When we celebrate Durga Puja in this adopted homeland of ours, one thought keeps on playing in our minds – how much does our children enjoy this festival? Do they feel the same as we did when we were kids in our homeland? Many of us had the idea that our children really don’t care much about this favorite festival of ours. Often we have seen bored kids playing hand held video games in the hallways of our festival venue while their parents enjoyed inside. We sometimes debated, whether we are forcing our kids to come to the festival just because we want to, or it is our duty as a parent to introduce them to our culture and traditions? Is it working? Can they feel the spirit of the best festival of our community?
To get a more definitive answer, I asked my fourteen year old son Omkar and his friends a simple question. What does Durga Puja mean to them? And here are their responses.
Souvik Ganguly, a freshman at Bridgewater Raritan High School said – “For me, Durga Pujo is one of my favorite times of the year because I get to see all my friends and forget about school for a weekend.”
Aishik Mukherjee, a Montgomery High School junior, responds – “During Durga Puja, I have more freedom to do the things I loved as a kid, such as running around outside. I also enjoy some of the performances during the Pujo. Last year, I was watching this one short film that my brother was in about learning how to read and write Bengali, and I was the tech man when it was being shown. I was surprised at how interesting the film was.”
Rishav Ghosh, a seventh grader says, “My favorite parts of Durga are being able to hang out with my friends for a few days as well as participating in some plays with them.”
And finally Omkar, a Bridgewater Raritan High School Sophomore, says – “My favorite part of Durga Pujo is definitely seeing my close friends and hanging out with them for a full weekend. I also enjoy some of the kids’ performances, as they can be fun to watch. The festive ambiance of the whole event just ties everything together and makes it a bit more enjoyable.”
So if we take these four kids to be a random sample of our community children, then it seems their view of Durga Puja is not entirely different from that of ours. The religious part of the festival may not excite them a lot (neither does it excite all the adults), but I think they got the real essence of the Puja festival – to meet friends and have a good time together.
The question posed by you is what is the significance of Durga Puja to Bengali teens. What your teen-interviewees have addressed is, what they enjoy in a gathering of their parents with other families.It’s a fun time which should not be confused as introduction to heritage. The observation is true for any congregation, be it Banga Sammelan or week-end long Rabindra teach-ins.
Teen-dom does not end at fourteen, personalities take shape in high school, firmly establishing as they go to college, independent and liberated.
You will probably find more enthusiastic responses when you pick your subjects regressively from teens to tweens to children.
Of course we should bring our children to Durga Puja as long as they have fun, which I suspect may stop at the ripe age of fourteen.
Actually the old meaning of Durga Puja also changed in Bengal. Most of the puja committee represents their ability to spend money and power rather then their divinity to goddess Durga.
The children from outside of Bengal, who ware not part of Durga puja in Bengal, never feel the actual test of Durga puja. As long as they become elder, they will find their happiness what they will get easily near by their hand. They will be habituated by the local culture and festival rather then a foreign festival (Durga Puja).