Posts Tagged ‘Durga Puja’

(Durga Puja and Mahalaya play a great part in building up the emotions in Neil Must Die. For all those who feel Durga Puja close to their hearts may want to read this extract)


Book 5


The Homecoming, MahaSaptami, October 16 1996

The litanies of the Mahalaya were tearing through the speakers throughout Rajdhani Express, pouring generously on the passengers, filling them up to the brim. They were all coming home. As Goddess Durga had already come into the lives and hearts of Bengal, so were they. Returning into the hearts of their own families. From various corners of the globe the Bengalis were returning home.

It was Saptami, the first day of the Durga pujas, and Neil was returning home. For the first time in two years. For the first time after Tuli’s death.

The Mahalaya was piercing through his lungs. His heart. His whole existence. Why did they have to sell the album in cassettes? It was as though the entire world had conspired against him to let him know something. That he couldn’t escape. To let him know that he was coming home, and that was the truth.

He felt uneasy. And was tempted to walk up to the train attendant and ask him to switch off the music. But he couldn’t trust himself. He didn’t know whether he would hit the man if the attendant refused. He shivered a little. He didn’t know whether that was from the excess air-conditioning or anything else. His mind was going numb.

He closed his eyes. He wished he could close his ears. He decided to bear the painful music. He decided to think about Cathy.

Her eyes were brimming with tears when he kissed her, bidding her goodbye at the airport. She held his hand and said, “I love you.” He wished he could say the same. He simply nodded.

She said, “Just give me a ring. And I’ll arrange for everything. I’m waiting for your call…” she trailed off. Her voice had cracked.

Neil felt sad for her. Sad that she was feeling so sad. He held her and hugged her close. He knew all he had to say was, “I’m coming,” at that moment. But he felt tongue-tied. He simply held her. He wanted to see her happy. Cathy looked up and searched his eyes, as if trying to fathom his confusion. He smiled to hide them. But she knew. She smiled back and held his hand tight, “Don’t rush things,” she said. “I’ll be a friend always.”

And then she turned and left. She turned back before entering the security check and waved at him, smiling. Neil too waved back. And smiled. He felt two emotions. A lump in his throat and a sense of relief. He never knew why.

He got up from the seat and walked out for a smoke. He wanted to think of Cathy and not of the place he was going to. He should have been on a plane to Stockholm and not on a train to Calcutta. He pushed the swing door of the compartment, stepped outside and lit a smoke. He had to go home someday or the other. He had to return and face his past. Good. He could think better. He opened the door of the train. Dusk sped by. Dim lights afar flashed erratically indicating that electricity had reached those villages. Before that, of course, lay acres of barren land, aman paddy having just been harvested.

He looked at the sky. He felt a sense of claustrophobia. Previously the sky was always his source of freedom. Now it seemed, ever since Tuli was up there, he had no escape.

Neil took a puff. He asked himself for the umpteenth time. Why was he always escaping? Why couldn’t he anchor somewhere? Who was he? What was his identity? He was already 24 and had not started life yet. Oh yes. He’s a criminal. How could he forget that? Now with that track-record it will be difficult to get a job either. He wasn’t qualified enough. The only option he had was to go back and join Hassan. Join Juhi. Perhaps even marry her. That was the only way out. Or get a job through her. Then of course, he’d have to marry her. He felt uneasy. Sick. Claustrophobic. Felt as if someone was throttling him. He simply had to try for a visa. He had to go to Stockholm. That was his only option.

He threw the cigarette on the speeding tracks and went inside.  He looked at the happy faces. The happy families who were all going back home on holidays. They’d meet their relatives and all would be so happy. He sat down. When did he last feel happy? He didn’t remember. What was happiness? Was he searching for happiness, or searching for an escape from it?

He didn’t have an answer. His eyes stung with self-pity. He decided to sleep. He decided never to wake up…

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This is one special year! Maa Durgaa is visiting a green Poschimbongo. And I, being 12,500 kms away on the other side of the Earth, am going to miss all the hype associated with Mawmota Banerjee heralding the goddess in a ‘Green’ land after unearthing numerous skeletons from the ‘Red’ cupboard. Power of shokti, eh?

With Bangla pronunciations creating a sudden new upsurge in the country, I will surely be delighted to make my lips rounded and write in a language that Bengawlees are more comfortable with. Maybe, we can finally get rid of our borrowed accent and slip into the comfort zone of our rotund one. We may even want to launch a dictionary with the right kind of spellings and accent. What say, Maanosh Chawkroborty and Baachi Kaarkaria?

I miss the national hullabaloo concerning Poschimbongo/Bongo/Baanglaa. I wasn’t sure which name came into force until I heard Awmitabho Bawchchon, the other day, pronouncing the name of the state as rotund as possible on KBC. He even translated ‘Lotus Stem’ for one Bengawlee contestant with a rounded, “Dhyarosh”. :O

On a bit of research I found that the esteemed writers may have been more flummoxed if they had done even a wee bit research on the Bengawlee language.
Wikipedia explains: “Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal (read Poshchimbongo), and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam… With nearly 300 million total speakers, Bengali is one of the most spoken languages (ranking sixth) in the world… Barishali (Barishal region), Noakhali, Rongpore, Khulna, Mymansingh, Sylheti (Sylhet region) are major spoken dialects in country. Chittagonian, Chakma and Rohingya are some of the many languages that are often considered dialects of Bengali.” Not counting the Sadhubhasha and Cholitbhasha.

Whew! That was one education for me too! :O

So, now such honored writers like Chawkroborty and Kaarkaria, are even more stumped as to which dialect of Bengawlee they should try to ridicule in their spare times. 😀

I am missing Poschimbongo this pujo, also because I will miss visiting the pandel which features Mawmota’s face as Debi Durgaa. And I wonder how many skeletons will feature in the lighting! I am anxious of the jatra names too: Mawmota elo Khawmotay, Kongkaaler sesh Rokhtobindoo or maybe Teesta ekti Nodir Naam!

May the ridicules continue! May the nation sing all the five stanzas of ‘Jono Gono Mono Odhinyoko Joyo Hay’ with their lips firmly rounded into a circle! 😀

Published on October 14, 2010, in Hindustan Times, Kolkata, India

What do I miss about Durga Puja? What do I miss about that undefined fragrance in the air? Or the stacks of bamboo poles strewn around every street corner, sending out a message that the magic is here?

What do I miss about the Pujas?

After spending 42 years in Kolkata during Durga Pujas, this is the first time I am not only out of Kolkata, I am out of Bengal, I am out of the country, I am 12,535 kilometers  away on the other side of the planet — in Canada, for good. Ever since I changed country of residence last year, I had dreaded the thought of spending a puja away from Kolkata. And now I am asked, what do I miss about pujas!

Where do I begin? From my days in frocks, when Pujas meant clay being brought in from the Ganges and heaped onto the ‘thakurdalan’ of my ancestral home? We would be running back from school to see how much had the construction of the goddess progressed. From strips of bamboo being tied to form the scaffolding, to chokkhudaan (painting the eyes), to 108 alighted lamps flickering on the Durga’s amber face on Asthami, to bhashaan (immersion) — when I stood leaning on a pillar and sobbed — what should I talk about?

In such a short column what should I speak about? Should I talk about our night-long rendezvous while in college and the overpowering aroma of phuchkas? Or about my first love, the momentum of which amplified during the ‘whole-night video shows’? Or how our eyes conversed during those four euphoric days?

Should I talk about how my son got his first colic pain due to the sounds of ‘dhaak’ or about how he spent the rest of his childhood jumping up awake in glee to same beats? Or should I talk about the moments of Mahalaya, the chants trickling in through my groggy sleep?

Ma Durga had been through my real and unreal. Through my childhood, my unsteady adolescence and my uneasy youth. She is a part of my beliefs and my atheism, my revolt and my acceptance, been a witness to my struggle and success. She has been my wings, when I flew into foreign lands alone with my son, with nothing but a stamped piece of paper… and no return tickets.

Here in Canada, no bamboo poles herald the ascent of the Devi. No lights adorn the streets.  I do not get that familiar smell anywhere. Durga Puja is held in its own ‘big’ way among the Bengali community.

Even though it’s a hot pot of melting cultures, many in Canada do not know anything about Durga Puja. Or even if they know, they know it to be one more festival from Asia.

I do not feel sad. That’s it! I do not feel sad. I am happy that Ma Durga will visit the hearts of Bengal and light up the land once again. I am happy my motherland will remain unchanged. I am happy that whenever I can, I can return to my soil and inhale the Puja air. Till then, I can always take a deep breath and smell that familiar lingering fragrance from inside my 43-year-old soul drenched in puja spirit.