Few minutes ago an old friend of mine called to wish me for the upcoming Durga Puja festivals. He said, “It’s Mahasasthi in Kolkata today!” I wished him back, but it occurred to me that it’s Mahasashti everywhere, not only in Kolkata. When I reminded him, he laughed and said, “Yes indeed. But our Sasthi starts on coming Friday!” And he is absolutely right. Our Pujo in New Jersey (I am referring to the Kallol Durga Pujo which we both attend), starts on October 15th, Friday evening and that’s our Mahasasthi. The thought does give me some consolation that Pujo is yet to start and we have few more days to look forward too. But my friends and family in Kolkata have started enjoying their Pujo. They have started posting photos of their favorite idols on Facebook and Orkut, sending Pujo greetings through emails and expressing their joy and merriment. ETV Bangla is taking us through the streets of Kolkata and the online newspapers and magazines giving us day by day commentary of the Pujo happenings. And we cannot deny that this does cause a bit of a tinge in our hearts. Continue reading
Finally 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
Entertainment events are the major attractions of any Durga Puja festival. The Puja organizers spend thousands of dollars to get the most popular artistes from India as well as from the local talent pool. It is the star entertainers that pull in the crowd, and crowd brings in revenue. The popularity ratings of the entertainers define the success of a Durga Puja.
But is it true? If the stars and their entertainment was the only reason to attend a Puja festival, then why do we have to listen to the constant rumbling noise of numerous “adda” sessions that continue in the background? As the audio levels of the performers rise, so does the noise level. To many attendees (myself included) the main attraction of attending a Puja is the opportunity to meet friends and engage in endless “addas”. We have no ill feeling towards the performers, they can continue to do their job as long as they don’t disturb our “addas”. After all, it is them who made us decide which Puja to attend – but they cannot deny us our birth right to be able to talk, talk and talk for hours on. We will occasionally listen to one or two songs to give our tired jaw bones some rest, but soon we’ll get back to argue about who was the best performer of the song, and how this “hopeless” artist has ruined the song completely. We’ll lament the dearth of talent in Bengal and how we miss the golden days of Kishore and Hemanta-da, how the new generation of band music is destroying Bangla music and why one should ban artistes like Sumon and Nachiketa.
Pujo contribution or Chaanda (as we fondly call this concept) is always an issue with the average Bengali. Be it in India or in USA, Bengalis have the feeling that this is an unjust extortion in the name of a festival that we all like to attend. It should be free for all of us. Where the organizers get their funds is not for us to bother about. Since, most of the Pujo organizers make it a point to ensure that each and every attendee pays their contribution, we’d like to get away with the minimum amount that helps us to claim a stake in the festival. But the Pujo organizers these days are smart, they make the contribution amount quite obvious by displaying it in bold font. To justify the specified amount, the organizers will cite different components of the cost incurred to hold a festival of this magnitude, like goat meat, Mumbai and Kolkata performers – etc etc. This cartoon raises a legitimate question – why not an a-la carte system for Pujor Chanda? Sounds fair to me!