Freshly returned from South America, first time Durga Puja to experience yet the vast unsettled feeling from being brought to a quite stringent and conservative environment in Batanagar from the freedom of life in outside India, in Venezuela, rues Susmita, as she walks down the memory lane, as part of the special feature, exclusively in Different Truths.
Durga Puja is like opening an old album filled with nostalgia. Those were the days simple yet so sweet and precious indeed. Let me take you to my flashback when I was some six-seven years old. Freshly returned from South America, first time Durga Puja to experience yet the vast unsettled feeling from being brought to a quite stringent and conservative environment in Batanagar (a countryside place more like village near Kolkata) from the freedom of life in outside India, in Venezuela.
Puja meant giving and taking of clothes, mostly benefited were the kids. I got ten new dresses that year. Wow! The double-digit number itself was an exclamation! Then fixing, which to wear morning – evening schedule, pandal hopping plans, eating outside from the food stalls menu decisions and holidays from studies was the greatest catch. Unaware of the strict rules that had been laid by my eldest uncle I was daydreaming of something extraordinary, but reality struck with a rude shock to me. The prime rule, no eating outside crap food like ‘phuchka, egg roll, churmura, Moghlai’. Next rule, two days only outing and around the para (locality). The last rule we have to walk in a straight line lead by my uncle, my aunt, and mother in successive gaps between us four sisters and lastly guarded by my father, we paraded through three big pandals of our locality. The first day was quite dissatisfying, totally shattered my big fantasy to the ground, but fortunately, my father managed to send my uncle back home the next day to give us a slice of life. We stood near a roadside vendor and relished his ‘phuchkas’, then had some chicken rolls, without which any Bengali’s Durga puja is incomplete. Thanked my father for his intervention to give us the joy of puja, as we headed back home.
Ashtami morning meant wearing a saree and dressing like my mom feeling that I have grown to fast till offering pushanjali (floral offerings with the chanting of mantras to the goddess) then having sumptuous food at home – luchi and Begun-bhaja, with payesh (kheer or milk pudding). Each day passed by, bringing the last day, Dashami, when my mother, aunt and grandmother would decorate the Goddess with vermillion (sindoor) and apply the same to other married ladies, seek blessings of the Goddess and bid her goodbye, for another year, till she returned again.
From then onwards, every year has been a very different experience, but the feeling of Puja never changes. We adopt new ways, places, people, but never can change the awestruck feeling every year when we listen to Mahalaya, meet Ma Durga and seek her blessings.
It is this spirit that keeps flowing through generations yet modifying itself in every turn but keeping the essence intact. Jai Ma!
Photos from the Internet
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Susmita, a commerce graduate from Bombay University, is trained in HR management. She is an entrepreneur and fashions designer sarees. Susmita practices Reki and yoga. She dabbles with fusion styles and experiments with clothes and accessories. Her interests range from culinary skills to various dance forms, from meditation to exercise. She stays in Dubai with her husband and two sons.