago for Kallol Sahityo Patrika) also takes a spin on the same touchy subject. In earlier times (late 80′s and early 90′s), the Pujo organizers did not specify or “suggest” any contribution amount to the attendees. The strong “suggestion” became, sort of, necessary from the later half of the 90′s when goat meat (or mutton curry) became a must item at the Saturday evening community dinner. Goat meat has always been an expensive item, and with the unpredictable attendance being a major problem, estimating the amount of meat to be cooked is always an issue. The volunteers serving dinner had to deploy smart strategies to control the number of mutton pieces to the hungry devotees standing in the line. At the beginning phase, they are generally generous, especially to their friends and families. However, soon (after a quick review by the supervisors) the strategy changes to a rationing mode when the number of mutton pieces served becomes indirectly proportional to the number of attendees. Now in this situation, the tired and hungry attendee, who has paid the “suggested minimum contribution” has all the right to demand a “suggested minimum number of pieces” of the precious goat meat. After all, that was one of the key factors that attracted him to this festival in the first place!